What is a “mobility clause”?
A contract of employment (or written statement of particulars) has to include place of work. A mobility clause is a contractual term which allows an employer to vary an employee’s place of work on a temporary or ongoing basis.
When would a mobility clause be used?
Mobility clauses could be used for roles where someone regularly works at different sites; when someone may occasionally be required to travel; or where an employee normally works only at a set site but the employer would like the ability to relocate their role or the business as a whole without difficulty.
If I put a mobility clause in a contract does that mean I can move employees anywhere?
It’s not quite that simple. You still have to act reasonably as the employer. What constitutes “reasonable” mobility might depend on the nature of the role. For example it is perfectly reasonable to require a salesperson to travel when visiting different sites all the time is an intrinsic part of the role.
But for an office-based employee who has not ever needed to work anywhere else, greater caution should be exercised if you suddenly want them to visit another site on a one-off or regular basis. They could argue that even if their contract technically contains a mobility clause, the nature of their role and the fact that they had never been required to travel previously means suddenly incorporating regular travel into their job constitutes an unreasonable change to terms and conditions.
This is particularly a risk where the individual has caring responsibilities, has made personal family arrangements around consistent hours in a fixed workplace and would find regular travel incompatible with their responsibilities at home.
What about if I am relocating the business completely?
It is fairly common for small businesses to need to relocate premises as they grow, and in these circumstances you may find a mobility clause useful. You still need to act reasonably, which would usually mean consulting with staff on the proposed move, taking into account their views on the new location, and listening to the challenges it may present them on an individual basis.
If there is a mobility clause and an employee refuses to move, what can I do?
If you are clear from the outset that you are requiring them to move pursuant to a mobility clause, and do not follow a redundancy process, then as long as the clause is worded in such a way as to cover the move you wish to make, you have acted reasonably, and reasonable notice has been given, you could consider dismissal on the basis of refusal to follow a reasonable management instruction. Such a dismissal would be for misconduct and as such wouldn’t involve redundancy pay.
However it may well be safer in those circumstances to treat the individual as being redundant, depending on the specific circumstances of the move and how possible it is that a tribunal may feel that for this individual employee, forcing a move would not be reasonable. You should seek professional advice before commencing relocation in order to decide whether exercising a mobility clause or conducting a redundancy process is the best route.
If I do follow a redundancy process, is the mobility clause relevant?
A mobility clause could still be relevant when it comes to determining whether the employee’s role at the new premises constitutes a “suitable alternative”. If the employee unreasonably refuses a role which is a suitable alternative, they forfeit the right to redundancy pay.
If you’re considering including a mobility clause in a contract or are looking to relocate your premises and want some advice, do get in touch.