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Employer relocation: Advice for Employees

Employment Law

The BBC recently announced that they are relocating 400 jobs outside of London in order to create more roles in other areas around the UK.  The broadcaster plans to move key departments to Birmingham, Cardiff, Leeds, Glasgow and Salford. BBC Director-General Tim Davie believes the relocation plans will help the BBC “get closer to audiences, create jobs and investment”.

A number of large UK businesses have also announced they are scaling back their office space or closing their office in a switch to employees working permanently from home following the pandemic. Nationwide, the UK’s biggest building society announced plans to ask office staff to ‘work anywhere’ under a new ‘flexibility scheme’ for employees following a Nationwide survey of staff.

However, whilst some employees may welcome an office move or change to their location of work, other employees may have difficulty adjusting to the relocation plans and they may refuse to relocate. We discuss the rules around workplace relocation.

What rights do I have if I am being asked to relocate for work?

Firstly, it is important to check whether your employment contract contains a mobility clause. A mobility clause is a contractual provision that enables an employer to require the employee to work from a different location either on a temporary or permanent basis. This clause does however need to be enforced ‘reasonably’. For example, the relocation may be unreasonable if it may cause severe disruptions to your family life or financial difficulties.

It can often be difficult to define what is ‘reasonable’ or ‘unreasonable’ and will depend on the interpretation and circumstances of each employee. If you have been asked to relocate or you are an employer considering asking staff to relocate, it is advisable to ask an experienced employment law solicitor for advice to ensure requests are reasonable and will not lead to potential problems further down the line.

Your employer should explain the reasons for relocating and you should be given reasonable notice of when the move will take place. Your employer may also choose to support you through the transition by offering financial support, although this is within the employer’s discretion.

What are my options if I refuse to relocate?

If you are refusing to move as you believe the request is unreasonable or your employment contract doesn’t contain a mobility clause, you may be able to pursue claims of:

  • Constructive unfair dismissal: If you a refusing to move due to an unreasonable request and your employer fails to consider the impact the move will have on you, this may be seen as a breach of trust and confidence and you may be able to make a claim for constructive unfair dismissal.
  • Sex discrimination: It may be more difficult for women to move location in comparison to men as they are generally the secondary earners. In this instance, the mobility clause may initiate indirect sex discrimination.
  • Disability discrimination: If you are an employee with a disability and you are being forced to relocate, this may be considered as indirect disability discrimination although your employer may be able to impartially justify such discrimination.

What actions can my employer take if I refuse to relocate?

This will depend on whether you are deemed to be ‘unreasonably’ refusing the request to move and whether or not a mobility clause is contained within your contract.

If you decide that you do not wish to move as the request is unreasonable and/or your employment contract does not contain a mobility clause, you are within your rights to refuse, however, if as a result of the workplace move, your role at your current place of work no longer exists, your employer may be able to make you redundant.

You may be eligible to receive redundancy provided that you meet the following requirements:

  • You meet the redundancy criteria – if you have been employed for two years or more you are entitled to statutory redundancy pay.
  • You are not receiving any compensation from your employers due to refusing to relocate.
  • You did not refuse a suitable alternative offer that the employer offered as a substitute for an unreasonable request to relocate.

It can be difficult to identify redundancy situations and both employers and employees should seek professional advice to ensure correct processes and procedures are followed.

If you have a mobility contract within your employment contract, and your employer is able to enforce the clause reasonably, your employer may decide to dismiss you on the grounds of breaching your contract if you refuse to relocate.

What should I do if I am concerned about being asked to relocate?

If you are deciding whether to refuse a request to move workplace location, you should speak to a legal adviser to ensure you know your rights. An experienced legal adviser can help you decide whether any request is ‘reasonable’ and whether it is allowed under the terms of your contract. They can also discuss your options and ensure the correct processes and procedures are followed.

For more information about employer relocation or any other aspect of Employment Law, speak to our employment team today.

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