Redundancy and alternative employment – what is considered “suitable”?
A HR Manager is in the middle of a redundancy consultation process with employees and is at the stage of considering whether there is any suitable alternative employment which can be offered to the employees who are at risk of redundancy. Do the employees have to be offered exactly the same roles that they are currently employed in, or is there a degree of flexibility – what is considered to be “suitable”?
Assuming that the employees will be made aware that if any new suitable alternative employment terms are offered, then that offer would be subject to the statutory four week trial period. If an employee unreasonably refuses an offer of suitable alternative employment, then they will lose their right to a statutory redundancy payment and will be treated as dismissed.
There are several factors that should be carefully considered by an employer, when looking at whether an offer of alternative employment is “suitable” or not, these include:
1.Hours of Work
Are the new hours of work different to those worked previously by the employee? It should be considered whether they will lose, for example, entitlement to overtime. Also, consider if the employee worked shifts previously, will they work on a shift basis in the new employment, or will their working hours be structured in a different way?
Is the new employment located at the same place of work, or will the employee have to make a longer commute?
3. Pay and benefits
Will the pay in the new employment be broadly similar, or will the employee have to take a large pay cut? If so, it is likely that that would make the offer unsuitable.
Is there is a loss of status or demotion for the employee in the new employment? If so, it is likely that this would make the offer unsuitable.
Consider the skills that the employee holds and ensure that the new job offered makes use of those skills, otherwise it is likely that the new employment will be deemed unsuitable.
6. Length of contract in the new employment
If the new employment is for a very short period e.g. a few months, it may be reasonable for the employee to refuse the offer of that employment.
Remember that an employee can refuse the offer of suitable alternative employment and should they subsequently issue Tribunal proceedings for a redundancy payment and unfair dismissal, then the Tribunal would consider whether the employee was being reasonable in refusing the offer. It will be up to the employer, in defending the proceedings, to demonstrate that their refusal of the alternative employment was unreasonable. The employer will need to show that they have considered the employee’s particular circumstances, when looking at what can be offered as a suitable alternative.
While great care has been taken in the preparation of the content of this article, it does not purport to be a comprehensive statement of the relevant law and full professional advice should be taken before any action is taken in reliance on any item covered.