On appeal from: [2017] EWCA Civ 153

This appeal considered when the notice of termination of a contract of employment becomes effective.

The Supreme Court held, by a majority of 3 to 2, that the notice period of employment contract termination ran from the date the respondent received the notice (upon return from holiday), not the date on which the appellant Trust’s written notice was delivered by post to the respondent’s house. The Supreme Court dismissed the appeal. In the absence of an express contractual provision, the Court had to determine the implied contractual term as to when a notice takes effect. In line with the approach of cases in the EAT, the Supreme Court held that notice only took effect when it had actually been received by the employee and the employee had either read or had a reasonable opportunity of reading. This rejected the common law approach usually undertaken in landlord-tenant cases, which provided that notice was given when the letter was delivered to its address. The Supreme Court concluded that the common law rule in non-employment cases was not as clear and universal as suggested, and the EAT approach should be favoured as it is an expert tribunal familiar with employment practices, and with the general merits in employment cases.

The dissenting judgment, given by Lord Briggs, would have found that the common law cases had long established a rule embedding an implied term into contracts of employment determinable on notice.

For judgment, please download: [2018] UKSC 22
For Court’s Press Summary, please download: Court’s Press Summary
For a non-PDF version of the judgment, please visit: BAILII

To watch the hearing, please visit: Supreme Court Website (20 Nov 2017 morning session) (20 Nov 2017 afternoon session)