I have been a cleaner working full time (plus overtime on occasion) for the past four years and the company are making over 100+ employees redundant due to a company re-structure. Under the new structure, the two cleaning roles are being halved ie we do half the hours. I have been informed if I do not accept one of these new roles at reduced working hours I will lose my right to redundancy. I cannot afford to work such reduced hours. My question is would this reduction in hours be deemed reasonable alternative employment. All duties and responsibilities will remain the same and pay is at the living wage so there would be no change to pay.
I understand that you currently carry out a full-time (40-hour per week) role as a cleaner, and have done so for the last 4 years. Your company are currently making over 100+ employees redundant, due to a restructure. Under the new structure your role and another identical position are being changed to 2 part-time roles, on 20-hour contracts. You have been told that if you do not accept one of these new roles that you will not be paid any redundancy payment. You state that you are 56 years of age, live alone and that you would not be able to meet your outgoings working part-time. I have sought to answer your enquiry based on this information.
In a situation of this type, in order to try and avoid any compulsory redundancies, an employer is obliged to look at whether there are any alternative positions within the company for those whose jobs are affected. If there are any such positions, an employer should offer or give individuals the opportunity to apply for them.
The question is therefore whether the offer that has been made to you is a “suitable alternative” to the current role that you hold. In order for a role to be deemed to be comparable it should be similar to the role being made redundant in that it should require similar skills, be worked over similar hours, in the same (or close) location with similar salary and benefits. If you are subsequently offered a post your employer feels is comparable but you do not, you are entitled to a four-week trial period. If you still consider the role unsuitable after that you can request your redundancy payment. On the basis of the facts which you have presented to me, the hours of the role are different and therefore there is a question as to whether the role is “suitable” due to the fact that you will be working substantially less hours each week, with the knock-on effect that there will then be a large reduction in the pay that you receive.
Despite this, your employer is stating that the offer is suitable alternative employment and that if you reject the offer then you will lose your right to redundancy pay. This is the case where an employee unreasonably refuses an offer of suitable available alternative employment. In this case, the employee may be made treated as dismissed and therefore forfeits his or her right to a redundancy payment.
When considering whether or not it is reasonable for an employee to turn down an offer of an alternative role depends on their specific circumstances and case law dictates that a subjective test should be used when making the assessment, as opposed to whether a hypothetical “reasonable employee” would have accepted it. This will cover factors relating to your personal circumstances and will have regard to your life outside of the workplace. This can include things such as health, family commitments and those issues you have listed in your enquiry. When looking at what will be assessed, your employer should consider whether you, taking into account your personal circumstances, were being reasonable in refusing the offer, whether you had “sound and justifiable reasons” for turning down the offer.
From the details you have given, it seems that not only is there a question as to whether the role is a suitable alternative, but regardless of this fact, why your employer would state that that you will lose out on your redundancy pay if you turn it down. You have a clear basis for doing so, based on your own personal circumstance, not least on the basis that the part-time role would simply not be suitable for you as you would not be able to pay your outgoings each month.
You should express the above to them in writing, setting out to them why you believe the job is a. not a suitable alternative and b. why it is not an alternative that you can consider in any event in the hope of resolving the dispute at an early stage.
If your employer wrongly treats the job offer as a suitable alternative and refuses to pay you redundancy pay as a result, you can submit a claim for a statutory and/or enhanced redundancy pay and unfair dismissal. Please feel free to contact me if this is the case.