Homeworking withdrawn with effect on earnings

My job is a manager to a homeworking team, where I travel to and from their homes assessing their work.  My employer has decided to go into consultation to remove the option to work from home permanently.  This therefore means my current job no longer exists. They are proposing I take an in-office role which will see me losing my Car Allowance so my pay will be less. Can I ask if I have any rights with this situation?

Work desk

 

I’m sorry to hear that you’ve found yourself in this situation. How frustrating when many employers are moving towards homeworking arrangements that your employer is moving away from them.

It sounds like this is a redundancy situation. As a result of their decision to change the working arrangements of the other staff they have a reduced requirement for you to carry out assessments of people working from home. The company should therefore go through a fair redundancy process with you. This should involve a minimum of two, normally three, consultation meetings during which they should explain the situation, answer any questions and discuss any alternative proposals you may have and then a final meeting to confirm the decision.

As part of the process they are required to consider any alternatives to avoid redundancy and this includes notifying you of any other roles that are vacant within the organisation. It sounds as though the company have done this as they have proposed an in-office role. Presumably the car allowance was previously offered to you as part of the role as it was based remotely and involved travel which the new role does not.

There are two main things you need to be aware of:

  • Your rights to accept or reject the new role that has been offered
  • Whether or not they can offer the new role without the car allowance

To answer point 1, I would recommend you are careful not to reject the offer of a new role without considering it carefully. When there is a redundancy situation the law draws a distinction between what are known as “alternative roles” and “suitable alternative roles”. If an employee unreasonably refuses an offer of “suitable alternative employment” then they can lose their right to a statutory redundancy payment. You would normally expect an employer to warn an employee that they consider the role to be “suitable alternative employment” and the consequences of rejecting it, but not all employers do. There are two key questions – is the alternative role deemed “suitable” and would it be reasonable for you to turn it down? This test requires an objective assessment of whether the job is a match for you. It involves looking at the nature of the job first of all and then looking at your personal circumstances and whether it is reasonable for you to turn it down.

What makes a vacant role “suitable alternative employment” really depends on the job, your title, levels of responsibility and pay and benefits. Some key things to think about are:  is there a drop in status between the roles, are the skills needed for the role different, is there a significant drop in earnings, are the working hours significantly different (ie overtime or night shifts), is the location changing etc? It is very fact specific, but hopefully this gives you some pointers to consider. It is something to watch out for and it is worth getting advice if you are considering rejecting the offer to avoid inadvertently forfeiting your statutory redundancy payment. If the job is essentially the same job but based from the office instead of remotely and without the car allowance there is a risk that it could potentially trigger these rules, although £3,000 is a big difference in pay and it is likely to help you support any argument that the roles are too different on that basis alone to meet the requirements of “suitable alternative employment”. We would need to know more about the role itself to be able to give any further guidance on that.

The test for “suitable alternative employment” is a legal test, but if you want a bit more peace of mind you could ask your employer to confirm in writing that they don’t consider the role is a “suitable alternative role” before making your decision to give a bit more reassurance.

To answer point 2, unfortunately, as your existing role is being made redundant, they are able to offer the new role on any terms they want to. If they haven’t already explained to you the reason for removing the car allowance, though, I’d recommend you ask for more information and the reason behind it. You may be able to negotiate the car allowance with them as part of the discussions. For example, if you will still need to commute you could ask them to include it, or at least part of it, as a compromise. If there are other benefits they are offering to you which you aren’t interested in, you could ask if you could forfeit those in return for the car allowance – ie medical insurance or any memberships they might offer.

Good luck with your discussions and we hope you find a role that is right for you and that you are happy with moving forward, whether that’s with your current employer or not.

*Charlotte Farrell and Tabytha Cunningham are Associate Solicitors at Paris Smith in Southampton. 



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