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Beyond bristles: Navigating TUPE in the cleaning industry

Yellow side

By Kate Ablett,

Head of People, Mrs Buckét

As a HR professional, I’ve had my fair share of experiences with the TUPE process (Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment)). Particularly, the complexities that arise when transitioning employees under a provision of services.

In the cleaning industry, where outsourcing and business transitions are quite common, having a clear understanding of the TUPE process is essential.

As we increasingly work with more and more education providers across Wales, it has become clear that our experience in the TUPE process is what sets us apart. Schools have come to rely on us and our dedicated People department when moving their cleaning provision away from the local authority. We aim to make the process as seamless as possible, and it’s our knowledge and experience that helps us to do that:

The role of TUPE in service provision changes

Within the cleaning sector, changes in service provision, such as outsourcing, re-tendering, or insourcing, are frequent occurrences. In these scenarios, TUPE is seen as a pivotal mechanism for ensuring the smooth continuation of services, even when the service provider changes. At Mrs Buckét, the key elements we focus on include:

Ensuring service continuity: Our primary aim is to guarantee that services are maintained without interruption.

Facilitating employee transition: Employees who are mainly involved in the service are safeguarded by TUPE and often transition to the new service provider. Under TUPE regulations, the duty to consult sits with both the incoming and outgoing provider.

Maintaining client consistency: Despite a change in the service provider, the client continues to receive a high standard of service.

TUPE’s core principle are straightforward – it’s about protecting the rights of employees during transition.

Emphasising a smooth transition

In all TUPE scenarios, our top priority is to facilitate a smooth and respectful transition for the employees involved. This goes beyond merely meeting legal requirements; it involves a genuine commitment to the well-being and rights of our colleagues. We strive to balance legal compliance with empathy and understanding for all parties involved.

In the cleaning industry, we encounter unique challenges in the context of TUPE:

Bridging the customer knowledge gap: We often find that clients may not be fully aware of the specifics of the services being transferred as the service may have evolved since they appointed the incumbent provider, which can lead to misunderstandings. They may believe they are getting a certain number of hours when they may be getting more or, more often, less.

Improving record-keeping: It’s common to encounter situations where record-keeping is not as robust as needed, or there are numerous local agreements that are hard to track, which can complicate the transition.

Navigating pension complexities: A significant aspect to consider is pension rights, especially when a service provision is in a school setting, for example. The customer may not be aware that they can still choose a provider that is not the local authority, and the impacted employees would retain their local government pension. The new company would need to comply with a rigorous process.

The path forward: Communication and expertise

I do believe that these challenges can be effectively managed with strong communication and expertise. Clear, transparent communication is key to demystifying the process and ensuring everyone is on the same page. Coupled with a team experienced in handling the intricacies of TUPE and the specific needs of the cleaning industry, we can navigate these transitions smoothly and professionally.

In summary, while navigating TUPE in service provision changes and acquisitions in the cleaning industry may seem daunting, it is entirely manageable with the right approach. It requires a careful blend of legal adherence, empathy for the impacted employees, and a comprehensive understanding of our industry’s specific challenges. With these strategies, we not only ensure compliance but also foster a respectful and supportive transition for everyone involved.