English Español

How and when to open a case

We want to make sure that we can support our members when they have difficulties at work. IWGB has an impressive track record of winning cases and restoring our members’ dignity and respect. To open a case with the Legal Department, please complete the Casework Form.

To make sure that we have enough time and resources to represent all our members effectively, there are rules you need to follow in order to get help with a case. This is common in most unions. We have put together this guidance to help you know what to do when you need help from IWGB.

Contact us as soon as you can

If you remember nothing else, remember this: as soon as you have a problem you need to contact us. You must let us know as soon as you think you have a case. For example, this could be as soon as an incident occurs such as a manager threatening you with a disciplinary, or as soon as you get a letter from your industry regulator informing you of a meeting or investigation. There are strict time limits on when you can bring a case or when legal cases can be lodged. Your case may not be taken if you don’t give us enough notice.

Be aware of time limits

There are strict time limits and deadlines on some legal proceedings, and our staff and caseworkers also need enough notice to be able to adequately prepare and help you. We have thousands of members and deal with hundreds of cases every month. You should follow the advice above about contacting us as soon as you have an idea that there is a problem you need our help with.

Whilst we understand that in exceptional circumstances you may have very little notice of an issue, in general the following time limits apply when you need help from our Legal Department:

  • We aim to formally open a case, if it meets our criteria, within 10 days of your contacting us. For all non-urgent cases please be prepared to wait up to 10 business days for us to contact you. We do screen cases so if there is an emergency, we will aim to respond sooner.
  • For licensing appeals, we require you to contact us at least two weeks prior to your appeal hearing date.
  • For tribunal and other court cases, we require you to contact us a minimum of four weeks before the deadline to submit the case.

We can’t help with pre-existing cases

IWGB is first and foremost a members’ organisation: we exist to empower and help members, not the general public. To make sure we have capacity to give existing members the high-quality support they expect from IWGB, our rule is that we won’t provide help for a case that began before you joined the union, or one that arises within the first two months of joining.

If you’re not sure what the situation is for you, please contact us. We want to help you, and we can at least make clear whether or not you can get representation from our staff or officials. We have policies which help define what a ‘case’ is and what ‘pre-existing’ means in different employment scenarios.

Does this mean it’s not worth joining IWGB? Definitely not! Our experience is that most people experience problems at work from time to time. If you’re an existing member with over two months’ standing, you’re entitled to the full range of support we can provide for your situation. We have a phenomenal success rate in members’ cases. We want to help you. Join today.

We need your help in order to help you

Information about the facts of a case and documentary proof is crucial to winning cases, particularly legal cases. So we need you to respond promptly to our requests for contact and information from you and to cooperate with us throughout the case. Please note that the following applies to Legal Department cases:

  • When you contact us to ask for help with a case, we will make three attempts to contact you on separate days. If you do not respond, your case will not be opened.
  • Once your case is open, we need you to respond to our requests for information from you within 48 hours of our call or message. If you repeatedly don’t respond, we may close your case.
  • If we request documents or evidence from you, you must send them to us within a reasonable timeframe, as discussed with our staff. This is because, sometimes, cases will be rejected by the courts or by employers if certain documents are missing. This rule is to help ensure that this doesn’t happen to you.
  • We need you to be honest with us. It may impact our ability to help you if we don’t have all the facts.

Prospects of success

IWGB is different to many unions because we are more willing to support members to take forward legal cases against their employers and regulators. If we think you can win a legal claim, we are committed to supporting you.

Legal cases are expensive, time-consuming and very stressful for the person at the centre of them. Most of our budget for legal work comes from members’ fees, so we have to allocate our members’ money responsibly and we also take seriously our duty of care towards you. If your case is proceeding down a legal route, we will assess the facts to decide whether or not it has a reasonable prospect of success.

If your case is more likely to lose, we will be honest with you about that and then we will close your case. You are still entitled to take the case forward on your own and to have access to all of your documents to facilitate that. Please contact us to request that if this ever affects you.

Important note

This guidance came into effect from August 2020 and was valid at the time of writing, but it does not replace or supersede union policy. In all circumstances, current union policy will be the deciding rule. You can read our constitution and rulebook, and associated policies, here.