Longer-standing members will recall a spate of overpayments being made to staff at WSCC – and particularly in schools – a few years ago which were then reclaimed from pay without notice, putting members into great hardship. UNISON fought long and hard for members so-affected, and often with success. On one occasion we even led the BBC TV local news broadcast highlighting an overpayment that had caused much suffering.
Things have quietened down on that front, but at the end of last year we had two cases come into the office of adult services’ social workers who had been overpaid by the council to a great extent. One of these was an overpayment made over many years of £17,000. Our member bore absolutely no blame for this overpayment and nor could they have been expected to know about it.
UNISON has been supporting our members since, and neither case is yet resolved, for different reasons. The council has expected our members to pay back the sums overpaid in full, knowing this would effectively give one member a 28-year debt repayment plan!
This would not be reasonable behaviour of any employer, let alone a county council that has aspirations to be an employer of choice. UNISON is aware that other employers would be much more flexible, and it is flexibility and reasonableness which has been missing from the WSCC approach so far. Our member is pursuing a grievance with UNISON support in order for common sense to prevail and for WSCC to learn from other employers how it might approach such situations.
You can imagine the upset and stress this situation has caused our members, with neither situation yet resolved after nine months. We will keep you updated.