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Labour Court Finds Employee Reasonable in Refusing Relocation 12.6km from Previous Place of Employment.

Summeridge Limited and Derek Byrne RPD/19/24  

Facts: The Respondent/ Appellant in this matter Summeridge Limited appealed the decision of the Workplace Relation Commission (WRC) given under the Redundancy Payments Act 1967 (the Act).

The Complainant, Mr Byrne, had worked as a bartender for the Respondent since 27th January 2015 and following a transfer of undertaking in 2017 continued to work at the same venue under the name “The Elms” at Liffey Valley.

In December 2018, the Applicant received an email stating that the premises would be closed from 31st December 2018 temporarily for four months and all staff were laid off for that period.  

The Respondent emailed the Complainant at the end of January 2019, offering a position on his existing terms and conditions with the amendment that his normal place of work would be at Harbour Master Bar, a city centre location, beginning the 4th February 2019. The Complainant in response declined the position on the basis of the additional expenses in travel and travel time, as the new position was 12.6km away, while the premises at The Elms was a few minutes commute. The Applicant further stated, that he would be applying for redundancy and he was aware that the premises at the Elms was up for letting, contrary to the RP9 Form sent by the Respondent.

Various email communications ensued between the Complainant and the Respondent over the next two months. The Complainant served the notice for redundancy and the Respondent renewed the offer of redeployment at the Harbour Master stating that his position was not redundant and served a counter-notice. The Respondent maintained that the re-opening of the Elms was merely delayed due to continuing insurance issues and a sewage leek. The Respondent also offered €500 plus a voucher of €500 to cover the additional costs.

Preliminary Issue:

The Labour Court considered two main issues

  1. The suitability of the offer of alternative employment made by the Respondent to the Complainant
  2. whether the refusal of the Complainant to accept the offer of alternative work in a different location as unreasonable.

The Decision of the WRC was that the refusal was reasonable.

Decision:  The Court accepted that the Respondent acted at all times bona fides in trying to retain the Claimant and accepted that it was reasonable that the Respondent believed that the business would reopen.

However, the Court further considered the evidence of the Complainant as to the additional costs in commuting, the extra time of travel that would be involved and the lack of public transport when he was working a late shift. The Court stated that  ”… it was a change of such magnitude …. That the Court has to find that his refusal to accept the move to the Harbour Master Bar was not unreasonable”.  Further, there was no job available to him at his established place of work. To date the Elms remains closed.

In affirming the decision of the WRC the Court found that the Complainant was entitled to his statutory redundancy payment.  

Takeaway for the Employers:  While the Court noted that all aspects of the notice for redundancy and counter-notice were complied with by both parties, and the additional benefit offered by the Respondent, this was still not sufficient to outweigh the significant change from the Complainant’s subjective perspective. This case sets a high standard to be met by employers

Link https://www.workplacerelations.ie/en/cases/2021/january/rpd211.html

Authors – Anne O’Connell & Ethna Dillon

30th January 2021

Anne O’Connell Solicitors

19-22 Lower Baggot Street, Dublin 2

www.aocsolicitors.ie

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