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Helen Cardno

Helen Cardno, group HR director at Parseq, explores the complex issue of TUPE between organisation and outsourcer and why she believes not enough focus is placed on the human aspect of TUPE – to the detriment of the employee, employer and ultimately the business.

Helen Cardno

Helen Cardno

Transfer of Undertaking Protection of Employment (TUPE) isn’t new, but it is an issue that is rising rapidly up the agenda in the world of outsourcing.

In fact, over the last decade there has been a significant increase in the number of organisations turning to outsourcing partners to help them adapt how they manage their operations, processes and yes, even their workforces.

As a consequence, TUPE is a hot topic for outsourcers and demand has grown for them to demonstrate to their clients that they know it inside and out and in some cases, be the guide to take them through the process. The trouble is, in my opinion, many fail to look beyond the legislation.

The legislation is clearly incredibly important. It’s there to ensure both employer and employee are protected, but it’s not the only vital element you’ve got to get right to ensure a successful TUPE transaction. One area which is frequently overlooked is that of employee engagement.

It’s one of the most valuable, yet neglected elements in TUPE, but it can mean the difference between getting things right or falling flat on your face.

But without clear guidance where do you start? Here are my top five areas for TUPE employee engagement:

One – communicate, communicate and communicate some more

It’s natural for employees who have been informed that they are going through the TUPE process to be nervous. Employees need stability and any talk of TUPE can leave them feeling unbalanced, especially if the process isn’t being communicated positively. There is also the inevitable rumour mill to consider which may stir up bad feeling with employees and low morale – all things which aren’t conducive with productivity.

If handled properly and with empathy, TUPE can be a positive experience for employees. In fact, many employees find that in both the short and long term their career opportunities and benefits may be improved.

Businesses need to go above and beyond to ensure every stakeholder is kept informed of what is happening from the very start of the TUPE process and beyond.

Proof of the importance of internal stakeholder engagement can be found in the fact that only one – fifth of mergers and acquisitions add shareholder value when there is a lack of early involvement by employees. (i)

Two – assume nothing, prepare for everything

In addition to keeping employees informed and empowered with communication, successful transfers also don’t make assumptions – especially when it comes to the level of understanding people have on the topic. In fact, in a 12-month period ACAS received 27,500 calls on the topic of TUPE, equating to 3.2 per cent of all their calls. The large volumes of calls for one subject resulted in the organisation producing literature explaining TUPE – which in the first eight weeks was downloaded by in excess of 20,000 people. (ii)

There is no set time as to when affected employees should be notified. The legislation simply states that the information should be provided with sufficient time before the transfer consultation takes place – but this does not take into account what implications this may have on employee morale and productivity if communication is left to the eleventh hour.

My advice has always been to start communication as early as possible and keep it maintained to ensure every employee feels respected, empowered and informed on the changes.

Three – getting employee rights right

TUPE law dictates that an employee must retain all rights and conditions of their original contract. But that doesn’t mean additional benefits can’t be added. Our experience has found that where a business can demonstrate additional opportunities and benefits to an employee affected by TUPE then morale and productivity increases in comparison to where nothing is added to their employment package. These ‘perks’ don’t always have to impact salaries – although that’s one successful route. Staff ‘perks’ can also include longer holiday entitlement, inclusion into company healthcare and pension schemes, access to training, career progression, new workplace facilities, improved work environments and involvement in company social groups and CSR activity.

For many employees affected by TUPE there is a feeling of rejection, therefore it’s vital that it’s clear from the very start that they are valued, their roles have been considered and that they’re welcomed into the new organisation.

Four – investing in the Infrastructure

Accommodating new employees through TUPE doesn’t just mean making sure they have the basics physically provided for them e.g. a chair, phone, desk, computer. It’s also about reviewing the rest of the infrastructure to ensure the company can withstand the additional demand and flex to meet the changing needs of the expanded workforce.

This should clearly be a consideration made in the very early part of TUPE discussions, but it’s also really important that employees affected see and feel that provision has been made and in some cases, an improved infrastructure can be an added employee benefit.

Five – integration is key

If an employee still doesn’t feel that the move is right for them, TUPE legislation allows them to refuse transfer. But, clearly that’s something that businesses should do everything to prevent, which is why it’s so important that the affected employees can be integrated thoroughly.

As a matter of course and early in the process the incoming employer should engage with the employee in a face-to-face meeting, perhaps for example invite the employees into their new working environment to meet the people they will potentially be working with and get a feel for the environment.

It’s a great opportunity to show the employees that the firm genuinely cares and wants to welcome them warmly into the fold. Until this point the employee has regarded the incoming employer as ‘the unknown’ and it’s vital to make the process a success that any surprises, questions and assumptions are quickly resolved.

Practically an invite such as this has benefits too as it’s a good opportunity for the employees to ask any questions they have and air any concerns plus, the incoming employer gets their valuable input in setting up their work area.  This will very often help avoid errors in location, noise levels and insufficient space.

Of course when it comes to handling TUPE, knowing and responding appropriately to the legislation is clearly incredibly important, but my point is that businesses who solely follow these legal guidelines can’t just dust their hands off with satisfaction of a job well done. Looking at it from an employee perspective is just as important and by demonstrating empathy, care and consideration for the human side of TUPE, businesses will reap the rewards in a productive, happy and confident workforce.

So when it comes to TUPE don’t just follow the rulebook – improve upon it.

Helen Cardno is the group HR director at Parseq. She has nineteen years of experience working with some of the UK’s biggest brands, including Amazon, Vodafone UK, Halfords and T-Mobile.

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