Where a school or college is transferred from one employer to another, the staff, pupils or students and the land and buildings transfer too.
The TUPE regulations alone do not guarantee that rights are protected or that staff have a collective voice in the workplace. Maintaining a collective voice and protecting your rights at work requires collective organisation. It is helpful, however, to view TUPE as a legal framework around which to involve and engage members to act collectively to protect and further their rights.
As soon as you find out that a formal decision to change your employer has been made or that TUPE consultations are to begin, you and your school or college group should take the following steps. Talking together and gathering information will help you prepare for the transfer.
- Contact your local NEU branch secretary
- Elect a rep if necessary
- Talk to reps in other unions
- Arrange a meeting with your head or principal
- Get members together
- Involve members
- Talk to members in other schools, colleges & chains
- Feed members’ questions back to your head or principal
- Get your terms and conditions in writing!
Contact your local NEU branch secretary
Your local secretary’s details can be found on your membership credential or at https://neu.org.uk/contact-us
Your local secretary will either ask you to remain in contact with them or they will refer you to another colleague within the NEU. If your school or college is transferring to a multi-academy trust (MAT), your local secretary may share your contact details with an NEU colleague who has responsibility for the MAT.
If, for whatever reason, you are unable to locate your local secretary’s details or to make contact with your local office, please contact your regional office
You will be working alongside your branch or other colleagues within the NEU throughout the transfer process. Give them all the information you have and keep in touch with them – they will be able to provide invaluable help and support.
Elect a rep if necessary
If you don’t have a rep at the moment, you are urged to get members together to elect one.
Talk to reps in other unions
Once you have discussed the issues with your local NEU branch secretary or other NEU contact, you will find it useful to share information with reps in our sister unions in your school or college before meeting your head or principal.
Get in touch with the NASUWT teaching reps and any Unison, GMB, Unite support staff reps in your school or college. If you do not know who the reps are, ask your colleagues, your school or college office or your branch secretary.
Joint union work before the start of consultation
You might not be able to meet formally with your counterparts in the other unions, but do try to come to an agreed position with them on how you will approach your head teacher or principal about the transfer process and its implications for all staff.
Try to come to an agreed position on how you will handle formal information and consultation meetings.
You could agree how to divide up practical tasks, for example
- one rep could be the official note taker
- another rep could keep copies of all relevant literature
At a national level there is a consensus amongst the education unions on academy status and how to approach TUPE consultations. If, however, you think there are divergent opinions that cannot be talked through, you should consult with your members and branch secretary or NEU contact in an attempt to come to a suitable outcome.
Keep your branch secretary and other NEU colleagues informed of discussions with representatives in the other unions.
Working together with sister unions strengthens the position of all employees
Arrange a meeting with your head teacher or principal
Ask your head teacher or principal to meet with you and other union reps to talk about the transfer process and its implications for all staff. At this first meeting, your head teacher or principal should be pressed to clarify what decisions have been made in respect of your school or college and what process and timetable is anticipated for the transfer.
You could relay the message from your national unions to your head or principal that:
- the unions must be provided with all information in a timely manner
- the unions must be fully consulted at every stage of the process
- terms and conditions must be maintained
- collective agreements must be upheld
- recognition and facility time arrangements must be preserved
Inform your head teacher or principal that you wish to maintain a consistent flow of information and that you will relay the information to your respective national unions and to your members.
For further advice on working with your employer’s representatives, see our guidance on Meeting with Management and Questions to Ask Management in Resource C.
Get members together
As you’re likely to be directly involved in talking to your head or principal throughout this process, you’ll benefit if you meet with other NEU members regularly.
Arrange a meeting with members as soon as you can after you’ve met your head or principal. There will be much to discuss about the transfer and its implications for staff, so it is helpful to allow opportunities for members to air any questions or concerns they may have and for members to contribute to the process. Subsequent consultation meetings are likely to be more productive if you have prepared with members in advance.
For help in planning a meeting with members, including how to access your membership contact list, and hitting the right tone with members, see Resource A. Resource A also includes posters to advertise your meeting and signing in sheets.
We don’t expect you to be an expert on all the issues when meeting members. A little knowledge goes a long way! If any questions are raised you are uncertain about, contact your division secretary or other colleagues within the NEU for advice. And don’t feel that you have to do everything yourself, you are one part of your union and this is a collective effort …
The first NEU meeting before consultation begins is a good opportunity to discuss how members can take a wider role in the transfer process.
In secondary schools or large primary schools or colleges, NEU groups function best when there is a team of people doing a number of small jobs rather than one individual trying to do everything.
If your school or college group is small, you may be able to organise and divide up tasks more informally. No matter which type of school or college you work in, the changes confronting staff at this time will help recruit into membership any staff who are not yet members of a union.
You could ask members to get involved by doing the following:
- keep a chronological file of all the minutes of meetings and formal letters sent out as part of the transfer
- collect together copies of any local agreements and policies in operation at your school or college
- act as a personal contact for members in their department if it is a large school or college with lots of members
- help communicate with members face-to-face, in addition to emails, newsletters and posters
- take notes of action points from NEU meetings and circulate to NEU members
Throughout the transfer to a new employer, it is vital that members feel a sense of collective ownership and are included in the process.
Make sure that the feelings and decisions of members are fed back to your head or principal. Ask them to clarify any issue you or your members are uncertain about during the transfer; it is important for members that any ambiguities are cleared up.
Talk to members in other schools, colleges & multi-academy trusts
Talking to members in other schools/colleges or multi- academy trusts will help you get a better understanding of the new context in which you and your members will be working. Many of the materials in this toolkit have been tried and tested by your NEU colleagues in previous transfers and they will have a wealth of information and experience to share. Sharing information between schools and colleges going through the process together will ensure that all members have equal access to information and it will reduce the opportunities for employers to use divisive tactics on transferring staff.
Ask your division or NEU colleagues to put you in touch with NEU representatives in other schools or colleges that are affected by the transfer.
If your school or college is to be sponsored by another academy school or college or it is to join a multi- academy trust, speaking to representatives and members working within those institutions who have experience of the proposed new employer will give you a valuable insight. You may wish to invite another NEU rep or other members within those institutions to speak to you and your colleagues about their experience before, during and after the transfer to that employer.
If your school or college is part of a federation or group of schools or colleges transferring to a new employer, contact the NEU representatives and members in the other transferring schools or colleagues and keep in touch with them throughout the process.
Keep your branch and NEU colleagues informed of your discussions with other members.
Your terms and conditions – get them in writing!
You will be reminded throughout this toolkit to make sure that all correspondence, notices, emails and discussions relating to the transfer to the new employer are collected together in one place.
It is also important that you have an accurate record of the NEU members’ terms and conditions as early as possible in the transfer process.
To cover every angle, ask your school or college office for up-to-date hard copies of all collective agreements between the Union and the employer, these should include:
- If you are transferring from a maintained school – the STPCD, the Burgundy Book and the Green Book; these are available online if the school does not cooperate
- If you are transferring from a sixth form college – the Red Book teaching staff conditions of service that have been adopted by your college
- The recognition agreement, if there is a written agreement
- The facility time agreement, if there is a written agreement
- The pay policy and staffing structure
- Other collective agreements on maternity, adoption, paternity, parental, sick leave and pay, leave of absence, discipline and grievance, harassment, bullying and discrimination.
Liaise with your branch secretary and other NEU colleagues to ensure that you have up-to-date hard copies of all collective agreements between the Union and the employer and that you understand what each of the agreements cover. Check together whether:
- the list of agreements is complete – ask your branch secretary to help you locate any missing agreements
- the documents are the most up to date agreements
- the agreements were agreed by the NEU – school or college policies which have not been agreed by the unions are not collective agreements
If you cannot trace a written recognition or facility time agreement, get in touch with your branch secretary or NEU contact.
Your current employer is very likely to have arrangements in place for meeting and negotiating with the NEU.
Your aim will be to formalise these arrangements in writing. For more information, please see the section, Protecting and building your Union.
Transferring from an academy to a new sponsor or multi-academy trust?
Be aware that the NEU and our sister unions will have negotiated a number of agreements with the larger and some of the smaller multi-academy trusts. Some of these agreements will apply to all staff. Others might apply to previously transferred staff. Others might apply only to new staff employed after a maintained school converted to academy status some years ago. Ask your branch secretary or NEU contact to help you identify which staff each of the agreements apply to.
All members have a role to play
All members should take an active role in collating paperwork relating to their collective and individual contractual entitlements. Members should be encouraged to keep accurate records on their employment history. Ask members to collate their individual:
- letters of appointment
- contracts of employment
- written particulars of employment
- any correspondence relating to individual contractual arrangements such as job share, part time working or flexible working agreements or arrangements for reduced hours, phased retirement, a phased return to work or adjusted duties.