How the Advice & Representation Service Works

What we do

Our Trade Union Officials provide advice and guidance on a wide range of employment law matters and on fitness to practice processes with the 4 UK social work regulators.  

We support you to deal with issues from the small and easily resolved, to those that are more significant and prolonged.  By receiving early advice we may help you to prevent a difficult situation from escalating.  

When the employment process becomes formal or when the fitness to practise process moves to the hearing stage, the team may provide representation and support for eligible members in what can be a complex or challenging situation.   

SWU works with the British Association of Social Workers (BASW) to deliver the service.

We believe that by working together, SWU and BASW are providing the best protection and best advice for social workers from people who are qualified in social work.

Recognition by Employers

As a union, and unlike a professional association, SWU can guarantee the legal entitlement of representation in employers’ hearings.

It is important to note that, if you are a member of BASW but not SWU, whilst we are able to represent you as BASW members only, some employers will not let BASW represent in their organisation. Employers are legally allowed to do this. However, they are not legally allowed to deny access to a SWU trade union official for grievances and disciplinary proceedings. Section 10 of the Employment Rights Act 1999 creates a statutory right for a worker to be accompanied by a fellow worker or trade union official of their choice during grievance and disciplinary procedures.

Employment Work

Our Trade Union Officials in the A&R Service provide representation at formal employment meetings.

If going through a formal employment process, a SWU member has the right to be represented by an Official of a Trade Union of their choice.

Here are just some of the issues we have helped members with recently:
  • Disciplinary and grievance procedures, including representation at internal hearings and appeals.
  • Issues around discrimination in employment. This is something we can provide advice upon and support you to take action.
  • Investigations into professional social work practice and allegations of misconduct.
  • Representation at the later stages of the absence management processes.
  • Representation through probation and performance processes.
  • In certain circumstances where social work students have placement difficulties – including situations where the placement is breaking down or has broken down.
  • Referral to solicitors for assessment of Employment Tribunal prospect, where our Trade Union Officers believe that there maybe a prospect of success.
  • Representation at Employment tribunals where our Solicitors assess that the case has a 51% or more chance of success.

Regulatory body work

The team provides advice and representation throughout fitness to practise proceedings with the nation’s four social work regulators: Social Work England, Social Care Wales, Scottish Social Services Council and Northern Ireland Social Care Council

Here are some of the issues that we have helped with members in regulatory proceedings:
  • Advice and guidance on initial statements
  • Advice and guidance on submissions and further statements
  • Representation at interim order hearings and review
  • Representation at full fitness to practise proceedings

Support for social workers by people who are qualified in social work

Each of our trade Union Officials are qualified in social work and fully understand the business of social work. This enables the team to provide skilled, supportive and nuanced advice and representation because we understand the social work environment. We understand casework pressures, complex decision-making processes and the pressures on social workers that can lead to mistakes. We understand the importance of reflection, supervision and the support that needs to be in place from employers for you to do a good job.

SWU is the only trade union to offer representation by an officer qualified in social work who understands the complexities of the profession. Someone who understands the competing demands placed upon you by your employer and the Code of Conduct.

We know how difficult it can be working under tremendous pressure to deliver effective services when the media portrayal of social workers is often unreasonable and unjust.  We understand the context in which you work and are able to use our specialist knowledge to advocate and negotiate on behalf of social workers, both individually and collectively within the trade union movement and with employers. 

SWU also recruits and trains workplace Union Contacts who promote membership and activism in workplaces, universities, and beyond.

Our Union officials

Unlike workplace union officials our officers are employed by BASW independently and do not work for employers. This ensures that officers can fight for rights and promote justice without fear of reprisals.

We have a good understanding of the complex issues that arise from poor working conditions and the impact of stretched resources and heavy workloads on social workers. 

We understand employment law, health and safety and the risks that social workers face in terms of abuse, and threats etc.

We can support social workers to talk to their employers about issues affecting them and advise on the processes they can follow.

Accessing the Service

Initial contact

If you have a workplace or regulatory body issue, please give us a call on 0121 6228413, click the “Contact the Advice and Representation team” blue button on the BASW website, or email us at Your initial contact will be with a member of our Initial Response Team (IRT), Amy Benton, Cheryl Jordaan, or Joanne Marciano. They will take the details of your problem or concern and wherever possible provide initial advice and direction. The team will also make an initial determination about your eligibility status.

Telephone Advice

If your issue cannot be resolved by the IRT and requires a more detailed conversation, you will be offered a telephone call with the duty officer, to take place within two working days. Each call is for a maximum of 20 minutes and requires you to give a brief synopsis of your situation to enable the duty officer to provide you with advice and guidance on your issue.


When your employment process is formal, the duty officer will make an initial determination about whether you are both eligible for and in need of representation. That is, whether your case requires a named officer or longer-term support.

How we represent you

You will be eligible for advice and representation after a one-month qualifying period. Please note that to qualify for advice and / or representation, the issue cannot have been a known pre-existing issue or active during this one-month qualifying period.

You will be entitled to representation or allocation where the employment process is in its formal stages and/or where a regulatory process is at a certain stage of the procedure.

If the duty officer has indicated that you may be entitled to representation, your case will be considered by the management team and a decision will be taken about whether your case meets the allocation criteria. We will let you know the decision in writing within 2 working days of your duty call.

There may be times when you will have to wait for your named representative to be allocated. If this is the case, we will keep you regularly updated with time scales. If you do experience a short delay in allocation, you will still be able to make use of our duty service.

If your employment is at immediate risk we will ensure that your case is prioritised.

Attendance at Meetings

Please be aware that we ask for a minimum of 10 days’ notice for our attendance at hearings. Whilst we do our best to accommodate earlier requests, we cannot guarantee our attendance. It is worthy of note that the legal minimum is 5 days’ notice, and most employers are willing to accommodate a later date for union representation to be secured.

We currently provide most representation remotely via digital platforms because this enables us to deliver a more far reaching, effective and efficient service to all our members. We have learned that online representation can be as helpful and valuable as face-to-face meetings, and surprisingly we find that representation remotely can often address the power imbalance innate in formal processes. Large face to face meetings can be difficult, especially when you are in the minority. Everyone being in a box on a screen could often be a great leveller.

However, we do recognise that this is not always the best approach for all our members. Therefore, in circumstances where your job is at risk or in complex hearings, we may be able to provide representative in person.

Guidance sheets for BASW/SWU members

The BASW / SWU Advice & Representation team has developed guidance sheets to support members across a wide range of employment law matters and on fitness to practice processes. 

The team created these documents to help you to resolve a current issue and to manage the immediate situation. They also support you to understand the processes involved and what to expect.

These guidance sheets are available to you from your first day of membership and can be accessed on the BASW website: