Staff at professional services firms could face the prospect of losing their jobs if proposed changes to employment regulations are pushed through this autumn.
The government is currently consulting on changes to the TUPE (Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment)) regulations, which guarantee employment rights when staff transfer to the new owner of a business.
It is planning to extend the scope of the legislation to include any organised group of employees whose principal purpose is providing services to a client on an ongoing basis, such as a team of lawyers working for a large bank.
Providers of professional services, such as lawyers and accountants, are currently pushing for an exclusion to this clause, fearing it would mean if the client changed service provider, the team working at a client’s office would be forced to transfer to the incoming firm or lose their jobs.
Lisa Clarke, employment partner at law firm Dundas & Wilson, said that if this exclusion was agreed, employees at these firms would have less protection than employees in other service industries.
“The exclusion may not only cover lawyers and accountants, but the secretaries and staff who support them who may find it harder to find alternative work if made redundant and suffer more from the financial consequences,” she said.
However, requiring clients to continue with the same advisers even when they switched service providers would be a draconian measure, Clarke said.
“In reality, if this arises, employees may find they are dismissed anyway – in some cases unfairly – if clients insist on a change of personnel,” she said.
The consultation on TUPE regulations runs until 7 June.