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Ben Jones
Ben Jones, UK Lawyer
Category: Law
Satisfied Customers: 73939
Experience:  Qualified Solicitor
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My company has announced that it is closing our office in

Customer Question

Hi, my company has announced that it is closing our office in cambridge and wants everyone to permanently work from home. They want to offer us a new contract to reflect that we are permanently based from home. My question is whether I am potentially entitled to reduncancy pay if I don't want to work from home and don't want to sign the new contract?
JA: Where are you? It matters because laws vary by location.
Customer: Cambridge, UK
JA: What steps have you taken so far?
Customer: Nothing so far.
JA: Is there anything else the Lawyer should know before I connect you? Rest assured that they'll be able to help you.
Customer: I worked from home briefly when the pandemic was at its worst, approx 6 weeks from January to mid Feb, but apart from that I've been going in to the office regularly 3 or 4 days/week.
Submitted: 16 days ago.
Category: Law
Expert:  Ben Jones replied 16 days ago.

Hello, I’m Ben. It’s my pleasure to assist you today. I may also ask for some preliminary information to help me determine the legal position.

Expert:  Ben Jones replied 16 days ago.

Is there any particular reason why you do not want to work from home? and how long have you worked for this employer?

Customer: replied 16 days ago.
Hi Ben, sure.
Customer: replied 16 days ago.
20 years. I prefer to work in an office to see people and talk in person. Also my home office is not big enough or have such comfortable temperatature control or light compared to working in the usual office.
Expert:  Ben Jones replied 16 days ago.

OK I understand and thank you for providing this information. Please do not worry and leave it with me for now; I will get back to you with my answer as soon as I can which will be at some point today. The system will notify you when this happens. Please do not reply in the meantime as this may unnecessarily delay my response. Many thanks.

Expert:  Ben Jones replied 16 days ago.

Many thanks for your patience, I am pleased to be able to continue assisting with your query now. The closure of your office will technically amount to a redundancy situation as it is one of the three circumstances that trigger redundancy.

As part of a fair redundancy procedure, employers are required to offer suitable alternative employment to those employees who are at risk of redundancy. The objective is to avoid having to make them redundant and keep them in a suitable job, even if they have been made redundant from their original one.

There must be an offer by the employer and that must be made before their current job officially ends. However, an offer does not mean the employee automatically gets the job in question and the employer could still potentially take them through a competitive recruitment process, such as an interview to determine their suitability.

Once an offer is made and subject to any successful selection, there are two possible outcomes:

- The employee accepts the offer – in this case their employment will continue in the new role and there would be no redundancy

- The employee rejects the offer – this should only happen if the job is not suitable and the employee reasonably rejects it. If these conditions are not met, they risk forfeiting their redundancy pay as they would be considered to have resigned instead.

As mentioned, there are two elements to a successful rejection – reasonableness and suitability. Reasonableness is based on the subjective reasons the employee has for rejecting it, such as personal circumstances, health, family commitments, etc. In the end, the main question is whether considering the particular circumstances, the employee acted reasonably in rejecting this offer.

Finally, where an offer of alternative employment has been made and its terms and conditions are different to the employee's current terms, they have the right to a 4-week trial period. This is an opportunity for both employer and employee to determine its suitability. If during the trial period they decide that the job is not suitable they should tell their employer straight away and terminate the trial period. Assuming the offer was not suitable and was reasonably rejected, they should still be made redundant from their original job and receive redundancy pay.

Expert:  Ben Jones replied 16 days ago.

Hopefully, I have answered your query in a way that is simple and easy to understand. If anything remains unclear, I will be more than happy to clarify it for you. In the meantime, thank you once again for using our services.

Customer: replied 14 days ago.
Hi Ben, thanks for your reply, that is useful. So I'd like to clarify my reasons for not accepting the new contract, and see if you think this sounds reasonable & suitable: Firstly a mental health issue - I live on my own so my brief experience of working from home was too isolated, so I have mostly continued to work in the office in the last few months to maintain some face-to-face contact with people. I would find permanently working form home to be very uncomfortable, demotivating and depressing. Also I find working in the officce more effective and productive, and indeed the company is asking employees at other sites to return to working in office 60% so they clearly recognise this too. Secondly the room I have available for a home office is small and difficult to maintain a comfortable temperature (small radiator and no aircon) and not enough room for a good sized desk, and the window is small and north facing, so the lack of daylight is also a problem. So if it comes down to an argument with the company about, as you say, reasonableness and suitability, does that sound like it would stand up? Thanks.
Expert:  Ben Jones replied 13 days ago.

Hello, thank you for your further queries, I will be happy to answer these. These are certainly factors you can raise and they are valid ones in the circumstances. You can also touch on the potential that the mental health issue is disability-related and not asking you to work from home would be a reasonable adjustment, which they legally have to consider under the Equality Act 2010. The only issue is that you simply cannot force them to agree with you and in the event of that, your only option may be to resign and challenge them in the Employment Tribunal