Refusing an Offer of Suitable Alternative Employment

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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.