The terminator: When does a dismissal take effect?

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Posted in:HR and Employment|November 27, 2013 | Join the mailing list

The recent Employment Appeal Tribunal case of Robinson -v- Bowskill and others  has highlighted the importance for both employees and employers of knowing the date on which a dismissal takes effect.

The three month time limit for lodging an unfair dismissal claim with the Employment Tribunal usually runs from the date on which the dismissal took effect and in this case Mrs Robinson filed her employment tribunal claim on 7th October. This meant that in
order for the claim to be within the three month time limit, the dismissal had to have taken effect on or after 8th July. If the dismissal occurred before that date, then the claim was filed more than three months after the dismissal and therefore was filed
too late.

The Employment Tribunal decided (and the Employment Appeal Tribunal agreed) that the dismissal in this case in fact took place on 7th July, because on that date Mrs Robinson’s solicitor, having been told by email by the employer on 6th July that Mrs Robinson
was dismissed, communicated that information to Mrs Robinson. Consequently, the three month time limit for Mrs Robinson to file her unfair dismissal claim ran from 7th July and expired on 6th October – one day before Mrs Robinson lodged her claim with the

The Employment Appeal Tribunal confirmed that the date on which a dismissal takes effect is the date on which the employee learns of the dismissal. The only exception to this, as explained in the 2010 Supreme Court case of Gisda Cyf –v- Barratt, is where an
employee has had a reasonable opportunity to find out about the dismissal, but has nonetheless not done so. In those circumstances the dismissal will take effect on the date when the employee first had a reasonable opportunity to learn that he or she had been

In the Gisda case, Mrs Barratt was sent a letter by her employer informing her that she had been dismissed and that letter arrived at Mrs Barratt’s home on Thursday, 30th November. However, Mrs Barratt was staying away from home on that date and only returned
home on Sunday, 3rd December and then only found out about the letter on 4th December. The Supreme Court decided that the date on which her dismissal took effect was therefore 4th December, as that was the date when Mrs Barratt first learned of her dismissal
and she had not had a reasonable opportunity to learn of it before then. If she had been staying away from home deliberately so as to avoid learning of the dismissal, then the dismissal might have taken effect on the day when the letter arrived at her home,
but that was not the case. She had simply been away from home visiting a relative for the weekend.    

Nigel Crebbin
, partner in the employment law team at Berg, comments that all of this shows how important it is for both employers and employees that the date of dismissal is clear and that the fact of the dismissal is properly communicated.

“Employees need to be clear as to when the dismissal took effect, so that they can make sure that any unfair dismissal claim is filed in time. However, it’s also important for employers to be certain that dismissal has taken place and when it took place. If
a dismissal has not occurred, then the individual remains employed and therefore continues to accrue pay and holiday entitlement. Also the employer needs to know the date of dismissal, so that they can establish whether any unfair dismissal claim which is
filed can be opposed on the grounds that it has been filed outside of the three month time limit.”  

For more information about any of the above or for practical commercial advice on this or any other aspect of employment law, please contact
Nigel Crebbin of the

Berg Employment Team
on 0161 833 9211 or email him at

Follow us on Twitter @Berg_HR for regular news and employment law updates

(The information and opinions contained in this article are not intended to be comprehensive, nor to provide legal advice. No responsibility for its accuracy or correctness is assumed by Berg or any of its partners or employees. Professional legal advice should
be obtained before taking, or refraining from taking, any action as a result of this article.)

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