If ownership of the practice for which you work changes from one owner to another, you need to know how it will affect you. It is important to find out what it means for you if there's a transfer of the practice to a new owner, and your employer's responsibilities to consult you.

What it means

If the practice changes hands, your terms and conditions are protected, under the Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations (known as ‘TUPE’).

The existing terms and conditions of your contract of employment will transfer automatically to the new practice owner. This means that you will normally carry on working for the new owner as before.

If the new owner refuses to meet the terms of your contract, this will amount to a breach of contract.

Employment rights are protected

Other employment rights, as well as your terms and conditions, are protected. These include any holiday allocation you’ve built up and any outstanding claims you’ve made against the original owner (for example, under discrimination laws).

If you don’t want to work for the new owner

You can refuse to work for the new owner. You must let your current or prospective owner know that you object to the transfer. You'll be regarded as having resigned and will have no right to claim unfair dismissal or to a redundancy payment.

Rights to consultation

The practice must consult the representatives of the workforce about the transfer. This will either be with trade union officials (if you have a union) or VN representatives who are usually elected by the workforce.

You must be told:

   when and why a transfer of business is happening

   what the impact on VNs will be

   whether any measures like re¬organisation will be taken, and how they'll affect you.

The information must be given in good time and the consultation must be carried out with the aim of coming to an agreement. If any re-organisation is planned, your representative can put forward your views. Your employer must reply to these and, if they reply, say why.

Your representative can complain to an Employment Tribunal if the new owner fails to inform and consult. The complaint should succeed unless there were exceptional circumstances preventing your employer from informing and consulting (for example, events outside their control).

If you’re dismissed as a result of a business transfer

If you are dismissed in connection with the transfer, this is automatically unfair unless there is what is known as an ‘economic, technical or organisational (ETO)’ reason involving changes – for instance, in numbers or roles – in the practice. Redundancy is an example of an ‘ ETO’ reason.

Rights to redundancy payments

After the transfer, the new practice owners may want to cut the number of VNs. If you're selected to leave, or if you’re dismissed for an economic or technical reason, you may have the right to a redundancy payment.


Your occupational (company) pension rights, earned up to the time of any transfer, are protected by law. If your old practice owner offered you access to an occupational pension scheme immediately before the transfer, then your new owner must offer access to either:

   an occupational pension scheme which must meet certain conditions; or

– a stakeholder pension scheme where, as a minimum, the new employer matches VNs contributions up to six per cent of pensionable earnings.

If the scheme is one of defined contribution, then your new practice owner should match VN contributions up to six per cent of pensionable pay.

What to do next

Once the transfer has taken place, make sure you’re given an up-to-date written statement of employment. This should give the name of the new practice owners and say that your terms and conditions haven’t changed.

Finally, don’t be alarmed if you receive a P45 – this often just means your tax records are being updated, not that you’re out of job! 

Members of the BVNA can contact the IRS Helpline for free advice and support. Call 01822 870270 or e-mail Nicky@hrsupportconsultancy.co.uk


Nicky Ackerley BA(Hons)

Nicky Ackerley HR Support is owned by Nicky Ackerley who has a BA (Hons) Business Studies Degree, is a member of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development and who has been a practising HR manager for over 20 years. HR Support Consultancy has provided the BVNA's Industrial Relations Service since it began in 2002.

 • VOL 26 • August 2011 • Veterinary Nursing Journal