Gisada Syf v Barratt

Ms Syf was suspended from her employment pending a disciplinary hearing. She was sent home and told to expect a letter concerning possible dismissal two days later, on 30 November 2006. The letter, summarily dismissing her for gross misconduct, arrived by recorded delivery on that date and was signed for by her partner’s son. She did not open and read the letter until Monday 4 December as she was away. When she brought a claim for unfair dismissal on 2 March 2007, the employer argued that her claim was out of time as the Effective Date of Termination (EDT) was the date of the letter (30 November) not the day she read its contents (4 December).

The Supreme Court held that the EDT was 4 December when Ms Syf actually read the letter and, therefore, her claim was presented within the three month time limit. This was because she did not know of the decision until 4 December and had not deliberately failed to open the letter or gone away to avoid reading it.

This case provides authority that an employee’s EDT in summary dismissal cases is the date on which they actually learn of the dismissal or have a reasonable opportunity of learning it. This means the termination date is out of the employer’s control where a letter is sent informing the employee of their dismissal. Employers wanting absolute certainty should arrange to communicate the decision in person.