Nowadays, companies may relocate for a number of reasons, for instance, consolidating properties to shift two workforces into one place after a merger, leveraging cheaper overheads, or even setting up regional offices in a bid to expand their market.
Amidst all this, employees and workers are increasingly expected to keep focus at the workplace as organisations battle possible instability under the wake of impending takeovers and mergers.
However, it is important to know that it is not necessary that employees relocate too, when an employer moves. UK employment law allows such employees to deny relocation and put up a request against it, stating that the move is unreasonable.
Having said this, let us take a closer look at some other aspects of employee relocation rights, specified under the employment law in the UK.
When Employees Have To Move
In case an employer decides to shift the location of their business, employees must first check their employment contract for a ‘mobility clause’.
This clause makes it mandatory for the employees to move, albeit, within certain limits. It also implies that employers may normally force their employees to relocate to places allowed by the clause, unless this is totally unreasonable.
If your company is shifting operations to a location that you like (an area where houses are cheaper to buy or schools are better) and also offers you the expense of relocation, then you may feel that the entire ordeal is worth the inconvenience.
For other people, however, uprooting their children from schools and neighbourhood where they are settled, is often too much cumbersome and unbearable.
Furthermore, it could be that the house prices are more expensive for such people in the new location, or many other reasons – there can be many employees and workers who will not want to make the move.
Can the Employers Force the Move?
But can employers actually force the employees to move to wherever the organisation asks them to? The answer to this, depends on their Employment Contract.
Many employers in the UK include a ‘mobility clause’ in their contracts that employees have to sign. These allow the employers to ask their workforce to relocate, although not exactly on a whim, but with advance notice and helping them with the expense move (optionally).
In case, there is no ‘mobility clause’ in the contract, then relocation will require a change of contract. Subsequently, the organisation will have to negotiate with their employees to allow the change.
To facilitate this, employers may offer one or the other form of package to help with the cost of the move. However, this depends on a number of factors, including the job market, the employee’s position in the organisation, and the work culture.
If there is no mobility clause and the employees do not want to move, their employers may make them redundant (in certain cases).
For example, if an employee’s job in the old region ceases to exist and there are no suitable alternatives in the new region, redundancy may come into play.
Overall, deciding whether redundancy is applicable in a particular situation, can be quite complex. Therefore, if employee is considering to refuse to move, he or she must take legal advice from an experienced employment law solicitor before making their decision.
Furthermore, employees for whom redundancy does apply, may be able to take up the new job role in the new location on a 4-week trial before they can refuse it completely. Overall, protection clauses apply to situations wherein the relocation comes as a result of a takeover and the new proprietors may wish to move everybody.
In such cases, the Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) regulations or ‘TUPE‘, come into play. These regulations are there to protect the terms of employment for employees and make sure that the new proprietors can do little or no damage to the conditions of the previous employer. While employers can make their workforce redundant if they decide not to move, employees may claim for redundancy pay if:
- they match the redundancy criteria;
- they’re not getting any compensation from their employer due to their decision of refusing relocation;
- they have not ‘unreasonably’ refused any alternative work offer.
In certain conditions, both employers and employees might have to discuss a dispute over issues pertaining to relocation like relocation being unreasonable or refusal of redundancy payment.
In case of ownership transfers, the rights of employees are protected by TUPE. Overall, employees may ask their employers, old or new to protect their existing rights, including redundancy protection and contractual rights.
As an employee, if you have a mobility clause, your employer may still not make unreasonable demands on you by asking you to relocate.
If you are forced to take up such a move, you may seek legal assistance from an experienced employment law solicitor and potentially file a claim in the employment tribunal.