NHS employee protects pension rights in dispute over notice period

 An employee has protected her pension rights after winning a dispute with the NHS over when her contract came to an end.

The issue arose when Newcastle upon Tyne NHS Foundation Trust sent Sandi Haywood a letter by recorded delivery on 20 April 2011 giving 12 weeks’ notice that her employment would end on 15 July.

However, as the trust knew, she was out of the country on annual leave between 19 and 27 April.

Royal Mail was unable to deliver the letter and took it to the sorting office. Ms Haywood’s father-in-law collected it and took it to her house on 26 April. She opened and read it on 27 April when she returned from her holiday.

The principal issue for the judge was whether the letter had been served by 26 April 2011. If it had, the notice period would have expired before Ms Haywood’s 50th birthday on 20 July 2011, entitling her to a lower pension than if it had expired on or after that date.

The question was whether time was set running by the posting of the letter, its delivery to her home, or her actual receipt of it.

Clause 19 of her contract of employment read: “this employment may be terminated… by the notice period as set out in [cl.1], subject to [the trust] giving you the minimum statutory period of notice”.

The judge held that cl.19 was an express requirement that any written notice had to have been received and read by Ms Haywood before the notice period could start to run. He therefore held that the notice period started to run when she read the letter on 27 April.

The Court of Appeal upheld that decision. It held that a notice had to be received before it could take effect, and there was a difference between delivery and receipt.

Please contact Claire Davies if you would like more information about the issues raised in this article or any aspect of employment law.

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