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Relocation of work

Companies move location for many reasons, the need to reduce costs, find bigger premises, for restructuring or to merge with another business for example. If your employer does move, you have certain rights and obligations.

Do you have to move if your employer moves?

If your employer moves the location of their business, your situation depends firstly on the terms of your contract of employment. Some contracts include a 'mobility clause' which says you have to move within certain limits. If you have a mobility clause in your contract your employer can normally force you to move to places allowed by the clause unless this is completely unreasonable (such as asking you to move to another country with only one days notice). Reasons you might not want to go to the new location could include:

  • increased travel costs and time
  • if you need to move house
  • not being able to afford a house at the new location
  • not wanting to leave your current home
  • your family situation, like having older parents who need you to care for them
  • your children's education.

If you don't have a mobility clause in your contract and the relocation is more than a short distance, you can decide not to move. In this case, your employer may make you redundant.

What happens when refusing to move becomes redundancy?

If you don't want to move with your employer, you may become redundant because:

  • the job at the current location no longer exists
  • you're being offered an alternative, but you refuse the offer as not suitable to you.

Whether you get a redundancy payment depends on a number of factors, including how long you've been working for your employer. However, the most important question is whether you've 'unreasonably' refused an offer of suitable alternative work. There is no fixed distance which is 'reasonable'- it depends on your particular circumstances.

If the new location is just a few miles away and you can drive or easily take public transport, it will probably be unreasonable to turn down the offer. If, however, it involves a difficult journey, even if it's only a few miles away, or affects personal matters like your family situation or children's education, it may be reasonable to say no.

When you are facing redundancy there is a right to a trial period in any alternative job you are offered - check the link below for more information. Redundancy is a dismissal so you can always consider an unfair dismissal claim if you feel badly treated.

Reasons for deciding to relocate with your employer

A good relocation package

Your employer doesn't have to offer you any compensation for relocating, unless it's included in your contract of employment. They may offer you financial help and this could include help with legal fees, excess fares, moving expenses and temporary accommodation. If you turn down the offer of relocation and you've been offered compensation, you may not get a redundancy payment.

Good future job prospects

Your new job may be different from your old job, but better paid and with the chance for personal development. It may be worthwhile agreeing a trial period in the new location, perhaps while you commute or move to temporary accommodation, to see if you like the new job.

If you agree a trial period, it's a good idea to do so in advance and in writing. If you're in a redundancy situation, you have a statutory right to a four-week trial period. If you decide to move, even to a new position, your employment is continuous, and your statutory rights are unchanged.

What happens if your employer has been taken over and the new owners want to relocate?

Your rights are protected by regulations known as TUPE - Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) - under which all of your existing rights, including contractual rights and redundancy protection, remain unchanged. It makes no difference that it's a new owner that introduces the relocation.

What should you do next?

If your employer decides to relocate:

  • check your contract of employment to see if there's a 'mobility clause'
  • find out whether your employer is offering a relocation package and if so decide if you think it's reasonable
  • discuss the situation with family and friends, including work colleagues
  • tell your employer whether you want to move or not, and explain why - if there's a problem, they may be able to help
  • if you decide to move, talk to your employer about a trial period in the new location / new job
  • if you decide to claim redundancy, tell your employer, and why
  • if there's any dispute, discuss it first with your employer - if you have an employee representative, like a trade union official, they may be able to help
  • if you decide not to relocate and your employer considers you are being unreasonable and refuses you a redundancy payment, you can take the matter to an Industrial Tribunal. The tribunal will decide whether you, or your employer, are being unreasonable.

Where can you get help?

The Labour Relations Agency (LRA) offers free, confidential and impartial advice on all employment rights issues for residents of Northern Ireland. You can contact the LRA on 028 9032 1442 from 9.00 am to 5.00 pm Monday to Friday.

Your local Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) can provide free and impartial advice. You can find your local CAB office in the phone book or online.

If you are a member of a trade union, you can get help, advice and support from them

More useful links