Handing notice in to a job is not always a letter of resignation

A letter that sets out one months’ notice should not be automatically assumed as a letter of resignation, an EAT Judge has confirmed.

In the case of East Kent Hospitals University NHS Foundation Trust v Levy, Judge Jennifer Eady dismissed the appeal and confirmed the tribunals earlier decision that the employee had in fact been unfairly dismissed.

In this case, the employee was offered a new role in the radiology department, as a result of this she submitted a letter to her line manager giving “one months’ notice”.

After the claimant had become unhappy in her current position, she successfully applied for a role in the radiology department – on June 10, 2016 – subject to pre-engagement checks.

Her letter to her manager, Gorton Davey read: “Please accept one month’s notice from the above date”.
On the same day, her manager responded saying: “Thank you for your letter… in which you tendered your notice of resignation. I can confirm that your last day of work within Health Records will be 8th July 2016. I would like to take this opportunity in thanking you for your hard work, dedication and contributions to a highly successful team over the years, and I wish you every success with your future employment.”

However, on 16th June, the claimants new job offering was retracted on the grounds of her poor attendance record. Because of this, Levy attempted to withdraw her notice, but her manager refused and wrote to her to confirm the date of termination, addressed the issue of outstanding holiday entitlement and filled out an employee termination form.

Mr Gorton-Davey wrote: “It is with regret that I cannot accept your request and as a result, your last day of work with us will be on Sunday, 10 July 2016. I also need to inform you that due to the number of days annual leave taken already this financial year, the Trust will be looking to recover 88 hours pay from you”.

As a consequence of this, Levy brought a claim of unfair dismissal against her employers. In April 2017, the Employment Tribunal held in favour of the claimant and held that her employers had unfairly dismissed her.

Her employers responded arguing that the wording used by Levy in her letter of notice was unambiguous. The Employment Tribunal rejected this response and said the letter could have been either a notice of intended transfer or a notice of termination. Stating that the employees’ letter would lead a reasonable observer to agree that the claimant was not ending her employment but simply making her manager aware that she intended to accept the offer.

The Tribunal also took into consideration the conditions of the claimant’s letter in that she was unaware that her employment history had potential to affect the conditional offer and that she needed to work to support herself and her family.

East Kent Hospitals University NHS Foundation Trust appealed and failed. At the EAT, Judge Eady expressed: “…once it became apparent that the offer of a position in the Radiology Department had been withdrawn, and the claimant was seeking to withdraw her notice of departure from Records, the respondent’s position was that the claimant’s employment must come to an end.

“Given its findings of fact, however, I do not consider the [employment tribunal] erred in finding that this, in context, amounted to a dismissal and not simply the acceptance of a resignation.”

Employer considerations

It is important to note, that the events in this case are rare. However, the circumstances of this case should serve a reminder to all employers to ensure a clear understanding when an employee resigns or offers to give notice of resignation. Employers should attempt to understand why the employee is resigning, the notice they intend to serve and clarify when the employment relationship will terminate.

How can Employment Law Services (ELS) help?

If you are an employer who requires assistance with any of the issues raised in this blog contact us today for your free consultation 0370 218 5662.

Top 5 Employment Law Questions of August 2018

1. When is it permissible for an employer to terminate the contract of employment of an employee on the grounds of ill health?

Dismissing an employee on the grounds of ill health is anything but straight forward. Lack of capability, including when assessed with reference to health can be viewed as a potentially fair reason for dismissal under s98 of the Employment Rights Act 1996.

Assuming the employer can provide enough evidence that capability is the reason behind the dismissal, it must then be followed with a fair procedure.

Over the years, case law has established 4 main elements that constitute a fair procedure, these include:

• Consultation with the employee
• A medical investigation
• Consideration of alternative employment
• Possible ill health early retirement if there is provision for this

2. What records relating to statutory maternity pay must an employer keep?

An employer must keep the following information on each employee who receives statutory maternity pay:

• The medical certificate (MAT B1) or other evidence relating to the pregnancy that has been provided by the employee
• A record of intended dates of leave advised by the employee and the date the maternity leave officially commenced, if circumstances change
• A record of weeks that SMP was paid and the amount paid each week
• A note of any weeks in the maternity pay period for which SMP was not paid and the reasons why

3. If an employee wishes to resign after disciplinary proceedings have commenced, should the employer continue the disciplinary proceedings?

If the employee’s resignation is with immediate effect, then his or her employment will terminate. There would then be nothing to gain in continuing disciplinary proceedings without the employee who is no longer employed. However, it is important that employers store the disciplinary information for up to one year following the employee’s resignation. This information will be of great use should the employee attempt to claim constructive dismissal or unlawful discrimination following the disciplinary proceedings.

4. What will happen to EU employees after Brexit?

The rules on free movement and immigration in the UK still remain unclear. This topic has been a fundamental issue of the negotiations held between the UK and the EU.

On 8 December 2017, the UK Government announced it had come to an agreement with the EU on citizens’ rights. Following this, a further agreement was reached on the terms of the implementation period. The agreement named “Settled and pre-settled status for EU Citizens and their families” is not yet law and will be subject to change depending on the final outcome of the negotiations.

The Government have implied that there will be an implementation period, which is due to commence on 29 March 2019 (the withdrawal date) and will terminate on 31 December 2020. Under this agreement, EU nationals residing in the UK before 31 2020 will meet the criteria for settled status when they have been a UK resident for 5 years. This will give them the right to work and live in the UK without a fixed time limit.

EU nationals who do not have 5 years continuous residency will be permitted to apply for a permit, which will grant them the right to remain until they reach the 5-year mark, at this point they will be able to apply for settled status.

Those who arrive in the UK throughout the implementation period will be required to register their residency if they stay for longer than 3 months.

5. Can employers still operate childcare voucher schemes following the introduction of tax-free childcare?

Yes, employers can still operate a childcare voucher scheme. However, it is important to note that new entrants will not be eligible to join the scheme from 4 October 2018.

The Government had initially announced that the scheme would end 5 April 2018. However, it was extended by 6 months in March 2018. Employees will continue to reap benefits from an existing childcare voucher scheme, as long as they continue as employees of the employer and that employer continues to offer the scheme.

How can Employment Law Services (ELS) help?

If you are an employer who requires assistance with any of the issues raised in this blog contact us today for your free consultation 0370 218 5662.

Time off for dependants: advice for employers

From the first day of employment all employees have the right to time off to care for a dependant. Under s57a and s57b of the Employment Rights Act, all employees are entitled to a “reasonable” amount of unpaid leave. However, what is deemed as reasonable can be fact specific.

Who is a dependant?
A dependant is someone who relies on the employee for care, which can vary from a spouse, partner, child, parent or someone who depends on the employee, for example an elderly neighbour.

When can time off be taken?
• When a dependant falls ill, gives birth, is injured or assaulted;
• To make care arrangements for a dependant who has fallen ill or is injured;
• In consequence of the death of a dependant;
• To deal with an incident that concerns a child of the employee whilst in care of an educational establishment.

How much time off can an employee take?
An employee will be entitled to a reasonable amount of time off to deal with the emergency, but there is no set amount of time as it depends on the situation.
For example, if a dependant falls ill, an employee can take time off to take that child to the doctors and make care arrangements. An employer may then ask the employee to take parental or annual leave if they wished to stay off with the child for longer.

Does the employee have to give notice?
The employee does not need to give notice; however, they should provide the employer with a reason for the absence as early as possible and when they anticipate their return to work.

Should the employee be paid for this time off?
No, an employer does not have a statutory obligation to pay employees for time off to care for dependants.

An employer must not:
• Treat employees unfairly for taking time off, for example refusing them training or promotion;
• Dismiss an employee or choose them for redundancy because they asked for time off for a dependant;
• Refuse an employee reasonable time off.

How can Employment Law Services (ELS) help?
If you are an employer who requires assistance with any of the issues raised in this blog contact us today for your free consultation 0370 218 5662.

How to upskill your workforce to get the most out of your employees

One of the biggest concerns for small business owners is the skills gap as the UK is soon set to leave the EU.

Recruitment website Totaljobs.com have produced research identifying 2 out of 3 employees have moved on due to lack of development opportunities and training.

Providing your employees with training and further education opportunities can have a number of benefits for your business in the long-term, including, improved employee morale, higher retention and increased productivity.

Therefore, upskilling your current workforce is a crucial step to keep your employees engaged. Here are our top tips to get the most out of your team.

Workplace mentoring

New starts and junior level employees benefit from this the most. Mentoring can be done informally – simply set aside some time each week to give your employees feedback, and work alongside them when solving problems and decision making. This has been proved as a more efficient way to bring employees up to scratch more quickly than if left unsupervised.

Training courses

Training courses are effective when improving your current workforce. However, they are also viewed as attractive benefits for ambitious individuals. Benefits include:

  • Increased productivity
  • Employees develop a greater skill set which in turn allows them to undertake a wider variety of duties
  • Increased ability to adapt effectively to change in the workplace

A report published by research firm Gallup – “How millennials want to work” identified that 59% of respondents said that opportunities to learn and develop were crucial when applying for jobs.

Set out roles & responsibilities clearly

If your employees have a clearer understanding of what is expected of them and how their input contributes to the success of the business, they will have a greater sense of purpose and in turn will have a stronger commitment in what they can achieve.

We recommend holding team meetings once a month to ensure all employees are contributing. This helps them understand their own individual role as well as the importance of their team.

Reward your employees for their efforts

It is well established that happy employees are vital to the long-term success of any organisation. Recognising your employees hard work and rewarding them will:

  • Create a good impression of your business to those outside of it
  • Aid the recruitment process
  • Encourage your employees to always go that extra mile for the business
  • Supports team work and cohesiveness

How can Employment Law Services (ELS) Help?

If you require employment law advice on any of the issues raised in this article, or any other employment issue give us a call today on 0370 218 5662.  You can also find out more about our fixed fee HR packages here and fixed fee employment law packages here, or get in touch.