Unite member receives more than £71,000 following pay dispute

Unite Legal Services has secured tens of thousands of pounds for a member whose redundancy was rejected following an unsuitable offer of alternative employment.

The member had worked as a senior maintenance manager for an NHS Trust in the South East for more than two decades when he was told that his position may be at risk of redundancy. He was offered a new role as a minor works project manager, which meant he would have to learn new skills, lose his managerial duties and have to travel in a way he didn’t have to before.

He trialled the new role for four weeks but told his employer that it was not a suitable alternative. His employer disagreed, and as a result withheld his redundancy payment, which was valued at £71,354.

He contacted Unite Legal Services to make a claim. In a tribunal it was found that his employer failed to issue a notice of dismissal before offering alternative employment – which must be done in accordance with the Employment Rights Act 1996 – and he was later awarded his redundancy payment in full.

“I’m very grateful to Unite Legal Services for standing by me throughout this time”, he said. “During the lead up to the restructure I felt very uneasy. I’ve seen so many reorganisations during my career, and many of them resulted in somebody being unhappy. A colleague of mine decided to quit her job rather than face demotion and relocation that was said to be a 'suitable alternative'.

“I was being forced to take on a new role that was inappropriate, with diminished responsibility. When I raised my concerns I felt like my employer didn’t care, which was really disheartening given the length of time I had worked for them, but having the backing of Unite motivated me to continue with my claim.

“Hopefully other Unite members will see this and be encouraged to seek backing from their union.”

Jennie Formby, south east regional secretary at Unite the union, said: “The importance of what classifies as ‘suitable’ alternative work cannot be understated and this is a case-in-point. If a business is restructuring, it must seek to provide staff with a new role that relates to their existing skills and is not a demotion of their position.

“We hope that this case will make employers think twice about the suitability of the offer of new employment during redundancy periods. Unite the Union dedicates significant resources to ensure that our first class legal services team fight for any of our members who are treated unfairly in the workplace, and this case demonstrates they are second to none at winning for workers.”