Can My Employer Change My Place of Work?
22 February 2017
A mobility clause within a contract of employment entitles an employer in England or Wales to move an employee to a different workplace if required.
An employer is entitled to enforce a mobility clause, unless it's deemed to be 'unreasonable'. A relocation may be considered unreasonable for financial reasons, or if it would cause severe disruption to family life, such as relocating the employee abroad.
An employer should explain to the employee the reasons for the change in workplace and the need to enforce the mobility clause. The employee should be given reasonable notice of when the change will take effect and the employer could offer assistance with the transition, including financial support.
What Can an Employer Do?
If the employee’s contract does not contain a mobility clause and the employee refuses to move, the employer could potentially dismiss the employee and offer re-engagement at the new location, or dismiss the employee on the grounds of redundancy.
Employers can make their employees redundant if they decide not to move. An employee will receive a redundancy payment so long as they meet the relevant criteria (i.e. the employee has worked there the required length of time).
Alternatively, where there is already a redundancy situation, the employer is allowed to exercise the mobility clause. This would mean there is no longer a need to dismiss the employee for redundancy and the employee will not receive a redundancy payment.
A refusal may also lead to the employee being dismissed for breach of contract (i.e. for refusing to obey the employer’s lawful order). Therefore an employee needs to be very cautious before outright refusing to move location if the employer decides to enforce the mobility clause.
What Can an Employee Do?
An employee can refuse to relocate if the request is unreasonable. Furthermore, if an employer fails to take into account the impact the relocation will have on the employee, their actions may amount to a breach of trust and confidence. This could potentially lead to the employee making a claim for constructive unfair dismissal.
A contractual term such as a mobility clause may also constitute indirect sex discrimination on the basis that it is probably more difficult for women than men to comply with the requirement to move location, on the basis that they are usually the secondary earners.
There may also be indirect disability discrimination against an employee who has a disability and is being forced to move location. However, the employer may be able to objectively justify any such discrimination.
If your employer is asking you to move location and you are unsure of what you can and cannot do, our Employment Solicitors can help you.