TUPE refers to 'Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment)' regulations, which are designed to protect the rights of employees when there is a transfer. For schools, the regulations apply when:
- A maintained school becomes an academy
- An existing academy joins an existing multi-academy trust
- Free schools are established if there has been a merger, takeover or closure of schools
Schools need to be aware that TUPE can also apply when service contracts are outsourced. While TUPE can feel a bit technical and something of a legal minefield, when certain key steps are followed properly, it can be a positive experience that can provide reassurance to staff when they feel uncertain.
Our top tips are as follows:
- Review and understand the guidance. There is very helpful guidance from ACAS online. Having a basic understanding of the guidance will help senior staff to feel confident during the process.
- Work in consultation with unions. Unions have a key role to play in the TUPE process. They represent the interests of their members and while this may mean that robust discussions take place, the sooner areas of disagreement are fully and properly identified; the easier they are to resolve. Unions also have to be consulted as part of the process.
- Give staff every opportunity to be involved and ask questions. While there is a formal process of consultation, staff can feel very uncertain and may have concerns about their jobs. Giving staff every opportunity to ask questions and providing them with information up front can make the process run more smoothly.
- Take the opportunity to check that staff contracts, information and policies are all up to date.
- Take legal advice early on. If there are any points of uncertainty, getting advice early on will help to resolve issues before they escalate.