The Supreme Court has ruled that, in the absence of an express contractual provision to the contrary, notice of dismissal by post starts to run when the letter comes to the attention of the employee and they have either read it or had a reasonable opportunity of doing so.

Employers should ensure that the employment contract specifies when notice is deemed to be given or, if it does not, that they hand over notice in person to the individual if the date on which notice is given is critical. The Supreme Court upheld the Court of Appeal in Newcastle upon Tyne NHS Foundation Trust v Haywood ruling that, where an employment contract was silent on when notice was deemed to be given, notice sent by letter to the individual’s house while she was on holiday did not take effect until her personal receipt of the letter on her return home and she had had a reasonable opportunity to read it. As a result, her termination date was pushed back to after her 50th birthday, entitling her to a much more generous pension.