Is TUPE being turned on its head post-pandemic, as we face challenges in recruitment and retention of quality people?

Neville Doughty, Partnership Director, Contact Centre Panel

I have a belief that most things in life or business are what I would call “situational”. Your view and approach will depend on the situation that you are in, there is no single answer for a question, the right one will be based on the situation in each moment.

I’ve been in outsourcing situations where TUPE has been seen as:

a) Risky: to be taken if a contract moves a group of people with their roles and terms, which impacts the pricing of an opportunity for a client

b) A defensive advantage: as an incumbent if the contract places the liability on the other bidders

c) An opportunity: bringing the people who want to transfer across and reducing speed to competence

d) A challenge: if we win it and bring in the people, we will need a new site… how are we going to manage that and what is it going to cost?

I’m not an HR specialist and whenever I was in discussions regarding TUPE, I was always minded of what those conversations would mean to individuals, with worlds being turned upside down when an announcement of work moving was made. I can still recall as a younger manager in operations, when we had to announce the closure of a unit and one of the agents cried throughout the briefing. Moments like that stay with you. Outsourcing is tough, we know that, and changes impact our people hard.

So back to the question – is TUPE being turned on its head post-pandemic, as we face challenges in the recruitment and retention of quality people? Has remote working changed the impact of TUPE in the contact centre industry if agents are working from home? Does it matter where you are transferring them from?

Onboarding agents remotely, we can say is tough and in an ideal world, I would always prefer induction to be on site, creating the opportunity to form relationships that will ensure agents can support each other with challenging customers. If you TUPE a whole team into your organisation, relationships as a group have already been built and established. Remote working makes that sort of collective transfer a lot easier. However, integrating these individuals into your organisation as an outsourcer can be a challenge when you have to contend with different cultures and working styles.

Bringing people into your business with existing terms and conditions will mean that differences in rates between outsource providers will narrow. However, with living wage and inflation considerations, the hourly rate offers less opportunity to create the cost savings today than it did 20 years ago. Having people on varying contracts will create headaches for your HR team for sure, but could these be lesser than those that recruitment and training are facing with churn of staff currently?

In summary, TUPE provides much more of an opportunity today, than it did for organisations at the start of 2020. Yet, TUPE needs robust processes to ensure that people are properly onboarded and integrated within a business, especially if as an outsourcer you have made commitments to deliver improvements and efficiencies through your culture and methodologies. For organisations outsourcing activity for the first time, there is an increased potential that you could retain more of your existing in-house team through TUPE than you would have 2 years ago, if this looks probable then keep in mind our previous article on insourcing.