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TUPE. Pain or Opportunity?

TUPE or not TUPE? While many view TUPE regulations as an adminstrative headache, Spotless CEO Niall Moffat believes they could be missing the point as it can offer an opportunity to build on a great working culture.

When Spotless is taken on board by a new client there is often a legal requirement to also hire their existing commercial cleaners through TUPE .

I have always been intrigued on how most cleaning companies react to this challenge with many viewing the process as a headache, involving tricky HR processes, disgruntled staff and minimal cooperation from the outgoing contractor.

There is, however, another much more positive perspective here as I believe a TUPE transfer can give new lease of life to all who are involved. It brings new talent into a business like ours and provides a great opportunity for the cleaning colleagues to excel under fresh leadership.

Where expectations can be so low for all parties concerned, just a few vibrant ideas can really turn things around to for a win/win/win outcome for clients, colleagues and for Spotless as a business.

So, why does TUPE have bad associations? Part of the answer lies in the separate feelings and agenda between the key parties that are involved.

Firstly, the transferring cleaners are generally wary of their prospective new employer. It is likely that any trust and emotional connection have long been lost with their outgoing contractor. They’ll be accustomed to disinterested management and lack of leadership which are often the reasons we’ve been brought in to take over the contract.

The incoming contractor often sees the incumbent staff as an obstacle – probably underperforming, demotivated and intransigent while the outgoing contractor has lost interest and mentally moved on.

And let’s not forget the client’s view in all this. They will often see most of the problems with the outgoing supplier being down to the people they have on site rather than the lack of management and leadership they are working under. For that reason it’s wholly understandable that many clients are annoyed by the TUPE requirement as it may result in them having to retain the same cleaning staff.

There is, however, a silver lining to this situation which just takes a little TLC to ensure that all parties  prosper from a TUPE transfer situation.

The starting point is to get on site at the earliest allowed opportunity and meet your new colleagues. The sooner you start to address the “fear issue” involved in TUPE then the sooner progress can be made. Leaving it late allows distrust to creep in. As with any consultation regarding people’s livelihoods, you need to be open in your communications, acknowledging that this might be a difficult time for them with potential uncertainty about their jobs. You must also reassure them of their TUPE rights and that nothing will change with wages, holidays and other benefits until both sides agree.

Before starting any form filling, I think it’s always best to talk to people, ask them about their job, how long they’ve been there (unlikely you’ve got any TUPE data yet, and it also gives you something to double check later). Ask how they feel about their work. What could be done better? Let them know you genuinely care.

We also take the opportunity to tell the cleaning staff about our company, explaining our training process and how they could benefit from this. As a company committed to strong values, we also communicate these to the cleaning staff involved in the TUPE process, ensuring they understand how the Spotless values will be a recurring theme of their employment.

It’s important to keep good to your word and fulfil any promises you’ve made. The good spirit of cooperation will help in harmonising contracts of employment when it inevitably comes around. This is a key factor in turning what might well have been disgruntled employee into a loyal ambassador in their new roles at Spotless.

Explaining the process to the client is also, of course, vital.  We usually share previous case studies to show we’ve done great TUPE transfers before and we highlight how it transformed the cleaning. We also explain the obligations we need to adhere to as TUPE is a legally binding requirement.

I certainly believe that every TUPE transfer has every potential to become a real success story for all those involved. This includes the case of a transferring cleaner who we took on at Spotless in 1995. She had been a lone worker with limited cleaning experience who, over a short space of time, showed herself to be an outstanding, free thinking contributor who was keen to progress within our business. That same individual is still here at Spotless, now serving as a Company Director in charge of a £2.5m division.

That’s a living and breathing example of the great opportunity presented by TUPE. While it does have its challenges, when it’s handled appropriately it can be the beginning of something truly magnificent.