Employee’s Summary Dismissal Took Effect When Her Solicitor Informed Her of Dismissal

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Posted on 04 Dec 2013

Summary dismissal takes effect when an employee learns of it, or has had a reasonable opportunity to learn of it. The fact an employee learned of her dismissal from her solicitor, rather than her employer, made no difference. 

In Robinson v Bowskill, R went on sick leave with stress after a disciplinary investigation was begun. In her absence she was summarily dismissed for gross misconduct, of which her solicitor was informed by e-mail on 6 July 2011. R’s solicitor informed her of the decision the next day by phone on 7 July and R received a letter from her employer informing her of her dismissal on 8 July. 

Her unfair dismissal and disability claims were submitted on 7 October, meaning that the claims were only in time if the effective date of termination (“EDT”) was 8 July, when she received the dismissal letter. Relying on the decision in Gisda Cyf v Barratt, R argued that where a summary dismissal is by letter, the EDT is the date on which she read or had a reasonable opportunity of reading the letter, in this case 8 July. The tribunal disagreed, finding that she knew of her dismissal via her solicitor on 7 July and so the claim was out of time. 

R appealed, arguing that acquiring knowledge of her dismissal from her solicitor was not sufficient. The EAT disagreed. What is essential is that the employee knows of the dismissal or has a reasonable opportunity of finding out that they have been dismissed. There is no reason why the fact that an employer gives notice via a third party should mean that knowledge of dismissal cannot meet the test set out in Gisda. The fact that a formal dismissal letter had been sent but not received did not alter the position. 

The decision in this case is not altogether surprising. The courts are keen to ensure that an employee’s summary dismissal will not be effective until they know that have been dismissed. B knew that she had been dismissed when her solicitor told her and it was not necessary for the communication to come directly from her employer. The case once again demonstrates the danger of leaving it until the last minute to submit an employment tribunal claim.

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