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Johannes’ employer is moving him from their Hammanskraal branch to their Woodmead branch. He says the new branch is 89km away and he can’t afford to travel that far every day. Can your employer just move you to another branch of the company – even if that branch is further away? Scorpion Legal Protection answers.
The employer’s location, and specifically where you will be working, is often part of the employment contract and should be provided to you when you start work with the employer. This is required by Section 29 of the Basic Conditions of Employment Act. Whether or not the employer can change your working location depends on what exactly your employment contract says, as well as what was agreed to verbally between you and the employer.
If your employment contract doesn’t specifically give the employer the right to change locations, or doesn’t mention it at all, the situation depends on what is considered reasonable and fair. For example, it might be considered reasonable to expect a senior salesperson who gets a company car and petrol allowance to change locations, but it might be seen as unfair for a junior salesperson at the same company who has to pay for taxis to get to work to change locations.
There must be a balance between the employer’s operational needs and the employee’s rights.
The company must consult with the employee on the location change and listen to their representations and recommendations before making a decision. This is your chance to raise any issues, explain your situation fully and suggest alternatives to moving you to another location. Maybe you have an idea on how to avoid the move or can suggest moving to another position at the same branch, etc. Your employer must take your suggestions into consideration.
You can also raise the issue of the extra travel cost and suggest being compensated for it as an option. There is nothing in law that forces employers to pay for this though. If you come to an agreement with your employer about compensation for the relocation, you must get it in writing in your amended employment contract.
You should also consider that the employer may need to relocate you because your job at the current location no longer exists. This could be due to downsizing or perhaps they are closing the branch completely. If you can’t come to an agreement in the consultations, the employer may choose to start retrenchment proceedings with you due to operational requirements.
If your employer has asked you to consult and you choose to leave without following the process of making representations and attending consultations, then it can be seen as you absconding from work. Your employer can then take disciplinary action against you, including dismissing you on fair and reasonable grounds. However, if you leave because the employer has given you the “take it or leave it option” without following a fair process, this can be seen as an unfair dismissal. This is due to the fact that no fair procedure was followed and not all surrounding circumstances were considered.
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If you have a query, follow Scorpion Legal Protection on Facebook and ask your question during our next Live Q&A (every first Thursday of the month from 11:30- 13:30).
* This is only basic paralegal advice and cannot be relied on solely. The information is correct at the time of being sent to publishing. Cases are based on fictional characters unless otherwise indicated.
Date added: 25 November 2021
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