The CEO of Debenhams has announced a major shake-up of its business model. The retailer, which employs 30,000 people, will close up to 10 stores and 11 warehouses, putting several hundred jobs at risk.

Part of the shake-up will also include moving 2,000 staff from back-office roles on to the shop floor.

Generally a company cannot make a substantial change to an employee's role or place of work without consent. But it does depends on how the employment contract is drafted because the company may have terms that give it a wide discretion to vary a role or to change the place of work (known as a mobility clause). Without the express right to make these changes, a new role may also be regarded as a "suitable alternative" to redundancy and redundancy entitlements can be forfeited if an employee unreasonably turns it down – opportunities to retrain and short trial periods in the new position can assist both parties with this decision.

Either way, the company will need to consult and where sizeable redundancies are involved, there will be minimum periods and an obligation to involve unions or employee representatives. Sergio's team are likely to use this consultation to explain why they want to make these changes in focus and the longer-term benefits to the business and employees, with some clarity on entitlements for those who, unfortunately, have to leave the business. Our experienced Employment lawyers can assist employers and employees navigate these complex areas.

"The retailer, which employs 30,000 people, will also move 2,000 staff from back-office roles on to the shop floor and train them to improve customer service."

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