7 04 2009

Apart from the post below I haven’t touched upon these regulations, mainly because they are not the most interesting regulations in the world to read.  However, I have been spurred on by posting on the case of Royden & others v Barnetts  (see below) and TUPE comes up quite a few times on the search engines as a keyword.  In future posts I will look at the TUPE issues on the insolvency of the employer as well as the consultation obligations imposed upon employers by TUPE.

So, what do the Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of employment) Regulations 2006 (TUPE) actually do?

It protects those employees where the employing business changes hands, by;

 (1) protecting them from dismissal because of the transfer,

(2) by requiring the employer to inform and consult those employees affected, and

(3) transferring all rights  liabilities and obligations from the transferor company (“oldco”) to the transferee (“newco”).  



There must be more than a transfer of shares.  All employees employed by oldco at the point of transfer automatically move across to newco with the same terms and conditions of employment.  This means that if newco tries to provide amended terms and conditions to transferred staff they will be in breach of contract and may end up facing claims for constructive dismissal.

Furthermore, if newco dismisses transferring staff for a reason connected with the transfer that will be an automatically unfair dismissal , although if newco can argue that there were “economic, technical or organisational” reasons entailing changes in the workforce of either the Transferor or Transferee”  for the dismissal, it won’t be automatically unfair.  It might still be an unfair dismissal if the reason for the dismissal (not being the transfer) was also unfair. 

An ET would look at all the circumstances of the dismissal before making its finding.  In particular the ET will consider whether the employee was likely to have been dismissed even if the transfer had not occurred.  If yes then the dismissal will probably not have been for reason of the transfer, but it might still be unfair (i.e perhaps unfair selection for redundancy, or maybe discriminatory reasons were involved; the list is long).   One of the potentially fair reasons for a dismissal under the Employment Rights Act 1996 is “some other substantial reason” (SOSR).  For an employer to escape liability altogether for the dismissal it will have to show that the reason for dismissal comes within SOSR and that it was reasonable for them to rely upon that as the reason for dismissal. 

If an employee is found to have been unfairly dismissed (whether automatically or not) the maximum amount they can recover from an ET (up to February 2010 anyway) is £66,200 plus a basic award of £350 (or £525 depending on age) per week per year of service.  The employee needs 12 months continuous employment experience with oldco to be able to claim unfair dismissal.

Claims involving TUPE can be complex and if you are concerned about your position or think you might need legal advice do call me on 0207 464 8433 or email me on michaelscutt@dalelangley.co.uk

Solicitors get it wrong too

27 03 2009

Of course they do I hear you shout.  In a recent case before the Liverpool Employment Tribunal a firm in Southport got themselves into a serious mess with the TUPE (Transfer of Undertaking (Protection of Employment) Regulations 2006.  TUPE, for those who haven’t had the misfortune to be acquainted with it, are the Regulations that protect employees when a business (“an undertaking” in the Regs) gets transferred from one business to another.  The Regs are very complicated and most employment lawyers, if being honest, would admit to loathing them.  If an employee is dismissed because of a reason connected with a transfer of an undertaking, TUPE provides that the dismissal is automatically unfair. 

What in fact occurred in this instance was that Barnetts won a contract to supply conveyancing services to the Britannia Building Society, in place of the firm then doing the work.  When the TUPE regulations were updated in 2006 one of the alterations was to allow “service provision changes” to be covered by the Regs.  This meant that if, for instance a local authority decided to outsource its school dinner function to a private company, the dinner ladies would TUPE across, thus preserving their employment rights.  It also applies to solicitors  and I am only surprised that more firms haven’t been caught by it before now.

In this case some of the employees who were transferring did not want to do so (because it meant moving to offices further away) and thus they claimed that the effect of the transfer was to repudiate their contracts of employment.  They brought claims for unfair dismissal against Barnetts, the new company and of the six employees that brought claims, two succeeded.  The two that succeeded were able to show that they were “assigned” to the Britannia work; their fellow claimants couldn’t. Both Barnetts and their predecessor firm agreed that TUPE didn’t apply; bad decision. 

This must have been something of a blow for Barnetts after the inevitable pleasure that would have ensued in winning the work in the first place.  The Tribunal hasn’t awarded compensation yet to the successful claimants but it will, no doubt, be fairly large and, on top of the amount of management time expended in defending the claims, will take the gloss off winning the Britannia work in  the first place.

The above article will appear in the “Docklands” and “Peninsula” newspapers week commencing 30th March.