Employer Relocations – The Legal Issues


The Law Of…Relocations And Your Options

If an employer notifies employees of its intention to relocate to a different workplace location this can trigger a number of concerns. Can my employer force me to make the move? What are the consequences if I refuse to move? Can this be treated as a redundancy situation?

The issue of employer relocation has attracted some publicity in light of Brexit. Reports of office relocations involving large organisations have become more common, with financial organisations like UBS, Citigroup and HSBC all having been rumoured to be relocating from their London bases.

David Hession, Employment Law Associate, explains what your options are should your employer seek to implement a workplace relocation, as well as the legal issues that commonly arise.

Why Would My Employer Seek To Relocate?

An employer’s decision to relocate can arise in a number of circumstances. An employer may decide to outsource its operation abroad in order to make a cost saving. A relocation could also take place at a more local level due to the expiration of a lease. Relocations can also commonly occur where a business is purchased by a new owner.

Can My Employer Enforce A Mobility Clause?

Some contracts of employment may contain a clause requesting you to move from your normal place of work in the event of a workplace relocation. No doubt these types of clauses can be useful from the employer’s perspective; however, it is worth noting that they should be exercised reasonably.

If you and your employer are in agreement over the proposed office move, then this should not pose too many practical or legal issues. If you object to the move then your employer should try to act reasonably. With this in mind, your employer should take into account the nature of the location and your reasons for objecting to the move. If the relocation is within the same locality and it comes to light that you have no clear reason to object, then the employer will be in a stronger position to point to a mobility clause.

On the other hand, a Brexit-style relocation arrangement to the continent is unlikely to be covered under a ‘mobility clause’. It is highly likely that this would be seen as onerous on the employee. Therefore, the employer will be in a weak position if it seeks to rely on such a clause where there is a significant location shift and the employee has reasonable grounds to object to this.

Can I Refuse To Relocate?

As an employee, you are well within your rights to point that your contract specifies a particular workplace location. It is your employer's responsibility to engage in meaningful consultation with you once a relocation arrangement is proposed.       

It may be that both sides can work to a suitable alternative. An example may include the employer providing the employee with a travel allowance to offset any out-of-pocket expenses.

If you refuse to relocate you may run the risk of your contract terminating, depending on the approach your employer decides to take. If this does happen, employees may be able to issue unfair dismissal claims against their employer. Whether their claims are successful will depend on the facts of each particular case.

What Options Does My Employer Have?

There are a number of options that the employer may decide to take if you are dissenting towards the relocation:

  • Incentivise you. Employers may decide to offer you a one off re-location allowance to offset any expense that the you incur as a result of having to relocate;         
  • Dismiss you and re-engage on new terms. The employer may seek to dismiss you based on your existing terms and conditions and then re-engage with you on new terms and conditions which take into account the office move. This is more likely to be an option if you have a mobility clause in your contract of employment. This could be considered unfair dismissal depending on the facts of your case;          
  • Compulsory redundancy. An employer will have grounds for making your role redundant if there has been a change in your workplace location. With this option, your decision not to relocate could be treated as unreasonably refusing suitable alternative employment. Your employer may be entitled to withhold a statutory redundancy payment in these circumstances; or
  • Enter into a settlement arrangement with you. This could be done as part of a voluntary redundancy exercise. For the employer, this ensures a swift departure and ensures that you cannot bring claims against the organisation.

Are You Being Unfairly Relocated By Your Employer?

If you do need any advice in relation to your rights in this area then contact one of our Employment Law solicitors today. Our specialists can discuss the various options available to you in a practical way that is easy for you to understand.

Get in touch using our freephone number, or by sending a secure message using our online enquiry form.

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