Personal cases broadly fall into two categories. Either a member has a grievance against the employer, because of the way they have been treated; or the employer has a problem with them (for example their attendance, performance or conduct).
Here are some examples of typical cases that might be raised with you – this is not an exhaustive list and you may well come across other issues.
These are common, and form part of every representative’s role. Local office representatives should deal with basic disciplinary cases. Where cases become more complicated or serious in terms of penalty, you may need help or guidance from a more experienced representative such as a branch secretary.
As management introduce tighter controls over sickness at work, an increasing number of members come to the union with sickness related problems. Many involve accompanying members to interviews with management, or checking procedures have been followed correctly. Some departments differentiate between long-term and short-term absence, and you need to check which is appropriate. More complicated cases can involve the Disability Discrimination Act and ‘reasonable adjustments’. They can also potentially involve dismissal. Such cases should be referred to an experienced representative for advice and guidance.
These are generally straightforward and can be dealt with locally. Refer to your departmental guidance for details.
Cases involving e-mail and internet use have risen due to increased reliance on electronic media. Each department or agency should have an electronic media policy. PCS should have been consulted on that policy. On several occasions, senior management have encouraged internet use, then disciplined staff for abusing the policy. Check if management have made staff aware of what the policy is. PCS has produced guidance on the use of email (contained in the Personal Cases folder) but this is aimed at helping members and reps to use email effectively and should not be used by management in any disciplinary action.
Overpayment/underpayment of salary.
Unfortunately there is no law that prevents management from recovering an overpayment, even if it occurred without the member’s knowledge. Despite this, PCS can often help staff in this situation, by agreeing a rate of repayment acceptable to the member. Similarly PCS can help where a member has been underpaid. Simple cases of this nature should be dealt with locally. PCS guidance is available from all PCS full time officers.
Workers have a right not to be treated less favourably on grounds of their gender, transgender status, race, religion/belief, age, sexual orientation, marital (or civil partner) status, disability or because of pregnancy or part-time status. Most of these issues are covered specifically by legislation.
At some point you are likely to become involved with a bullying case. Bullying can be defined as: “persistent, offensive, abusive intimidating, malicious or insulting behaviour, which amounts to an abuse of power or authority which attempts to undermine an individual or group of employees and which may cause them to suffer stress”. It is important to remember that ‘harassment’ now has a specific legal definition, linked to equality discrimination and the term should not be used as an everyday alternative to ‘bullying’.
Health and safety complaints
There should be a PCS Health & Safety Representative for your workplace, who would usually deal with health and safety based issues.
Most appraisal systems will have an appeal mechanism. When this fails to rectify a disagreement on performance, members may seek alternative ways to address their concerns.