The TUPE regulations are causing confusion for many organisations. sara bean examines how one company promotes best practice during transfers
The Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations 1981 is a notoriously complex piece of legislation, demonstrated by the reams of case law emanating from the higher courts, the Employment Appeal Tribunal and the European Court of Justice.
Designed to protect the rights of staff - when the business in which they are employed is transferred to another employer, or when part of a business is 'contracted out' to a service provider - the law has become so confusing that it is often virtually impossible for a company to be sure if it applies in a given situation. Change in this area is imminent, with the Government vowing to make matters simpler for employers, but there is still doubt as to whether the amendments will really deliver the changes needed.
One company routinely involved in managing outsourcing agreements, involving the transfer of hundreds of people within different sites, is logistics company Wincanton. It has devised a comprehensive strategy to help negotiate this very difficult area of employment law and promote best practice.
Wincanton employs about 16,000 people across 160 locations, with services that include supply chain systems, warehousing and fleet management. Its clients come from a range of market sectors, including general retail, grocery retail, food services, oil and petroleum and consumer goods.
The nature of its business means Wincanton has been involved in TUPE transfers for many years. However, it is during the past 10 years or so that TUPE has really come to the fore says Peter Nicol, personnel director, Consumer Logistics Business, Wincanton's consumer division.
"TUPE is driven so much by case law, it's just not a black and white subject," explains Nicol. "The problem is it's so confusing and often seems to be based on the latest decision in the European courts."
Nicol says his initial strategy is to first concentrate on the terms and conditions that apply to the staff being transferred and then find ways to harmonise these with those of Wincanton. But to do so within the terms of TUPE requires extensive organisation.
As a change development manager at Wincanton, Kirstie Seddon has been involved in many of its recent transfers, including a number of the h