Employment law and your office move
Moving offices is an important undertaking for any company and it can have far-reaching ramifications for a business as a whole but also for the individual members of its workforce.
Employment law issues may not be right at the top of a company’s priority list as an office space transition plan is put into action but they always need to be considered seriously and with the appropriate degree of diligence.
Each member of any given workforce will have signed a contract of employment prior to becoming a full-time member of staff. Even if the relevant documents were filed away many years before and have been left largely forgotten, they can be of significance in the context of an office space move.
From an employer’s point of view, it is imperative to ensure that no steps are taken during an office move that effectively violate the terms of an employment contract. Employers also have an obligation not to violate any employment laws that are in effect and may have relevance to their activities as they undertake an office relocation.
If the terms of specific contracts or employment laws in general are not adhered to in the context of an office space move then employers can find themselves subject to legal claims from within their workforces.
TIP – As an employer, when moving offices it is always a good idea to seek out specialist legal advice on any live or potential issues that may arise – particularly with regard to the employment contracts you have in place.
Some employment contracts effectively grant employers permission to move their base of operations from one location to another without the need for the explicit consent of the members of their workforce. This right is generally granted by what are called ‘mobility clauses’ but these clauses are not always enforceable.
These types of issues are not likely to become problematic for employers if, for example, they are moving from one office to another on the same street or in another nearby location. But, if the relocation is going to take a company from one city to another or from one region of the country to another then the validity or otherwise of mobility clauses can quickly become very important indeed.
TIP - You should seek expert legal advice on how best to proceed if you know in advance that your office relocation will result in redundancies on any scale within your workforce.
A best practice strategy will also involve a thorough consultation with all employees about the potential ramifications of your office move, regardless of how much distance there is between your existing base and your earmarked future offices.
Key questions to ask…
About the potential impact of your office move:
- How many people might your move involve or affect?
- How far from your existing location are your new offices?
- How many of your employees have children or are primary care providers?
- How do your staff feel about the move?
- How good or bad are the transport links at your new offices?
- How much notice are you giving your employees of your intention to relocate?
About your employment contracts:
- Are there mobility clauses in your employment contracts?
- Do your mobility clauses make any reference to the distances involved in a potential relocation?
- Do your contracts stipulate the need to provide a period of warning before you relocate?
- Do your contracts oblige you to consult with your employees before moving?
TIP – Employers should always be conscious of the needs of disabled employees and be ready to make whatever reasonable adjustments are necessary to ensure that their new offices are accessible and comfortable for everyone who will work there.
Getting advice and getting it right
An office relocation can potentially be a hugely positive move for all members of your workforce as well as your organisation as a whole. However, there is also scope for difficulties and even grievances to emerge within your workforce if the processes involved are not handled with due care and attention or if specific legal issues are overlooked for any reason.
It is always advisable to seek expert guidance on the potential legal issues involved in an office relocation and to follow best practice protocols in these contexts as much as possible. By doing so you will help to lay the foundations of an office space switch which not only resolves problems but actively and sustainably boosts morale among the members of your workforce.