Simpson v Endsleigh Insurance Services Ltd and others

The employee was on maternity leave when her employer decided to close most of its retail outlets and relocate to call centres in Cheltenham, Burnley and Northern Ireland. The employer invited the employee, who previously worked in London, to apply for vacancies at these call centres. When she failed to do so she was made redundant. The employee argued unfair dismissal as the employer had breached legislation providing that if an alternative post is both suitable and appropriate and the terms and conditions are not substantially less favourable to the employee, that position must be offered to her.

The EAT dismissed the employee’s appeal. They found that the test for whether a post is a “suitable alternative position” is objective. Therefore it was up to the employer, knowing what it did about the employee’s personal circumstances and work experience, to decide whether or not the vacancy was suitable.

Here the positions were not suitable alternatives as the locations were substantially less favourable.

This case highlights the importance of communication between employers and employees on maternity leave. In cases of redundancy, it is recommended that employers document the issues identifi ed during discussions, as well as the outcome, in order to protect their position should matters not be resolved successfully.