Harper v Virgin Net Limited, CA, 10 March 2004

No more opportunities for loss of opportunity: Harper was summarily dismissed on 2 March 2001, 33 days short of the one-year qualifying period needed to bring a claim for unfair dismissal. Her employment contract specified three months’ notice. She brought a successful claim for wrongful dismissal, and the tribunal awarded three months’ salary as damages, being the notice period that Harper should have received.

The tribunal also awarded a further sum for ‘loss of opportunity to claim unfair dismissal’. Virgin Net appealed against the award. The EAT upheld its appeal, ruling that such an award was not available as a matter of law. Harper appealed.

It was dismissed. There was no right to claim compensation for loss of an opportunity to claim unfair dismissal, and therefore the tribunal had been wrong to award damages under this head. Parliament had stated that a worker does not have the right to claim unfair dismissal unless they have one year’s continuous service. The effective date of termination (EDT) can only be postponed by reference to statutory notice procedures. There is no right in the statute to extend the EDT by reference to contractual notice periods, as the tribunal had effectively done here.

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