Mobility of labour is vital to any modern economy and many employment contracts require staff to relocate from one workplace to another if their employer's business demands it. One such clause came under consideration in a case in which a charity worker who refused to move was dismissed for gross misconduct (Aziz v The Fremantle Trust).
The care worker had experienced a difficult relationship with two colleagues at the home where she worked. That had resulted in various grievance procedures, periods of suspension and sick leave. An independent investigator who was instructed to look into the matter commented on the dysfunctional working environment at the home and questioned the ability of the three employees to work together.
The investigator rejected the woman's grievances, but she refused to accept those findings and made unsuccessful complaints of race and religious discrimination to an Employment Tribunal (ET). She subsequently announced her intention to return to work at the home after eight months of absence but failed to attend a number of meetings which the charity hoped would resolve the matter.
In exercise of a mobility clause in her contract, the charity required her to attend for duty at another of its facilities. When she failed to do so, she was dismissed for unauthorised absence and failing to engage with the charity. Her complaints of unfair and wrongful dismissal were subsequently rejected by an ET.
In dismissing her challenge to that ruling, the Employment Appeal Tribunal found that the reason for her dismissal was her refusal to attend work and her failure to engage with the charity on any meaningful level after she stated her intention to return to work. She had not been victimised in that the decision to sack her had not been influenced by her previous complaint to an ET.
She had been given a lawful instruction pursuant to the mobility clause and her dismissal for non-compliance fell within the range of reasonable responses open to her employer. The clause required her to change her workplace if the needs of the charity so required and her failure to do so amounted to a repudiatory breach of her contract. The ET had correctly addressed all the issues in the case and had adequately explained its reasoning and conclusions.