Alternative work

If you are at risk of redundancy, your employer should give you an opportunity to apply for 'suitable alternative employment'.

This could be in your current workplace or at another company in the same group. If you are on maternity, adoption or shared parental leave, you must be offered 'any suitable vacancy' without having to apply (see Suitable available vacancy section).

Your employer can offer you the alternative job in writing or orally. They must make the offer before your current job finishes. The new job must start within four weeks of your current one finishing. You must receive enough detail about the alternative job to understand what you would be doing, and how different it would be to your existing role. You may have a case for unfair dismissal if your employer refuses to consider suitable alternative employment.

You are not obliged to take an alternative job if you do not regard it as suitable. ACAS advises that whether a job is suitable usually depends on:

  • How much you will be paid and what benefits you will receive – pension, for example.
  • How far the job is from your current role.
  • How similar the role is to your current job.
  • What terms you are offered.
  • Your skills and abilities in relation to the new role.

If you do not regard the new job as suitable, you must tell your employer in writing. ACAS outlines a number of reasons why you might think the alternative vacancy is unsuitable:

  • The new job pays less.
  • You cannot do it because of health issues.
  • You would have difficulty travelling – perhaps because the journey would be longer or cost more, or there is a lack of public transport.
  • It would disrupt your family life.

Check your contract to see if it contains a 'mobility clause', requiring you to work wherever your employer asks you to. If it does, then rejecting a job because of its location might put at risk your right to redundancy pay.

If you unreasonably reject the offer of suitable alternative employment for other reasons, you may lose your entitlement to redundancy pay in the same way.

If you are unsure whether the new job is suitable, you can agree to try it for a four-week trial period. This period can be extended if you need additional training, but any extension must be agreed in writing before the trial begins.

If you decide to stay in the job at the end of the trial period, you will lose your right to a redundancy payment. If you reject the new job during the trial period because you believe it is not a suitable alternative, your redundancy will date from the day your old job finished.

If you and your employer cannot agree over the suitability of the new role, or whether your decision to reject it was reasonable, you may need to make a claim and explain your reasoning to a tribunal. The TUC-supported careers app, WorkSmart, advises:

'If you are thinking of rejecting an alternative job offer, take advice, and do so in good time. You may be in a stronger position if you give the proposed alternative a try (assuming it looks suitable to an outsider) and then clearly give reasons based on your experience of the job to show that it is unsuitable.' []

If your employer fails to offer suitable alternative employment and you are dismissed through redundancy, they must make a redundancy payment if you have worked there for at least two years.

Suitable available vacancy

As described in Alternative Work, if you are at risk of redundancy, your employer should give you an opportunity to apply for 'suitable alternative employment'. If you are on maternity, adoption or shared parental leave, you must be offered 'any suitable vacancy' if you would otherwise be made redundant. If your employer fails to offer such a post and dismisses you, this is automatically unfair.

You have an absolute right to be offered a suitable alternative vacancy if you qualify. This special protection is designed to prevent employees with new caring responsibilities from having to take part in a competitive redundancy selection process (Law at Work 2020, p 433).

Law at Work sets out the conditions when your employer must offer a suitable alternative vacancy:

  • Continued employment is not practicable during the maternity, adoption or shared parental leave because of redundancy.
  • A vacancy occurs during the leave period. It may be with the employer or with their subsidiary or associate.
  • The vacancy is suitable and appropriate.
  • The terms and conditions of the new job are not substantially less favourable than your current terms.

Looking for Work

Employees selected for redundancy must be given 'reasonable' paid time off to look for new jobs or receive training. To qualify for this, you must have at least two years' service.

However, your employer does not have to pay you at your full rate for time you take off to look for a new post or receive training. They do not have to pay more than 40% of one week's pay, no matter how much time off you are allowed for these reasons during your notice period. For example:

You have been selected for redundancy. You are normally paid £500 for a five-day week. You take five days in total to apply for other jobs during your notice period. Your employer must pay you at least 40% of £500 for this period – in other words, at least £200. However, your contract may say that your employer must pay more, particularly if you are in a workplace where the NUJ is recognised.