Date of termination is when
the employee reads dismissal letter
Following a disciplinary hearing, a letter summarily dismissing Ms Barratt for gross misconduct arrived by recorded delivery at her home on Thursday 30 November. She was away looking after her sister, who had just had a baby. She returned home on Sunday night and opened the letter the next day, Monday 4 December. An issue arose over whether she had presented her unfair dismissal claim within the period of three months beginning with the effective date of termination (EDT). If the EDT was 4 December when she read the letter, then the claim was in time. But if it was earlier, for example when it was actually delivered to her home, then she was out of time.
The tribunal found that her claim was in time as she did not have a reasonable opportunity of reading the letter earlier than Monday 4 December and there was no evidence to suggest that she had gone away deliberately to avoid receiving the letter or avoided opening it.
The EAT, the Court of Appeal and now the Supreme Court all agreed with the tribunal. Where an employee is dismissed 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. The practical implication is that an employer who summarily dismisses an employee by letter cannot be certain of the EDT when the letter is sent. To achieve certainty, summary dismissal should be communicated in person.
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