Managing workplace change in the public sector

A quick guide for reps
Ceri Williams
Policy officer - Wales TUC
Report type
Research and reports
Issue date
Key Points

Public bodies sometimes change the way they deliver public services. This can have an impact on workers’ pay, terms and conditions. When public funding is limited, decisions might be taken to cut services, which can lead to major changes in services and the workplace. Changes can lead to redundancies and changes to terms and conditions.

The Wales TUC and the public sector unions negotiated the Partnership and Managing Change agreement. The agreement helps ensure the voices of workers are taken on board before changes take place.

What is Partnership and Managing Change?

Partnership and Managing Change is a national agreement between unions, devolved public bodies and the Welsh government.  It means that reps and unions have a right to be consulted on changes which affect your members.

Here are the four principles for managing change to which employers and unions in the devolved public bodies must adhere.  Employers and unions are referred to jointly as the ‘social partners’ throughout the agreement.


1. Employers must make every effort to keep people in good jobs

The agreement states:

“All social partners (that is, employers and unions) will use best endeavours to ensure employment continuity. Change can be very unsettling for staff.

Social partners agree that employment continuity is an important element of the change process. However, change need not be seen to be a barrier to employment continuity and can generate opportunities for the achievement of potential through rewarding, renewed and refreshed careers.”

2.  Employers must follow the best standards in employment practice

The agreement states:

“The social partners will support the use of the best standards of employment practice, such as systematic workforce planning, to manage deficits and surpluses in a planned way as we shape the future delivery of services.”

3. Employers must consult with unions at the earliest opportunity

The agreement states:

“Public service organisations embarking on change, which impacts on the workforce, will consult trade unions at the earliest appropriate opportunity and before any irreversible decisions are made.

4. Change must be delivered in partnership with unions

The agreement states:

“Any change should be properly planned and delivered through partnership. It is accepted that external factors may on occasion dictate the speed of the process but it is crucial that full consultation and negotiation amongst the social partners is followed in an open and timely manner with the aim of reaching mutual agreement. Equally it is crucial that this process is not constrained by either partner.”

Partnership and Managing Change

Partnership and Managing Change was first adopted in 2012.  It was updated in 2021 to include the introduction of new technologies.  It was negotiated nationally by the trade unions at the Workforce Partnership Council, which brings together unions, public sector employers and the Welsh government.


Your employer must take the following steps in order to implement the Partnership and Managing Change agreement in your workplace:

1. Agree a policy statement on managing change

The agreement states that to implement it:

“Employers and trade unions to agree a policy statement at the outset regarding managing change. The statement should include a clear vision supported by both parties which emphasises a corporate approach to managing change. It is the aim of the social partners that a culture of shared objectives and joint ownership of problem solving will become commonplace throughout.”

2. Adopt early planning of change with clear and realistic timescales

The agreement states that to implement it:

“Social partners  to adopt early planning of change with clear and realistic timescales. It is essential that due process is followed which allows for all parties to properly consider and shape any proposals which may be under consideration.”

3.  Meaningful consultation and negotiation with trade unions

The agreement states that to implement it:

“Meaningful consultation and negotiation with trade unions to be mainstreamed into the change process. Cross sector and cross organisational working may lead to complex lines of accountability and particular attention should be paid to operating in a collaborative context. Employers and trade unions should seek to ensure the process is integrated and seamless.”

4.  Communication with the workforce

The agreement states that to implement it:

“Communication with all stakeholders, including the workforce, to be a key component of any change process. Social partners should agree a communication plan in advance of any change process. In a properly functioning partnership joint employer and union communication with the workforce will play a significant part.

5.  Training on partnership working and change management

The agreement states that to implement the agreement:

Social partners) to facilitate and encourage training both in partnership working and change management to underpin the process. The training should include knowledge and application of Partnership and Managing Change and any locally agreed arrangements.

6. Union recognition and facility time

The agreement states that to implement the agreement:

Employers to commit to a full and lasting obligation to trades union recognition. In this setting, social partners will advocate the benefits of trade union membership, not least in assisting to help reduce labour turnover, increase staff morale and commitment, and improve productivity. This will involve local arrangements to facilitate and encourage trades union membership throughout the workforce.

Which public bodies are covered by this agreement?

All devolved Welsh public bodies are covered by this agreement, including:

  • Health boards
  • Local authorities
  • Welsh Government and its sponsored bodies

You can read the full detail of the agreement here:

Partnership and Managing Change

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