AdLand Suit is Dan Shute, a Board Account Director at Delaney Lund Knox Warren, a top ten London Advertising Agency. This is where I write about the life of a Suit - which can include pretty much anything. Delaney's didn't know I was doing this, but they do now. They still don't agree with everything I say though. They'd also probably rather I swore less.

Thursday, 22 October 2009

How TUPE Fucks Everyone

You may not be familiar with TUPE (or Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) to give it its full, somewhat grand title). Unfortunately, what with this whole credit crunch malarkey, it's safe to say that a whole lot more people are now than would have been a year ago.

This post isn't going to be a detailed legal explanation of TUPE (if that's what you're after, I'd recommend these Government monkeys - and to be honest, if you're looking for detailed legal information on this blog then you need the sort of help that I just can't provide). Instead, I wanted to illustrate my views on TUPE with a tale based on a confection of true and imagined events. One of those "Any resemblance to real people, living or dead..." type tales. Because you see, when it comes to advertising, TUPE fucks everyone - especially the people it sets out to protect.

So, picture the scene. You've spent the last few years of your life working at a London-based Agency - and you've been working damn hard, too. You've had a variety of Clients, but one has taken up more time than most. In fact, if you were to check your time-sheets you'd see that for the last six months, more than 80% of your billable hours have been recorded against this particular Client. And why not? You like the Client, the Client likes you and the work you're producing is doing a pretty good job. Everything is right with the world.

Except it's not. Because whilst you've been getting on with advertising and selling your Client's range of premium ceramic tiles to a variety of happy customers, the part of your Client's business responsible for sourcing new revenue streams (they're probably based in Frankfurt, or somewhere equally awful) has made a couple of dodgy investments. It turns out Iceland wasn't the best place to store the pension fund, and that Kansas-based property group was definitely not the best idea they've ever had. In short, they're fucked, and they need money.

And so they turn to your Client, and inform him of a number of 'Potential Areas For Saving' that they, working with their partners in Procurement, have identified - needless to say, your Agency is one of them. And so, to cut a long story short, your Client (who, let's not forget, has a family to feed) calls a review. There's no issue with the relationship, no issue with the work, but his procurement people have advised him that the best way of driving down costs is with a review.

And sure enough, they're proved right. And it turns out that when push comes to shove, your Agency just can't match the fee proposal that's come in from a regional Agency in Manchester. So your much-loved Client is off. Your Agency, unable to find another role for you, is forced to make you redundant. All is not lost though - you take a hefty pay-off, as befits someone who's been around for as long as you as, and take a well-earned break while you consider your options.

Except that's not what happens. Because of TUPE. As the majority of your working-life was spent working on your ceramic tile Client's business, his new Agency are legally obliged to take over your contract, whether they want/need to or not. But you'll be ok. You're guaranteed the same salary (or better, if you can negotiate it - but given that they probably don't want you, that's pretty unlikely), and you still have a job. Job's a good 'un.

Except that it's in Manchester. And, whatever your personal feelings about such a move, it's fair to say that your family are pretty happy where they are. And, let's face it, if you'd wanted to live in Manchester, you already would be living in Manchester.

Not a problem, though. You can just turn down the TUPE-based offer, and claim redundancy instead, right? Because TUPE's designed to protect the workers, and as such you must be in control, right?

Except that you can't. TUPE, the law that's designed to protect you, doesn't take what you want to do into account. Instead, it reacts as if it's your drunk aunt at Christmas, and upon being told that you're allergic to nuts screams that, "IN THAT CASE, YOU CAN'T HAVE ANY DESSERT AT ALL, YOU BASTARDING SHIT."

Of course, you're more than free to turn down the move to Manchester, but you will essentially be resigning from your new Agency. Which means you get nothing. Nothing at all. All because of TUPE. TUPE that, just to stress the point, is there to protect you. So it's nearly Christmas, and your choices are: move to a city you don't want to live in, to work for an Agency you don't want to work for; or quit your job and hope things turn out ok. All because of TUPE. Happy Christmas.

Of course, it doesn't always work like that. Perhaps the winning Agency is also in London, and you're actually quite excited about going to work there - hurrah! Granted, they'd probably rather not hire you, fresh start and all that, but you can definitely cope with that. Or maybe the Client didn't call the review because of costs at all, but because he was sick of you and the work you produce - he's going to be THRILLED when he turns up on the first day to see you sitting in reception.

So, to summarise, TUPE is ace, as long as: your Client loves you but hates your Agency; the new Agency is somewhere you want to work, in a town/city in which you want to live; and said new Agency has been trying to poach you for the last year and a half. Otherwise, you end up having to choose between unemployment or doing something you really don't want to do; your Client is unable to fire the team he's trying to fire, he just changes the name on the back of their business cards; and your new Agency ends up having to pay people that they didn't want working for them in the first place.

Or, to put it another way, when it comes to advertising, TUPE fucks everyone.


andrea said...

If you want to ruin someone's life send them to Manchester? :D

I think I'd be their perfect that lady in the Juno soundtrack said, if I stay in one place I lose my mind.

And I'm not going to say a word about Manchester!

AJ said...

The IPA have been battling for a couple of years "to alleviate the worse excesses of the Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations":

Anonymous said...

For every one who thinks slavery has been abolished, think again, TUPE is the modern day equivelent where one person decides to sell an employee to another person without the employees effectual consent. TUPE gives you the effectual choice of go to the new company or just walk away and probably lose your house etc, what a choice. Its a bit like saying would you like a peice of this lemon merang pie OR have your legs cut off!

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Anonymous said...

Under TUPE the employee can opt-out of transfer. The new, potential employer can not. However the new employer can instantly make you redundant, paying your legal notice period.

I think you confused. Else every account that was reviewed would wholesale force employees to move to the new agency from the old one.

TUPE is better protection of employee rights than just saying 'tough bye'. At least there is a potential for re-employment at an agency that takes a new account.

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