As many of you may already be aware, our firm is due to move into our new Weybridge office over the Christmas period, so we thought it would be fitting to focus this week’s bulletin on the common employment issues that arise when an employer has to relocate a workplace.
There is a potential redundancy situation when an employer intends to cease to carry on its business in the place where an employee is employed, both with workplace relocations and office closures. An employee’s rights in the event of relocation will largely depend on what their contract of employment says and, most importantly, whether it contains a mobility clause. Such clauses usually reserve the employer’s right to change the place of work and state that an employee may be required to work from any of the employer’s offices or locations if required.
If there is a mobility clause in the contract, then employees can be required to relocate unless it would be unreasonable to expect them to do so. There is no definition of what an “unreasonable” request would be, but factors such as resulting financial loss, a much longer commute or severe disruption to childcare arrangements should be taken into consideration. Further, the test is subjective, not objective, and the impact on each employee can differ greatly.
If the employer’s request is reasonable, and the employee refuses to relocate, then the employer could dismiss the employee for misconduct, and specifically their failure to follow a reasonable instruction. Whether such a dismissal would be fair will depend on factors such as the distance between the two workplaces, the reasons for the relocation and what consultation had taken place.
In the situation where there is no mobility clause, an employer should seek the employee’s agreement to vary the terms of their contract to avoid a redundancy situation.
Our advice to employers considering relocation is to give employees as much notice as possible that a relocation is to take place, and consult with them about the issue so that problems can be identified and concerns addressed. Employees should also be updated on relocation plans and timescales when possible, and appropriate support should be offered.
Where the new location will be some distance from the existing workplace, employers could also consider offering a relocation package, agreeing to vary the employees’ hours to allow for greater travel time or a trial relocation period.
The contents of this update are intended as guidance for readers. It can be no substitute for specific advice. Consequently we cannot accept responsibility for this information, errors or matters affected by subsequent changes in the law, or the content of any website referred to in this update. © Mundays LLP 2018.