The British Association of Social Workers looks set to mount a
legal challenge against five councils which refuse to allow the
organisation to represent its members at disciplinary meetings,
writes Sally Gillen.
The move follows a long-running case involving a former hospital
care manager who approached BASW for help after suffering
work-related injury while an employee Kent council, but was told
the council did not recognise BASW.
Director of BASW Ian Johnston said: “The problem is these
authorities are interpreting the ACAS guidelines in a very narrow
way. We are currently seeking legal advice on how to prevent them
doing this under the Human Rights Act, which says you are entitled
to be accompanied to meetings by whoever you choose.”
Guidance issued by ACAS states that an individual may be
accompanied to disciplinary meetings by a friend, colleague or
trade union. BASW is a professional organisation.
Johnston said the organisation had considered registering as a
trade union to eradicate the problem, but had decided against it
because it did not hold any other trade union functions.
Meanwhile, the former hospital manager, who does not wish to be
named, has written to BASW demanding seven years’ worth of
contributions to be refunded, claiming it was not made clear to her
that BASW could not represent her in disciplinary proceedings.
“I have also suggested that they should write to each new member
telling them if they cannot represent them. If I had known that
they wouldn’t be able to help I would have joined a trade
union,” she said.
But Johnston said: “We make no pretence of being a trade union
and every new member is sent a brochure explaining the limits of
our advisory service. We will not refund this person’s money
because contributions pay for many other things, not just the
He added: “I don’t accept that our service has been
The four other councils that do not allow BASW to be involved in
disciplinary proceedings are Ealing, Harrow, Croydon and