LEADER: Sector amust wake up to TUPE effect

The rather dull-looking acronym TUPE has been kicking around the PR industry for the past 18 months or so. By now most people are aware of it, some are worried about it, but few really know what they should be doing about it.

TUPE – whose full name is Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations – has actually existed since 1981.

Originally created to protect the rights of contracted EU public sector workers – word has it the first case involved a humble office cleaner in Germany – the legislation has now morphed into something of major concern to our creative industries.

In 2006, TUPE was revised and seriously came onto the radar of the advertising and PR industries.

These sectors had become used to shifting major marcoms accounts from agency to agency, mainly to ensure fresh input of people and ideas. But the EU was becoming more concerned about the effect of this practice on the employees of such agencies.

This year it emerged that UK courts were also going to take it seriously, with one finally forcing the agency Wild Card to take responsibility for an employee from a rival agency (Storm Communications) after it had snatched a drinks PR account, on which she had worked, from Storm.

With this judgement now finalised, are we about to see a test case on a much bigger scale?

As PRWeek went to press this week, it emerged that computer giant HP is shifting a major EMEA PR account out of leading agency Porter Novelli. With up to ten PN employees understood to be working primarily on this account, this could have major implications.

The next few months will prove crucial to gauging the TUPE effect – on both agencies pitching for new business, and clients considering shifting their business.

The implications arising from such decisions is just beginning to dawn on all those involved.
danny.rogers@haymarket.com

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