“Notice is notice whether in writing or oral provided both parties are not misled as to what is meant. It does not matter, in terminating an employee’s appointment, whether he is given notice in writing or orally or not. What is important is whether the employer has demonstrated clearly by action that the services of the employee are no longer required by the employer” – per Mohammed, JSC in Ifeta v. S.P.D.C (Nig.) Ltd (2006) 8 NWLR (Pt. 983) 585.
In the instant case, the employee was informed at a meeting that he is fired, though he was not issued a letter of termination. One of the issues for determination before the court was whether the oral notice was effective since the subject matter employment contract provided that either party could terminate only by “notice in writing”. The SC held in the affirmative.
- There is a great deal of flexibility that courts tend to apply in the interpretation of employment contracts (and nearly always in favour of employees) – the courts will mostly look to the intent of the parties rather than the form of the contract. Otherwise, the law is trite that when parties have reduced their agreement into a document, the Court will not look outside the document in deciding the rights and obligations of the parties.
- Similarly, an oral notice to quit issued by an employee would equally be effective against the employer.
- Oral notice to terminate is likely to present some practical difficulties as it could be open to different interpretations. This is not likely where the notice is in writing as the document would speak for itself.
- It is best to put into writing your notice/intention to terminate/dismiss. Where the notice is oral, it should be reduced into writing shortly after and re-issued. It is needless to get entangled into legal haggles about something as basic as your intention to get out of an employment contract.