The words “suitable” and “unreasonable” are sufficiently pliable to cover a multitude of scenarios. This makes it extremely difficult for an employee to know whether turning down an offer of a post, following a redundancy, will affect his or her redundancy payment.
The case of L Bird v Stoke on Trent Primary Health Care Trust at the E.A.T is an extremely useful review of the authorities whilst also being a reminder that if an employee makes a wrong decision then the implications are or can be huge.
In the case of Bird, her role was made redundant and she was offered three posts that the NHS Trust considered suitable. Ms Bird refused them all. The Trust decided not to pay her £70k redundancy entitlement.
The matter went to Tribunal which decided that the offered post was suitable and her refusal unreasonable.
The Appeal Tribunal begged to differ – whilst suitability was broadly an objective test, reasonableness should be judged by the circumstances of the particular employee making the decision to accept or reject. This the Tribunal had not done.
The case has been sent back for reconsideration. It seems to me that given the difficulties of applying the law in any given scenario that this area of law could be reviewed to make it simpler for a redundant employee to know whether a redundancy entitlement would be affected by turning down a job offer.