18 April 2011

A recent appeal tribunal has ruled that unless a contract of employment provides otherwise, contractual notice whether oral or written, runs from the day after the notice is given.

Daniel Barnett’s Employment Law Bulletin reports:

The EAT (HHJ Hand QC) has handed down judgment in the case of  Wang v University of Keele which is authority for the proposition that, unless a contract provides otherwise, contractual notice, whether oral or written, runs from the day after notice is given.

The Claimant was dismissed with three months notice by a letter emailed and read on the afternoon of 3rd November. He presented a claim for Unfair Dismissal the following May 2nd. The ET dismissed the claim as a day out of time, counting notice as running from 3rd November to 2nd February.

On appeal, the EAT held, in a comprehensive review of authorities, that the principle in West v Kneels - that when verbal notice is given, notice starts on the following day - applies equally to written notice. Therefore, in this case, notice ran from 4th November, with dismissal taking effect on 3rd February, so the Claim was in time. It was irrelevant that the Claimant had only been paid to and stopped work on 2nd February; notice once given cannot be shortened without agreement.

The EAT indicated that if the giver of notice makes the dismissal date ambiguous, the notice should be construed in favour of the recipient, and observed (without recommending) that notice could be given by text, email or even instant messaging.