Vasella Ltd & Anor v Eyre – unfair dismissal and the effective date of termination

The facts in Vasella Ltd & Anor v Eyre

Ms Eyre (“the Claimant”) worked for the Swallow Hotel (part of the First Respondent’s business) in Glasgow as operations manager prior to the First Respondent going into administration in November 2009. The Second Respondent then took control of the Swallow Hotel and other of the First Respondent’s hotels.

The Claimant handed in a letter addressed to Mearns Pert, the General Manager of the Swallow Hotel, on 21st November 2010. This letter stated that she was resigning from her employment, effectively immediately. This letter was dated 22nd November 2010. However, the Claimant knew that Mr Pert did not work on Sundays and, further, was informed by the duty manager on 21st November 2010 that Mr Pert would not be back at work until the Wednesday (24th November 2010). The Claimant accepted the fact, left the envelope with the duty manager, and exited the hotel. The Second Respondent contended that after the Claimant had left the duty manager called Mr Pert and informed him of the existence and contents of the letter. The Second Respondent then wrote to the Claimant on 22nd November 2010 confirming the date of resignation as 22nd November 2010.

The Claimant submitted her claim for constructive unfair dismissal on 21 February 2011. The Respondents contended that the Claimant’s claim for unfair dismissal was outside of the limitation date of three months less one day as Mr Pert had been made aware of the resignation of the Claimant on 21st November (giving a limitation dated of 20th February 2011). On this basis the claim would be out of time. The Claimant contended that her effective date of dismissal was not in fact the 21st November 2010 but the date of the letter stating she was resigning, the 22nd November 2010. If this was the case then her claim would be within the limitation date.

The Employment Judge held that the Claimant’s claim was not time barred as the letter of resignation was clearly dated 22nd November 2010 and expressed that the intention was that this should be the date of resignation. The Respondents appealed.

The law relating to the effective date of dismissal in unfair dismissal claims

If an employee is dismissed or resigns from their employment without notice then the effective date of dismissal for the purposes of their unfair dismissal claim is the date on which the termination takes effect (s.97(1)(b) Employment Rights Act 1996).

The date on which termination is to take effect is determined in a practical and common sense way by what the parties said and did in the particular case and the parties cannot undo such actions or words even by agreement.

The Employment Appeal Tribunal’s decision in Vasella Ltd & Anor v Eyre

The Employment Appeal Tribunal dismissed the appeal of the Respondents against the decision of the Employment Tribunal on the effective date of dismissal. The Claimant had clearly intended that the date of her resignation be 22nd November 2010, as evidenced from the date of her letter, the contents of the letter, and the fact that she knew that Mr Pert would not be in attendance at the Swallow Hotel on the day she delivered the letter.

Our specialist employment lawyers’ thoughts on Vasella Ltd & Anor v Eyre

If you’re a claim, submitting a claim on the limitation date is a relatively dangerous game to play. If there are technical errors with submitting the claim that day, the claim form is not completed properly, or there’s simply been an error with calculating the effective date of termination for your unfair dismissal claim then this may cause your claim to be time barred.

However, in this circumstance the end for the Claimant was a relatively happy one. She had clearly always intended the date of her resignation to be 22nd November 2010, not the 21st November 2010 as the Respondents were asserting.