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One Employee Can Be an ‘Organised Grouping’, Court Rules

In what some may view as a counter-intuitive decision, but one which has significant implications for employers, the Court of Appeal has ruled that a single employee was by herself capable of forming an ‘organised grouping’ within the meaning of the Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations 2006 (TUPE).

The property manager had worked for an international firm of estate agents and bore sole responsibility for an important client’s portfolio of properties in Holland. After the firm reorganised its business, she became employed by a subsidiary of the client. She continued to perform precisely the same role as before.

She lost her job after falling out with her bosses and argued before an Employment Tribunal (ET) that her dismissal was unfair. In those circumstances, a preliminary issue arose as to whether her employment had automatically transferred to the subsidiary.

That issue, in turn, hinged on whether she was capable of constituting an ‘organised grouping of employees’ within the meaning of TUPE. The ET, and subsequently the Employment Appeal Tribunal, held that she was. In dismissing the employer’s appeal, the Court of Appeal found that, notwithstanding that she was just one person, the earlier rulings contained no error of law.