HR & Employment Law Insights

Helping family businesses, start-ups, charities, social enterprises, and other growing or established businesses throughout the UK make sense of HR and Employment Law challenges.

We are pleased to announce the first edition of our brand new blog series - Question of the Week. We get asked HR related questions every day and each week we will be sharing our top question of the week that we have been asked here at The HR Booth.

This week we were asked if it is possible to fire an employee if they will not relocate.

Here’s the full scenario followed by our guidance.

The question

I’ve just had a call regarding a situation, which has arisen with our employee who is part of the team located in one of our branches.

As you are already aware, we have been working very hard to try to secure new business direct with the client and we have managed to secure a small piece of business, which we are hopeful may lead to further work for us going forward. This initial piece of work is for a 2 month period and would require probably 2 of our employees to work from this new site for this period of time.

We have reviewed the skills and criteria for this piece of work and identified two people that are suitable. One of the employees identified is refusing to move unless we pay an enhanced rate.

We are looking for some guidance on what we can advise the employee at our next meeting. For example, the contract of employment states ‘Your normal place of work will initially be at Edinburgh and other customer sites as required and when doing so you shall ensure that you conform to all regulations (particularly relating to site safety) as the customer determines applicable. The nature of the Employee's duties is such that you may be required to travel to and work from a number of sites within the UK’.

The site that we are asking them to work is in Glasgow and the employees will receive payment for expenses, as we appreciate this is further to travel.

Our guidance

It's a reasonable request and as per the contract, you can request employees to work in other locations when asked to do so.

Providing we are giving reasonable notice and reimbursing any additional travel expenses, there's nothing the employee can raise to object assuming all other factors are the same, e.g. working hours. There is no enhanced rate of pay as this is exactly the same job, albeit in a different location.

In refusing to do work at this site, he's damaging the company’s reputation as you will be unable to fulfil this customer requirement and as such you should get this point over when you meet with him.

We are faced with a situation of forcing the issue and sending an unhappy employee to work onsite with a client, but if he is refusing then we will need to take formal action as we could have a situation where other employees refuse to work in other sites, which will impact on the company’s flexibility.

Given the commercial nature of the business at the moment you cannot be refusing work on the basis that people do not wish to travel.

I would suggest that you meet with him further to understand fully the reasons why he his refusing to do so and to make him aware that he is in breach of his contract.  You should also get across how damaging this is for the business and could ultimately impact on his colleagues as this is an opportunity to generate more business and secure work.    At this stage, we should not be thinking about dismissing but if he breaches his contract by refusing to move, then this is an option that is available.

Please update me afterwards and we can discuss next steps.

Your turn

Do you have employees working flexibly across multiple locations? How have you dealt with this situation before?

Have you had to deal with a similar situation in your organisation?

Let us know by joining the conversation in the comments section below.

Alistair