Case Review: Ebay (UK) Ltd v Buzzeo

The Confusing Issue of an Effective Date of Termination

Any firm of employment law solicitors worth their salt will be able to advise you on when you have to get a tribunal claim submitted by when making an unfair dismissal claim. As it currently stands under s.111 Employment Rights Act 1996 this is 3 months minus one day from the effective date of termination. However things are not always as straight forward as they may seem as the case of Ebay (UK) Ltd v Buzzeo[1] shows.

In this case Miss Buzzeo put forward that she was employed by ebay and has substantiated that with evidence that it was ebay she corresponded and emailed with and also welcomed by. However ebay are arguing that there was no contract with Miss Buzzeo and instead had a contract for services through an organisation known as Helm.

She started work at ebay from September 2010 all the while invoicing Helm which hinted that she was was engaged under a contract for services. Fast forward to 30 March 2012 where an employee of ebay (Mr Hoole) told Miss Buzzeo that her services were no longer required, not to do any more work for them and that she would get one months notice. She then received an email from Helm on 6 April 2012 terminating their agreement with her. Within this email the termination date is listed as 5 May 2012.

Miss Buzzeo submitted her claim on 30 July 2012. If the date of termination was 30 April or earlier it would be out of time however she put forward that it was 5 May 2012 which was stipulated in the email. Prior to submitting her claim she had spoken with a firm of employment law solicitors who had advised her that she had 3 months from 5 May 2012.

At Tribunal

At tribunal the Judge had decided that Miss Buzzeo had brought it in time however they failed really to explain what the effective date of termination was. Instead it seemed that the Judge was going to accept the case no matter what the date of termination was.

At Appeal

At Appeal ebay tried to argue that the date of termination was at the latest the 30 April making her out of time by a few days. The Appeal Judge however did not agree making two points regarding the effective date of termination.

Firstly there was ambiguity about whether Mr Hoole was even intending to give notice at that exact moment. In a company like ebay one would expect to receive some formal notice (which she did receive in the form of the letter from Helm) rather than it being transmitted verbally.

“If Mr Hoole was doing no more than saying that she would be getting formal notice, then the effective date of termination would be provided by the formal notice”

Secondly considering the queries over the contractual situation between Miss Buzzeo, Ebay and Helm it is surprising that an Effective date of termination could be decided. If there was no contract between Ebay and Miss Buzzeo why was Mr Hoole giving notice when he had no right to do so. Whereas if Helm was an intermediary for ebay then it might be expected that Mr Hoole would instruct Helm to give notice rather than doing it personally, which they actually did.

The Judge gave no clear answer on what the effective date of termination was, instead remitting it back to the tribunal for a fresh hearing however it is clear that sometimes it’s not quite so simple to establish exactly when you were dismissed.

As an aside there were further discussion about whether her employment law solicitors were negligent relating to the advice surrounding her claim however they do not apply to the discussion on the effective date of termination.

What Next?

If you feel that you have been dismissed and you are worried about exactly when you were dismissed please do no hesitate to contact us on [phonenumber] where one of our team will be able to advise you on your situation and let you know if your case is one our employment law solicitors could deal with on a no win no fee basis.