Understanding TUPE: When Does It Not Apply in UK Business Transfers?

UK Immigration Blog

Understanding the Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) regulations, commonly known as TUPE, is crucial for any business involved in a merger or acquisition in the UK. TUPE is designed to protect employees when the business they work for changes hands. However, there are certain circumstances when TUPE does not apply. This article will delve into the specifics of when TUPE applies and when it does not, the concept of non-transfer, the transfer of employment, and the intricacies of a business transfer contract. We will also clarify what ‘notoriously’ means in this context.

Understanding TUPE

The UK TUPE regulations are designed to protect employees’ rights when the organization or service they work for is transferred to a new employer. These regulations apply to organizations of all sizes and ensure that employees’ terms and conditions of employment are preserved. They also protect against dismissal connected with the transfer.

When Does TUPE Apply?

TUPE applies in two situations:

  • Business transfers: This is when a business or part of a business moves to a new owner or merges with another business to make a new employer.
  • Service provision changes: This occurs when a contractor takes over activities from a client (outsourcing), a new contractor takes over from another contractor (re-tendering), or a client takes over activities from a contractor (insourcing).

When Does TUPE Not Apply?

While TUPE is comprehensive, there are situations where it does not apply. These include:

  • When the business is being sold by way of share sale: In this case, the identity of the employer does not change, so TUPE does not apply.
  • When the company is in bankruptcy or insolvency proceedings aimed at liquidating the assets of the company.
  • When the contract for the supply of goods or services is for the client’s private, not commercial, use.
  • When the transfer involves a single-task contract of short-term duration.

Non-Transfer and Transfer of Employment

Non-transfer refers to situations where the business or part of it does not transfer to a new owner. In such cases, the employees’ contracts do not transfer to the new owner, and TUPE does not apply. On the other hand, the transfer of employment occurs when a business or part of it is transferred to a new owner, and the employees’ contracts are transferred to the new owner. In this case, TUPE applies, and the new employer takes over the employees’ contracts with all their rights and obligations.

Business Transfer Contract

A business transfer contract is a legal agreement that outlines the terms and conditions of the business transfer. It includes details about the transfer of assets, liabilities, and employees. It is crucial to understand that if TUPE applies, any changes to the employees’ terms and conditions of employment for a reason connected with the transfer are void unless the employer and employee agree to them for a valid economic, technical, or organizational reason.

What Does ‘Notoriously’ Mean in This Context?

In the context of TUPE, ‘notoriously’ is often used to describe how complex and challenging these regulations can be to navigate. TUPE is notoriously difficult because it involves many legal intricacies and potential pitfalls for businesses. It requires careful planning and expert legal advice to ensure compliance.


Understanding when TUPE applies and when it does not is crucial for any business involved in a merger or acquisition. It is also essential for employees, as it affects their rights and protections. While TUPE is notoriously complex, with careful planning and expert advice, businesses can navigate these regulations successfully.

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Teresa Aldridge
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VisaHelpUK - UK Immigration and Visa Application Advice Service
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