When closing a place of work, employers occasionally try to rely on clauses in the employment contract giving them the right to require an employee to move to a new place of work. If successful, this approach allows an employer to avoid paying redundancy compensation. However, a recent case has shown that this approach may not be successful.

The employer had workplaces at Greenford and Leatherhead and proposed to close the Greenford premises. Many of the employees based there were required to transfer to Leatherhead. One lived in North West London. He was able to get to work in Greenford in about 20 minutes. The employee objected to the prospect of a two hour commute each way to and from Leatherhead. He was disciplined for refusing to comply with what the employer said was a reasonable instruction. He was summarily dismissed after he restated his reasons for refusing the transfer to Leatherhead.

A second employee lived in St Albans. He was 64 and had worked for the employer for 25 years. He objected to the idea of having to commute 47 miles each way to Leatherhead rather than the 18 miles to Greenford. Again, he too was disciplined for refusing to comply with the employer’s instruction and was summarily dismissed.

The Employment Appeal Tribunal found that the employer’s reason for dismissing was a conduct-related one but that the dismissals were unfair on the basis that the instruction to work in Leatherhead was an unreasonable one for these two employees. Although, these cases do not change the law nevertheless they do illustrate the potential difficulties of relying on a mobility clause. The mere presence of a mobility clause in a contract does not mean that an instruction to an employee to move to a new place of work will be reasonable every time.

If you have any queries regarding your contracts of employment, please do not hesitate to contact your Dedicated Employment Solicitor or alternatively please call us on 01483 411 533 and we would be delighted to assist you.