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 Support Centre.

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 to the Support Centre for assessment and which have been found 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.  Where this is a necessary part of the process, it is ACAS EC that must be started within the 3 month time limit.  NB: ACAS EC does not apply in Northern Ireland. Those members working for GCHQ or for the Security Service or Secret Intelligence Service are exempt from ACAS EC requirements

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, for most claims,  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 Support Centre, 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.

If your query relates to a wider group of members and covers terms and conditions or contract issues, please contact your bargaining unit office, as the Support Centre cannot accept requests for advice on such matters from anyone other than your industrial officer.

PCS has published details of these procedures, available here (link to copy of BB67/18)

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 Support Centre will be answered by case officers, based on formal lega advice previously obtained from our lawyers for similar issues. Where necessary, cases will be sent to lawyers for legal advice, at the sole discretion of officers within the Support Centre.

The Support Centre 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

There is a service whereby 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 Support Centre.

Legal representation for ET claims

Due to the increasing complexity of ET procedures and the greater formality of hearings, PCS will generally supply legally qualified support in cases where the Support Centre or legal advice has judged there to be a reasonable prospect of success.

However, in order to make those judgements, we need to be contacted well in advance of the deadline for legal submission. 

Tribunals will now set early response dates as soon as they receive an ET1 application. So you may have to, for example, provide further particulars of the issues in dispute and an outline remedy before you see the response from the employer. It is also likely that a preliminary hearing may be scheduled within weeks of the respondent’s defence being received.  So it is important to act quickly to contact the Support Centre.

PCS is not in a position to support claims that have not been approved by the Support Centre and members and reps need to be aware that, if they proceed with a claim without such approval then they will be liable for any costs or fees awarded and PCS will not be under any obligation to reimburse them.

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, policy and officers within the Support Centre 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 Support Centre 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 Support Centre.

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 Support Centre.

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