Employment protection during business transfers and takeovers

If the business, part of a business or service provider you work for is changing from one owner to another, your existing employment contract could be protected.

Transfers protected under TUPE

When all or part of a business is bought or sold, the terms and conditions of the employees who transfer in the sale can't be changed. Your existing employment is protected under the Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations 2006 and the Service Provision Change (Protection of Employment) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2006, collectively known as 'TUPE'.

There are two types of transfers that are protected under TUPE:

  • business transfers
  • service provision changes

Business transfers

This is when a business or undertaking, or part of a business or undertaking, is transferred from one employer to another. This can include mergers where two companies close and combine to form a new company.

To be protected by TUPE during a business transfer the identity of your employer must change. A transfer of company shares doesn't qualify under TUPE because the same company would continue to be your employer.

Service provision changes

A service provision change is more common in work contracts for office cleaning, workplace catering, or security. It normally happens in one of three situations, when a:

  • service previously carried out by your employer is awarded to a contractor (called ‘contracting out’ or ‘outsourcing’)
  • contract is assigned to a new contractor during a re-tendering process
  • contract ends with the service being performed ’in house’ by the former client (called 'contracting in’ or ‘insourcing’)

There are two exceptions to when a service provision change will be protected by TUPE. If the contract is:

  • for the supply of goods for the company’s use (for example, a restaurant changing food suppliers)
  • carried out in connection with a single specific event or short-term task (for example, a catering company being used to cater a large corporate event)

You are only protected under a service provision change if you can be clearly identified as completing the service that is being transferred.

For example, if you work for a courier service, but the collections and deliveries for a business could be picked up or delivered by a number of different couriers on an ad hoc basis, you would not be part of an identifiable team of employees.

However, if you were employed directly as a cleaner by a large office company and the company decides to use an outside cleaning company, your job and employment terms and conditions would be protected under TUPE.

TUPE protection

To be protected under TUPE, the business transfer or service provision change must take place from a UK-based company. It's possible that some transfers will be a service provision change and business transfer, for example, your employer outsourcing a service. This will not make a difference to your job.

You're protected under TUPE, regardless of the size of business you work for. It doesn't matter if it's a large business with thousands of employees or a very small one, like a shop, pub or garage.

If you're involved in a transfer that qualifies for TUPE protection you should be guaranteed that your:

  • job transfers over to the new company
  • employment terms and conditions transfer
  • continuity of employment is maintained

If you're not sure if you're protected by TUPE you should seek further advice. The Labour Relations Agency (LRA) has a helpline offering free, impartial and confidential advice on all employment areas. 

Alternatively, Advce NI can also provide free and impartial advice. If you're member of a trade union, you could contact your trade union representative.

Contractors

If you're employed by a contractor (for example, in catering or cleaning) who loses a contract to another contractor, you should turn up for work as normal, unless you're told otherwise. You and your employment contract will usually transfer automatically to the successful contractor.

If you find there's no job for you, you can consider making a claim for unfair dismissal against both employers in an Industrial Tribunal. You may also have a claim for failure to consult before a TUPE transfer.

Transfers in the public sector

Transfers within central or local government are generally not covered by TUPE. However, the Cabinet Office has a statement of practice on staff transfers in the public sector which, in effect, guarantees TUPE-equivalent treatment for any employees transferred.

If you work in central or local government and you are being transferred from the public to the private sector then you are covered by TUPE. In addition, there are other protections included in the Statement of practice on staff transfers.

Transfers where employees work outside the UK

If you are employed by a UK employer but you are based outside of the UK, you could still be protected by TUPE. The important part of a business transfer is that it involves a UK business and their ‘undertakings’ in the UK.

In the case of business transfers, if the company you work for has an ‘undertaking’ in the UK (for example, premises, assets, fixtures and fittings, employees) but you are part of a team that spends the majority of your working week outside the UK (for example as part of a sales team) then you should be covered under TUPE.

If the company you work for is about to take part in a service provision change, there must be an organised group of employees in the UK for it to qualify for TUPE protection. For example, if a contract to provide website maintenance comes to an end and someone else is taking over the contract. If you are part of a team of employees that has performed the contract centrally in the UK, but one of the IT technicians works from home outside the UK, you should still be protected under TUPE.

However, if the whole team worked from home which was outside the UK then it is unlikely you would be protected by TUPE as there would be no organised group of employees.

More useful links

Share this page

What do you want to do?
What is your question about?
Do you want a reply?
Your email address
To reply to you, we need your email address
Your feedback

We will not reply to your feedback.  Don't include any personal or financial information, for example National Insurance, credit card numbers, or phone numbers.

This feedback form is for issues with the nidirect website only.

You can use it to report a problem or suggest an improvement to a webpage.

If you have a question about a government service or policy, you should contact the relevant government organisation directly as we don’t have access to information about you held by government departments.

You must be aged 13 years or older - if you’re younger, ask someone with parental responsibility to send the feedback for you.

The nidirect privacy notice applies to any information you send on this feedback form.

Don't include any personal or financial information, for example National Insurance, credit card numbers, or phone numbers.

Plain text only, 750 characters maximum.
Plain text only, 750 characters maximum.

What to do next

Comments or queries about angling can be emailed to anglingcorrespondence@daera-ni.gov.uk 

What to do next

If you have a comment or query about benefits, you will need to contact the government department or agency which handles that benefit.  Contacts for common benefits are listed below.

Carer's Allowance

Call 0800 587 0912
Email 
dcs.incomingpostteamdhc2@nissa.gsi.gov.uk

Discretionary support / Short-term benefit advance

Call 0800 587 2750 
Email 
customerservice.unit@communities-ni.gov.uk

Disability Living Allowance

Call 0800 587 0912 
Email dcs.incomingpostteamdhc2@nissa.gsi.gov.uk

Employment and Support Allowance

Call 0800 587 1377

Jobseeker’s Allowance

Contact your local Jobs & Benefits office

Personal Independence Payment

Call 0800 587 0932

If your query is about another benefit, select ‘Other’ from the drop-down menu above.

What to do next

Comments or queries about the Blue Badge scheme can be emailed to bluebadges@infrastructure-ni.gov.uk or you can also call 0300 200 7818.

What to do next

For queries or advice about careers, contact the Careers Service.

What to do next

For queries or advice about Child Maintenance, contact the Child Maintenance Service.

What to do next

For queries or advice about claiming compensation due to a road problem, contact DFI Roads claim unit.

What to do next

For queries or advice about criminal record checks, email ani@accessni.gov.uk

What to do next

Application and payment queries can be emailed to ema_ni@slc.co.uk

What to do next

For queries or advice about employment rights, contact the Labour Relations Agency.

What to do next

For queries or advice about birth, death, marriage and civil partnership certificates and research, contact the General Register Office Northern Ireland (GRONI) by email gro_nisra@finance-ni.gov.uk

What to do next

For queries about:

If your query is about another topic, select ‘Other’ from the drop-down menu above.

What to do next

For queries or advice about passports, contact HM Passport Office.

What to do next

For queries or advice about Penalty Charge Notices (PCNs), including parking tickets and bus lane PCNs, email dcu@infrastructure-ni.gov.uk

What to do next

For queries or advice about pensions, contact the Northern Ireland Pension Centre.

What to do next

If you wish to report a problem with a road or street you can do so online in this section.

If you wish to check on a problem or fault you have already reported, contact DfI Roads.

What to do next

For queries or advice about historical, social or cultural records relating to Northern Ireland, use the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI) enquiry service.

What to do next

For queries or advice about rates, email LPSCustomerTeam@lpsni.gov.uk

What to do next

For queries or advice about  60+ and Senior Citizen SmartPasses (which can be used to get concessionary travel on public transport), contact Smartpass - Translink.