December 2014 marked the end of an era for Voice, with the retirement of solicitor David Brierley and pensions specialist Sheila Barnes. David and Sheila joined the staff in 1984 and 1987 respectively.
We asked them to talk about their work…
What were your best moments?
David: There’ve been so many outstanding moments that I’ve been lucky to be part of and so many occasions when we’ve had the opportunity to be a real help to members in sometimes awful situations.
Sheila: Every phone call presents an opportunity to help a member. When casework I’m pursuing is successful – whether that’s a compensation claim, a pension complaint or being able to help a member identify a way forward – and I hear the relief over the phone, that’s a real privilege.
What are your predictions for 2015?
Sheila: We’re in the final stages of the biggest changes in public service pensions for years. There’ll be challenges for members, who’ll need to understand their pension arrangements more than ever.
The most important message I can give is to keep salary slips, because errors are unlikely to be corrected without them.
The other significant change is to the way personal injury claims are funded and dealt with, effectively making claims less likely to be pursued. When members were assaulted by pupils, it was always possible to pursue compensation through the Criminal Injury Compensation Authority (CICA). Unfortunately, the rules have changed and now an employee must report the assault to the police before a claim will be considered, so members need to be aware of this.
David: The future of employment tribunals is uncertain. The combination of tribunal fees and Acas Early Conciliation has had a significant impact on the number of claims. Fees are a backwards step, but Early Conciliation is an opportunity to settle potential claims, and the early signs are encouraging.
[Extracts from a longer interview for the Janaury 2015 Your Voice.]