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Legal qualifications of union caseworkers?

Discussion in 'Workplace dilemmas' started by yirg, Apr 9, 2012.

  1. As the title says really.
    What, if any, legal qualifications do union caseworkers have?
     
  2. Well in my limited experience, I think union caseworkers are expected to carry heavy caseloads with no proper legal qualification. When a particular case reaches the point of requiring a legal opinion, if the member has survived that long, the casworkers simply refers it to the in-house solciitor whose default opinion is get a CA on any terms offered by the employer. Next...
    I might be wrong.
     
  3. I was told by my union that my case worker gave legal advice about a CA agreement and i could not have the advice from a union solicitor. I found myself unable to accept the CA for this reason. I was told that If my position was where the union thought I could benefit from legal advice, I would have to apply for legal aid from the union in order to speak to a solicitor.
     
  4. Rott Weiler

    Rott Weiler Star commenter Forum guide

    An online CA website says:
    ".... it is a legal requirement that you get professional advice on what the agreement means. It is also a legal requirement that your adviser signs the agreement to confirm that advice has been given. According to the Employment Rights (Dispute Resolution) Act 1998, that advice can only be given by a qualified lawyer, a qualified trade union official, or a qualified advice centre worker, all of whom must be covered by an appropriate certificate of indemnity insurance. A solicitor will advise you if the terms offer you the correct protection and should also advise you if you are being offered a suitable amount of compensation."
    It doesn't explain what "qualified" means, but presumably it doesn't mean they need to be a solicitor.
     
  5. Yup that's the problem, can't find out what qualified means. I'm beyond going for a CA and from the few communications I've had I seem to know more about the legal side than he does. Doesn't inspire much confidence.
     
  6. Rott Weiler

    Rott Weiler Star commenter Forum guide

    I don't know if this will help you with your problem yirg, but I went back and looked at the Employment Rights (Dispute Resolution) Act 1998 and it doesn't use the word qualifed but says the advice must be from "a relevant independent adviser " and that there must be in force a "contract of insurance, or an indemnity provided for members of a profession or professional body" covering the risk of a claim against the independent adviser -
    http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1998/8/section/9#commentary-c1182880
    Then in the Schedules to the Act it goes on to give a definition of "relevant independent advisor":
    "(3A) A person is a relevant independent adviser for the purposes of subsection (3)(c)- (a) if he is a qualified lawyer,
    (b) if he is an officer, official, employee or member of an independent trade union who has been certified in writing by the trade union as competent to give advice and as authorised to do so on behalf of the trade union,
    (c) if he works at an advice centre (whether as an employee or a volunteer) and has been certified in writing by the centre as competent to give advice and as authorised to do so on behalf of the centre, or
    (d) if he is a person of a description specified in an order made by the Secretary of State.
    (3B) But a person is not a relevant independent adviser for the purposes of subsection (3)(c) in relation to the employee or worker-
    (a) if he is, is employed by or is acting in the matter for the employer or an associated employer,
    (b) in the case of a person within subsection (3A)(b) or (c), if the trade union or advice centre is the employer or an associated employer,
    (c) in the case of a person within subsection (3A)(c), if the employee or worker makes a payment for the advice received from him, or
    (d) in the case of a person of a description specified in an order under subsection (3A)(d), if any condition specified in the order in relation to the giving of advice by persons of that description is not satisfied."
     
  7. Rott Weiler

    Rott Weiler Star commenter Forum guide


    [Sorry, got timed out by TES before I could complete post above]

    So essentially the union certifies and authorises its own caseworkers as competent to advise on CAs, and nothing says that those criteria have to include any formal professional legal qualification. It looks as if it can decide its own criteria and procedures for certifying its caseworkers although as a member of the union presumably you could ask what those criteria and procedures are.
     
  8. Thank you so much Rott Weiler, that does seem to answer my question. It was as I suspected.
     
  9. To answer the OP question - none. And none is needed, Most caseworkers, whether full-time union officials or lay caseworkers have a range of training - ranging from a short course to more extensive courses. All unions have links to employment specialists from a firm of solicitors who make final decisions as to whether legal requirements have been met. In practice all CAs are handled by regional/national officials who broad brush and then send them for precise wording to the lawyers, Depending on how competent the local caseworker is, they can sometimes negotiate with HR the key elements, such as how many months' pay, and the wording of agreed references, before the CA would then be formalised by the full-time officials before it gets legal approval by the union solicitor. CAs should always contain a sum of money (typically about £350) to enable the teacher to seek independent legal advice before it becomes a binding agreement, Similarly the HR staff at the LA will refer their copy to their legal team for approval.
     
  10. Thank you for your input Siegen81to82.

    I hadn't mentioned school reps because there isn't one in many small schools.

    Also just to reiterate not everyone in a situation where they need support from their union wants out with a CA.
     
  11. Just to clarify an earlier postings about caseworker training. There are different levels. It depends on how much training is done, I took five training courses, for example. A school rep's first course would typically be an introduction to resolving disputes at the lowest level. More courses would build on accumulated experience. There are courses on specialist topics such such as redundancy, and advocacy techniques, for example. Access to the legal literature and employment case law is also available. And don't forget the maxim that lawyers don't necessarily know more about the law - but they do know where to look for it.
     
  12. Crowbob

    Crowbob Established commenter

    Do you really believe that? It is much more than "knowing where to look for it". It is UNDERSTANDING the technical language and principles.
     
  13. I don't normally get embroiled in the finer points but I have to disagree with Crowbob - the key is that law is a combination of the statutes themselves plus case law - the interpretations by judges in stated cases (aka precedents) - it is these published law reports that are absolutely crucial - much more so than the original legal wording - and knowing which judge said what is absolutely indispensable because it shows how the law has been interpreted in practice. A good example is the recent Supreme Court ruling that a teacher is not entitled to legal representation at a disciplinary hearing, Google that and you see find dozens of 2-3 paragraph summaries. But the original is 100 pages of legal interpretations.
     
  14. Crowbob

    Crowbob Established commenter

    Feel free....
    and European Union law sources....
    Not every interpretation of law has precedential value. This is particularly true in tribunals that mainly have only persuasive value.
    I don't doubt it. However, you seem to be labouring under a misapprehension. I didn't say that judicial authority is not important. Judges often use technical, legalistic language that can be difficult to understand. Lawyers are (generally) better at explaining and understanding legal concepts than a layperson.
    And? I don't see how this is linked to my point? Even understanding how different precedents fit together is a legal skill.
    Anything from the Supreme Court is something of a rarity. I don't doubt that a union rep can apply that particular judgment with ease. However, when one moves from the rare to the usual, it is much less clear. Whether there has been an unfair dismissal in a particular case is better assessed by a trained legal person than a lay person. Not because the lawyer "knows where the law is" but because they will be likely to better understand the application of law to fact.
     
  15. In my (admittedly) very limited experience my case was dealt with by the local rep, who passed it on to the regional rep when it became too complicated for her training (which she was very honest about) and was then passed on to the union solicitor when regional rep felt that legal advice (that she was honest about not having) was needed. The case is still with the solicitor but I feel like the chain of command has been followed very competently by caseworkers who know their limits.
     
  16. That is reassuring.
     
  17. Hi Virg,

    I was just wondering what route you were taking as you mentioned you weren't going for a CA. I'm just interetsed in what options there are.

    Thanks and good luck with it all
     

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