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Case Law

What is the date of dismissal?

The effective date of termination for a dismissal without notice is the date when the employee finds out about, or could reasonably have found out about, the dismissal.

Mrs C Robinson v Fairhill Medical Practice | 2013

The facts

Mrs R had been employed by Fairhill Medical Practice (the Practice) in an administrative role for over 40 years. Towards the end of 2010 the Practice investigated allegations of serious misconduct by Mrs R and a disciplinary process followed.

Mrs R became depressed and was signed off work. Mrs R instructed a solicitor who acted on her behalf during the disciplinary process.

On 6 July the Practice held a disciplinary hearing. Mrs R did not attend and in her absence the Practice dismissed her. The Practice’s solicitor emailed Mrs R’s solicitor and told her of the decision to dismiss.

Mrs R’s solicitor told Mrs R of the dismissal by telephone on 7 July. On the same day the Practice’s solicitor wrote to Mrs R confirming the dismissal. Mrs R received the letter on 8 July.

An issue arose about the effective date of termination as Mrs R’s claims for unfair dismissal and discrimination were not presented to the employment tribunal until 7 October and were potentially out of time.

The decisions

There were a number of options; was the effective date of termination:

  • 6 July when Mrs R’s solicitor was told about Mrs R’s dismissal?
  • 7 July when Mrs R was told by her solicitor that she had been dismissed? or
  • 8 July when Mrs R received the letter telling her she had been dismissed?

In this case the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) upheld the decision of the employment tribunal that the effective date of termination was 7 July when Mrs R’s own solicitor told her of the dismissal.  As the law only requires that an employee knows or has the opportunity to learn about their dismissal, it did not matter that the decision was relayed through a third party.  Mrs R’s claim for unfair dismissal was therefore out of time.

In practice

This case highlights the uncertainty that can arise when an employee is not told about a decision to dismiss face to face. This is always best as there can be no confusion about when they knew about the decision but it is not always possible. If it cannot be done face to face telephone would be the next best option. Again, providing you speak with the employee, there can be no confusion about when they were told of the decision. There will always be the potential for confusion about when an email, letter or phone message is received.

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