We provide assistance to members of our branch who seek help with work related issues (within UNISON’s rules). Our local elected workplace representatives and branch staff (caseworkers) strive to offer you help and support when you need it the most. The following guidelines are intended to help you understand what to expect from us and what we will expect from you in order to offer you the best advice and support.
Membership of UNISON
UNISON is the biggest public sector trade union in the UK and anyone who works in the public sector or performs public sector services can be a member of UNISON, and this includes those who work in the community & voluntary sector. Your UNISON membership is activated from the first date of payment and you can access a range of benefits and services. You do need to be aware of UNISON’s ‘four week rule’, we cannot offer representation to new joiners if your employment issues predate your joining date or occur in your first four weeks of UNISON membership. We will, however, offer members in these circumstances brief telephone advice so if you are unsure of your eligibility, please do get in contact.
In order to be eligible for our full range of services and for us to be able to give you support, please keep your membership details up to date by visiting https://my.unison.org.uk/ (click here if you need to register: https://registration.unison.org.uk/registrationstep1.aspx). You can update your contact details (phone number, email), employment details (including if you hold 2 jobs), and your subscription information.
Initial Contact and Advice
We have a network of local elected workplace representatives in many of our employers and they should be your first point of contact for any advice. If you don’t know who your representative is, you can contact our branch office and we will determine the most appropriate representative for your case.
Our office is open weekdays from 10am to 5pm. If your call is picked up by the answer phone, please leave a short message together with your name and membership number and your contact details. We will endeavour to return calls by the end of the next working day.
Cases dealt with by our Branch Office
If you do contact our office, our branch staff will offer initial advice by telephone or email. If necessary, you will be asked to send us relevant documentation and a written summary of your issue(s). This is to help us assess your situation before we offer more detailed advice or pass the information to your local representative or caseworker.
Please only ever send copies of your paperwork and retain the originals.
We find communication by email the clearest, speediest and most effective method of communication. Please advise us if you would prefer an alternative method of communication.
Please contact our branch office as soon as you are aware of a problem, we are often in a better position to help sooner rather than later. We would also ask that you notify us as soon as possible when your employer gives you a hearing date for which you may need assistance and representation from UNISON. If the hearing date set by your employers is not be suitable for your UNISON representative, then we will provide you with dates when your representative is available so you can ask your employer to re-arrange an alternative date with these in mind, within 5 working days of the original date.
Formal Meetings and Representation (e.g. Grievances & Disciplinary Hearings)
If you require representation at a formal hearing you will are asked by your representative to complete a UNISON Caseform, please do so as soon as possible and return the form with sections 1-14 completed (you will need to print and sign sections 13 & 14).
This is both to ensure your representative is fully informed of the facts of your case and your view, and also to ensure that should we need to refer your case for a legal assessment, it can be done so promptly and without delay. The Caseform also has further guidance on what you can expect from your representative.
Unfortunately, given the volume of cases the branch deals with we are often not able to meet with you until the day of your hearing. However, you will be in contact with your representative by email/phone before any hearing, and throughout your case. Please also be advised that unfortunately our branch caseworkers are not able to attend investigation meetings; however, they will discuss with you what to expect and offer necessary advice.
It is important that you communicate with your representative and keep us informed of any developments in your case or if you no longer need our assistance and we will endeavour to do the same. This is so we can offer you the best advice and support, the more we are aware of, the better able we are to assess your situation.
UNISON Conditions for Providing Assistance
In order to ensure that our representatives are in the best position to support you and help you resolve your workplace issues, our assistance will be provided in accordance with UNISON’s Conditions for Providing Assistance – these can be found in full in the UNISON Caseform and here in summary:
- Throughout your case, you will be kept informed and no decision will be made without consulting your first.
- Please be honest and frank about any allegation against you and in respect of any grievance you may have as your representative can only assist you if they are in possession of the full facts.
- You can expect your representative to be honest and upfront about your options and to discuss a strategy with you. However, should you decide at any point not to accept the advice of your representative or to seek the advice of a third party such as an outside solicitor then our representative may have no option but to withdraw UNISON support. This is to enable your representative to be in the best position to help you and to prevent confusing or conflicting advice.
For more information
More information on UNISON and how we operate can be found on the UNISON website, www.unison.org.uk. The UNISON Community & Voluntary Organisations Branch is committed to providing members with the best possible advice and assistance to achieve a satisfactory outcome for your case. Please consider becoming more involved in our branch as a workplace contact or local representative, more information can be found on our website www.unisonvob.co.uk
UNISON Community & Voluntary Organisations Branch, 134-146 Curtain Road, London, EC2A 3AR; tel 020 7729 4001/5001; fax 020 7729 6001; email firstname.lastname@example.org
Representation Guidance for UNISON Members
UNISON is committed to helping our members improve their working lives, we are able to help members on a range of issues and there are various ways in which we can do so!
These Frequently Asked Questions are aimed are answering questions you may have around how to seek advice and what to expect:
What issues can UNISON help me with?
- UNISON can help with a number of workplace issues, below are a few examples but there are many, many more:
- Disciplinary hearings
- Bullying & Harassment
- Sickness Absence
- Discrimination (race, sex, disability, age, sexual orientation, etc)
- Changes to Terms & Conditions
- Health & safety
- Maternity/Paternity/Parental Leave
- Accidents at work
- UNISON can also help with some issues outside of the work place, our charity, There for You, provides members with a confidential service for those who are struggling with financial burdens or need support with non-workplace issues. Our legal services also extend outside of the workplace and you may be entitled to initial advice on a range of issues. To find out more, contact UNISONDirect 0800 0 857 857.
When should I contact UNISON?
If you think you have a potential issue that we may be able to help you with, please get in contact sooner rather than later! We are in a better position to help at the start of a problem than further down the line. In many cases we are able to offer advice and support to help resolve the issue rather than formal representation. Our representatives may also need to advise you of potential Employment Tribunal time limits.
How do I contact my representative?
- We have local representatives in many of our workplaces who are committed to helping their fellow members. These reps are often in the best position to help offer you advice and support and can refer your case to the branch if they deem it necessary.
- If you aren’t sure who your local representative is or if you do not have a local representative, please contact our branch office. The office is staffed 10am-5pm, please call 020 7729 4001/5001 or email email@example.com, we will try and respond by the end of the next working day.
What may I need to help my representative advise me?
- It is helpful to have a copy of relevant policies from your employer, these should be readily available to you and your representative may wish to see them (e.g. your employer’s disciplinary policy if you are being investigated regarding disciplinary allegations).
- Please help your representative by keeping copies of all relevant paperwork and a record of relevant dates and times. A timeline can often help your representative understand the problem.
- Your representative may email or call you with a request for information or to prepare documentation, please respond as promptly as you can.
What can I expect from my representative?
- Our local workplace representatives are all trained volunteers who often give up their own time to help, please be patient if you do not get a response straight away, they will reply as soon as they are able.
- Don’t be afraid to ask questions – our representatives will be happy to explain anything you don’t understand or aren’t sure of. We want you to be confident in the advice and support they offer.
- Please listen to the advice your representative is giving you. Your representative will always try and be realistic and discuss your case honestly.
- Please note the UNISON Conditions for Providing Assistance (found in the UNISON Caseform) with regards to seeking advice from third parties. Our representatives will only be able to represent you if they are your sole representative.
What might the outcome of my case be?
- Your representative will discuss with you what the potential outcomes may be and what you would like to achieve. There isn’t a ‘one size fits all’ solution to most problems and it will depend on your circumstances. Be as open and honest as possible with your representative so they can understand the situation fully.
Your representative may refer the case to our regional officers, following discussion and agreement with the Branch Secretary, if they believe you may need legal assistance.