What is suitable alternative employment?
What constitutes suitable alternative employment depends on several factors, such as:
- The terms and conditions of the job being offered
- Your skills, abilities and circumstances in relation to the role
- The similarity of the work to your current job
- Pay and status
- Hours and location
If you are offered a role which is deemed suitable and you refuse it without having a good reason, you may end up losing your redundancy pay. However, if there is a suitable employment opportunity and your employer do not offer it to you or the role they offer is unsuitable, then your redundancy could be classed as unfair dismissal and you may be able to bring a claim to an employment tribunal.
Suitable alternative employment trial period
If you are offered suitable alternative employment, you have the right to a four-week trial period; this can be longer if you need any training, but an extension must be agreed with your employer in writing before it begins.
If you do not think the job is suitable during the trial period, this should not affect your employment rights, such as your right to statutory redundancy pay. You must give notice that the job is not suitable within the four-week trial period; if you do not, you may lose your right to redundancy pay.
What are the grounds for refusing suitable alternative employment?
An employee can refuse what may be seen as suitable alternative employment if they find the job isn't suitable within the four-week trial period and they must give a ‘good reason’.
A ‘good reason’ can be something about the job itself or that it’s not suitable for your personal situation. Here are some examples of what may be seen as good reasons to turn down an alternative employment offer:
- It would disrupt your family life. For example, if you have caring responsibilities you cannot fulfil with this new role
- Lower pay
- Your commute is significantly longer or there is a lack of public transport for you to get to work if you are moved to a new location
- Health issues. For example, the role offered means you have to do more heavy lifting, but you have a condition that makes it difficult for you to do so
- There are extra costs for getting to work with the offered role
If your employer does not accept your reason, they can refuse to pay you your redundancy pay. However, there are steps you can take that may help to mitigate this:
Step 1 - before starting anything formal, try having an informal chat with your employer. In this meeting, ask them to explain why they do not agree and try to come to a solution.
Step 2 - if your employer has a formal grievance process then the next step is to follow this process. If your company does not have a formal grievance process, you can write a letter to your employer explaining why you think the role offered wasn't suitable.
Step 3 - if you cannot come to an agreement through your employer's internal grievance measures, then you may need to start early conciliation. This can be organised by ACAS, an independent organisation which help both employers and employees deal with disputes. There is a time limit for this process, which is six months (minus one day) from the date you turned down the job offer. Or, if you undertook a trial period, early conciliation must begin before your trial period ends. However, you will only have three months if you wish to make a claim against your employer, which includes making a claim for redundancy pay.
Step 4 - if you have not reached an agreement during early conciliation then the last resort is to take your employer to a tribunal. You will have just one month after the end of early conciliation to start a tribunal claim.
Our solicitors are highly experienced when it comes to dealing with employment law and tribunals. If you think your redundancy is unfair or if you are in dispute with your employer’s offer of suitable alternative employment, then contact our expert redundancy solicitors today.