Relocation Clauses

Author:Ms Jennifer O'Neill
Profession:LK Shields

The Terms of Employment (Information) Acts 1994 and 2001 specifically provide that an employer is obliged to provide an employee with a statement in writing no later than two months after the commencement of employment containing certain particulars in relation to his or her employment. One of the particulars which must be furnished is the place of work of the employee or alternatively a statement specifying that the employee is required or permitted to work at various places.

In addition to specifying the place of work an employer may seek to incorporate an express relocation or mobility clause in the employee's contract. Such clauses would typically entitle the employer to relocate or move the employee to other offices or branches of the employer within a specified area.

If the contract of employment does not contain a mobility clause, a limited mobility requirement may be implied by the Courts who will consider whether it is reasonable in the circumstances to require the employee to relocate to a given location.

If an employer seeks to relocate or transfer an entire business or part of a business to another location and the employee does not wish to transfer, it is arguable that the employer may be justified in dismissing the employees in question by reason of redundancy. The definition of redundancy in the Redundancy Payments Acts 1967-2007 specifically provides that a genuine redundancy occurs where "the employer has ceased or intends to cease to carry on the business in the place where the employee was employed".

What is evident from the case law in relation to mobility and relocation is that such cases are very much decided on their own facts. A common thread running through all such cases however, regardless of whether there is an express or implied mobility clause, is the requirement that the employer acts in a reasonable manner. We have examined some of the cases in this area below.

Case Law

The case of O'Brien v Dunnes Stores (UD227/2001) illustrates how attempts by an employer to implement a transfer without a written mobility clause may be determined unfair. In reaching its decision the Employment Appeals Tribunal stated that having given careful consideration to the mobility element of the contract, which was not reduced to writing, it regarded the employer's actions in transferring the employee as "fundamentally unfair." The Tribunal continued by stating that "any onerous condition in a person's contract should always be...

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