Is my new role a suitable alternative?

While I was on maternity leave earlier this year I was put at risk of redundancy along with many other colleagues. After the consultation period I was told that I had not been made redundant, but my role had. I was advised that I had been put into a vacancy of the same grade and when I returned to work a suitable alternative role would be provided. One member of my team was made redundant and the other remained, completing some of our combined duties. During my leave I was in contact with the manager of the team that the vacancy was in, who told me I would be in another team on my return. She didn’t know the details of the role but she had been told it was focussing on training, which was an element of the role that I had been made redundant from. I was happy that this was a suitable alternative as it utilised the same skills. Within the first week of my return it became apparent that the plan for my role was only 25% training and the rest was entirely unrelated to what I had done before, and I would be completely new to. The company also announced in this first week that it was going to TUPE all the employees to a new organisation in the next 6 months, but there would be no redundancies. I would like to understand what my options are. I was happy to return to a job that utilised my skills or to take redundancy, the only two options I thought my employer had. Now I find myself in a role which in my opinion is unsuitable, and though I have raised my concerns, I am unsure where I stand legally if my employer takes an opposing view.

I understand that when you were placed on maternity earlier this year, you were put at risk of redundancy and following the consultation period, you were advised that your role had been made redundant but you were offered an alternative role at the same grade.

You were advised that this role focused on training, which was an element of the role that you had previously undertaken. You were therefore happy to accept this position as it utilised the same skills which you previously had. I understand, however, that, following your first week of return, the alternative role which your employer has offered you only consists of 25% training and the remainder of the duties which are expected of you, you have never done before.

Generally speaking, where an employer can show a real need to reduce staffing numbers due to a downturn in business, a failure to look for suitable alternative employment within the organisation can make a redundancy dismissal unfair. If a suitable alternative can be found, and the employee accepts, then the employee is not redundant and their employment continues albeit potentially on different terms. When considering whether an alternative role is suitable, an employer needs to consider the employee’s skills and experience, and the terms of the alternative job including status, location, duties, pay, hours and responsibility.

Where suitable alternative employment is offered, all employees are entitled to a trial period if the terms of the new employment differ to that of their previous job. In essence, the trial period gives the employer the opportunity to try out the employee in the new alternative role, but, at the same time, gives the employee the opportunity to try out the new role themselves. A statutory trial period starts when the employee’s employment under their old contract ends and lasts for four weeks. You therefore have 4 weeks in which to trial this new position. It is unclear from the contents of your email whether your employer has offered you a trial period for this role and, if not, this would take effect automatically.

If you wish to terminate your employment during that trial period or before the end, the question of whether you would be still entitled to a redundancy payment depends on whether the offer of employment was “suitable” (as above) and where it is considered you have unreasonably rejected suitable alternative employment, you may forfeit your right to a redundancy payment. This is perhaps something which you might wish to discuss with your employer, with a view of determining whether they would be able and willing to still pay you your redundancy payment, advancing the reasons why you consider their offer to be unsuitable, should you terminate your employment. Alternatively, it is also worthwhile checking whether there are any alternative posts available which you deem to be more suitable.

*Carley Kerrs-Walton assisted in answering this question.

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