As an employer, you may think of relocating employees in order to have a bigger office space, save money or in the event of a merger. If you want to retain staff, you will need to make sure you approach the relocation process with care. We have listed five tips for employers who intend to move their staff.

  1. Explain why. Communicating with your employees regarding the relocation is essential. Tell your staff why the move is necessary, so that they understand it is not merely being done to inconvenience or “get rid” of them. Your key staff may be more supportive of the relocation if they recognise your reasons for doing so.
  2. Reasonable notice. As aforementioned, giving notice of the relocation will prevent your request from being deemed unreasonable. Consider how long it will take employees to decide if they will oblige, and their specific circumstances. If you are moving employees abroad, this may require more notice.
  3. Relocation expenses. You can make the relocation more appealing by providing expenses to your employees. If you wish to retain your top performing staff, try to make the offer irresistible. This could include paying for their accommodation or travel expenses, or it could include increasing their salary.
  4. Be flexible. Consult your employees and listen to their concerns. Make sure that you try to be as flexible as possible and consider their needs and circumstances. A workforce who feels like their opinions are considered, will be happier than one who feels like they are forced against their wishes. Consider increasing home working or other alternatives to the relocation.
  5. Trial periods. If possible, you could offer the unsure employees the opportunity to partake in a trial relocation period. This can be a month or so in the new location, in temporary accommodation. This will allow the employee to experience and get to know the new location, to make a decision. This may be particularly useful whereby the relocation is abroad.

What can I do if an employee refuses to move?

If your employees decide not to move, you may be able to make them redundant. Consider whether the employee has been unreasonable in refusing to move. If they have been, you may not have to make a redundancy payment to them.

You can dismiss the employee and reengage them with a new contract, which includes the new location. However, you must approach this with caution. This can be dangerous because it may give rise to unfair dismissal claims. Make sure to give the employee the correct amount of notice before dismissing them, to ensure that they cannot claim for wrongful dismissal and breach of contract. Be mindful of any potentially protected characteristics of the employee, to reduce the risk of a discrimination claim.

Consider adding mobility clauses into your contracts going forward, if you do not already have them. This can avoid redundancies and potentially make any future relocation process easier.

This article has been provided to TBOS by our preferred legal advice supplier SA Law. Click here for more views and insights from SA Law.

Relocating Employees - Top Tips

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