PRWeek has learned that Lexis has begun TUPE proceedings with an unnamed agency, understood to be The Red Consultancy, after losing its seven-figure Boots brief earlier this month.
Lexis wants to send eight people to Red, in what industry commentators suggested was the most significant use of the TUPE ruling in the PR industry since it became law in 2006.
Lexis MD Jason Gallucci confirmed: 'Ten people have been affected by the loss of the account. Two of them have been offered different roles in Lexis and eight people have been asked to TUPE to the winning agency.'
It is thought that Red will attempt to fight against Lexis' move. Both Red and Boots declined to comment and are yet to confirm Red's appointment.
While it is not the first time TUPE transfers have occurred in the industry, most previous examples have affected one or two individuals.
3 Monkeys CEO Angie Moxham went through the TUPE process last year when her agency won a healthcare account from MS&L.
Moxham said: 'If you lose an account you need to walk away with your head held high.
'If I had won Boots and been told to take on eight people it would have made it impossible to take the business.
'Actions like this are going to make big accounts less attractive and make clients less likely to offer them.'
Richard Ellis, PRCA comms director, was equally damning: 'TUPE was designed to protect cleaners when companies change contractors, not to stifle innovation.'
In 2008 the PRCA ran a campaign lobbying ministers against the regulations, but failed to win an exemption for the PR industry.
TUPE: THE FACTS
- On 6 April 2006 the Transfer of Undertakings Protection of Employment regulations (TUPE) were updated. When a PR agency loses an account certain staff can transfer to the new incumbent.
- In June 2007 a tribunal ruled Karis Hunt, from Storm Communications, could follow client Brown Brothers Wines to Wild Card PR.
- Employees represent a liability under TUPE if they spend more than half their time on a single client.