Redundancy: Maternity Leave and Suitable Alternative Roles
In Simpson v Endsleigh Insurance Services Ltd, Ms Simpson was employed as an insurance consultant in London for Endsleigh. Whilst on maternity leave, the company decided to close most of its retail sites, including the site where she worked. The EAT concluded that the employer in this case was not obliged to give Ms Simpson a role in Cheltenham, where the company had set up a call centre, as this was not a suitable alternative role. Even though the work was suitable and appropriate for her to do, the new role’s location was substantially less favourable as it required Ms Simpson to travel to Cheltenham, rather than London.
Ms Simpson claimed unfair dismissal, arguing that under the Maternity and Parental Leave etc. Regulations 1999, Endsleigh should “at the very least” have offered her one of the roles in Cheltenham rather than just inviting her to apply. The EAT disagreed. It said that the employer had discretion to decide whether or not a vacancy is suitable, knowing what it does about the employee and their individual circumstances. This must be done on a case by case basis.
The case serves as a reminder that it will often be difficult to determine what amounts to a suitable alternative vacancy and therefore it will generally be necessary to discuss any vacancies with the employee as part of the consultation process to determine this. Often employers will err on the side of caution, so that where a potentially suitable alternative role for a pregnant employee is identified, it is offered to that employee. If the employee unreasonably refuses the offer, then there is no statutory requirement to pay redundancy pay.
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