It is well known that in employment law, notice under a contract usually only takes effect once it has been effectively communicated to the other party. But when does the clock start ticking on the notice period once it has been communicated? It is in the interest of employers and employees to be clear on when an employee’s last day of work will be, not least so that the departing employee can organise their leaving drinks!
This point was recently dealt with by the Employment Appeal Tribunal in the case of Wang v University of Keele, which held that in the absence of a specific contractual provision, notice will run from the day after it has been communicated.
In the Wang case, Dr Wang received three months’ written notice from his employer on 3 November. The contract of employment was silent on the point about when notice was to take effect. The written notice also omitted to include a finish date and Dr Wang left employment on 2 February and was paid up to that date. The Employment Tribunal held that Dr Wang’s notice expired on 2 February and this was the effective date of termination of his employment. However, the Employment Appeal Tribunal overturned this decision and held that Dr Wang’s notice started on 4 November, the day after which it had been communicated.
Dr Wang filed his claim with the Employment Tribunal on 2 May. Therefore, the knock on effect of this decision was that Dr Wang had filed his claim within the Employment Tribunal’s time limit (three months less one day).
In order to avoid any dispute, contracts of employment should always stipulate the day on which notice is deemed to take effect. This should then be confirmed by specifying the final date of employment in a letter confirming dismissal or acknowledging receipt of the employee’s notice. This at least gives an employee the opportunity to dispute the date of termination before any nasty surprises land on the doorstep of the employer later down the line. If you agree an alternative termination date then this should also be followed up in writing. The lesson to be learned is that clear and concise communication is key!
If you would like to talk through a situation you are dealing with, or if you need advice on any aspect of employment law, please contact any member of the Pure Employment Law team (01243) 836840 or [email protected])