Mobility Clause In a Contract: Everything You Need to Know
A mobility clause in a contract is a contractual term that enables an employer to change an employee's place of work, either temporarily or on an ongoing basis.3 min read
A mobility clause in a contract is a contractual term that enables an employer to change an employee's place of work, either temporarily or on an ongoing basis. Employment contracts must include a place of work. For the employer, a mobility clause grants flexibility and allows them to demand that the employee change their location in order to work.
Mobility clauses may be used in various scenarios, such as:
- The employee is occasionally required to travel.
- The employee works regularly at different sites.
- The employee works regularly at one site, but the employer is possibly interested in relocating the employee or the entire company without difficulty.
What Kind of Mobility Is Reasonable?
A contract might include "reasonable" mobility, but what exactly does "reasonable" mean? The definition depends entirely on the nature of the job. For example, it's completely reasonable to require a plumber to travel when completing outgoing calls, as it's a necessary and expected part of the job. However, for a desk-based employee who has never been required to work outside of their office, sudden changes in their work location can cause issues.
Use caution if you suddenly want an employee of yours to frequent another site on a regular basis. Even if their contract contains a mobility clause, they might argue that adding regular travel into their work responsibilities comprises an unreasonable change to their contractual terms.
If a workplace closes, a redundancy situation can arise if the workplace is where the employee actually works, not where they might be required to work under their employment agreement. However, in a redundancy situation where an employer has the contractual right to enforce a mobility clause, there is no need to fire the employee and provide redundancy payment if the employer has exercised the mobility clause.
Think your employer can't force you to relocate against your wishes? Think again. If your employment contract contains a mobility clause, it can require you to move to another location, according to the terms and limits written in the contract. If you refuse to relocate, your employer might be allowed to withhold your redundancy payment.
If your contract does not contain a mobility clause, you will likely be able to refuse to move and still be entitled to redundancy payment. However, if the new location is close (perhaps a few miles), you might still lose the payment if your refusal to accept this suitable alternative employment appears unreasonable.
Redundancy: A Case Example
In the case of Kellogg Brown & Root (UK) Ltd v. Fitton, the employer utilized a contractual mobility clause that stated that employees could be moved to any office located in the United Kingdom or even overseas, except in exceptional circumstances. Employees refused to move to Leatherhead from their Greenford workplace, which was closing. As a result, they were dismissed from their jobs.
The Employment Tribunal stated that these employees had been unfairly fired for redundancy. The case was appealed, and the EAT decided that the dismissals, which occurred in the context of a redundancy situation, were actually a result of employee misconduct, since they had refused to follow the instructions to move.
Nonetheless, the EAT determined that the employees were unfairly dismissed, due to the following reasons:
- The mobility clause was too broad to be enforceable.
- The employer's request to relocate was unreasonable, as the new location would have added 20 to 30 hours per week of travel time.
- The employees' refusal to travel to the new location was reasonable considering their personal life circumstances meant that the change was very impactful and the employer had not taken any steps to mitigate such a big change in their lives.
This case shows the need for employers to examine the breadth of their contractual mobility clauses to make sure they are not unnecessary. The employer might have won this case if the mobility clause was reasonable. This decision also demonstrates that a mobility clause may be exercised only under certain circumstances. An employer must have a good reason for making significant relocation requests, must give sufficient notice of the arrangements, and must look at ways to minimize the impact on their employees.
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