HGV Driver's Resignation Defeats Unfair Dismissal Claim

An HGV driver's unfair dismissal claim has been rejected after the Employment Tribunal (ET) found that his employment contract had already been brought to an end by his resignation (White v Eddis Transport (Consett) Ltd).

After he was observed to have veered while eating a sandwich when driving, the driver's employer advised him of a disciplinary hearing to be held the following week. That weekend he gave a week's notice of his resignation, as required by his employment contract. He attended the hearing, which took place the day before his last day. At 4.55pm on his last day, around ten minutes after he had finished work and left his employer's premises, he was sent an email summarily dismissing him for gross misconduct.

He brought a claim for unfair dismissal. The ET considered as a preliminary issue whether his employment had ended upon his resignation or continued long enough to be terminated by dismissal.

He argued that his employer could have called him back for additional work on his last day, on the basis that he remained employed until midnight, but upon further questioning he accepted that this was not a realistic possibility. Having driven all day, he would not have been able to drive again.

The ET noted that it was established by case law that employment contracts come to an end at a time agreed between the parties, and dismissal takes effect when it is communicated to the employee or when the employee can reasonably be considered to have read the dismissal notice.

The ET found that the driver had considered his employment to be at an end when he left at about 4.45pm. Neither he nor the employer had a realistic thought that he would be called back to work, and the ET did not consider that the email sent at 4.55pm should be taken as continuing his employment until then. His employment contract had therefore ended by reason of his resignation and he was not dismissed. Noting that his claim was not a constructive dismissal claim, the ET ruled that it was bound to fail.