Labour Research October 2004

Features: Law queries

Relocation and dismissal

My employer is merging several departments into one, with the result that my current workplace will be closing and my job will be located 15 miles away. I do not want to travel that distance to work. My employer has said that if I do not agree to the change they will dismiss me. Can they do this?

Your employer has to consult you over any proposed change to your terms and conditions of employment. However, as long as they have consulted you, it is possible that they can dismiss you if you do not agree to the change and refuse to accept the new terms - this would be a dismissal for "some other substantial reason". It depends on the extent of the changes and the reasons for them.

In deciding whether or not a dismissal on these grounds was fair or unfair, a tribunal would take into account the reasons for the change and whether your employer could justify them on business grounds, as well as how substantial the changes are and whether your refusal is "reasonable".

In the Evans case below, the Employment Appeals Tribunal (EAT) found that dismissing an employee who refused to work under a new contract, which required him to work compulsory overtime, was unfair - his employer had not shown that there was an immediate need for them to increase the amount of overtime, or to make the increase compulsory instead of voluntary.

* Evans v Elemeta Holdings Ltd [1982] IRLR 143