If you are experiencing problems at work, there are a number of things you can do. Some are relevant to all situations, others are more specific. Use your judgement to select the right course for you. Given the heavy casework burden we are currently facing, we strongly enourage you to follow the steps below in order. Often you will be able to find reassurance by following the steps below yourself – it is not always necessary to contact a union representative. We are still available to help if you cannot find a solution.
Understand the College’s policies and your rights
This applies to everyone but particularly if you are facing serious workplace issues.
- The College has many internal policies on the treatment of staff known as ‘codes of practice’, supported by various ‘key concept’ documents (see the HR intranet page here – QM login required if viewing off-campus). There are separate codes governing probation, redundancy, redeployment, and so on. Downloading and reading the policies relevant to your situation is the first thing you should do. They explain what the College should be doing and how you can be expected to be treated. Management can and should be held to these policies – because they do not always follow them as they ought to. Some poorly trained managers may even be unaware that the policies exist.
- Understand your legal rights in the workplace. There are useful online guides from the Citizens Advice Bureau and the TUC. The Advice and Conciliation Service (ACAS) has some very helpful online guides (including a very good one on redundancy) and a useful (free) helpline that can answer questions on employment law – call 08457 47 47 47.
Speak to your colleagues
It’s important to avoid becoming or feeling isolated when you’re having trouble at work. Identify colleagues you can trust and discuss your problems. This can be particularly useful for identifying instances of unequal treatment, e.g. where you are being asked to perform duties or meet targets that others at your level are not.
Recourse is a charitable organisation supported by UCU which complements the work of the union by providing free support services, including information, advice, telephone counselling, online coaching and hardship assistance. It deals with things ranging from stress, workload and bullying in the workplace to work-related personal issues like relationship issues and financial management.
Speak to your departmental UCU representative
Some departments have their own local representatives (see here; committee members also function as local reps). Department reps can answer basic queries about workplace problems, provide advice on straightforward issues, and get guidance on more complex matters.
Contact the branch casework coordinator
If you are having serious difficulties – e.g. you have concerns about job security, are facing a performance review or disciplinary, are being made redundant, etc – and you want guidance and/or union representation at meetings, contact the casework coordinator: firstname.lastname@example.org. They will direct your query to the committee member best-placed to help. If you have a serious issue, you should contact us as soon as possible. If you leave it to the last moment, it may be too late for us to offer meaningful assistance.
Please remember that UCU representatives do casework on top of full-time jobs and their time is very stretched. Also please note that joining UCU on Monday and asking for representation on a Tuesday may well not receive a favourable response given the current casework load. The union is an organisation for solidarity and mutual help, not an insurance or service provider.