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Home Insights Going the extra mile is what sets us apart

When we are awarded a new contract, it automatically inherits the employees working on the contract under TUPE (Transfer of Undertakings, Protection of Employment). As Human Resources Business Partner for Wates Property Services, Sandra Thomas is responsible for the safe transfer of staff. Sandra discusses the care and consideration that is required to ensure staff remain happy in their role, and how communications is key during the process.

TUPE is the most sensitive part of mobilisation

When it comes to mobilisation, TUPE is often the most sensitive part of the process. We understand that change can be extremely difficult and unsettling, particularly for staff who may have been with a company for many years.

Over the last 18 months Wates has managed the TUPE of 247 employees across our housing maintenance service and it was our responsibility to support these individuals and ensure the transition is as smooth and seamless as possible. If a mobilisation process is not handled efficiently, it will have a knock-on effect, which may lead to serious delivery failures, as well as incurring additional costs to the client.

Provide reassurance and establish relationships from the outset

It is vital that the mobilisation team focuses on relationships and getting to know the client and all its stakeholders from the start. When Wates is awarded a new contract, we engage with the client as soon as possible by delivering an in-depth presentation on the business, and explaining how the TUPE transfer works. It’s a good opportunity for us to address any concerns that staff may have, and for us to provide as much reassurance as possible, and to establish a relationship from the outset. We also hold one-to-one meetings with each individual to get to know them, and to help us understand which parts of the contract matters to them.

Adapting the process in a post-pandemic world

Ordinarily, we would go out on site and meet staff face-to-face but during the pandemic we had to mobilise remotely which unsurprisingly made the mobilisation process logistically difficult. During lockdown, we were forced to move our face-to-face meetings and introductory presentations online, via Teams sessions. This was an unknown experience for us as a business, and we’d never had to operate in such a way before. Luckily we had contingency plans in place so that our team could still carry out the mobilisation process remotely, and we worked very hard to ensure that the relationships with our clients were not compromised.

One of our most recent mobilisation contracts came in July 2021, when we were appointed by Lambeth Borough Council to provide repairs and void works to 17,000 properties across the borough. Being awarded the six year contract has involved the TUPE of 27 staff. Thankfully, at the time the contract went live, restriction rules had relaxed and we were able to hold our introductory meetings in person, with social distance measures in place.

The way we connect with people is key

Being process-driven is important and helps the mobilisation to run smoothly. Having a detailed strategy helps us to transfer all information accurately, and communicating regularly ensures everyone involved is kept up-to-date. I think the key to a successful TUPE transfer lies in the way we connect with people. A business may have the best operational practices in place, but it’s the people who determine how successful the output will be. It’s so important for us to remember that we’re dealing with people, and whilst some staff may have gone through the TUPE process once before, or even several times, it can still be an unsettling and worrying experience, particularly for those who are new to the process. It’s our responsibility to put them at ease and to help them feel secure and comfortable with their new employer.

Nothing should be too different for TUPE’d staff

We place a real emphasis on nurturing people through the TUPE process, and the way we see it is that once an individual has been transferred to Wates, nothing should be too different apart from the branding of the company. For example, staff may have always been paid on a weekly basis, or on a certain day of the month, and we want to limit the changes for them as much as possible so we will do our best to keep their pay conditions the same.

Our people are, and will continue to be at the heart of what Wates does. Supporting and making new employees feel welcome and valued is what helps us to succeed.