Employee’s reason for rejecting suitable alternative employment was reasonable despite employer having no knowledge of this
21 April 2017 #Redundancy
The EAT held in Dunne v Colin & Avril Ltd that a book-keeper who declined an offer of suitable employment did so reasonably despite her reliance on health reasons not raised until after her dismissal.
As part of its redundancy exercise, the employer offered the Claimant a new role which meant she would spend a proportion of her time continuing to work as a book-keeper and the remainder of her time working in a warehouse. The Claimant declined the offer, telling her employer that this was because the work was “inconsistent with her book-keeping skills”. The Claimant was dismissed and brought a claim for unfair dismissal and a redundancy payment.
At the ET, the Claimant explained that she was suffering from Leukaemia and that due to her health, she would have been unable to tolerate the cold conditions in the warehouse. A redundancy situation was found, however the ET held that the claimant had unreasonably refused an offer of suitable employment as she had not raised the issue of the cold warehouse prior to her dismissal.
The EAT allowed the employee’s appeal. The fact that her health reasons were only relied on following her dismissal did not mean it could be disregarded in deciding whether the employment was suitable and/or if refusal was reasonable. The questions of her redundancy payment entitlement and unfair dismissal were remitted to another ET.
This case is a reminder to employers of the extreme caution to be applied when assessing whether a refusal of an offer is reasonable. For more information in this area, please contact our employment team.
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