Employers are often contractually entitled to require their personnel to move from one place of work to another. However, as one case showed, doing so without consultation is a positive invitation to Employment Tribunal (ET) proceedings (Pye v Bolton Cares (A) Ltd).
The case concerned a care worker who had over 30 years of loyal and unblemished service behind her. She was employed at a location that was an easy, half-hour commute from her home. She was shocked and upset when her manager informed her that she was to be transferred to another of her employer's numerous care facilities, a move that would involve a much more difficult journey.
Her commuting time to the new location was at least 50 minutes. The journey would, however, often take much longer than that because one of the two bus services that she would need to catch only operated once an hour and did not start until 10am on Sundays. She was concerned that she would not get home from work until 10pm and that, if she missed the bus, she would face a lengthy walk.
There was a mobility clause in her contract that entitled her employer to require her to move from one of its workplaces to another. When she raised her concerns with her manager, the latter told her that everybody has to travel to work and that her transfer to the new location was non-negotiable. She resigned and subsequently launched ET proceedings.
Noting the mobility clause, the ET was not satisfied that the decision to move her by itself amounted to a breach of the implied duty of trust and confidence owed to her by her employer. However, in upholding her constructive unfair dismissal claim, it found that the failure to consult her did constitute such a breach.
She was given short notice of the decision and the failure to consult, combined with her manager's non-engagement with her concerns, was likely to destroy or seriously damage the employment relationship. There were good reasons why she could not attend the new location and, given her many years of conscientious service, there was no potentially fair reason for her dismissal. If not agreed, the amount of her compensation would be assessed at a further hearing.