Want to talk to an expert employment law solicitor?

You'll receive a callback from a specialist within an hour

The case we are going to look at today (Zulhayir v JJ Food Service Ltd) is one which involves the potentially tricky issue of when, whether and how a dismissal occurs. We’ll therefore look at the following four elements:

  1. The law relating to unfair dismissal
  2. The facts in Zulhayir v JJ Food Service Ltd
  3. The Employment Appeal Tribunal’s judgment
  4. Our thoughts on Zulhayir v JJ Food Service Ltd

The law relating to unfair dismissal

Under s.94(1) Employment Rights Act 1996 employees possess the right not to be unfairly dismissed by their employer. Looked at crudely, the main issues that arise (although these are complicated in themselves, as the current case demonstrates) are:

  1. Did a dismissal occur (and if so, how and when)?
  2. Was this dismissal unfair (both procedurally and/or substantively)?

We’ll look at the first element today – when and how does a dismissal occur?

There are three broad ways in which a contract of employment can be terminated: termination by the employer, termination by the employee (resignation), and the end of a fixed-term contract. In most cases the fact of whether a dismissal has occurred is a relatively simple one – the employer either notifies the employee that they’re being (summarily) dismissed or the employee hands in their notice (or resigns without notice, depending on the circumstances).

However, if the intention to dismiss the employee or for the employee to resign is unclear then the Employment Tribunal must decide on the balance of probabilities whether a dismissal has actually occurred on the facts available to it. In cases involving ambiguous wording the words must be given the meaning that they would have in their normal workplace context.

This case addresses 3 issues relating to unfair dismissal:

  1. How was the dismissal alleged to have taken place?
  2. Did a dismissal take place?
  3. When did the dismissal take place?

The facts in Zulhayir v JJ Food Service Ltd

The Claimant (the employee) commenced work with the Respondent (the employer) in November 2001. In January 2005 the Claimant sustained a serious injury at work which rendered him unable to carry out his previous duties. He was then absent from work on sick leave almost permanently.

The Claimant’s contract of employment stated that the Claimant must inform the Respondent of any change in address. In January 2006 the Claimant had been evicted from his previous residence and moved to a new accommodation. He did not inform the Respondent of this change in address.

On 28 June 2006 a letter was sent by the Respondent by recorded delivery to the Claimant’s previous address. This letter was returned. In the letter the Respondent requested whether the Claimant still wished to work for the Respondent. It further stated that if the Respondent did not hear from the Claimant by 5 July 2006 the Respondent would assume that the Claimant had resigned.

The Claimant (for obvious reasons) did not reply to the Respondent by 5 July 2006. However, he was notified by letter on 20 May 2009 by the Respondent’s solicitors in his claim for personal injury against his employer  that he had been treated as having been ‘self-dismissed’ on 5 July 2006. The Claimant subsequently submitted a claim for disability discrimination, breach of contract, and unfair dismissal on 28 July 2009.

The Employment Appeal Tribunal’s judgment

The Employment Tribunal considered the above issues and arrived at the following conclusions:

  1. The Respondent was alleging that a “self-dismissal” had taken place. This is not possible under English employment law. If a Claimant is in repudiatory breach of his contract of employment then the employer must accept the breach and terminate the contract. The Respondent had not in this case communicated acceptance of the breach to the Claimant.
  2. Following on from the above, a dismissal did take place but not until the Claimant received the letter from the Respondent’s solicitors on 20 May 2009. The time limit for his unfair dismissal claim (leaving aside his disability discrimination claim) was therefore 19 August 2009.
  3. The Claimant had submitted his various claims on 28 July 2009. His claims were therefore within the prescribed time limit.

Our thoughts

This is an interesting look at the law relating to the dismissal and is also an illustration of when Employment Tribunal judges can make mistakes. The Claimant’s claim had previously been struck out at a Pre-Hearing Review as it was deemed to be outside the relevant time limits. The Employment Appeal Tribunal disagreed with this and stated that the unfair dismissal and disability discrimination claims were within time and could therefore proceed.

Point to take away: if there is no actual communication of the acceptance of the repudiatory breach of contract then it does not terminate the contract of employment.

About Chris Hadrill

Chris is a specialist employment lawyer at Redmans. He specialises in contentious and non-contentious employment matters, including breach of contract claims, compromise agreements and Employment Tribunal cases. He writes on employment law matters on a variety of websites, including Direct 2 Lawyers, Lawontheweb.co.uk, LegalVoice, the Justice Gap and his own blog. Contact Chris by emailing him at chadrill@redmans.co.uk

Share →

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Our awards

Request a callback

Your name

Your email

Your telephone number

Contact us

Please feel free to discuss your own position and concerns. Contact your nearest office on:

T: 020 3397 3603
E: enquiries@redmans.co.uk
W: www.redmans.co.uk


4.64 Average

28 Reviews


Excellent service from initial contact to deliverables.

Posted 4 days ago

Virginia K

Yes, Chris Hadrill answered all my questions and I feel more confident with my current situation

Posted 4 days ago


Chris Hadrill was referred to me my a friend of mine. I found the service to be efficient, quick and like Chris's direct approach to my work. Well done and thank you Chris!

Posted 6 days ago

Andy W

Very prompt & structured service that helped put my mind at rest at a difficult time

Posted 1 week ago


I have found Redmans to be very helpful, diligant and thoroughly professional when dealing with them, plus they gone that extra mile for me !

Posted 3 weeks ago


Thank you to Chris Hadrill at Redmans for his assistance in settling my case. I contacted him at the very last minute and he was happy to help me and managed to get everything done on time and in a very professional manner. I will definitely be happy to work with him again .

Posted 1 month ago

Redman's provided excellent legal employment advice for me during a difficult time in my employment. Chris was my lawyer, super efficient, quick, reliable and clearly very experienced in the matter. Could not ask for a better law firm to deal with your query if you are in need of some help. Would definitely use them again in the future. Highly recommending Chris.

Posted 4 months ago


Chris Hadrill was very professional and responsive. I would highly recommend him

Posted 4 months ago


Very Efficient, with very quick email reply’s. I had a matter that needed resolving within a very short space of time and Redmans Solicitors were great with dealing with my matter quickly.

Posted 4 months ago


At Redmans the solicitor that was dealing with me was Chris. He dealt with my situation smoothly with clear guidance and explanation

Posted 5 months ago


Clear, concise advice and guidance delivered by an experienced and very capable solicitor, within the timelines required

Posted 5 months ago


Very efficient service. I never had to wIt for more than a day for a reply to any of my queries and the matter was dealt with swiftly.

Posted 5 months ago


Very timely, thorough and helpful advice. Friendly and considerate of the needs of the client

Posted 5 months ago


Very prompt and attention to detail. Thank you for the service

Posted 5 months ago


Couldn’t be happier with how Redmans successfully handled our seemingly tricky case. By being clear and detailed every step of the way, with the utmost professionalism and courtesy, they made it an informative and eye-opening process, taking the stress out of the situation and ultimately delivered what you would want from such a service. I fully appreciate everything they have done, and if I am ever in need of such services in the future, they will be the first number I contact. Excellent.

Posted 5 months ago


Excellent work delivered with great quality

Posted 5 months ago


Chris Hadrill was a great help both in terms of his advice and his expertise. He explained my options to me clearly and concisely enabling me to quickly make the right decision for me in the circumstance. I would not hesitate to recommend Chris or Redmans to friends or colleagues, and would certainly make Redmans my first port of call should I require a similar service in the future.

Posted 5 months ago


Redmans gave excellent advice and helped me understand everything in clear concepts. Thank you!

Posted 5 months ago


Resolved my issues

Posted 5 months ago


Quick fast professional service.

Posted 5 months ago


"Prompt, efficient and practical advice that resulted in me getting some additional money tax free."

Posted 5 months ago