UCU SHU branch – how we support members with problems

1. UCU routinely helps members with individual problems arising from their employment at Sheffield Hallam University. The range of problems experienced is wide and includes, for example, bullying, disciplinary action, renewal of fixed term contracts, promotion and career development, study leave, research facilities, performance, and harassment.

2. Members are strongly encouraged to contact SHU UCU as early as possible. Rapid referral to UCU can nip a problem in the bud, whereas if matters are allowed to develop without UCU intervention it may become too late for effective intervention.

3. In particular, any member who is asked to attend a meeting for disciplinary reasons with management should immediately alert SHU UCU. It is our strong advice that they only attend such a meeting in the presence of a UCU rep. However, the final decision on whether to be accompanied is up to the member.

4. Members seeking assistance should contact the SHU UCU administrator at ucu@shu.ac.uk

5. Members are advised that, should they find themselves present at meetings where serious issues relating to their performance or conditions of work arise unexpectedly, they should immediately ask for time to seek UCU or other advice.

6. Members are also advised to make their own record, at the time, of any work related incidents or developments which give grounds for concern.

7. UCU SHU branch is able to provide representation and casework assistance to members who have an issue that has occurred whilst they are a member. The branch is not normally able to provide representation or casework assistance to members who have only joined the union once the problem has become apparent. Exceptional help may be given to a late joiner if:
– the member of staff has been in post for less than 3 month or has only recently become eligible to join UCU
– the problem is one that SHU UCU committee believes should be pursued in the general interests of all members.
Please note: late joiners may still access other UCU services such as the Education Support Partnership and website resources.

8. Cases will normally be referred to a caseworker. Caseworkers are local UCU officers and reps who have normally undertaken training about handling personal cases. The Casework Coordinator allocates caseworkers, assisted by Casework Assistants and Branch Administrator.

9. Most cases are dealt with by liaison between the caseworker, the member, and SHU. Exceptionally, the caseworker may recommend that a serious case should be forwarded to the UCU Regional Office under the terms of UCU’s national legal protection scheme.
In the rare cases where legal advice is required, this will be obtained by the caseworker in discussion with UCU Regional Office. Please see UCU’s regulations for legal advice.

10. Personal cases are kept strictly confidential to the Casework Coordinator, Casework Assistant and Branch Administrator (or officers covering administration) and those caseworkers (UCU officers and reps) to whom they refer the case. Material relating to individuals held by SHU UCU is deemed to be held by the National UCU as far as the Data Protection Act is concerned and not by SHU. General issues involved in personal cases may be reported to the UCU Committee or UCU membership, but, except with the expressed permission of the member concerned, this will be anonymised.

11. SHU has formal procedures to resolve disputes. Experience has shown that cases may often be resolved informally but in some circumstances a more satisfactory outcome can be obtained by using the formal procedures. Members will be advised accordingly; however, the decision on which course of action to adopt rests unambiguously with the member concerned.

12. Advice is given to members on the understanding that:
• members will reveal all relevant facts to their caseworker
• they will consult their caseworker before communicating with management
• if they seek additional help outside SHU UCU this should be done with the knowledge and support of their caseworker. If this is not done then UCU reserves the right to withdraw support at this point
• they will provide such documentation as the caseworker requests.
Relevant documentation typically includes a CV, a chronology of recent events, and supporting documents. A case commencement form is normally required at the outset to enable the caseworker to make informed recommendations about how to proceed. Failure to comply with these conditions, which are essential if UCU is to give its best advice to members, may lead to the withdrawal of the support of UCU.

13. Members who are not happy with their caseworker should inform the Branch Administrator.

14. Disputes can arise between UCU members in which both parties seek the assistance of the UCU.  SHU UCU can provide both parties with union representation and support.

15. Members should be aware that caseworkers drawn from the Branch are volunteers with a limited number of hours allocated to union business, and acting in conjunction with the duties of their day job. Therefore there are limits on the total amount of time that they are able to devote to any one case. In particular, once a problem has been resolved, the responsibility of the caseworker is at an end.
Should a new problem arise, the member should contact SHU UCU office afresh at UCU@shu.ac.uk, and not the original caseworker.

16. Though care has been taken in drafting this information, it may be that it conflicts, or will in the future conflict, with National UCU advice on personal cases and legal aid. In all such cases, National UCU advice, current at the time, shall take precedence.