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TUPE (Transfer of Undertakings) legislation – what you need to know

The Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations 2006 (referred to below as TUPE) is now the main piece of legislation governing the sale or transfer of an undertaking (eg a business), or part of one, to another business. The regulations are designed to protect the rights of employees in a transfer situation enabling them to enjoy the same terms and conditions, with continuity of employment, as they formerly had with their previous employer.

[Updated for 2014]

In what situations does TUPE apply?

By way of broad guidance TUPE has been found to apply to:

  • Mergers and/or sales of a businesses by sale of assets

  • A change of licensee or franchisee

  • The gift of a business through the execution of a will

  • Contracting (outsourcing) out of services

  • Changing contractors

  • Where all or part of a sole trader’s business or partnership is sold or otherwise transferred

In what situations does TUPE not apply?

  • Transfers by share take-over

  • Transfers of assets only (for example, the sale of equipment alone would not be covered, but the sale of a going concern including equipment would be covered)

  • Transfers of a contract to provide goods or services where this does not involve the transfer of a business or part of a business

  • The supply of goods for a clients use, for example, supplying food to a client to sell in its staff canteen, rather than a situation where the contractor runs the canteen for the client

  • Transfers of undertakings situated outside the United Kingdom (although these may be covered by the regulations of other EEC member states)

  • Regulation 3.1(b) of TUPE does not apply in Northern Ireland – this related to changes of service provider

A transfer takes place at a single point in time on the date at which responsibility as an Employer for carrying on the business, moves from the transferor (seller of the business) to the transferee (buyer).

TUPE legislation changed on 31st January 2014 – more details here. The changes are as follows:

  • The collective redundancy consultation rules in a TUPE situation change, so that consultation by a transferee prior to a TUPE change can count towards the minimum consultation period if the transferor agrees and ‘meaningful’ consultation is completed by the transferee.

  • Currently, any dismissal for a reason connected with a TUPE transfer will not be automatically unfair if there are ETO (economic, technical or organisational) reasons entailing a change in the workforce. Case law currently confines this to changes to either the number of employees or the function those employees perform. This means that redundancies due to a change in location cannot be for an ETO reason and are automatically unfair dismissals. The change in the Regulations on 31st January 2014 provide that a change in a location will count as an ETO reason, so that redundancy dismissals due to changes in location of the workplace will not be automatically unfair.

  • The re-negotiation of contract terms derived from collective agreements will be allowed on year after a transfer, provided the changes are no less favourable to the employee.

  • Employee liability information must be provided 28 days after a transfer (rather than 14 days now), effective from 1st May 2014.

  • Micro businesses (10 or few employees) will be able to inform and consult directly with employees, from 31st July 2014 (meaning they do not need to elect an employee representative).

  • Contract terms collectively agreed after a transfer date will not automatically transfer.

Practical suggestions

TUPE is a complex area so it is essential to seek legal advice for individual circumstances. Where a business, or part of one, is being transferred, both parties (ie the transferor and the transferee) should should seek such advice at the earliest possible stage. It may be possible for a legal representative to negotiate an indemnity which will provide a partial, or total, cushion against the financial impact of any claims resulting from the application of TUPE. Contact your Union representative if you have one, or ACAS in the first instance for advice if this affects you.

Changes to TUPE because of the Agency Workers Regulations 2011

With the introduction of the Agency Workers Regulations the TUPE regulations were amended to change Employers’ information and consultation obligations under TUPE.

Previously, Employers will required to provide information about the fact, date, reason, legal, social and economic implications of the transfer. Since 2011 Employers also need to provide information on the number of agency workers working temporarily for and under the supervision and direction of the employer and the part of the organisation where they agency workers are working and the type of work the agency workers are carrying out. This includes information about all agency workers working for the employer, not just the part of the business that is ‘transferring’ and is subject to TUPE.

Please note that the advice given on this website and by our Advisors is guidance only and cannot be taken as an authoritative interpretation of the law. It can also not be seen as specific advice for individual cases. Please also note that there are differences in legislation in Northern Ireland.

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