Office Closures and Relocations
Moving could be due to consolidation, cost savings, or space issues. Whatever the rational, it has a big impact on employees and this process needs to be managed
Over 20 years experience
So how does changing the workplace location affect employees?
2020 has seen the biggest shift in the way many businesses operate. Homeworking has become the norm and even those MD’s who never believed it could work for them have swallowed their words and been eternally grateful for their employees ability to rapidly adapt to the changing workplace. The impact of that change is now being seen in the changing behaviours of business owners who are moving out of city centre office blocks and to entire homeworking, or moving their whole businesses online.
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10 things to get right: expert tips
- Give people reasonable notice, state what the business case is for moving someone, and consider offering them financial assistance.
- If you want to move somebody or you want to have the right to move somebody, it would be advisable for an employer to make that an express term in their contract.
- If moving employees outside the UK to a country they have never been to, support before arrival helps.
- Consider the rest of an employee’s family. If the family is unhappy, the employee is unhappy, and ultimately their work will not be up to scratch.
- Put some structure to the guidance materials that you provide – make sure it is clear and concise, for both managers and staff.
- Support surgeries can be invaluable. People will need extra support.
- Look at where staff live, particularly key staff. And consider whether people need to be in the office every day.
- Don’t overlook severance obligations at the early stage – they can often prevent a relocation from being cost effective.
- Consider how you are going to recruit staff in the new location. Don’t just read the headline statistics of what the labour cost is. Dig into the detail with local recruitment consultants.
- Meet people individually, to discuss the relocation, as early as possible.
One solution involved in re-organising the office space and working hours was to mitigate some of the travel through mobile and flexible working initiatives. Whilst “Homeworking is something that ten years ago was rare, partly because of the lack of technology, and partly because organisations were reluctant, now it is becoming much more of an option, particularly where companies have hot-desking and people work one or two days at home.”
Negotiating the legal minefield
- The dismissal of employees because they do not wish to move to new business premises will still normally constitute a redundancy dismissal.
- A valid and applicable mobility clause can be invoked at the outset to implement a business relocation rather than following a redundancy programme and, in this case, it will avoid the need for a redundancy dismissal – any subsequent dismissal for refusal to relocate would usually be for misconduct.
- Take into account that, although mobility clauses may be useful for other reasons in relation to a business relocation, they cannot be relied on to broaden an employee’s place of work, and hence to avoid liability to make redundancy payments where a redundancy programme has been instituted.
- If an employee refuses to move to the new business premises, in determining whether a redundancy payment is payable, consider whether he or she has unreasonably refused an offer of suitable alternative employment.
- Start consultation with the affected employees as soon as possible and bear in mind that collective as well as individual consultation may be required.
Optimal can offer full support of office relocations, not just on the People element but also the facilities aspect in terms of closing a site down or handing it back to the Landlord.
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