Employment law scheme

Introduction to the employment law scheme

The PCS employment law scheme details arrangements for advice to be obtained to help deal with individual personal cases. The scheme is an integral part of the services provided by the PCS Legal and Personal Case Unit (PCU).

The vast majority of personal cases are dealt with by local PCS branch officials and representatives. Most cases are relatively straightforward and do not require additional advice or support. However further guidance may well be needed to deal with more complex cases, particularly those relating to dismissal and/or discrimination.

Employment tribunals

Although the fees system for ETs was ruled illegal in 2017 and removed, PCS can only support cases which have been referred for assessment and agreed to have reasonable prospects of success. If cases are taken without such assessment, reps and members need to understand that PCS cannot be held liable for any costs or fees incurred.

ACAS Early Conciliation

Before the majority of claims can be submitted to the ET, it is necessary for the ACAS Early Conciliation process to have been completed and a certificate issued.  Details of this can be found on the ACAS website.

Time limit

Only certain issues can be taken as a complaint to the Employment Tribunal. Read a full list on the MoJ website.

The time limit for lodging most employment tribunal claim is three months less one day from the act being complained about. Exceptions to this include equal pay cases and a claim for a simple redundancy payment.

Although it is no longer a legal requirement to have lodged a formal grievance prior to lodging an employment tribunal, a failure to follow internal processes can result in a tribunal award being reduced by up to 25% so all members should use the full internal grievance and/or appeal process.

However, the use of these processes does not delay the effective date from which the time limit for submitting an ET case runs and the member may have to lodge the ET before the internal process is concluded.

In such circumstances, the advice is to lodge the ET claim and then to ask for it to be put on hold until the internal process is concluded.

Members who think they may have a potential claim are advised to contact their local PCS representative immediately to enable the full process to be dealt with and any advance of fees agreed and paid to the member before the due date.

How the scheme works

Personal case advice should be sought directly from the PCS Legal & Personal Case Unit, using the form PCU1. We have developed a range of PCU1 forms, depending on the main issues that are involved in the case. Each is designed to draw out the information that is needed in order to judge whether there are reasonable prospects of succeeding with the case.

If you are not sure of which form is appropriate, please use the Generic version.

There is separate guidance on how to complete the form and the papers that are required to accompany it.

The majority of referrals to the Legal & Personal Case Unit will be answered by case officers, using advice previously obtained for similar issues from Thompsons. Where necessary, cases will be sent to Thompsons for legal advice, at the sole discretion of officers within the Legal and Personal Case Unit.

The PCS Legal and Personal Case Unit needs to receive the completed PCU1 form and any accompanying papers no later than four weeks before the initial ET deadline, in order to consider whether the case has sufficient merit to be legally supported. Please DO NOT apply for ACAS Early Conciliation before submitting the papers to PCS, unless this is absolutely necessary in order to preserve time limits.  

Telephone advice

Thompsons can provide quick verbal advice by phone and bargaining units have provided a list of those reps and officers who are authorised to make use of this service. The list of authorised officers/reps is administered by the Legal & Personal Case Unit.

Legal representation

Most cases can be dealt with through representation provided by full time and lay officials. However cases do emerge where PCS agrees to provide legal representation.

The PCS Legal and Personal Case Unit decides on any requests made by bargaining units for legal representation.

Representatives should be aware that legal representation is only likely to be authorised where the case:

  • may set a legal precedent and/or
  • is of strategic importance to PCS and/or
  • has a possible impact on a large number of members and/or 
  • is of a complexity or scale such as to warrant legal representation.

There is also a general expectation that the case has "reasonable prospects of success", and that the cost of pursuing the case does not outweigh the value of the claim but these factors will not automatically overide supporting a case that fulfills the other criteria set out above.

If the local representative does not feel able to represent the member through to the Employment Tribunal, they should discuss the issue with their Branch Secretary or with the PCS full time officer responsible for their bargaining area.

All requests for legal representation must be submitted to the PCS Legal & Personal Case Unit through the appropriate PCS full time officer.

Appeals process

PCS has a wide range of knowledge and expertise built up over many years and reps and full-time officers will often be able to provide assistance based on their existing knowledge without the need to refer the matter to solicitors.

In addition to the knowledge and experience of the full-time officer within the bargaining area, departments such as equality, pay and policy and officers within the Legal and Personal Case Unit, will often be able to provide advice and support.

On some occasions however, all these options having been exhausted, a representative may still believe that advice is needed or that the case merits legal representation and that he / she has not been able to access that advice or get agreement to representation being provided.

Sometimes a full-time officer won’t feel it’s appropriate to obtain legal advice or refer the matter to the Legal & Personal Case Unit for representation but a representative might still believe (having considered all of the above options) that a case merits written advice.

If this happens the rep should in the first instance contact the National Officer responsible to that area to see if he/she can provide advice or in the alternative is prepared to refer the matter to the Legal & Personal Case Unit.

Where further advice or legal representation is not considered to be needed, the National Officer should ensure that the rep has been given a full written explanation of the reasons for not obtaining advice and that in addition the rep has been given advice on the substantive issues to enable him/her to advise the member.

Day to day administration of the PCS employment law scheme is dealt with through the PCS Legal & Personal Case Unit.

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