Q And A
Job relocation: ask the expert
I have been employed for the last five years and since joining my company have worked between 9.00am and 3.00pm which enables me to drop off and pick up my daughter from school. The organisation I work for are now re-locating me to another site 30 minutes drive from my current one. Am I entitled to apply for protected hours, therefore reducing my working day by 1 hour for the journey time and enabling me to still do my school run without losing money? I have heard that because they are forcing a change in circumstance for me with the relocation this may case, is this so? Also are they entitled to change the hours I work and put me on a shift pattern (in which case I would be unable to stay in my job as it would not be financially viable to do so). Also could you tell me how much notice of change of working pattern/location am I entitled to?
Answer by Tracey Guest
Thanks for your query. There are several issues to consider here and I will deal with each in turn.
Relocation - the first point to consider is whether you have a 'mobility' clause in your contract i.e. a clause which allows your employer to change your place of work. The second point to consider is that when an employer is relocating staff this can amount to a redundancy situation. Your employer is therefore obliged to start a redundancy consultation with you. In your case, it appears that the alternative employment offered i.e. the job in the new location, is not suitable for you due to your childcare commitments. Accordingly, if you do not want this job your employer should make you redundant and pay you redundancy pay. If you want to try and make the new job work though, then you should tell your employer that you will accept the new post but on reduced hours due to the extra travel and your childcare. You may make this request through the flexible working regulations which makes it harder for your employer to refuse your request. If you need information on making requests through the flexible working regulations then please give me a call. Your employer can only refuse this request if they have good reasons to do so e.g. it is not possible to do your job on the reduced hours. There is no right for your pay to remain at your normal amount unless your contract of employment provides for pay protection in these circumstances.
Change of hours - again you need to check your contract of employment to see whether your employer has a contractual right to alter your hours of work. The clause will need to refer specifically to a change in hours. A general clause stating that the employer can change terms of employment will not be sufficient for them to simply change your hours to shifts. Even if there is a clause allowing your employer to move you to shift working, again you can put in your flexible working request on the basis of your childcare and ask not to have shift working. Your employer can only refuse this request if they have good reason to do so (as mentioned above).
Changing Contractual Terms - An employer who changes contractual terms such as hours or location without an employee's consent (either through the employment contract or through agreement), can breach the employee's contract of employment entitling them to resign and claim constructive unfair dismissal. Employers will therefore try to negotiate a change in terms but may be forced to take action such as dismissing and offering employment on the new terms. This can however allow employees to bring unfair dismissal claims. If this type of scenario occurs then please feel free to give me a call for some further advice.
Consultation requirements - If more than 20 employees are affected by the change in location or the employer proposes to dismiss and re-engage then the employer will need to carry out a 30 day consultation, if more than 100 employees are affected, then a 90 day consultation will be required.
Summary - You need to check your contract to see what your employer is allowed to change under your contract. You should make a flexible working request in relation to the job in the new location and to try and refuse shift work. You are welcome to call me if you need to discuss any of the above further e.g. the potential redundancy situation and consultation obligations. I can then advise more fully on whether you should submit a grievance, resign and claim unfair dismissal and/or sex discrimination. I have only been able to give a summary of the relevant law as I would need more information from you in order to advise you more fully.
Tracey Guest is head of employment and a partner at Slater Heelis in Manchester. She specialises in employment law and is also a working mum. Sarah Calderwood has assisted with this answer.