You may find yourself considering relocating employees for a variety of reasons. It could be that you are relocating your business, merging with another business, or opening another site.
Whatever the reasoning, you will need to tread carefully when relocating staff as employers have certain obligations, and employees certain rights, that need to be considered.
In the employee’s Contract of Employment, there may be a clause which allows the employer to move the employee to another place. This is known as a mobility clause.
If there is an express mobility clause, the employee will be required to move to the new premises or workplace, subject to the employer exercising their discretion under that clause reasonably. What is considered ‘reasonable’ is not defined in any legislation, but for example, it would not be ‘reasonable’ to move an employee from London to Manchester and only give them 24 hours’ notice.
No mobility clause
If the employee’s contract does not contain a mobility clause, the employee is under no obligation to agree to a move.
If they do not wish to move, you should try and discuss different options with them. Depending on the nature of the move you are proposing, it may mean that they have a longer or more expensive commute. If the new site is far away from their current place of work, it may require them to move house and worry about the upheaval of relocating their family. With this in mind, you should explain the reasons for the move and consider whether there are any ways to relieve the burden; for example, is there scope for them to work from home or can they work from another site?
It is a good idea to consider a trial relocation period. This would give the employee the opportunity to try out working at the new location for a few weeks and see how they feel about a permanent move.
Redundancy due to relocation of the office
If the employee is adamant that they do not wish to move, a redundancy situation may arise as their job at their current workplace no longer exists.
The employee cannot unreasonably refuse any suitable alternative employment options. What is reasonable would depend on the circumstances. For instance, if the location is close and easy to get to and does not significantly disrupt the employee’s family situation, it may be unreasonable for the employee to refuse. Eligible employees may lose their redundancy pay if they unreasonably refuse.
How far a company can move before offering redundancy?
If an employer decides to move premises, even if it is a very short distance, that is a potential redundancy situation given one of the statutory definitions of redundancy is a workplace closure. However, as mentioned above, employers can avoid a redundancy situation in this regard if they have a mobility clause in their contracts and can choose to exercise that clause as an alternative to making redundancies.
Again, any mobility clause must be exercised reasonably. If the new workplace is very close to the old one, that will not pose a problem. If, on the other hand, the new site is further away and would add significantly to an employee’s commute, it may not be reasonable to expect them to travel. There are not, however, set distance rules surrounding an office move and redundancy.
Employee rights, including all those outlined in the Contract of Employment, continue in the case of business transfers. Irrespective of whether the old or new owner wants to relocate, employee rights continue as normal and will need to be thought about.
Need professional advice?
Often in these situations, talking things through with a professional can help you to weigh up your options and avoid costly mistakes. Our team of legally-qualified Employment Law specialists can guide you through the legalities of moving premises and any subsequent redundancy process so that you can move forward confidently.