If you’re going through a process of redundancies then the question of what is suitable alternative employment is key question.
To dismiss an employee fairly on the grounds of redundancy, there are two things you need to do as an employer:
- You must establish that redundancy was genuine, it was the real reason for the dismissal.
- You must act reasonably throughout the redundancy process and any ultimate dismissal.
What is reasonable?
The test of reasonableness comes from case law. You can’t act reasonably if you haven’t considered the question of suitable alternative employment (amongst other things). You must search for and, if it’s available, offer suitable alternative employment within your organisation.
What is suitable alternative employment?
Whether a job is suitable or not usually depends on:
- how similar the work is to the employee’s current job
- the terms of the job being offered, eg how much you’ll pay the employee and what benefits they’ll get
- the status of the job
- where the job is – if it’s further to travel it may not be suitable
- the employee’s skills and abilities in relation to the job
When should the offer of suitable alternative employment be made?
You need to make the offer of suitable alternative employment before the employee’s current job comes to an end. The new job should start within 4 weeks of the employee’s current job ending.
The employee doesn’t have to take the job being offered if they don’t think it’s suitable.
If you offer an employee suitable alternative employment and they unreasonable refuse it, they may lose their right to statutory redundancy pay.
The burden of showing both that the alternative employment offered was suitable and that the employee’s refusal was unreasonable rests on you as the employer. It’s therefore important that you consider doing all that you reasonably can to take a proactive role in finding suitable alternative employment in redundancy, to minimise a claim for unfair dismissal.
The employee has the right to a 4 week trial period for any alternative employment that you’ve offered them. The 4 week period can be extended if the employee needs additional training but write down the arrangements for any extension before the trial period starts.
During the trial period if you or the employee decide that the job isn’t suitable this won’t affect the employee’s rights, including their right to statutory redundancy pay.
There needs to be a good reason why it’s not suitable, for example:
- the job is on lower pay
- health issues stop the employee from doing the job
- the employee has difficulty getting there, for example because of a longer journey, higher cost or lack of public transport
- it would cause disruption to your family life
- the employee’s skill level is not sufficient to do the job effectively
Please note that Metis HR contracts contain a mobility clause (a clause that says the employee has to work anywhere you ask them to). This could mean that an employee turning down a job because of its location could risk their right to redundancy pay.
If you’re considering making redundancies in your business and have questions regarding suitable alternative employment or the process in general, contact us today on 01706 565332 or use our contact form.
Metis HR is a professional HR Consultancy based in the North West of England supporting clients across the country. We specialise in providing outsourced HR services to small and medium-sized businesses. Call us now on 01706 565332 to discuss how we may help you.