New office results in £14,000 employee award

A high street fashion retailer has been ordered to pay more than £14,000 to a former employee who was denied permission to work remotely instead of moving to a new office.

The company relocated 13 miles from the employee’s home. He received a letter from his employer confirming the move and tried to find out more details, as nobody had spoken to him about it. When he enquired about working at home permanently as an alternative, he was told by a line manager that this was not an option, although there might be some hybrid work.

The employee told managers he could not commute to the new office as it could not be reached directly with public transport, and he did not own a car. The employee was asked to work from home for 12 weeks while building work took place at the new office but was told that he could not continue to do so following this period. This followed the Covid pandemic, during which the employee and others had worked from home exclusively.

The employee raised a grievance with the company suggesting that he work from home as an alternative to the office move. After the grievance and a subsequent appeal were rejected, the employee resigned. The employment tribunal heard that the employee had been successfully fulfilling his job from home for over two years without any problems and that there were no issues with his performance whilst working from home.

The Employment Judge upheld the employee’s claim of constructive unfair dismissal and ruled that “It was not reasonable to require the claimant to move for the proper performance of his duties. Therefore, enforcing the move was not within the terms of the claimant’s contractual mobility clause. The respondent did not have reasonable and proper cause to move the claimant to and the move was likely to destroy or seriously damage the trust and confidence between the claimant and the respondent.’’

“The breach was sufficiently serious to be fundamental, entitling the claimant to resign and treat himself as dismissed.’’

He was awarded a total of £14,215.95 including more than £10,000 to compensate for loss of earnings.

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