A mobility clause in a contract of employment provides flexibility and permits the employer to demand that the employee moves to a different location to work.
A mobility clause can also require an employee to move within certain limits, for example to any of the employer’s sites within 20 miles of the current workplace’ or to locate elsewhere within the UK. A mobility clause can also request that the employee is flexible and works at a variety of sites to satisfy the needs of the employer’s business.
An employer may need to move their business for a number of reasons, for example in order to reduce costs, or because they are expanding and need a bigger premises. An employer may also move as a result of a takeover or merger, in which case the Transfer of Undertakings regulations may apply. A relocation might in certain circumstances also trigger a redundancy situation with additional costs and legal procedures that will need to be followed in order to avoid the threat of unfair dismissal.
If an employer is moving an employee’s workplace, there will usually need to be an express, and clear mobility clause in their contract of employment for this to be possible. Even if a contract of employment contains an express mobility clause, in order to exercise the clause the employer has an implied duty to act reasonably. On this basis the employer should give reasonable notice of the planned relocation and has a general duty not to destroy the implied duty of trust and confidence between the employee and the employer during any planned transition. If there is a staff handbook then any mobility policy should mirror any terms set out in the contract of employment.
Financial assistance from the employer to help with relocation expenses is common, but this is not a legal requirement unless stipulated clearly in the employee’s contract. In terms of practicality an employee who is unreasonably refused financial assistance to relocate and who is out of pocket may become disillusioned and start looking for another job and so valuable skills, knowledge and co-operation might be lost. There might be general loss of morale amongst the workforce which might affect the business and this impact needs to be seriously considered.
Employees may also not be keen to move, particularly if the new workplace is far away. Whether or not they are required to do so will depend on the mobility clause in their contract. It will also depend on how reasonable the move is, which will in turn depend on the employee’s personal circumstances.
To illustrate, employees may have dependants such as elderly relatives to care for near their home, or may not wish to disrupt their children’s schooling, particularly in areas where school places are hard to obtain. Any increased length and cost of the commute to work may also be a factor on these personal circumstances, particularly if the new place of work is much more difficult to reach than the previous place of work.
Employers also need to be aware that forcing employees to relocate could trigger issues of sex discrimination; as women are less likely to be the primary earner, they may not be in a position to be able to move long distances and any long commute could interfere with child-care arrangements.
In summary a mobility clause can be a very useful thing to have in a written contract of employment but it should be clear, concise and reasonable. In the absence of this and if the employee is forced to move their place of work, then this is likely to be a breach of their contract of employment. This may in turn force them to raise a grievance and to ultimately resign and claim constructive dismissal, and perhaps pursue unlawful discrimination rights if they have a protected characteristic in law. Employers can always enter into a settlement agreement (What is a settlement agreement?) and reach a financial resolution to exit staff who do not wish to relocate, and to avoid threatened litigation, but this is a costlier option.
What do i do next?
If you are at all uncertain or wish to consider the use of a mobility clause and its implications then it is best to seek early pro-active legal advice.
With our vast experience in the field, our team will work with you to ensure this process runs as smooth as possible. All information you provide us with is treated with the utmost confidentiality.
If you would like more information speak to our Employment Solicitor, Steven Eckett on 020 7998 7777 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.