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Dismissal by post is normally effected when the employee reads the letter

Dismissal by post is normally effected when the employee reads the letter

In Gisda Cyf v Barratt, the Court of Appeal held that where a decision to dismiss is communicated by a letter sent to the employee at home, and the employee has neither gone away deliberately to avoid receiving the letter nor avoided opening and reading it, the effective date of termination is when the letter is read by the employee, not when it arrives in the post. 

Gisda Cyf, informed Miss Barratt by recorded delivery letter of their decision that she had been summarily dismissed for gross misconduct. That letter was posted on 29 November 2006 and was delivered to her home address on 30 November 2006. The letter was signed for by her boyfriend’s son.  Miss Barratt, however, had already left home at 8.00am on 30 November to travel to London. The visit was not undertaken in order to avoid receipt of what might well be unwelcome news in a letter from her employers, but to visit her sister in London who had just given birth.  Miss Barratt read the letter upon her return on 4 December 2006.

Miss Barratt lodged an unfair dismissal complaint on 2nd March 2007. The key issue was identifying the effective date of termination (EDT), since if it was the day the letter was posted or when it was delivered to Miss Barratt’s home, then her claim was out of time.

The Court of Appeal agreed with the tribunal and the EAT that where a decision to dismiss is communicated by a letter sent to the employee at home, and the employee has neither gone away deliberately to avoid receiving the letter nor avoided opening and reading it, the EDT is when the letter is read by the employee, not when it arrives in the post. The EDT was therefore 4 December 2006, when Miss Barratt read the letter and her claim was in time.

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