Tupe may apply after all, Pathways company admits

The Australian company that won six of the first 16 Pathways to Work contracts awarded by the Department for Work and Pensions has gone back on its original assertion that the Tupe regulations, which govern the transfer of staff from existing providers, would not apply.

WorkDirections UK, a subsidiary of the Australian Ingeus Group, won the contracts to provide employment and health support schemes for people claiming incapacity benefits in several regions where existing New Deal for Disabled People contracts are held by employment charity the Shaw Trust.

However, there was widespread anger among unsuccessful voluntary sector bidders after it emerged that the company had not factored in the cost of the Tupe regulations, which preserve the pay and conditions of workers whose jobs are transferred to another employer.

WorkDirections UK said at the time that, on the advice of the DWP, it had taken independent legal advice and had been told that “as the Pathways to Work programme is not the same as the NDDP programme, these are new contracts and therefore Tupe is not likely to apply”.

However, the company has now conceded that Tupe may apply in some cases. In a statement it said: “As a new programme, it was unclear whether Tupe automatically applied to all NDDP employees in this instance, and any decision on its applicability would need to be made on an individual basis.

“Having consulted with the Shaw Trust, WorkDirections UK believes that it is more likely than not that a transfer of undertaking would apply in some cases. WorkDirections UK is now in further discussions with the Shaw Trust and its employees to assess how many of the 16 individuals concerned may transfer to WorkDirections UK in these circumstances.”

The GMB union, which has campaigned to save the jobs of the Shaw Trust employees, claimed the credit for WorkDirections UK’s change of policy. “The Shaw Trust employees will move with their jobs to Ingeus on their current pay and working conditions,” said union organiser Mick Ainsley. “The GMB wants to meet the new management and make sure that they are fully up to speed with British employment law and obtain an undertaking that they will abide by it.”

However, a spokeswoman for WorkDirections UK denied the company had had any discussions with the GMB. “We have made initial contact with all the NDDP providers concerned to discuss the situation on a case-by-case basis,” she said. “This has led to more detailed discussions with the Shaw Trust. WorkDirections UK has had no discussions with the GMB union but is open to discussion with relevant unions.”

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