The date on which a dismissal takes place for statutory purposes may determine whether an employee has sufficient service to claim unfair dismissal and the deadline for submitting any statutory claims. To achieve certainty on the date, an employer should communicate a summary dismissal decision face to face.
The Supreme Court has upheld a Court of Appeal ruling that a dismissal by letter or email takes effect for statutory purposes when the employee reads it or has had a reasonable opportunity of reading it (unless the employee has deliberately delayed doing so). The reasonableness of the employee's behaviour is relevant to whether there was a reasonable opportunity.
An employee who had been told to expect a letter confirming the outcome of a disciplinary hearing on a particular date had not acted unreasonably in going away to visit her sister who had just given birth, nor in wanting to read the letter alone rather than have someone open and read it to her over the phone. (Gisda Cyf v Barratt, SC)