What if Your Employees Do Not Want to Move to a New Office?

In current times, businesses are slowly healing from the recent pandemic-led economic strains. Companies are finding ways to adapt to new business norms, whilst growing back their bottom-line.

Relocating offices has become a commonly shared practice in the business world. Some employers are choosing this to host a bigger workspace for their staff, whilst others seek cost-effective benefits to moving.

But what about employees? You need to consider their welfare if you decide to uproot your company. Some might be nervous about the aftereffects of a move – on personal and professional levels. One wrong move and you could find yourself facing potential breaches and tribunal hearings.

Read about your obligations when relocating your business. And see how you can apply a stress-free move for your employees. 

What are the relocation rights for employees?

Employers can decide to move their business to another trading location. But you’ll need to consider your employees’ contractual state.

If their contract states so, you can move their working location within certain limits – but you must act reasonably. It’s not fair to ask an employee to relocate 100 miles away, with 24 hours’ notice.

Some of the most common refusals for work relocations are:

  • An increase in commute times and costs.
  • Possibility of moving to another home.
  • Possibility of having to consider buying a new house.
  • Effects on family dynamics and other relationships.
  • Effects on lifestyle commitments.

Mobility clauses

A mobility clause is a legal term added to employment contracts and allows employers to move their staff’s work location. If a contract includes one, the employee must legally accept the move. 

A stipulation in your employee’s contract regarding potential future relocation is key. If the contract doesn’t include a mobility clause, they have no obligation to move.

Employee refuses to relocate for work

If an employee expresses no wish to move, you should discuss their concerns and figure out more suitable options. Their new commute might be twice as long or more expensive. Or they might have to consider relocating their home and family towards the new work location.

Listen to whatever their concerns are and explain your reasons for the move. Ensure that you’ll support them throughout the move, relaying open means for information and discussions.

Relocations and redundancies

If an employee is unwilling to relocate to the new office, you might have to consider redundancies. But their decisions for refusing need to be reasonable.

Firstly, see if you can offer suitable alternative employment within the company. These roles should be considered fairly; and offered against their previous role and experience.

In some situations, if their refusal is unreasonable, they could lose redundancy pay and other benefits.

However, it’s vital to provide their right to a trial period for alternative placements. Remember, redundancy is a dismissal, so make sure you follow the correct legal procedure or an employee could raise a claim of unfair treatment to tribunal courts.

How far can you move business locations?

Even if you decide to move a short distance, you are creating a situation where workplace redundancies could happen.

You could avoid redundancy situations by actioning mobility clauses in contracts. But you need to do so reasonably. It’s not fair to expect your entire workforce to commute extortionate lengths at short or difficult notice.

Agreeing to business relocation

When your employees agree to move, you should formally record all contract terms (current and new). Collate these terms into a written statement and outline:

  • If the move is temporary or permanent (with lengths of duration).
  • If employee rights still apply after the move.
  • Whether they’ll receive moving entitlements.
  • If their job role and duties remain the same or will change.

Here are three major elements to consider when your staff agree to relocate:

1. Acceptable relocation entitlements 

You don’t always have to provide compensation when relocating and uprooting your staff (unless stated via contract terms).

However, you can offer financial benefits, like moving expenses or temporary accommodation. But remember, if they turn down the relocation offer (even after being offered compensation), they could lose their rights to redundancy pay.

2. Growing career prospects

You should demonstrate how the move is beneficial for more than the business. It could prove as the perfect time for employees to grow personal development.

Why not set trial periods in the new location to see if your employees can transition comfortably?

Provide information on trial periods (in writing) before the relocation date. And remember, your staff are still entitled to statutory rights, and their employment is still considered unbroken.

3. How to support your employees with the move

Supporting your staff’s wellbeing is one of your fundamental duties as an employer. So, make sure they fully understand any employment changes and legal rights after the move. Remember to:

  • Check if their employment contracts include mobility clauses.
  • Display how your decision to move is fair and reasonable. 
  • Advise your staff to share any concerns with management, HR or trade union representatives.
  • Discuss any queries they have regarding their move.
  • State whether you’ll provide trial periods and what they’ll include.
  • Outline the alternative options for refusing to relocate, like alternative employment or redundancy.

Through open discussions and clear understanding, you can minimise any chance of disputes and hearings. 

Some people might have difficulties when facing unfamiliar change. So, open channels of communication will help them adjust during and after the move. Your employees can stand prepared to transition into their new working environment.

Through these methods, you can encourage the most effective and comfortable move for your employees. And minimise any possibilities of workplace disruption – to all your staff and your business.

If you need support with relocating your employees, contact our team below for more information.  

Written by Kate Palmer, a thought leader on HR and employment law. Kate is the Director of HR Advice and Consultancy at global employment law consultancy, Peninsula.

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