Suitable re-engagement offered?

24 October 2013

Ian Hunter, Emily Bell

In Devon Primary Care v Readman, the Court of Appeal considered the case of a community nurse whose role was made redundant.

She subsequently rejected the offer of re-engagement as a hospital nurse.

The EAT held that the Employment Tribunal had stated the correct principle; that 'the reasonableness of the refusal depends on facts personal to the employee and must be assessed subjectively’. However, the Tribunal did not then go on to identify the reasons for the employee’s decision and assess what relative weight they had in her decision-making process. The claimant appealed to the EAT. The EAT noted that the core issue that should have been addressed by the Tribunal was whether the employee’s explanation that her chosen career path, which involved avoidance of working in hospitals, "constituted a sound and justifiable reason for turning down the offer". There was evidence that she was contemplating a move to Canada and would have preferred the redundancy pay to working in a hospital setting, and that these factors might have influenced her. However, the EAT was wrong in determining that all it had to find was that she acted within a ‘range of reasonable responses’. That test only applied to the reasonableness of an employer's decision to dismiss, not to the subjective test that should be applied to employees in a case such as this. The case has been referred back to the EAT to reconsider this issue.

Point to note:

  • The Court of Appeal commented that decisions such as this one will always be fact-specific. The question is whether the particular employee in this particular situation acted reasonably in refusing the offer of re-employment. 

This article is part of the UK Employment Law Update for October 2013

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