Commission for Healthcare Audit & Inspection v Ward
Mrs Ward was Head of Resourcing, but a restructure in May 2006 led to the end of that post. The Commission offered her an alternative post - which she rejected as "not suitable". She raised a formal grievance about the process being followed in September 2006. She sought further information about the post, which was eventually partly given when she was offered it for the third time in January 2007. By now she was on gardening leave, and relations between her and the Commission had deteriorated. Mrs Ward claimed a redundancy payment which the Commission refused, on the grounds that it had offered suitable alternative employment under Employment Rights Act 1996 sec 141.
The employment tribunal concluded that the new job did not involve a loss of status. Although there were some material differences between the two posts, on balance the alternative post was "suitable, but clearly not ideal" for Mrs Ward. It then concluded that, since the suitability was "marginal", this could impact on whether Mrs Ward's refusal was unreasonable. In all the circumstances the third job offer came too late and the situation was too far gone - her refusal of the offer was not unreasonable.
The EAT rejected the Commission's appeal. It noted that, although the question of suitability is objective, and unreasonableness subjective, the first can have a bearing on the second. The tribunal was not wrong to take into account the whole factual picture and its conclusion was a perfectly proper one for it to reach. HHJ Peter Clark noted that "It seems to us that in an appropriate case where the new job offer is overwhelmingly suitable it may be a little easier for the employer to show that a refusal by the employee is unreasonable. It is part of the balancing exercise which the Tribunal is charged to carry out."
Doyle Clayton acted for Mrs Ward in this case
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