In a case before the Employment Appeal Tribunal, the finding that two employees were unfairly dismissed for redundancy was reviewed. The business had decided to close its office in Greenford and relocate the employees to their office in Leatherhead, relying on an express mobility clause in their contracts of employment. When the two employees refused to attend the Leatherhead office they were dismissed for misconduct after a disciplinary hearing and the company upheld their dismissals on internal appeal.
The original employment tribunal found in both cases that the employees were dismissed unfairly for redundancy as the disciplinary process was procedurally flawed.
In the appeal, the EAT found that in fact the employees were dismissed for misconduct (as that was the Company’s belief for their refusal to comply with the instruction to change offices) but that this decision was still unfair as it was unreasonable to rely on the mobility clause, particularly as neither employee had been required to travel previously.
This case highlights the difficulties that can be encountered by an employer seeking to rely on express provisions in the contract dealing with an employee’s place of work and is an important reminder that such a clause must not only be reasonably drafted but must also be implemented reasonably. Consequently, mobility clauses may not always provide a way of avoiding redundancy payments and should be considered with caution.