Communicating a decision to dismiss

Added On: 3rd November 2010

Communicating a decision to dismiss

A recent decision by the Supreme Court has confirmed that a dismissal by letter is only effective when the employee learns of the decision. In this case a letter advising of the decision to dismiss was sent by recorded delivery and signed for by the Claimant’s son on 30th November but she didn't read it until 4th December, and the Court decided the dismissal took effect on that date.

Although most decisions to dismiss are done face-to-face, there are occasions when this doesn't happen. If communication of the decision is by post, there is a risk of ambiguity as to the effective date of termination of employment, and it will generally be the employer who suffers any consequences resulting from this.

Both employer and employee need to be clear about the termination date - the employee so that they know when the three-month limit for bringing a claim to Tribunal will run out, and the employer so that it knows when to stop pay and benefits etc.

The termination date can also be of crucial importance if, for instance, the employee is close to reaching the one-year's service required to bring an unfair dismissal claim – a few days' delay could make the difference between having and not having the right.

The practical answer is therefore for employers to ensure that, where whenever possible, dismissals are communicated in a way that does not leave any doubt as to the termination date. The obvious way to for any decision to dismiss to be notified to the employee face-to-face. Once this has happened the decision should be confirmed in writing - referring to the date on which is was communicated in person.

More information about how we can help with termination of employment can be found on our services page:

Termination of Employment