This was considered in the recent case of Newcastle upon Tyne NHS Foundation Trust v Hayward  EWCA Civ 153
This case focused on the finer points of a letter of termination (redundancy) and when a letter of termination is deemed to have been served and when it may come into effect.
The employee in this case, Ms Sandi Hayward, was a nurse and midwife, with roles in business development for community services at Newcastle and North Tyneside Primary Care Trust. However, following a merger of the two NHS bodies in 2011, the employee was transferred to Newcastle upon Tyne NHS Foundation Trust. Following this, the employee was notified that she could face redundancy.
Ms Hayward, having had several meetings with the employer, went on sickness leave from 13 April 2011; she subsequently took annual leave from 19 April 2011 to 5 May 2011. During this period, Ms Hayward wished for there to be no redundancy decision made in her absence (the employer did not agree to this) and that her employer did not communicate with her during her leave period (although the employer was unaware of this fact).
The employer sent a letter of redundancy to Ms Hayward dated 20 April 2017 that was picked up from a sorting office by a family member on 26 April 2011. Ms Hayward did not receive or read the letter stating that she was to be made redundant until 27 April 2011.
The question put forward to the Court was this: when was the letter of termination deemed to have been served?
The employer argued that the was deemed to have been served on 21 April 2017. This is when the letter was initially delivered.
Ms Hayward argued that the notice of termination letter was deemed to be have been served on 27 April 2011, when she first received it.
Lady Justice Arden took the view that should it be claimed that a letter being sent to a property is sufficient enough to be considered service, then this is a rebuttable presumption. The employee would have to show that they had not received the letter. In this case Ms Hayward was away on holiday and could not be signed for. It was therefore necessary for the letter to be collected from a sorting office.
The Court concluded that whilst it is correct that the employee's family member did pick up the letter on 26 April 2011, this did not constitute sufficient authority of service. Service is deemed to be when you, or someone who would be considered an agent of you, reads the letter. The letter was not read until 27 April 2011 and the Court decided that this was when the letter was truly served and, as such, would be when the redundancy period would begin.
This had a significant impact for Ms Hayward as the dispute over the date of service affected her redundancy entitlement.
When considering an employment contract it is important to take note of any terms for notice of redundancy as whilst at the time you may consider them to be irrelevant, in the longer term, they may be vitally important.
It is also important that if there is a dispute as to when notice of termination (redundancy) has been served, that you take expert legal advice, as it could materially affect your redundancy entitlement.
Conroys Solicitors LLP provides expert employment lawyer advice.