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TUPE transfer 'amounted to unfair dismissal of bus drivers'

Posted: 3rd April 2012   In: Dispute Resolution, Business Employment

Five bus drivers have won a claim of unfair dismissal after a change of employer meant they would have to spend up to two hours a day extra getting to their new depot.

The case arose when the bus operator Centrewest transferred one of its routes in London to another operator, Abellio. The drivers were to keep their jobs but would need to work from a new depot six miles away.

They resigned because the extra travel time to work was unacceptable to them. Their claim of unfair dismissal was based on the Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations (TUPE), which protects the rights of employees if a business is transferred to a new owner.

In cases where TUPE applies, employees are entitled to consider their employment terminated if they suffer a material detriment resulting from a substantial change in working conditions.

The Employment Tribunal held that in this case, there had been a “material detriment” as a result of the transfer.

That decision has now been upheld by the Employment Appeal Tribunal. The judge said that while a transfer to a depot six miles away might not seem substantial in a rural or suburban setting, it was substantial in London because of the travel conditions involved.

He said: “Travelling at varying hours of the day, often at inconvenient times of morning or night on shift work, when public transport may not be easy, is entirely appropriate to be regarded as a significant and material change to the detriment of the employee."

It therefore followed that the dismissals were automatically unfair.

Please contact Sarah Liddiard if you would like more information about the issues raised in this article or any aspect of employment law.