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redundancy and suitable alternative employment

20 January 2012

Can an employee act reasonably in rejecting a suitable alternative offer of employment even where a reasonable employee would have accepted the offer?

Yes, according to Readman v Devon Primary Care Trust. Mrs Readman, a community matron, refused an offer of suitable alternative employment as hospital matron, as she did not wish to work in a hospital. Her employer denied her a redundancy payment, stating she had unreasonably refused the alternative post. The Tribunal found that a reasonable employee would have accepted the post. The decision was overturned on appeal on the basis that the Tribunal failed to give adequate weight to the employee’s personal reasons for refusing the role. The EAT found that Mrs Readman was entitled to her redundancy payment.

This case is not helpful to employers who need to reorganise their business but wish to avoid expensive redundancies. The individual circumstances of the employee – domestic and travel arrangements, caring responsibilities and career preferences – are relevant and need to be considered.

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