Ruling Set To Trigger Changes To Employment Contracts
An NHS worker whose bosses attempted to make her redundant whilst she was on holiday has today won a landmark case in The Supreme Court. According to her lawyers at Irwin Mitchell, the ruling is significant as it could trigger changes to all employment contracts in the UK.
The case centres on Sandi Haywood who worked for the NHS for over 30 years as an Associate Director of Business Development for Newcastle and North Tyneside Primary Care Trusts.
The long-running dispute focusses on the timing of her dismissal from the redundant role and whether the official date when notice was effectively at an end, fell before or after her 50th birthday. The date is significant because it determines whether she would receive a higher pension.
- On 13 April 2011, Mrs Haywood was informed that her role was at risk of redundancy following the merger of two NHS bodies.
- She accepted this but requested a final decision about this should not be made in her absence and explained that she would be on holiday from 19 April 2011, a holiday which the Trust knew about and had approved.
- Mrs Haywood was however written to by the Trust on 20 April 2011, although the letter was dated 21 April 2011, informing her that she was being made redundant.
- A letter was sent via recorded delivery to her home address, as well as by first class post and by email, but it wasn’t seen by Mrs Haywood until she returned from holiday on the 27 April 2011.
- The Trust stated Mrs Haywood’s contract should have terminated 12 weeks after the letter was sent. Mrs Haywood claimed it should be 12 weeks from when the letter was read.
- If Mrs Haywood had opened the letter on or before 26 April 2011, the contract would have been terminated before her 50th birthday on 20 July 2011and therefore reduced her pension significantly.
- The original case ruled in favour of Mrs Haywood. This was upheld by the Court of Appeal and Mrs Haywood was awarded just under £400,000 in past and future losses although pending the outcome of the Supreme Court hearing, no monies have been received by Mrs Haywood.
- The case was heard at The Supreme Court on 20 November 2017 and today it ruled in favour of Mrs Haywood.
The Supreme Court’s ruling agreed that Mrs Haywood’s notice that her employment was to be terminated should run from the date at which she had opportunity to read the letter - not the date it arrived at her house.
The judgment also results in a new term which will be implied into every employment contract in the UK. This means that in practice, if an employer makes an employee redundant via a letter, the employee must have a reasonable opportunity to read it before notice is officially given.
Jane Anderson, a Senior Associate Solicitor in the Commercial Litigation department at Irwin Mitchell, represented Mrs Haywood in the case against Newcastle Upon Tyne NHS Foundation Trust.
Expert Opinion“This has been a long and extremely stressful case for Sandi and I am delighted that the Supreme Court has ruled in her favour.
“This is a significant case particularly as it provides a definitive answer to the question of when does the notice period start if an employee is dismissed on written notice posted to them as opposed to communicated to them in person.”
Jane Anderson - Senior Associate Solicitor
Caspar Glyn QC, employment barrister from Cloisters said: “It was a real pleasure to represent Sandi and obtain the justice that she’s waited so long for - she’s been lucky to have Irwin Mitchell stand behind her. The case is also legally significant in that it’s created a new implied term in every employment contract.”
Sandi Haywood said: “I’m of course delighted by the outcome of this case and relieved the matter has been resolved. As I’ve said since the beginning, I have just wanted to be treated fairly and wish that the Trust recognised this rather than pursuing the matter and spending significant legal costs which could have been money spent on patient care.”
Expert Opinion“It’s also an important case for Irwin Mitchell as it shows how the firm is open to using alternative funding arrangements to represent private individuals against large organisations.
“Sandi was funded by Legal Expenses Insurance in the first instance claim. We then acted for her on a Conditional Fee Arrangement with an After The Event insurance policy for the Court of Appeal and Supreme Court. Without that she would not have had the ability to resist the two appeals made against her and the original judgment.”
Jane Anderson - Senior Associate Solicitor