When a company makes employees redundant, they have to check if there's another job in the company that those employees could do.
This is called suitable alternative employment.
If there is a suitable alternative, employers have to offer that position to the employee(s) who's getting laid off.
When they offer this new job, the employee has a choice. They can say yes and take the new job, or they can say no.
If an employer had suitable alternative employment to offer but didn't, employees could have a valid claim for unfair dismissal.
But what happens if an employee says no to the new role?
Can employees refuse suitable alternative employment?
An employee can refuse an offer of suitable alternative employment on the grounds that it is unsuitable, but they must have a good reason.
If an employee refuses suitable alternative employment without good reason, they might lose their right to statutory redundancy pay.
What are reasonable grounds for refusing suitable alternative employment?
Reasonable grounds for saying no to suitable alternative employment could include:
The new job pays much less than the old one, or offers less benefits;
The role is based in a location that’s too far from where the employee lives or they have no means to get there;
The hours don’t work with their family responsibilities, like taking care of kids, or other commitments;
They don’t have the skills or qualifications needed for the new job;
They don’t feel they’re suitably qualified or trained for the new job;
They have concerns around health and safety issues related to the new job;
They have health issues;
They feel the new job was chosen on discriminatory grounds related to a protected characteristic (like age, gender, or disability), rather than being based on fairness;
They were rushed into making a decision.
Refusing alternative employment due to an unsuitable new location
If an employee has a mobility clause in their employment contract, they may not be able to decline suitable alternative employment due to location.
If their employment contract doesn’t have a mobility clause, they can reasonably decline an offer of alternative employment as unsuitable if it would cost them more or take them longer to get to work.
Refusing alternative employment: the process
Employers have to be fair and honest when it comes to alternative employment offers.
They must tell employees everything they need to know about the new job before they make a decision.
They should also offer the employee an opportunity to do a 4-week job trial for each alternative job offered, before they decide whether to take it.
If an employer doesn’t let an employee try out a new job before making a decision, it may be seen that the redundancy was unfair.
If, when all the facts are known, an employee doesn’t want to take the alternative job, they must tell their employer, in writing, before their current job ends, or before the end of the trial period they are undertaking for the new position.
In their refusal, they should include on what grounds they are refusing the job.
If they don’t refuse the offer of alternative employment before their current job ends, or before the end of their 4-week trial, they forfeit their entitlement to statutory redundancy pay.
Refusal of an alternative employment offer - what happens next?
Employees who refuse alternative employment with good reason can be dismissed on the grounds of redundancy by an employer, and they are still entitled to statutory redundancy pay.
In the event that an employee rejects alternative employment for no good reason, they can be dismissed for redundancy. However, the employee won't be entitled to statutory redundancy pay.
In some cases, employers and employees don’t agree on whether the reasons for turning down alternative employment is reasonable.
When this happens an employee can:
Start early conciliation
Take their employer to a tribunal
If an employee does escalate the matter in this way, the employer will need to explain why the employee’s refusal of alternative employment was unreasonable.
Getting legal help for redundancy issues
When it comes to redundancies, employers must ensure they follow the proper legal process, including offering at-risk employees suitable alternative employment before their current job ends.
Employees are entirely within their rights to refuse proposed alternative employment offers, however to preserve their entitlement to statutory redundancy pay they must have reasonable grounds for rejecting a job offer.
If employees and employers don’t agree that the grounds for refusal are suitable, employees may take legal action, such as claiming unfair dismissal.
If you need help in dealing with a redundancy matter, our specialist employment lawyers and solicitors are on hand to provide advice and guidance for both employers and employees.
To get started, simply tell us about your case through our simple online form to get a fixed-fee quote and find an expert solicitor for your employment matter.