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Legal help

If you are a full member, student or career-break member, health care assistant or nurse cadet, you are entitled to legal advice and, in appropriate circumstances, representation on any matter of law that occurs in the course of your employment (save for assistance in personal injury claims where cover when not on duty is also provided - see more below).

What to do if you need help

If you find yourself in a situation that might require legal advice or representation, you should first contact RCN Direct or your local RCN steward or safety representative for advice. Your RCN regional office will have contact details.

The nature and extent of support you receive will depend on the circumstances of your case, and is entirely at the RCN's discretion. You may be advised and represented by a local RCN activist, assistant RCN officer, RCN officer, RCN legal officer or other solicitor appointed by the RCN.

The terms on which the RCN provides legal help are set out in On the case: advice, support and representation from the RCN (PDF 147KB), and in the client care letter which will be sent to you once the RCN agrees to take on your case.

For guidance on writing a statement, whatever the purpose, please see RCN Direct online advice guide: statement writing (PDF 631 KB).

Paying legal costs

Although you remain liable (that is, legally responsible) for your legal costs, the RCN may fully indemnify you in respect of that liability (that is, pay them for you) as long as you meet the RCN's conditions of representation.

If you choose not to use the RCN's legal services, and opt to instruct a solicitor privately, the RCN will not be responsible for your costs and generally will not take over the case where solicitors have corresponded for you, irrespective of the nature of the case. The RCN will generally not take over proceedings which have already been issued by you.

Getting legal support

The RCN reserves the right to decide, in each case, whether or not to provide legal support for a member and the extent of that support. For instance, the RCN will not support a claim where the chances of success in the judgment of our lawyers are 50 per cent or less. Further, the incidents giving rise to your legal case must have arisen when you were in membership of the RCN.

Personal injury compensation claims

With regard to any personal injury compensation claims, it is vital that you do not delay because court proceedings must be started within three years of the occurrence or knowledge of the injury. Following such an incident at work, or on the way to or from work, you should report the matter to your employer as soon as possible.

The scheme covers all personal injury claims, whether or not related to work, as long as the UK Courts have jurisdiction.  For further advice and information following an accident at work or for information on personal injury, please visit RCN Direct online advice.

Exceptions to legal cover

Please note that the RCN does not take on the following types of case:

  • libel or slander claims - however, the RCN has established a scheme with specialist defamation solicitors, Slater & Gordon Lawyers, to help individual members with libel or slander problems. Under the scheme, a member can be referred to the firm and is entitled to free initial advice about the merits of their case
  • small claims (e.g. damage to your car, unpaid salary). In such cases the county court small claims process can be used where the cost of lawyer's representation is not recoverable from either party. A small claim is currently defined in the county court as a claim with a financial value of not more that £10,000, or any claim for personal injuries which has the financial value of not more than £10,000 where the claim for damages for personal injuries is not more than £1,000.  Where the employment tribunal has jurisdiction to hear the claim, a small claims limit of £1,000 will apply
  • medical negligence cases
  • motoring offences
  • cases in which an RCN member was not actually a member at the time the incident occurred there is no right to representation by the RCN.

Discretionary death benefit

This is an extra benefit arranged for members at the discretion of the RCN Council. In effect it means that when a member dies as a result of a work accident, the RCN may:

  • authorise legal action on behalf of their estate
  • indemnify the estate's costs if there is a good prospect of a legal claim succeeding (i.e. pay the costs subject to the fulfilment of standard legal assistance conditions) and/or pay a sum of money (not exceeding £5,000) out of RCN funds to a relative, dependant or other suitable beneficiary.

Free legal advice on non-work related matters

We also offer a free 30 minute legal advice session for you and your family members on matters not connected with work. Any one of seven approved firms of UK solicitors can provide this service. For more information please see application for free legal assistance.

The legal services and benefits described on these pages only apply to full members, student members or nurse cadets, health care assistants and career-break members. All other membership categories can take advantage of the free legal advice on non-work related matters only.

RCN indemnity scheme

Indemnity may not sound very exciting, but as a worker in the health care industry it is something you cannot afford to ignore. Your RCN indemnity scheme covers you for claims against professional negligence up to £3 million (subject to the following conditions). See further information about our indemnity scheme.