On secondment, but my job no longer exists

I started a secondment in earlier this year, for a 12-month period knowing my previous role at a much higher salary would be left open for my return. I was told throughout my secondment that I would have a permanent role should the person I was covering maternity leave for not return. I have a few weeks left and have now been told things have changed and I do not have a permanent role, even if my colleague does not return. Whilst I was aware there may not be a permanent role, I may never have considered the role knowing it would never become permanent. I am informed that my previous role has not been budgeted for next year so the business is asking me to consider other roles, but I do not consider any suitable or with the same terms etc. Can they change my role after a secondment and reduce the salary I left for the secondment position? What are my options in this situation?

Employee Rights Employment Equality Job Businessman Corporate Co - shift patterns


In essence, your temporary 12-month secondment to cover another colleague’s maternity leave is coming to an end and your employer has stated that your substantive role, being the one you ought to be returning to, is not budgeted for. Although not explicitly stated, it appears your role is potentially redundant, and the organisation is trying to find a new role for you internally.

A redundancy situation will arise where there is a reduced need for employee to carry out work of a particular kind, either generally or in the workplace. An employer is required to formally inform and consult with all employees who are affected by a potential redundancy situation, and as part of that consultation, to consider whether suitable alternative employment exists within its own business or that of any associated companies. As part of that consultation, you should be given an opportunity to suggest ways of avoiding the proposed redundancy and discuss whether your role should be pooled with others doing the same or substantially similar roles and whether vacancies exist internally for you. It is for the employer to determine whether a role is suitable alternative employment, but they do have to take into account the substantive role’s terms and conditions when doing so. It is unlikely that a more junior role with a significantly lower salary than your substantive role would be suitable alternative employment.

If it is not possible to avoid the proposed redundancy and there is no suitable alternative employment, then the business can terminate your employment on grounds of redundancy. This may be a fair dismissal. Bear in mind that if a suitable alternative role exists internally, the employer can offer this to you; if you unreasonably refuse that role, you will forfeit the redundancy payment.

I suggest that you ask the employer for more information, specifically: their proposal, the reason for it, their plans for consultation, why exactly your role has not been budgeted for, when that decision was made, why they promised you could return, what has changed since then and what they have done to avoid the potential redundancy. That ought to lead to a more comprehensive discussion with you about the situation. If they do not consult and/or you are dissatisfied with their behaviour, you could raise a grievance and, if necessary, take legal advice particularly if they terminate your contract.

In respect of your specific questions, your employer can change your role after the secondment ends, but only if something has changed within the business necessitating that change, for example, economic changes or a restructure, and provided they consult with you about the change, whether that is a change to your actual role or to make the role redundant. Salary is a fundamental part of your employment and the business cannot lawfully change the salary without your consent. However, if you agree to move into a different role with a different salary, then that would be permitted. If your role however continues to exist but they reduce the salary without your agreement, that would be a breach of contract and you could potentially resign on that basis citing constructive dismissal, if you have the necessary two years’ service. From your question, it seems that any reduction in salary would relate to a change in job, however, rather than the employer imposing a salary reduction on you but expecting you to continue performing your substantive role.

I have set out options above. The key thing now is to ask questions to understand more about the situation and your options, and to keep copies of any information and answers you are given.

*Maria Hoeritzauer is a Partner at Crossland Employment Solicitors in Abingdon.

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