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Employment Law Case Update: Kellogg Brown & Root (UK) Ltd v Fitton
- AuthorEmployment Team
Gone are the days when you could move your staff around like tiddlywinks on a Ludo board, without so much as a 'would you mind?' - and rightly so.
But the EAT has now confirmed that employers can rely on an express contractual mobility clause to move an employee to a different workplace rather than making the employee redundant.
In Kellogg Brown & Root (UK) Ltd v Fitton and another, the employer had a wide mobility clause which meant staff could be moved to any office location in the UK or overseas, save in exceptional circumstances. The claimants refused to move from their work place at Greenford to Leatherhead despite it being shut down. One claimant did not have a car, although he could drive, and the other was a year away from retirement after 25 years of living close to the office. The ET said the claimants had been unfairly dismissed for redundancy.
However the EAT said that although the dismissals had been made against the backdrop of redundancies they had been for misconduct- specifically the employee’s refusal to move workplace.
Despite this the EAT stated the employees had been unfairly dismissed because the contractual mobility clause was too wide, and as such unenforceable, as it included the UK and overseas. Furthermore the employer’s instruction to move was unreasonable as their travelling time would have increased by 20 to 30 hours a week and their personal circumstances meant the change was very substantial and the employer’s steps to mitigate the impact did little to help them. This included giving them two months' notice of the relocation, a contribution towards additional travel costs for a six month period and a reduction in core working hours to allow employees with longer journeys to finish earlier, to assist with the M25 traffic.
In light of this case, employers should review the scope of their mobility clauses to ensure they are no wider than necessary as a significant reason the employer lost in this case is that their mobility clause was too wide. It is unfair to dismiss an employee who refuses to relocate, if the employer exercises the mobility clause unreasonably or if the employee’s refusal is unreasonable. The case also highlights the constraints on exercising a mobility clause. Employers should give reasonable notices of relocation arrangements and have good reasons for making a significant relocation decision and should look at mitigating the impact of relocation on staff.
This article is from our weekly Employment Law Newsletter published on 9th February 2017. If you would like to receive this newsletter directly and be kept up to date with recent cases and Employment Law news, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
This is for information purposes only and is no substitute for, and should not be interpreted as, legal advice. All content was correct at the time of publishing and we cannot be held responsible for any changes that may invalidate this article.