Horwood v Lincoln County Council is a useful reminder that although the parties to a contract can, between them, agree to change the end date of a contract, bringing it forward and or putting it back, that cannot displace the effective date of termination as defined in the Employment Rights Act 1996 s. 97, which is crucial for calculating time limits for bringing employment claims.
Ms Horwood wrote a letter of resignation to her employer in response to what she said were defects in a disciplinary process applied to her and her subsequent demotion, claiming that these amounted to constructive dismissal. Her letter stated that she wished her resignation to have "immediate effect". It was sent on 28 January, and opened and date stamped on 29 January, although it probably wasn’t read until a few days later. The employer subsequently wrote to her saying that it would treat 2 February as her date of termination and pay her until then. Ms Horwood then proceeded on the basis that her employment had ended on the 2 February and presented her claim on 29 April.
The Employment Appeal Tribunal upheld the decision of the tribunal to refuse to allow her claim to proceed. When an employee resigns, that ends the employment contract, and there is no need for an employer to accept that resignation for it to have effect. Further, if the resignation is in writing, it takes effect when it is received, not when it is read. So regardless of anything anyone at Lincoln CC said, Ms Horwood’s employment ended on 29 January, and the three month time limit started running then. An argument that it was not reasonably practicable to present the claim earlier, because of the employer’s statement that employment continued until 2 February, also failed because it was so clear that she intended to resign with immediate effect in her letter of 28 January.