Refusing suitable alternative employment
Rice v Walker (trading as Kitchen Shop), EAT, 17 November 2005, EAT website 16 January 2006)
Mrs Rice was a shop assistant in one of two shops owned by Mr and Mrs Walker. In September 2004, the business downsized from two shops to one. There were eight staff across the two shops, four of whom were to be made redundant. Rice worked in the shop that was closing, but she was offered work in the remaining shop.
She eventually agreed to work a minimum of 13.5 hours per week over three days. She was told she had a statutory four-week trial period. After two weeks, she said she could not accept the new arrangements and wanted to accept redundancy. Mr Walker offered her the option of returning to her original hours, but Rice rejected the offer and resigned.
Her claims for redundancy pay, unfair dismissal and indirect sex discrimination were all dismissed by the tribunal and she was ordered to pay £1,000 costs. The tribunal said that by resigning, she had unreasonably refused an offer of suitable alternative employment, thereby losing her right to claim redundancy pay. She appealed.
The EAT upheld the tribunal’s findings. The fact that she had received a further offer to return to her original hours effectively deprived her of the right to claim redundancy pay. However, the EAT remitted the claim of indirect discrimination as the tribunal had failed to give adequate reasons, and overturned the order for costs.
The legislation aims to encourage both parties to consider alternative employment and to try it out. The employee’s right to redundancy pay is preserved for a trial period, but is lost if they unreasonably refuse the offer of suitable alternative employment.