1. Overview

When a business changes owner, its employees may be protected under the Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) regulations (TUPE).

TUPE protection

TUPE applies to employees of businesses in the UK. The business could have its head office in another country, but the part of the business that’s transferring ownership must be in the UK. The size of the business doesn’t matter.

In a transfer where TUPE applies, the employees:

  • jobs transfer over to the new company (unless they’re made redundant or in some cases where the business is insolvent
  • employment terms and conditions transfer
  • continuity of employment is maintained

To find out if TUPE applies to your transfer, talk to Acas (the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service), Citizens Advice or, if you’re an employee, your trade union representative.

When TUPE applies

There are 2 types of transfer protected under TUPE regulations:

  • business transfers
  • service provision changes

Transfers within the public sector aren’t usually covered by TUPE but some transfers from the public sector into the private sector are. However, public-sector employees get similar protection. Read the codes of practice to find out more.

Business transfers

This is where a business or part of a business moves from one employer to another. This can include mergers where 2 companies close and combine to form a new one.

To be protected under TUPE during a business transfer the identity of the employer must change.

Service provision changes

This is when:

  • a service provided in-house (eg cleaning, workplace catering) is awarded to a contractor
  • a contract ends and is given to a new contractor
  • a contract ends and the work is transferred in-house by the former customer

Employees aren’t protected under TUPE if the contract is:

  • for the supply of goods for the company’s use (eg a restaurant changing food suppliers)
  • for a single event or short-term task (eg a catering company being used for a large corporate event)

Only the employees who can be clearly identified as providing the service being transferred are protected.

Example

A courier collects and delivers for a business, but the packages are picked up or delivered by a number of different couriers on an ad hoc basis. The courier isn’t protected under TUPE.

A cleaner is employed by a company that decides to use an outside cleaning company instead. They’re likely to be protected under TUPE.

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