The EAT case of Readman v Devon Primary Care Trust (2012) is the latest indication that tribunals are taking an employee friendly view when considering what is suitable alternative employment in a redundancy context.
In this case Mrs Readman, a nurse, was offered suitable alternative employment by her employer as a way to avoid the impact of her old role being made redundant. However, she refused the alternative role on the grounds that she had no desire to return to a hospital (rather than community) setting. In the circumstances, she was denied a redundancy payment by her employer as the law allows.
Overturning the decision on appeal, the EAT held that the tribunal had fallen into error by applying a wholly objective test to the question of reasonableness. When assessing whether a refusal of suitable alternative employment is unreasonable, the tribunal must decide whether the employee in question acted reasonably in refusing the offer. This will involve a subjective analysis and consideration of whether there is a sound and justifiable reason for turning down the alternative employment offered. In this case the employee was found to have acted reasonably.