In any redundancy process, an employer should identify any suitable alternative employment and where possible offer this to the affected employees. It is therefore necessary to consider whether a move to another location can be considered a suitable alternative to being made redundant. If an employer fails to offer suitable employment as an alternative to redundancy they may find themselves facing a claim for unfair dismissal.
A mere change of workplace is unlikely to make a job unsuitable if the nature of the job itself remains unchanged. If an employee refuses an offer of alternative employment following relocation, the employee’s reasonableness becomes an issue. An employee’s refusal to relocate over a large distance will not always be reasonable and the employment tribunal has stated that reasonableness is subjective and depends on the employees personal circumstances.
If an employee unreasonably refuses to accept an offer of suitable employment as an alternative to redundancy that employee would forfeit their right to a redundancy payment, however will still be seen to have been dismissed due to redundancy.
Employees who are offered the chance to relocate as an alternative to redundancy would have to consider a number of factors before they rejected the offer as unreasonable in order to ensure that they would still receive their entitlement to redundancy pay. Employers would have to consider their rejections taking on board everything they find unreasonable in order to ensure they do not refuse a redundancy payment when it is due. These factors would include:
- Whether the role is the same or very similar to the role they left
- Whether the role is permanent or temporary
- Whether job prospects remain the same
- Whether the remuneration would remain the same, be reduced or increased
- Whether any relocation package was being offered to ensure the employee was not out of pocket
- Any significant difference in cost of living
- Whether the industry expects employees to be mobile and relocate regularly
Personal factors would also have to be considered including:
- Whether spouses / partners and children could be relocated with ease
- Whether the employee relocates without their spouse / partner and children and how often they would be able to see them as a result
- Commuting and traveling time as a result of the relocation
- Increased cost of living as a result of the relocation e.g. renting a flat whilst the spouse / partner remains in situ
- Caring responsibilities for relatives.
In two cases decided by the employment tribunal on the same day against the same employer, it was found that an employee who worked in civil engineering as an alternative to redundancy was offered work in the Hebrides and would only get home from work one weekend in every six. He refused the offer and it was held that the offer was suitable as a degree of mobility was expected in the industry. Conversely another employee received an identical offer and refused. He had a wife and 5 children, two of whom were in poor health and his wife could not cope with prolonged periods of caring for the family alone. It was held that his domestic circumstances made his refusal reasonable.
How does this affect employers?
Employers must be aware that some employees might jump at the chance to relocate and find it very easy to do so, others may have significant problems in doing so and each employee’s circumstances should be treated individually.
Employers must ensure that offers of alternative employment are given careful consideration in their drafting and whether the terms are negotiable or subject to change. Employees must also review the reasonableness of any offer and where it is considered to be unsuitable provide the employer with well thought out, justifiable reasons for refusal.
If you require any further information on redundancy please contact our employment team on 0161 475 7676.