Is it possible for an employer to withdraw notice of redundancy?

Once notice of redundancy has been issued to an employee, it is legally binding and cannot be unilaterally withdrawn by the employer, even if the employee is still working out his or her notice period. If the employer subsequently wishes to withdraw the notice because of a change in business or economic circumstances, the express consent of the employee is needed.

That said, s.141 of the Employment Rights Act 1996, provides that an employee who is dismissed by reason of redundancy loses the right to a statutory redundancy payment if he or she unreasonably refuses an offer of suitable alternative employment. The offer must be made before the end of the employee's employment under the previous contract and must take effect either immediately on the end of the employment under the previous contract or after an interval of not more than four weeks. The employment must either be on the same terms and conditions as the previous contract or be suitable alternative employment in relation to the employee.

If, after notice of redundancy has been issued, the employer makes an offer to the employee of his or her old job back on the same terms and conditions of employment, but the employee turns it down, the employer can then seek to argue that no statutory redundancy payment is due because the employee has unreasonably refused an offer of suitable alternative employment. The suitability of an offer of alternative employment is an objective matter for assessment, whereas the issue of the reasonableness of an employee's refusal has to be assessed on an individual basis by reference to the employee's personal circumstances. If, for example, during the notice period the employee has already secured alternative employment, it is likely that an employment tribunal will hold that the employee's refusal was reasonable in the circumstances. On the other hand, refusing to accept a job back simply to obtain a redundancy payment is likely to be deemed to be unreasonable.