Home working suddenly withdrawn: ask the expert

I have been working for a well known national company for over 15 years. For the last two years I have been working from home under a local agreement with my manager.  During that time I have performed well with excellent reports from my manager.  I also work out in the field so spend a lot of time in my car.  Recently my manager has changed and the new manager has  given me one month’s notice to “get back into the office” His reason is that everyone in the office makes for a more productive office.  He cannot give me any reason for personally getting me back in the office and he says the decision is his alone.  I have a 13-year-old daughter and although it would not be easy juggling I could just manage. However, they are moving my office a further 50 minutes drive away.  This will mean that I have no chance of fulfilling my role and juggling my daughter.  Do I have any rights to continue working from home as it has been working so successfully for the last two years?

Your employer is seeking to unilaterally (i.e. without your consent), change your place of work. As a result, you potentially could bring a claim for constructive unfair dismissal against your employer. This means that you resign from your employment with immediate effect, on the grounds that you have had no choice but to resign, given that your employer has acted in breach of the implied duty of trust and confidence which exists between every employer and employee. Your argument is strengthened given that your employer is also moving your office a further 50 minutes drive away for you.

Before commencing any claim against your employer, you should firstly lodge a formal grievance to your manager, setting out why you are unhappy and the reasons why you cannot move to being office based, at an office which is a further 50 minutes drive away. You need to specifically set out in this letter the fact that you have a 13-year-old daughter and that the commute would cause significant childcare issues for you. You also need to refer to the fact that you believe the last two years spent working from home has worked extremely successfully and the reasons for this. You should ask your employer to reconsider and see if there is any possibility of you continuing to work, based at home, as you have done for the last two years.

If your employer does not deal with your grievance properly and agree to you continuing to work from home (without proper reasons for refusing this), then please telephone me to discuss your situation further and whether or not you should then resign and bring a claim for constructive dismissal. Please contact me.

It is also worth noting that moving your place of work amounts to a potential redundancy situation. I presume that your employer has not discussed this with you at all and this is another reason that you could put forward for a claim for constructive dismissal against your employer. (A redundancy situation arises where there is change in the place of work, but usually an employer can avoid a redundancy situation, by offering the same role at a different site. Whether or not the offer of a new role amounts to suitable alternative employment which would then avoid a redundancy situation, depends on an employee’s individual circumstances. In your case an office move requiring you to travel an additional 50 minutes is very unlikely to amount to suitable alternative employment.)

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