My department is being relocated to new offices 25 miles away. What are the implications?

There may be a written term in your contract of employment requiring you to move to another location on request.

Where there is such a term, you need to be very cautious before refusing to move, because this could lead to your dismissal for breaching the contract (i.e. refusing to obey your employer’s lawful order).

You need to look at the wording of the term and take advice. How clearly written is it? If it is drafted very widely, this may give you some basis for resisting it.

Where you have always worked in the past may also be relevant. If you have always worked in one location, there may be a redundancy situation if you are required to relocate to another.

Aside from the contractual position, it may be possible to argue that selecting you to move without making special allowances is indirectly discriminatory. In other words, that the impact of the move on you, compared to other colleagues, is disproportionately negative for reasons connected to your being part of a group protected by equality legislation. This point has been successfully argued by women who, due to caring responsibilities, were especially badly affected by a move.

If you are disabled, your employer will have a duty to make reasonable adjustments for you in the context of the decision to relocate.

A good employer will provide advice and practical assistance to staff, including financial support, to enable the relocation process to go as smoothly as possible.

Your contract of employment may specify exactly what relocation costs your employer will meet.

Where a union is recognised, they should be consulted long enough before the relocation to be able to reach agreement on these issues. Your union may be able to negotiate options such as severance pay, spending all or part of your week working ‘virtually’ from home, taking on a different role that does not involve you relocating, or changing your hours or working pattern to make the commute less expensive and/or easier to combine with other responsibilities such as childcare.

A relocation exercise involving 20 or more employees is likely to trigger statutory collective consultation duties.

Employees who are unable to relocate may qualify for a redundancy payment.

Note: This content is provided as general background information and should not be taken as legal advice or financial advice for your particular situation. Make sure to get individual advice on your case from your union, a source on our free help page or an independent financial advisor before taking any action.