The PCS employment law scheme provides arrangements, where it is considered necessary, for advice to be obtained to help deal with individual personal cases.
It is operated jointly with Thompsons Solicitors who are specialists in the field of employment law.
The scheme is an integral part of the services provided by the PCS legal and personal case unit.
Other services include the personal injury compensation claim scheme and general support on the handling of personal cases.
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.
The time limit for lodging an employment tribunal claim is 3 months less one day from the act of discrimination.
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 discrimination claim are advised to contact their local PCS representative immediately.
For the majority of PCS bargaining areas, personal case advice can be sought directly from the Legal & Personal Case Unit, using the form PCU1. 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 & Personal Case Unit.
The scheme operates most effectively when requests are made in a timely manner; identify exactly what advice is being sought and are accompanied by documents that are key to the case.
For areas of PCS that have not been instructed to refer direct to the Legal & Personal Case Unit, requests for personal case advice should be sent to your full time officer in the bargaining unit.
PCS may also provide for legal representation to be arranged where this is considered appropriate. Authorisation for legal representation is given by the PCS legal and personal case unit and all applications for legal representation must be submitted by the full time Industrial Officer for the bargaining unit, with that application endorsed by their line manager.
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.
Obtaining good quality and relevant advice is dependent on the content and presentation of the request made to the Legal & Personal Case Unit.
The timing of any request is key to this. If we want to be in the best position to represent members, advice - whether legal or otherwise - should be sought at the appropriate stages of case development.
If the case is subject to a potential employment tribunal (ET) application and time permits, every effort should be made to seek advice before an ET1 is lodged.
Similarly further advice should be sought when the respondents have filed a Notice of Appearance and at other key stages as the case develops.
Every request for advice should be accompanied by a fully completed PCU1 form.
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:
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.
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, departments such as LEEPS, including equality and legal and personal case unit, the national bargaining, pay and pensions unit and the information service will often be able to provide the necessary advice and support.
On some occasions however, all these options having been exhausted, a rep 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.
Where a full-time officer does not feel it is appropriate to obtain legal advice or to refer the matter to the legal & personal case unit for representation, and where the rep still believes (having considered all of the above options) that a case merits written advice, the rep should in the first instance contact the SNO 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, it is incumbent on the SNO to 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 responsibility for administration of the PCS employment law scheme rests with Phil Madelin.