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Manchester College v Hazel

Manchester College won a new contract from the Learning and Skills Council and the staff working on that contract automatically transferred under the Transfer of Undertaking (Protection of Employment) Regulations 2006. However there were unexpected costs in the transfer that lead to a number of voluntary redundancies.

Shortly after this the College decided to try and make further savings by harmonising the terms of the contracts of employment being used in the organisation – there were 37 different contracts! In the course of this the staff that had moved under TUPE objected to the reduction in their pay and they were dismissed and then offered employment contracts on the new terms. The employees accepted the new contracts, continued to work and then sued for unfair dismissal.

Whilst the tribunal agreed that the reason for the dismissal was connected to the transfer they decided that it was not an economic, technical or organisational reason entailing a change in the workforce. This was merely a harmonisation process. This meant that the dismissals would be unfair and the claimants would succeed in their unfair dismissal actions. The tribunal came to this decision because they had to consider the reason of the dismissal of each employee separately. The fact that there had been previous redundancies which did entail a change in the workforce did not mean that the harmonisation exercise automatically entailed a change in the workforce. Therefore the claimant won their case and the Tribunal made an award of re-engagement on their new contracts but with their old rate of pay.