21 Aug 2020
Sometimes relocation is unavoidable. That doesn’t mean managing the transition of key employees to the new workplace is any less complex.
To ensure you don’t open yourself up to claims of unfair or constructive dismissal, you need to know your employees’ rights.
Why do employees have relocation rights?
Sometimes relocation is reasonable—other times it isn’t. Employees have specific rights in place to protect them from employers who might want them to move to the other side of the country with a day’s notice.
What are the relocation rights for employees?
It ultimately comes down to whether they have a ‘mobility clause’ in their contract of employment’s terms and conditions. If they do, then the employee must move unless the request is completely unreasonable.
What makes a move ‘unreasonable’ isn’t clearly defined. A good measure is whether the relocation will result in a decline in the employee’s quality of life. This can include things like childcare arrangements, travel time, and so on.
It’s also very important to remember that what might be reasonable for one employee may not be for another.
For example, a single man living in a rented property is going to have a much easier time moving abroad than a parent with young children and a mortgage.
If the employee believes the move to be unreasonable, they have the right to bring a claim of constructive dismissal against you if they have had a length of service of two or more years.
To avoid these claims, you should inform affected employees in writing about their relocation. Establish an open line of communication with them and set out the implications of refusing to move clearly.
Relocation and redundancy
Redundancy might be an alternative option if:
- There’s no mobility clause in their contract.
- There is a mobility clause, but it would be unreasonable to ask the employee to move.
When considering this option, you need to consider relocation and employees’ rights on redundancy pay.
If the employee has been working for you for two years or more, they have entitlement to statutory redundancy pay. You should calculate this based on their salary, years of service, and their age during employment.
If the employee refuses an offer that is ‘reasonable’ they may not be eligible for redundancy payments.
Individual move vs company move
There are numerous reasons you might ask an employee to relocate. However, they tend to fall into one of two broad categories:
- A full workplace relocation
- An individual move
The first might be a result of an office closing down or moving to a new location to accommodate more staff. You might request an individual move to help set up a new office, or due to work demand.
Whatever the reason, each type of move presents unique challenges.
First, let’s focus on individual job relocation & rights. Moving an individual or a small group poses the risk of discrimination.
You must ensure members of staff are not adversely affected by a relocation. Consider the reasonable requirements of any disabled employees and resolve any access issues they may have.
This also applies to offering incentives to your employees to move. It’s usually fine to offer a higher rate of pay or better career prospects as a way to encourage staff to move.
But be wary of offering incentive packages to select employees. This could also result in claims of discrimination.
When considering a full company relocation & employee rights you need to address all of the challenges detailed above, but on a larger scale.
Relocating more people might also mean you face a mass redundancy situation. If this is the case you’ll need to hold a consultation process and maybe enter discussions with trade unions. If the move is a considerable distance, you should look at offering a relocation assistance scheme.
This can involve financial support as well as providing contacts to help staff relocate quickly and easily.
Do employers have relocation rights?
Moving location often focuses on the employee. But, as an employer, it’s worth knowing what your work relocation rights are too.
For example, you have the right to force a move if the employee has a mobility clause in their contract. You also have the right to make employees redundant if the move isn’t reasonable, or if the employee refuses a reasonable request.
However, it’s in your interest to try to come to a mutual agreement with the employee regarding the move. It’s also up to you whether to offer incentives or financial assistance.
If an employer is taken over?
Employees’ rights receive protection from certain regulations if there’s a takeover of an employer and the new owners want to relocate.
This regulation is TUPE. That’s the Transfer of Undertakings Protection of Employment.
All employees’ existing rights, including contractual rights and redundancy protection, stay the same. It makes no difference that it’s a new employer who moves the office location.
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