The three judges in the majority (Lady Hale, Lord Wilson and Lady Black) took the view that a notice of termination of employment sent by post only takes effect when the notice has come to the attention of the employee and she has had a reasonable opportunity of reading it. Accordingly, the Trust’s notice in this case only took effect when Mrs Haywood returned from holiday and thus the 12 weeks’ notice period expired after her 50th birthday so that Mrs Haywood was entitled to a full early retirement pension.
The majority indicated that although this is the normal rule where there is no express provision in the contract dealing with when the notice will take effect, there is nothing to prevent the employer from providing by contract for a different rule.
The two judges in the minority (Lord Briggs and Lord Lloyd-Jones) would have held in favour of the Trust that the notice was effective from the time when it was duly delivered to the employee’s home address.
All the judges agreed that Mrs Haywood’s father-in-law was not acting as her agent when he collected the letter from the post office on the day before she returned from holiday and left it at her home and accordingly she was not to be regarded in law as having received the notice when he collected it.
The full judgment is available at https://www.supremecourt.uk/cases/docs/uksc-2017-0074-judgment.pdf.