14 June 2024

In the age of remote work and home office, personal delivery of a notice of dismissal is not always an option. If the employer does not want to risk dismissal via e-mail, the notice is usually mailed to the employee's home address. However, in light of the recent decision of the Hungarian Supreme Court, even this solution believed to be safe may involve risks for the employer, which we analyse in our short article.

1. Facts of the case

In the case at hand, the claimant was an associate professor at a university, the defendant was his employer. The employer issued a notice of dismissal, however, it was not possible to deliver it in person, therefore the employer mailed the notice to the employee’s address, by registered letter, with return receipt service.

The postal delivery person who made the delivery indicated on the acknowledgement of delivery that the letter was duly served to the employee.

When the employer later informed the employee about the exemption from work in connection with the dismissal, the employee disputed the delivery of the notice, requested the presentation of the acknowledgment of receipt, to which the employer did not respond. Later, the employer excluded the employee from the university IT system, and then informed him by e-mail that his dismissal was duly communicated. The employee then informed the employer that he was not notified of the termination, he did not receive the notice by post, and he does not know the reasons of his dismissal. After that, the employer de-registered the employee at the social security authorities.

The employee, referring to the wrongful termination of the employment relationship, requested the payment of unpaid salary, compensation for the loss of income and severance pay.

During the litigation, it turned out that the employee had moved out from the address to where the employer sent the notice of dismissal, however, he requested a postal redirection service, therefore the letter should have been forwarded to his new address.

The postal delivery person did not notice this and handed the letter to an unknown person who opened the door for him at the original address.

Although the acknowledgement of receipt, in general, must be signed by the recipient, during the COVID-19 pandemic, when the delivery in question happened, the delivery persons were authorized to serve the letters without requesting the recipient to sign the acknowledge of receipt, so in the case at hand, the receipt was signed by the postal delivery person.

2. Decisions by the courts

The first-instance court, the second-instance court, and also the Hungarian Supreme Court ruled in favour of the claimant employee.

The courts were uniformly of the opinion that the burden of proving that the written notice of dismissal has been properly communicated rests with the declarant, i.e. in this case, the employer.

The employee disputed that he had received the written notice, and the employer could not prove with the acknowledgement of receipt that the employee had received the document.

In the litigation, the postal delivery person was heard as a witness, who admitted that he signed the return receipt himself, and his testimony was confusing as to who he actually served the letter to.

The court found that in connection with the labour law consequences of a wrongful termination, it is irrelevant that it was due to the incorrect procedure of the postal service provider, which is not attributable to the employer.

3. Comment

Under Hungarian labour law, notice of dismissal is only valid in written form. Violation of the formal requirement, in general, results in wrongful termination. It is therefore recommended for Hungarian employers to deliver the written notice either in person or by postal mail.

The recent decision of the Supreme Court makes it clear that under Hungarian labour law, the employer bears the risk in connection with postal misdelivery of a notice of dismissal, the post office's error can lead to wrongful termination, from the labour law consequences of which the employer cannot exempt itself.

Although recent Hungarian court practice is beginning to recognize certain online communications as being in written form, this practice is not yet mature enough, so “traditional delivery” still seems to be the safer method.


(in the article we analyse court decision published under No. BH 2024.5.118)