Personal casework - supporting members
Personal case support is one of the most important trade union activities and access to support services is often cited by members as the number one reason for joining. Aberdeen is more fortunate than many other UCU branches in having a reasonable number of trained caseworkers. These are members within the branch who offer their time and expertise on a voluntary basis to help colleagues going through formal processes such as disciplinaries, grievances and capability procedure – and all thanks to those who give up their time and energy on behalf of colleagues in need. We are keen to recruit additional caseworkers to ensure we can continue to provide a timely and effective service to our branch members so would urge you to consider volunteering to be a caseworker.
What can members do?
Our caseworkers offer their time as volunteers to help colleagues who are struggling with a workplace problem. Sometimes all that is needed is a gentle reminder to the University to follow the relevant policy correctly, sometimes it can involve supporting a member through a formal process up to Employment Tribunal. Every case is different. The one thing that is consistent in all cases is that our caseworkers report a feeling of great satisfaction in helping colleagues to resolve their issues, whatever they may be. If you are interested in joining our team of caseworkers, you can sign up for free training sessions which are provided by UCU.
As a workplace representative you are entitled to reasonable paid time off and facilities to undertake union duties and attend UCU training. These rights come from the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992 (TULR(C)A 92) which states that 'the amount and frequency of time off ... are to be those that are reasonable in all the circumstances.'
What sort of things can we help our members with?
We had almost 100 cases in the last academic year and we have had 50 cases logged in this academic year to date – and they cover pretty much every workplace issue you can think of… redundancy, probation, promotion, student complaints, stress, bullying, zero hours contracts, grievance, ill health retirement, disciplinary, workload, sickness absence, discrimination...
Other useful resources...
The UCU (national) website: Getting Support: advice and information resources.
University Policies: University Policy Zone: the University's current approved policies, procedures, plans and guidelines.
Line managers: May be able to offer support and assistance with respect to workplace issues – in particular, issues relating to working hours, conflict with a co-worker, annual review, health issues etc.
University Support including access to Counselling:
- Employee Assistance Programme and they can offer help on a wide range of issues
- Workplace Dignity Network aims to provide support to staff who would like to chat through wellbeing concerns. The Network can also signpost you to other sources of support which you may not have considered previously
- Counselling for staff is available via the Occupational Health Service
- Mediation services are available to all staff
- For further information on issues related to Equality or Disability, contact Janine Chalmers, Equality and Diversity Adviser- Tel: +44 (0) 1224 27 3883, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Mediation: An option for members not looking to take any formal action. You just contact a mediator and they then take things forward and set up mediation meetings. Mediation service website gives a list of qualified mediators.
Human Resources Dept: ccording to their webpage, HR Employment Services is the “first point of contact for any general HR issues including HR policies and procedures” and the “First port of call for assistance with casework (such as discipline, capability, attendance management and dignity at work) at the early/informal stages of procedures.” If in doubt, consult AUCU for further assistance and we will go over the HR advice to ensure it is comprehensive and appropriate. Find out who your HR Partner/Advisor is here.
Grampian Regional Equality Council – Counselling Service: GREC’s Adult Counselling Service. The service provides counselling to individuals who have been the victim of prejudice, hate crime or discrimination on the basis of any of the protected characteristics (including their race/ethnicity, sex, disability, sexual orientation, religion or belief, age, or gender re-assignment). The service is supported by qualified counsellors who volunteer some of their time to deliver counselling sessions with those individuals impacted by prejudice and discrimination. The service is available for trade union members (referred by caseworkers or through self-referral).
Occupational Health service: All staff are entitled to consult the service for advice on health matters. While staff are encouraged to discuss any work-related health problems in the first instance with their line manager, you may wish to consult the occupational health service for medical advice and assistance if:
- You are concerned that some aspect of your job is making you ill
- You feel that you cannot perform at work to the best of your ability because of a health problem
The service is staffed by occupational health physicians and advisers. All consultations are in strict medical confidence and details of discussions will not be supplied to the University or to any other person without your consent. Referrals to OH can be made through a line manager (they ask Human Resources to refer you to the Occupation Health Service) or you can “self-refer” by contacting OH personally - 01224 553663
Mental Health Support: Need someone to talk to, someone to listen to you? You are not alone, unless you choose to be. So, if you need to discuss your situation and how it’s affecting you then UCU and other organisations can help… particularly if you are feeling low, anxious or depressed.
- UCU Education Support Partnership (see no 10 above) provides independent, confidential 24/7 support, to help you deal with stress and anxiety, bullying, career and money worries, and a range of other issues. Tel. 08000 562 561 (free, any time from any phone) or email email@example.com
- Breathingspace Scotland: www.breathingspace.scot. Tel. 0800 83 85 87 (free, any time from any phone) Mon-Thurs 6pm to 2pm & Friday 6pm to Mon 6am
- Samaritans: www.samaritans.org (you don’t have to be suicidal – help is available for anyone coping with any sort of mental distress or anxiety). Tel. 116 123 (free, any time from any phone) or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Note, Samaritans and Breathingspace numbers won’t appear on your phone bill, contact is confidential and an alias can be used if you wish.
If you would prefer to speak to someone in confidence about a work related problem please complete this Casework Assistance Request Form and send it to the Casework Co-ordinator at email@example.com
What our members say
"I have found UCU support absolutely invaluable: not only are UCU colleagues supportive in a practical sense, helping navigate often practically, legally and emotionally thorny issues, but their very presence helps break that sense of isolation and powerlessness which one can experience when workplace relations break down. UCU have been exceptionally supportive. Both these elements – practical and emotional – are vital, and the Aberdeen UCU branch does a great job at both."
"Thank you so much for all the work you have put in on my behalf, it’s made a real difference knowing that I had UCU behind me and that there were options available to me if things didn’t work out for me. It’s been a really awful couple of months but having the union with me really helped."