Members can sometimes have over-ambitious expectations of what PCS can deliver for them: they may have seen media reports of employment tribunal cases where significant damages have been awarded and think they are due to get the same; they may misunderstand the limitations of employment law and not appreciate the need to compelling evidence to be presented; they may feel that unfair treatment is the same as discriminatory treatment; they may think that you will spend all of your time working on their case and they are the only case you have.
So, it is important to manage their expectations from the start:
- Ensure that they have a copy of the PCS guide for members on personal cases, as this explains very clearly the limitations on what they should expect;
- Don’t promise too much – either in terms of the support that they will receive, or the outcomes that they may achieve.
- Tell them about what else you have to do (without breaching confidentiality to other members, of course) – this will help them understand that you have other priority work to do as well as their case;
- Ensure that they appreciate their responsibilities to work with you on the case, that they cannot simply expect you to do everything for them;
- Set boundaries for contact – they should not expect to have 24/7 access to you. If you pass on a mobile phone number, outline when and why they are permitted to use it;
- Make sure that they understand that, although they can progress their own case in any way they wish to, if they want PCS support they need to:
- Follow the reasonable advice of PCS
- Not involve external advisers, without discussing with you first
- Not contact other PCS reps or HQ without letting you know
- Accept a reasonable settlement, if it is offered – there is no benefit from ‘a day in court’.
Setting clear parameters from the outset not only helps you manage individual cases effectively but it will assist you in handling your overall case load and will make it far easier to get members to agree to reasonable settlements.