A recent case, Kellogg Brown & Root (UK) Ltd v Fitton & another UKEAT/0205/16/BA, highlights that despite the fact that a clause in a contract of employment stating -
The location of your employment is […] but the company may require you to work at a different location including any new office location of the company either in the UK or overseas either on a temporary or permanent basis. You agree to comply with this requirement unless exceptional circumstances prevail.”
will not necessarily be effective if it is considered to be so widely drafted such that the requirement to move (in this case 30 miles involving up to a two-hour journey) is unreasonable. Pilots contracts often contain such clauses and whilst some degree of flexibility is a reasonable requirement this judgement means that an unfettered right to move an employee where the consequences for the employee are significant, can result in the employee being made redundant and any attempt to dismiss them when they fail to report to a new place of duty may be considered unfair dismissal.
Airline pilots have a right to enjoy a family and private life as much as any other employee and to make unreasonable demands on them as regards changing their base to one some considerable distance away may well give the pilot a right to claim redundancy. Obviously, the airline industry is one that operates internationally but an expectation that your workforce will up sticks and relocate to the other side of the globe is likely to be found to be unreasonable.