Employee's win at Supreme Court could mark significant change for contracts

NHS employee sent redundancy notice whilst on a holiday has been awarded significant compensation by the Supreme Court

A ruling was announced this week on the case of Ms Sandi Haywood, a former Associate Director of Business Development at Newcastle Upon Tyne Hospital Trust, who had served with the NHS for over 30 years.

Ms Haywood’s case had been originally upheld by both the High Court and the Court of Appeal. In what represents the final decision on the matter, the Supreme Court dismissed the appeal of the NHS and ruled in favour of Ms Haywood, awarding her just under £400,000 in damages.

The original incident behind this long running case occurred in April 2011 when the Trust informed Haywood that her role was at risk of redundancy following a recent merger. Haywood was set to be absent from work on a holiday to Egypt shortly after the initial discussion and asked the Trust to refrain from making a final decision until she returned on 27 April.

However, the Trust proceeded to send an official redundancy notice to Haywood on 21 April stating that her contract should end twelve weeks from this date. The court heard how Haywood only had an opportunity to review her notice following her return from holiday on 27 April and as a result she believed her notice period should have begun from this date instead.

The date that notice ran from was important as the original notice issued by the employer would see Ms Haywood’s position terminated prior to her 50th Birthday, something which would significantly reduce her pension entitlements. Upon reviewing the evidence, the Supreme Court agreed that the 12 week notice period should have begun when the claimant was able to read the letter, not when the letter was sent.

This ruling has been heralded as a landmark case by the claimant’s legal team, potentially creating a new implied term into every employment contract in the UK.

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