The Supreme Court had previously held (Gisda Cyf v Barratt) that in the context of statutory employment claims, notice sent by letter is effective when the employee reads the notice or has had reasonable opportunity to do so.
In Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust v Haywood, the trust argued that the delivery of the letter to Haywood’s home was enough, despite it knowing she was on holiday and would not receive or read the letter for more than a week.
The majority of the Supreme Court disagreed, finding that principle should be that the employee must personally receive the correspondence for notice to be effectively served.
Going forwards the advice is to ensure employment contracts address the mechanics of how notice is given and when it takes effect and we are able to update this for you in your terms and conditions.
This could be by receipt of letter or even by email as it is already becoming quite common to provide for email as a method of serving notice, with that notice taking effect from the time the email is sent.
Whilst an express contractual term will go a long way to clarifying matters, it may not remove uncertainty in all cases.
Questions arise as to how often an employee may use an email address?
If this isn’t regularly, this means they may not receive and the date of termination still isn’t clear.
The best way to serve notice will always be personally, to ensure that there is evidence that the decision has been received.