Weakening TUPE legislation risks low pay and increased unemployment

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date: 13 February 2012

embargo: 00.01hrs Wednesday 15 February 2012

Weakening the Transfer of Undertakings and Protection of Employment (TUPE) regulations risks driving down pay and increasing unemployment, the TUC warns today (Wednesday).

In its response to a government call for evidence on TUPE, the TUC warns that changing current legislation could also lead to an increased involvement of the private sector in public services, with contractors competing for business on lower wages rather than on the quality of the service they provide.

TUPE protects employees' terms and conditions of work when a business is transferred from one owner to another. Staff automatically become employees of the new employer on the same terms and conditions as they were on before, and their continuity of service is also protected.

The TUC argues that TUPE regulations also benefit employers by creating a level-playing field for businesses and enabling restructuring to take place more easily and without disputes.

The government is considering increasing the flexibility for employers to cut pay and conditions after a transfer takes place. This could lead to a race to the bottom, warns the TUC, with companies using low wages to compete for contracts in the public and private sector, rather than by quality of service, efficiency or innovation.

Employers are also pressing the government to remove the amendments on 'service provision changes' introduced in 2006. This would create major uncertainty for businesses, employees and their unions on whether TUPE applies to the outsourcing of services, or when services are brought back in-house, says the TUC, and would generate needless and costly litigation.

These changes could also lead to the erosion of the pay and conditions of low-paid service sector staff such as cleaners and catering staff. The TUC argues this would have an adverse impact on women, who are disproportionately employed in contracted-out services. According to the Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings (ASHE) 2011 74 per cent of cleaners and domestics are female. Similarly 65 per cent of kitchen and catering assistants are women.

Current TUPE regulations also maintain employment levels, as new employers must retain original staff when they take over a business, argues the TUC. Cutting back on this vital right means employees could lose their jobs when the owner of their company changes, which would increase unemployment and reliance on welfare benefits.

TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber said: 'TUPE law protects workers and gives businesses valuable security. Tampering with the regulations would not only generate uncertainty and needless litigation, it would also make low-paid workers vulnerable to mistreatment.

'Weakening the guarantee on pay and conditions would encourage companies to compete for contracts based solely on wage and other employment costs, and not on the quality of service. This could lead to an increase in poverty wages for the many female employees who work in catering and cleaning.'

NOTES TO EDITORS:

- The TUC's submission to the Effectiveness of the TUPE Regulations 2006 consultation is available at www.tuc.org.uk/tucfiles/224/CallforEvidenceTUPE.pdf

- Low paid jobs by gender 2011: Analysis of a million employees in the lowest paid occupations reveals that 74 per cent of cleaners and domestics are women and 83 per cent of those women work part-time. Similarly 65 per cent of kitchen and catering assistants are women, of which 71 per cent work part-time.

Low paid employee jobs by gender (thousands)

Cleaners and domestics

Kitchen and catering assistants

All

646

435

Male

170

151

Female

476

284

Male full time

74

69

Male part-time

96

82

Female full-time

86

83

Female part-time

397

201

Source: 2011 Office for National Statistics ASHE survey

- All TUC press releases can be found at www.tuc.org.uk

Contacts:

Media enquiries:
Liz Chinchen T: 020 7467 1248 M: 07778 158175 E: media@tuc.org.uk
Rob Holdsworth T: 020 7467 1372 M: 07717 531150 E: rholdsworth@tuc.org.uk
Elly Gibson T: 020 7467 1337 M: 07900 910624 E: egibson@tuc.org.uk

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