Why there’s nothing worse than an ill-fitting TUPE

When you are inheriting someone else’s people, or they are inheriting yours as part of a TUPE transfer, it’s easy for both companies to act as two different sides that are competing against one another.

The outgoing service provider                       versus                     the new service provider.

There are no winners if you take up a divided and combative approach, and the people stuck in the middle definitely don’t win.

If you have lost a service provision contract and one of your competitors has won it, it’s easy to disengage and make life difficult.

Whether you are the receiving company, or the company passing the service and its people over to a new provider, there are four key reasons to work together and do it right:

A smoother transition

If both parties get ingrained in an unnecessary battle, or make it difficult because they are competitors, the transition is unlikely to run smoothly. This will impact both sides and make an already difficult situation worse and last longer.

If you are the incumbent, it might impact your ability to deliver the service you are still accountable for today. If you are the inheriting business, you might find your new relationship with whom you are providing a service to, gets off on the wrong foot.

Consultation is likely to take longer, or be legally indefensible, as both parties are shown to be unengaged in the process. Once the decision has been made and the services have been awarded, it’s better for all to work together for a mutually acceptable transition and rather than being company A or company B, be a joint team focused on a successful transfer, with appropriate segregation of duties built in, that benefit all.

The segregation of duties is easy. It’s laid out in law. Where the lines blur is the tough part and needs you to really listen hard and think what you can do to make it easy for each other, without breaching GDPR and without creating a different division, i.e. companies versus employees!


Getting TUPE right can enhance your reputation. As with any kind of change though, there are risks. People risks tend to add a whole level of variability and unpredictability. So, adding in additional variability and unpredictability can’t be a good strategy.

How you deal with the transfer will be watched closely by your wider teams and people, not just those directly impacted. They will be thinking, ‘would you treat me the same?’ You need to consider other links to those impacted. For instance, are your unimpacted teams related to or close friends with anyone that is impacted? Will they share with others outside of the organisation the ‘reality’ of what you are like as a business and be negative to others about how you handle projects like this?

If it’s not other colleagues, is it other customers, clients or suppliers? Somewhere within this process is an end customer, and how will they feel about how you handled the change?

A properly handled TUPE transition will impact positively and a poorly handed transfer will be viewed very negatively from an array of angles. None of which you can control – but you can influence.

You can guarantee when employees are disgruntled about a poorly handled process, or a lack of answers, or just a general lack of communication, they will let anyone, and everyone know.

They will definitely express their negative feelings to the survivors (those left behind and not directly impacted). They will definitely let the legacy of their relationship with you be impacted by how they transferred. If they are also customers of yours, they can also withdraw their custom and maybe even impact your Trust Pilot score. In many cases they will be looking for ways to treat you the way you treated them.

Memories last a long time in a tight labour market

Quite often when there is a change, it’s part of a process. Maybe you are the company that does the cleaning, or the catering and the services have been put out to tender. If this is the case there’s a potential chance that you will lose the business, and that you could win the business and the people back in the future.

Will your people want to come back? will the new supplier want to work pragmatically and effectively with you on a smooth future transition?

When the shoe is on the other foot, you may regret the way you acted the first time.

In a tight labour market, you may want to hire staff in the future who no longer want to work with you. If it’s the other way around, you may struggle to retain those you were due to inherit. Leaving you with a TUPE transfer to manage and a recruitment and attraction exercise to manage that you hadn’t planned for.

If you don’t manage the needs of those that are impacted, don’t consult effectively, and don’t induct people properly, you may lose the very people you need to deliver the work.

This may have an even wider impact and lead to negative Glassdoor or Indeed reviews/scores and make a tight labour market even tighter.

Hiring staff right now is hard enough, rehiring them is even harder, and re-inheriting them further down the line is even harder than that!

Legal ramifications

Ultimately, this is a legally bound process. There are elements that you are required to ensure take place. These are written into law to make sure you do them. What is not written down is all of the softer skills and proactive interventions that you can put in place to ensure that the risk of legal ramifications are minimised.

The law is in place to enforce. It wouldn’t need to enforce if people did the right thing themselves. Being proactive and doing more than the bare minimum is essential. So treat your people like customers. Go above and beyond. Delight them.

Positive intent and energetic focus will go a long way to solving most issues and will temper the desire for people to get litigious.

I’ve seen people with genuine legal claims walk away from taking legal action when they know the company was trying to do the right thing.

I’ve seen others raise spurious claims and even vexatious attacks when they believe the intention is not right, even if the work undertaken was legally justifiable. It’s an emotional, but potentially understandable response. Managing the legal side can be straight-forward, but managing emotions, including our own, can be a whole different ball game.

The area that benefits the most from having legal boundaries is the focus on Employment Liability Information. To get two parties on the same page can require creativity. It’s reasonable to ask for the data to be presented in a different way, it’s reasonable to listen and understand what problems this may create. If you don’t work together and agree a sensible way forward, you can end up with painful, but legally compliant data that is difficult to assimilate into your world and the way that you operate.


Whatever the scenario and wherever you are in the process, getting two companies to work together for the benefit of transferring employees can be much easier said the done. As the saying goes, ‘it takes two to tango.’ To get everyone to dance in time needs someone to take the lead. If you are open, transparent, and professional, you have a much better chance of the other party taking a similar stance.

If you’d like to speak with us about how we can support you and your people and leaders, visit our TUPE Transfer support page or give us a call on 01491 414010. Alternatively, complete the form at the bottom of this page to request a call back.


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