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What help can I get with a problem at work

This advice applies to Scotland

This information applies to Scotland only

What is the problem at work

The help that you can get for a problem at work depends on what the problem is. If it is about an issue that you feel you can talk to your line manager about you may not need help.

More information about sorting out your problem may help you to decide if you need outside help, see What to do if there’s a problem at work.

Trade Unions

If you're a member of a trade union, you should contact it to ask if it can help with your problem at work, before trying to find help elsewhere. There might be a union representative in your workplace, or you might need to contact your local branch.

You can find out more about your rights at work and as member of a union, and how to contact your union on the Worksmart website at www.worksmart.org.uk.

Can I get help with an employment tribunal case?

Thinking about making a claim to an employment tribunal can be scary. Many people find it helpful to get some advice before they take action.

You can get legal aid under the ABWOR scheme (Assistance by Way of Representation) which means you can be represented at the tribunal by a solicitor.

The Scottish Legal Aid Board must approve each ABWOR application individually. It will decide about your case based on whether it is reasonable that the issue should go to a tribunal and if you could represent yourself given the possible complexity of the case .

You cannot apply for civil legal aid because civil legal aid is not available for representation at an employment tribunal.

What's the difference between an adviser and a representative?

You can get the help of an adviser and someone who can represent you from a Citizens Advice Bureau.

An adviser is someone who can help you with your case in one to one interviews. Usually, the adviser won't talk directly to your employer or formally represent you.

A representative is someone who will be named on the tribunal claim form. They will take responsibility for the preparation of your case and act as your representative in the tribunal. Usually, you'll also have to speak at the tribunal to give your evidence but you should get lots of help to do this before the tribunal.

All contact about your case will go to your representative, and they will get in touch with you when they need to. If you're going away, for example on holiday, you must tell your representative.

If you have an adviser rather than a representative, the preparation of your case is your responsibility but your adviser is there to help you. You must keep in contact with your adviser, particularly when you receive anything from the tribunal. As you sometimes have to do things within a time limit don't put off contacting your adviser about any letters, emails or phone calls you get about your case, for example from the tribunal or your employer’s representative .

When you get a date for your hearing, you should contact your adviser immediately. If you leave it until just before the hearing, your adviser may not be able to help you make your final preparations.

There is more information about preparing for you tribunal case, see Preparing an employment tribunal case.

Adviser Representative
  • provides advice and explanations about the process
  • helps you to prepare your case
  • assists with organising papers
  • may work through witness information with you
  • works as a support regarding times and dates
  • deals with your case for you
  • prepares your case
  • submits any documents to the tribunal
  • copies all documents to you
  • keeps you up to date on all aspects of the case
  • takes instructions from you
  • attends the tribunal on your behalf if you want
  • acts as the main contact about your case for the tribunal service
  • explains the tribunal outcome and any options you may have

Help from a solicitor

You may have to pay for help from a solicitor, or it may be possible to get free help. There are various different ways a solicitor can be paid for, so it's worth looking into whether any of these could apply to you. You can get legal aid under the ABWOR scheme to have representation from a solicitor at an employment tribunal – see under the heading Can I get help with an employment tribunal case?.

Insurance policies

Some insurance policies include legal cover. This means you might be able to get a solicitor, and sometimes specialist representation, paid for by your insurance company. Check your household insurance, car insurance and any other policies you have, including policies attached to credit cards and mobile phones, or contact your insurance company to find out if you’re covered.

If you can't afford to pay for a solicitor, you may be able to apply for legal aid. Whether you will get it depends on how much you earn, how much capital like savings and property you have and what sort of case you've got, see Help with legal costs.

No win, no fee agreements

If you can't afford to pay for a solicitor and you can't get legal aid you may be able to find a solicitor who will take your case on a no win no fee basis. If you win or settle your case, you will normally pay up to a quarter of your compensation to your solicitor. If you're paying for a solicitor in this way, make sure you check your agreement with them carefully at the beginning, so that you're clear about what you're paying.

To find out more about settling an employment tribunal claim, see Understanding Acas and settlements.

Finding your own solicitor if you have to pay

If you have to find your own solicitor check who is available in your area with the Law Society of Scotland, particularly if you need specialist advice

For more information about finding and using a solicitor, see Using a solicitor.

Further help

You may have to write a letter to start solve your problem. Please see our guidance on how to write a letter [ 46 kb].

A bureau may not be able to help you unless you have all the important documents with you. Please see our guidance on what to bring to a bureau.

Citizens Advice Bureau

Your local Citizens Advice Bureau should be able to give you some help with your employment problem or employment tribunal claim.

Citizens Advice Bureaux provide free, confidential and independent advice from over 3,000 locations including in bureaux, GP surgeries, hospitals, colleges, prisons and courts. Advice is available face-to-face and by telephone. Some bureaux also offer email advice. If you need someone to visit you at home, contact your local bureau to see if they can arrange this.

There might be differences in the help local Citizens Advice Bureaux can give you. Some may be able to give you advice, and others may be able to offer you representation. Your local Citizens Advice Bureau will be able to tell you what help it can offer you and redirect you to the best place to assist you if it cannot help.

In some cases the CAB may be able to organise specialist legal help for you to be represented if no other help is available - where to get advice.

Law Centres

A Law Centre may be able to offer you free, independent legal advice and representation. They focus on providing legal advice to people who find it difficult to get advice or who are experiencing discrimination. You can find more information on the Scottish Association of Law Centres website at www.govanlc.com/salc.htm.

Advice agencies

There may be independent or not-for-profit advice agencies in your area that can help with your employment problem. You can look in your phone book or you can contact the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations who can provide information about charitable advice agencies. You can find more information about the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations at www.scvo.org.uk.

Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS)

There is more information about ACAS at Understanding Acas and settlements. It may be useful to read that before contacting ACAS but the contact details are here for your convenience.

Acas can provide confidential and independent advice to help you sort out your employment dispute. You can get advice by calling their helpline or looking on their website.

Telephone: 0300 123 1100 (Monday-Friday, 8am-8pm and Saturday, 9am-1pm)
Next Generation Text (NGT) Service (text relay): 18001 0300 123 1100
Website: www.acas.org.uk

Equality Advisory Support Service (EASS)

The Equality Advisory Support Service (EASS) helpline is for people who may have experienced discrimination in employment, housing, education, transport and all other goods and services in England, Wales and Scotland. It also covers human rights. It is not for employers, service providers or educators. It supports individuals referred from advice agencies and other community organisations. Individuals can call the helpline directly, but it is preferable that they go to an advice agency first. The helpline will explain what the law says and how it applies and explain how a situation could be resolved. It will not provide legal advice or representation, or advise on the strength of a case.

Telephone helpline: 0808 800 0082 (Monday to Friday 9am to 8pm, Saturday 10am to 2pm)
Text users: 0808 800 0084
Website: www.equalityadvisoryservice.com

Employment Tribunal Public Enquiry Line

The Employment Tribunal Public Enquiry Line can provide answers to queries, and explain how the employment tribunal system works. They don't give legal advice. You can also find out information about the employment tribunal service on their website.

Telephone: 0845 795 9775
Minicom: 0845 757 3722
Website: www.employmenttribunals.gov.uk

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