In Newcastle Upon Tyne NHS Foundation Trust v Haywood  EWCA Civ 153, the Court of Appeal (CA) looked at when a notice of termination sent by post takes effect.
Ms Haywood’s employment became at risk of redundancy following a merger. Under her employment terms, she was entitled to a higher pension when she reached her 50th birthday. The last date on which she could receive notice of termination before becoming entitled to the higher pension was 26 April 2011. Her employer sent three termination letters on 20 April 2011: the first by recorded delivery which was collected by Ms Haywood’s father-in-law (Ms Haywood being on vacation at the time), the second by standard post, and the third by email to her husband’s email address. The key question was when the notice took effect.
The CA held that where there is no express term specifying when postal notice is deemed to be given, it takes effect when the recipient takes personal delivery of it. The CA found that Ms Haywood had taken personal delivery of the letter on 27 April 2011, upon her return from vacation, and so this was the effective date (and she was therefore entitled to the higher pension). Her father-in-law’s collection of the letter was ineffective because he was not acting as her agent and the notice to her husband’s email address was also ineffective because she had not given her permission to send communications there.
This case highlights the uncertainty that can be created when serving notice by post; therefore, whenever possible employers should deliver notice personally. It should also be noted that this case concerned contractual rights only and that different rules apply when determining the “effective date of termination” for the purpose of statutory employment claims.