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Employee not dismissed until she reads dismissal letter

14 October 2010 #Employment


Clarkslegal, specialist Employment lawyers in London, Reading and throughout the Thames Valley.

The Supreme Court has handed down its Judgment in Gisada Syf v Barratt, upholding the decision of the Court of Appeal that a dismissal is not effective until it is communicated to the employee. When an employee is dismissed in writing this means that, so long as the employee has not deliberately avoided reading the letter, dismissal is not effective until the employee has read the letter.

The above case centered on the strict 3 month time limit for filing an unfair dismissal claim with the Tribunal. 

Barratt had dismissed Mrs Syf in a letter which they sent by recorded delivery and was signed for by her son, on 30th November 2006. Mrs Syf was away from home visiting her sister who was due to give birth and so did not open the letter and learn about the decision to dismiss her until her return on 4th December.

Mrs Syf presented an unfair dismissal claim on 2nd March. If the effective date of termination was 30th November, which Barratt argued was the case, then her unfair dismissal claim was out of time. If it was 4th December, when she read the letter, her claim was presented within time. 

The Supreme Court held that the effective date of termination was 4th December. As she was unaware of her dismissal until 4th December and had not deliberately failed to open the letter or gone away to avoid reading it, then the effective date of termination would be the date she actually learned of the decision to dismiss her.

Employers should therefore, where possible, inform employees of dismissal face to face and then confirm this in writing rather than just sending a letter which may get lost in the post or be subject to other delays before the employee reads it, which would delay the date of termination.

For further information about this or any other Employment matter please contact Clarkslegal's employment team by email at employmentunit@clarkslegal.com by telephone 020 7539 8000 (London office), 0118 958 5321 (Reading office) or by completing the form on this page.

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