Officers encounter a range of problems that people experience at work, but the most common fall into one of the following categories:
- disciplinary or performance matters raised by the employer
- workload issues or personal grievances
- discrimination and bullying and harassment.
Many personal cases will involve more than one of these elements.
Most members will not need to seek help from Prospect, but we thought it would be useful to explain a little more about what happens if you do, given the importance of this service to members.
Working with children, public authorities, governors, councillors and other stakeholders comes with unique challenges, and Prospect has a wealth of experience advising members in education.
The first stage in a personal case is to gather as much information about the situation as possible. This might involve corresponding by email, a telephone conversation or meeting in person. Full-time officers will advise on possible options for resolving the matter but members must maintain ownership of their own cases.
To assist the officer, they might keep a diary of events (noting what happened when and how it made them feel, and naming any possible witnesses), provide copies of relevant procedures and other correspondence (including a draft of their grievance letter or their response to any allegation made against them) and describe what they might consider a satisfactory outcome.
Plan a strategy
This will focus first, wherever possible, on finding informal resolutions to the problem, but will also map out a plan to escalate the matter should this not yield the desired result.
We manage cases in confidence and, if there is an issue with a conflict of interests, such as between two Prospect members for example, we will ensure that different officers provide support from different offices.
If a case requires formal representation, such as at a disciplinary or grievance hearing, the officer will work with the member to achieve the best possible outcome. This may include:
- meeting with the member before the formal hearing to agree on a strategy (defend or mitigate or identify factual issues) and discuss what would constitute a satisfactory outcome
- going over all documents relevant to the case and formulating responses and arguments
- agreeing who will speak about particular aspects of the case and reminding the member of the right to request adjournments
- accompanying the member to the hearing/meeting.
According to the Employment Relations Act 1999, workers have a statutory right to be accompanied by a fellow worker or trade union representative at disciplinary and grievance hearings.
The full-time officer will help to present the case, but cannot answer questions on the member’s behalf. It may be valuable, depending on the case, for the member to present as much of the case in their own words as possible.
Prospect officers have a wealth of experience and can help to shape the outcome by advising on precedent, best practice and employment law. The officer will also be monitoring if the hearing is being held in a fair and reasonable way, and will be prepared to speak up on your behalf to challenge the employer if it isn’t.
Judging the outcome
At the end of a formal procedure, the full-time officer will help to assess the outcome – advising on possible appeals and legal remedies if the hearing has not brought about the desired outcome, or, if it has, working to build on the success by implementing new workplace practices and recruiting new members.
Would you like to help other members?
In addition to full-time officers, Prospect’s workplace representatives are often involved in all stages of supporting members with personal cases. Please get in touch with your regional full-time officer if this is something that interests you. Prospect provides a full range of support, including training courses, guidance and mentoring.
What to do if you need help with a problem at work
The first step is to contact your local workplace representative to discuss the issue. If you don’t know who your rep is, call Prospect’s Member Contact Centre on 0300 600 1878 from 8.30am to 7pm from Monday to Friday, or email email@example.com, to find out.