It is sometimes unclear when a contract of employment has come to an end.

In the recent case of Heaven v Whitbread Group plc, the claimant wrote to his employer on 29 August: 'I tender my resignation... [but] this is dependent on two factors... [that I get] one month's money and a glowing reference'.

On 31 August, the employer wrote back, saying, in effect, that it could not accept a conditional resignation and it was for the claimant to decide whether he wished to stay on or go.

On 3 September, the claimant emailed back that he had 'no alternative but to resign' and confirmed that his resignation was effective from 29 August.

Because a conditional resignation is ineffective to terminate a contract of employment, the EAT confirmed that the contract was in fact terminated on 3 September, despite what the claimant himself said in his resignation letter.

Points to Note –

  • The 'effective date of termination' matters because unfair dismissal claims must be brought within three months of that date.
  • The definition is given in the Employment Rights Act 1996 and depends on what has actually happened between the parties, not what they may agree to treat as having happened.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.