Case law: Employee's refusal of alternative job offer on redundancy can be reasonable even if the reason for the refusal is not disclosed

Employers should ask employees who refuse offers of alternative employment on redundancy why they have done so before withholding statutory redundancy pay, or unlawfully withholding that pay unlawfully if the employee's refusal is reasonable on grounds of, for instance, ill-health.

An employee under threat of redundancy rejected an offer of an alternative job. She said it was because the new job did not match her skills, but the real reason was that she suffered from leukaemia and could not work in a cold environment, which she would have to do in the alternative job. The employer was unaware of the real reason and dismissed her on grounds of redundancy.

It refused to pay her a statutory redundancy payment on grounds she had unreasonably refused an offer of suitable alternative employment.

An employer can only do this lawfully if it can show that:

  • the alternative job was suitable (given the employee's skills and experience, and the terms and conditions attached to the new role), and
  • the employee's refusal was unreasonable, given their personal circumstances

The Employment Appeal Tribunal ruled that the employee's leukaemia made her refusal reasonable, even though the employer had been unaware of it.

Operative date

  • Now

Recommendation

  • Employers should ask employees who refuse offers of alternative employment on a redundancy why they have done so before withholding statutory redundancy pay, or risk their action being unlawful if the employee's refusal is reasonable on grounds of, for example, ill-health

Case ref: Dunne v Colin & Avril Ltd T/A Card Outlet UKEAT/0293/16/DA

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