Most new staff are on probation, which means even open-ended contract can be precarious, until probation is deemed successfully passed. Some examples of casework in this area:
- Member told has failed probation and will lose job. Casework done, probation plan extended and then successfully completed.
- Member told probation will be extended. Casework done, appeal successful and probation completed immediately.
- Member told probation will be extended. Casework done, appeal unsuccessful, but work on supporting member though extended plan done and probation completed after extension.
- Collective win – after experience from such cases, improvements made to probation policy.
Staff can be sacked for gross misconduct, and naturally staff facing such allegations are very concerned. Examples of casework in this area:
- Member facing student complaint. Casework to support member explaining what did and did not take place, investigation of case concluded that there is no case to answer.
- Member facing complaint from member of staff they manage. Casework to support member and complaint not upheld.
- Member facing complaint from another member of staff. Supported member through grievance process against them, to point where they were able to negotiate (acceptable to them, including financial terms and agreed reference) severance package (rather than continuing to fight and risking being sacked with nothing).
- Member facing allegation of potential criminal conduct. Member supported, did lose job, but university did not pursue case further.
Some members are placed on performance improvement processes, which could ultimately lead to them losing their jobs for unsatisfactory performance
- Member facing panel hearing. Assisted member make their case, which lead to case against them being completely dropped and action plan given to their manager.
- Member facing performance improvement process, supported through process until completed successfully.
- Member facing performance improvement process, supported through process until member decided to take a voluntary severance package.
- Collective win – after experience from such cases, improvements made to performance improvement policy.
Many members jobs are put at risk, either through precarious contracts, or through open-ended roles being redefined or removed. Examples of casework in this area:
- Member with years of fixed-term contracts transferred onto open-ended contract.
- Member with fixed-term contract coming to an end being helped to gain an extension of a year.
- Members at risk during restructure supported to make counter-proposal which meant fewer jobs being lost.
- Member concerned new role was setting them up to fail supported to gain clarity and more details on new role to point where they were able to accept it.
- Members facing downgrades of roles supported to maintain current grade (either permanently, or for a fixed period) rather than immediate drop in income.
Injury, illness, ill-health, disability
Some members become vulnerable to management deciding that they can no longer do their job.
- Member injured at work, supported by caseworker initially, then UCU nationally (with specialist barrister) and sizable financial settlement.
- Member facing terminal illness, wishing to keep working and supported to do so until they could leave on their terms, and supported to receive ill health retirement benefits.
- Members assisted to work with Occupational health to received reasonable adjustments or other improvements to their working conditions so that they could continue to work.
- Collective win – after experience from such cases, university persuaded to sign up to TUC Dying to Work for better consideration of staff with terminal illness.
Why don’t we win them all?
Sometimes a case comes down to a dispute between two of members. While we can support both (with different caseworkers), sometimes it is a zero-sum game in terms of outcome – both sides cannot win, but on other occasions we can improve the process for all.
In some cases, our member is simply in the wrong.
In some cases, we have a moral/ethical case, but employment law and/or university policies are not sufficiently supportive. Hence work on university policies through the Joint Staff Negotiating and Consultative Committee (JSNCC) remains of great importance.
Owen Lyne, branch secretary