The highest numbers of employment tribunal cases that are initiated each year are for unfair dismissal, unauthorised deduction of wages and breach of contract.
Employment advice workers generally have their expertise called upon in cases of redundancy, constructive dismissal, equal opportunities, disciplinary procedures and low pay. Duties range from interviewing clients, assessing problems and writing reports, to mediating on clients’ behalf and providing legal representation at court cases and tribunals. Other responsibilities include:
- keeping records and information
- interpreting legislation, explaining contracts and other official documents
- researching cases
- determining appropriate courses of action
- keeping employment legislation knowledge up-to-date.
Referral to and liaison with other relevant organisations (particularly employers, recruitment agencies, solicitors and trade unions) are key features of the work. Some advice workers (where resources permit) may provide help and support to job seekers – offering career counselling, CV preparation, interview practice etc. The people helped can often be in crisis situations, which can make the work stressful and emotionally demanding.
Most employment advice workers are employed by general community advice centres, law centres, voluntary/charitable organisations and dedicated employment advice centres. Opportunities also arise occasionally with low pay units, equal opportunities organisations and trade unions.
Vacancies are advertised in local, regional and national newspapers, in the Adviser magazine, on the Citizens Advice website and in AdviceUK.
Previous relevant voluntary work experience is essential prior to entry into the profession. This can be gained by helping in a local advice centre, citizens advice bureau or students union welfare office. The small numbers of permanent salaried vacancies that arise normally attract strong competition. Consequently, most people enter and often remain within the profession as volunteers, or are employed on short-term contracts. Personality and relevant experience are usually more important than qualifications, although a degree in law, counselling, guidance, psychology, education, social/community work, public administration or social sciences can be helpful.
Resourcefulness and good verbal and written communication skills are essential, as is a mature, confident, caring and patient manner.