Employer wants to relocate homeworking job to distant office

After 23 years I have just been told that I am at risk of redundancy. I had a face to face meeting recently where I was told that my role was being moved one of our sites in the North. I currently do the role on a part-time basis from my home. I’ve done this for three years along with two others. The letter said that there were redundancies (plural), but when I asked they couldn’t tell me what other roles were going. The rationale is that they believe the role would be better served by being under the HR wing in our northern office and that there would be better compliance with law, confidentiality and efficiency. They couldn’t tell me who was going to undertake the payroll and benefits work that I do but the HR admin person currently does two days a week and I was told at the consultation meeting that it was felt that a five-day-a-week cover would be better. In my mind that either means that they are taking on someone else to do the job in the other office or that the current person is changing their hours to full time. I queried the rationale, especially the efficiency bit. In the back of my mind I think I’m being singled out because I used to work full time and was unceremoniously told that HR had been outsourced (without consultation) and that my hours and pay would be reduced by half. I appealed the decision on the grounds that my role was redundant. They didn’t want to pay the redundancy and on subsequent meetings it became clear that they had taken advice and decided they were at risk of ending up in a tribunal if they carried on. A new package was negotiated. It was financially advantageous for me to stay, but I think that they are now looking for a way to sideline me and at the same time pay less per hour for someone to do the role even though the company is doing well financially.

Whilst it is natural for you to wonder whether historic events have impacted upon the current situation, it may be difficult for you to establish a link between the current redundancy proposal and those events.

You should check firstly whether your employment contract allows your employer to require you to work from the new location. Presuming that this is not the case, the key issue for you is whether this is a genuine redundancy situation and if so, whether it is fair for your employer to dismiss you on grounds of redundancy.

A genuine redundancy situation can arise if an employer decides a particular role needs to be performed from a different location and it is for your employer to decide how it wants to structure its business. Your employer has decided that it needs the payroll and benefits function to be performed full time and from another location and this could fit within the scope of a genuine redundancy situation which is a potentially fair reason for dismissal. Even if an Employment Tribunal did not accept it was a genuine redundancy, your employer could potentially argue it was a business re-organisation based on the needs of the business and therefore a potentially fair reason for dismissal. As with a redundancy situation, they still have to follow a fair process in order for any resulting dismissal to be fair.

In this case, whether it is a genuine redundancy situation or a business re-organisation, your employer still needs to follow a fair process and to consult with you about the situation. As part of that consultation, your employer, if they have not already done so, should explore with you whether you are interested in relocating to the new site.

Consultation should include their considering and discussing with you whether anyone else is doing the same or substantially similar work and so should be pooled with you for selection, ways of avoiding the proposed redundancy such as your relocating to the new site or job sharing the role, and if it is not possible to avoid the redundancy, to tell you about any suitable alternative roles within the business or any associated companies including those which would require a limited amount of training and/or a four-week trial period. As a part-time worker the business is not allowed to treat you less favourably to comparable full-time employees so you should be given the same chance as others to apply for the new role they are creating and any others which arise.

If you are unwilling to relocate to the new site and there is no suitable alternative employment available, this could lead to your being potentially fairly dismissed.

I suggest that you engage with the consultation process by asking questions about the proposals, exploring your options and discussing with the business ways to avoid the proposed redundancy.

If you are ultimately dismissed on grounds of redundancy or business re-organisation, this may give rise to a potential unfair dismissal claim in which case the key legal issues will be whether a genuine redundancy situation existed and whether your employer followed a fair process in dismissing you. As I have explained above, this may be a genuine redundancy situation and so the key issue will be whether a fair process was followed and it was reasonable to dismiss you.

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