When relocation becomes a nightmare

ON the first day of my new job my new employer has told me that they want me to move to Birmingham. This was never mentioned in the interviews and I assumed I would be staying in London. I don’t want to move. I am single, and I feel that if I had a family they would not expect me to. They are taking advantage of me, but I have just got the job, and I am worried what will happen if I cause a fuss. Can they sack me? I just don’t know. What should I do?

Ceri Roderick psychologist, Pearn Kandola

AS well as an official contract covering employment there is also a psychological contract which contains mutual expectations, defines what “fair” looks like and sets the ground rules for how the two parties will behave towards each other. This contract is in danger of being breached here. So, how reasonable are they being? “Not very” is the obvious answer –most people would need time to consider a significant life change, so step one is to ask for that time.

Step two is to check out what the move means, practically and in terms of your psychology. Draw up your own balance sheet of pros and cons. Depending on our personalities we can be prone to be overly optimistic or overly gloomy about unexpected change, so try to be objective – use language like assets and risks, or short vs long term payoff but make sure you populate both sides of your balance sheet to help you to reach a decision.

Finally, negotiate: there is usually a deal to be cut so approach the conversation with the employer in problem solving terms and suggest options and solutions rather than just barriers. Psychological contracts are continuously modified and re-written so this could be the time to make sure that you and your employer are looking at the small print and setting the ground rules for the future.

Joanna Chatterton lawyer, Fox Williams

CHECK your employment contract for the description of your “place of work” and for any clause which allows your employer to change this. If there is a term in your contract that gives your employer the right to require you to change location, then your refusal would be a breach and your employer might not need to pay you notice monies as it could claim you are guilty of gross misconduct.

If there is no such term, your employer should get your agreement to a move. If it tried to force you to go your employer will be in breach. You could leave and claim you’ve been constructively dismissed, but that just entitles you to notice pay which could be as little as one weeks’ net pay if you are in a probationary period. Without a year’s service you cannot claim unfair dismissal.

If your employer knew you would need to move but didn’t explain this, you may have a claim for misrepresentation. These claims are usually difficult and costly to bring and your contract may say that you cannot rely on representations which are not recorded in the contract – that would stop a successful claim.
If you feel you have no choice you could try negotiating the terms of the move, eg a contribution to travel and accommodation costs, splitting the working week between Birmingham and London, a fixed period after which you can return to London.

You mentioned that you are single – the law protects workers from discrimination on grounds of marriage but not single status. In short you have little protection. You need to negotiate a deal to move and/or start looking around for another job.

John Purkiss headhunter, Purkiss & Co

ONLY you can know what is right for you. This knowledge comes from two things: a strong sense of purpose and your intuition – which some people prefer to describe as their heart or their gut.

A key question is this: “If you had unlimited time and money, what would you do?” This
points you in the direction of your purpose – the reason you are on the planet. Then you will instinctively know whether a particular job is right for you. Is it a suitable vehicle for you to pursue your purpose?

Intuition means “immediate insight without reasoning”. It works much better if you calm the chaotic thoughts known as the monkey mind. You can do this by learning to meditate.

Activities such as running, dancing (with a partner) or wind surfing also help, because they make you concentrate on one thing. Once the random thoughts die down, you have a feeling about what you should do.

If you decide to leave the company, do so quickly and professionally. Most sensible employers and recruiters will understand your reasons for doing so. If you know where you are going in life, something more suitable will come up.