Employment: A reminder of the importance of communication in redundancy situations
An EAT case* heard in March underlines the importance to employers of ensuring effectively that employee communication during the redundancy process is not overlooked.
In a redundancy situation, an employee who unreasonably refuses an offer of suitable alternative employment made before termination or within four weeks of it has no entitlement to a redundancy payment. However, as this case shows the term "suitable offer of employment" may depend on what the employee's perception of that offer is. The original tribunal found that the job did not involve any loss of status and was suitable "on balance". It also found that the employee's refusal to accept it was not unreasonable. This was to be judged based on her not unreasonable perceptions. The EAT saw nothing to justify overturning this approach. Relevant facts were that the employer's shortcomings in communicating or discussing the offer and that the alternative employment was only "marginally" suitable as opposed to being "plainly suitable", which seems something of a fine dividing line.
What is clear is that employers who communicate such offers competently may be able to avoid an employee successfully arguing that his or her perception of a suitable job as unsuitable is a reasonable one thereby justifying the refusal of the offer and the retention of the right to a redundancy payment.
* Commission for Healthcare Audit and Inspection v Ward UKEAT/0579/07
View the case at http://www.employmentappeals.gov.uk/Public/Upload/07_0579fhCNJOJ.doc
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