In what must be the first predictable decision on the Statutory Dismissal and Grievance Procedures, the EAT in JONES v D W THOMSON & L M THOMSON t/a PROPERTY IMPROVEMENTS has held that employees are not entitled to a time limit extension for Unfair Dismissal claims if they have raised a grievance. Although there is a lot of ambiguity surrounding the procedures, what is clear is that the extension rules for dismissals are totally separate and distinct from the extension rules for grievances. The two must not be conflated, and raising a grievance does not give an extension of time for Unfair Dismissal claims.
The same case also considers whether a letter of dismissal is sufficiently clear and unambiguous to dismiss properly an employee on a date specified in the letter. The letter read:
“I now write formally to confirm that you have been selected for redundancy and will leave our employment on 06.09.05. You are entitled to five weeks’ notice, which will be paid in lieu.”
The employee was sent a P45 some time after this letter, which specified a latter termination date (at the end of the period over which the PILON payment was made). The EAT held that it was irrelevant what the P45 said, because the letter should be read objectively as it would be by an ordinary reasonable employee when the letter was sent – not with the benefit of other documents such as the P45 which was sent some time later. Despite the contradictory reference to notice and PILON, the EAT held it was clear the employee would leave on the date specified in the letter.
Notwithstanding this case, we would still recommend that dismissal letters do not confuse the issue of notice and PILON. For example “We write to confirm that you will be dismissed with effect from today, and will be paid in lieu of notice. Your last day of employment will therefore be X.”