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Reforms announced for TUPE regulations

Reforms to Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations (TUPE) have recently been announced by the Government to make them 'easier, fairer and more effective'.

The existing regulations are designed to provide protection to employees' terms and conditions when their jobs are transferred from one owner to another. Generally speaking, it's difficult to change terms and conditions if the reason for them is a transfer or connected to the transfer, except for economic, technical or organisational reasons (ETO).

One reform will be a provision allowing unilateral changes in accordance with a contractual provision (such as a mobility clause). Furthermore, any redundancies arising from a move in the workplace location will not be considered automatically unfair. Effectively, both are being seen as extensions of the ETO exemption.

Another change allows businesses to renegotiate terms and conditions provided for in collective agreements one year after the transfer, provided that overall the change is no less favourable.

A related measure frees employers from being bound to changes made to collective agreements after a transfer if it is neither a party to the subsequent collective agreements, nor takes part in the process for bargaining them.

Micro businesses - those employing ten or fewer people - will also be spared having to inform or consult employee or union representatives when there are none, but may consult with employees directly about the impact of a transfer. Currently, they are obliged to invite staff to elect representatives.

The Government said the rule changes would 'give businesses more clarity about conducting transfers', but the TUC warned that the amendments would 'weaken guarantees' for 'vulnerable workers' in a 'deliberate attempt to make privatisation cheaper and quicker'.

The new regulations are due to be laid in Parliament in December 2013.

Acas has detailed information on Transfer of undertakings (TUPE) and has free expert advice at hand on the Acas Helpline on 0300 123 1100. Acas also offers practical training courses on TUPE, as well as Contracts and terms and conditions, and is holding a conference in November, entitled TUPE Conference - Know the rules, avoid the pitfalls.

Visit the Acas Training and Business Solutions page for more information.

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