In a redundancy situation, where an employee unreasonably rejects an offer of suitable alternative employment, they forfeit their right to a redundancy payment.
The Claimant was a bookkeeper whose employment was transferred to the Respondent after her previous employer went into liquidation. She was faced with possible redundancy and tried to agree hours and duties with the Respondent. However, she eventually refused an offer of alternative employment which in addition to bookkeeping duties involved some work in a warehouse. The Respondent did not pay her statutory redundancy pay on the basis she had unreasonably refused an offer of suitable alternative employment. Only when the Claimant later brought a tribunal claim did she reveal that the alternative employment offered was not suitable because her leukemia meant that she could not work in the cold warehouse.
The EAT said that where an employee has refused an offer of alternative employment and the employer therefore does not pay their statutory redundancy pay, the employer must show that:
– the alternative employment offered was suitable
– the employee’s refusal to accept that employment was unreasonable.
Further, if the employee subsequently brings a claim, the tribunal may take into account reasons the employee had for refusing the alternative employment even if they did not raise them with the employer at the time.
Employers must ensure they follow a fair redundancy process, including exploring suitable alternative employment opportunities for affected employees. If an employee refuses an offer of alternative employment, the employer should seek to explore fully with the employee the reasons for their refusal before denying them their statutory redundancy pay.