My employer wants me to relocate to an alternative site which is 30 minutes from my current location. I already travel one hour to work per day so this will increase my travel time to 1.5 hours (not including traffic) to and from work. I will need to be leaving home at 7.00am and will not be home until at least 6.30. I have a young child. I have been doing the same role for the last three years in my current location. There is a clause in my contract that I can be moved due to business need. What are my rights?
I understand that your employer wants you to relocate to an alternative site which is 30 minutes from your current work location. I understand that you already travel one hour to work per day so this will increase your travel time to 1.5 hours to and from work each day. I understand that you have worked in your current role for three years at the current location and that your contract states that you can be relocated due to business needs.
I would need to review the specific clause in your contract in order to advise fully on this. However, please bear in mind that it is not necessarily the case that your will employer can rely on the clause you refer to. Any ambiguity in such clause would be determined in your favour. Furthermore, any such clauses must be interpreted in line with the implied duties and obligations in your contract of employment. In essence this means that your employer should give you reasonable notice of any move, it should not operate the clause you refer to in such a way which means that the performance of your obligations under your contract would be impossible and, most importantly in your case, your employer should not act in a way so as to damage the relationship of trust and confidence between you.
Bearing in mind the fact that you have a young child and the extent to which the change in location would increase your daily travelling time, it may well be arguable that, even if the clause in itself is, on the face of it, enforceable, your employer’s actions in relying on it are in breach of the implied term of trust and confidence. This would effectively give you the option to resign and claim constructive unfair dismissal against your employer. I would not, however, advise you to resign without taking further specific legal advice.
Furthermore, bearing in mind again that you have a young child, your employer’s actions in including this clause in your contract/relying upon it, may constitute indirect sex discrimination. If this is the case, your employer would need to justify the inclusion of such a clause in your contract and its reliance upon the same as being a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim. Any claims for sex discrimination must be brought within the Employment Tribunal within three months of the discriminatory act and you must go through the ACAS pre-conciliation process before submitting such a claim.
On a final note, it is also important to mention that the situation you describe could well be a potential redundancy situation. Again, this is subject to the wording of the clause you describe and your actual “place of work”. If the particular clause is not enforceable and the statutory definition of redundancy is met, this would be a redundancy situation and you would be entitled to associated rights, for example, statutory/contractual redundancy pay. Employers often use mobility clauses to avoid redundancy situations. However, the mobility clause itself and the way in which your employer operates it would be subject to scrutiny. Therefore, as I have said, I would need to review the relevant clause in order to advise you fully on this.
*Helen Frankland assisted in answering this question.