News & views

Need help now?

Our advice centre has a lot of the information you need.

Read more

Become a Union Learning rep

Help yourself and your colleagues get on at work by becoming a Union Learning Rep

Read more

Role of your trade union representative

Tiffany Gillies
9th April 2021

In 2019, 6.44 million people in the UK were members of a trade union. Trade union membership helps workers, whether they are airline pilots, checkout assistants, teachers or nurses, to negotiate fairer treatment and deals from their employers.

This blog will answer questions on what a trade union is, the role of a trade union representative, and how they can help you.

What is a trade union? 

A trade union is a membership organisation made up mainly of workers. One of the roles of a trade union is to provide protection and advance its members’ interest in the workplace.

Trade unions safeguard their membership and play a crucial role in negotiating work terms and conditions as well as representing members in disciplinaries.

A trade union is independent of any employer. Though we will try to work with employers and identify common interests and objectives, members can be assured that they will be listened to and that the union will work in their best interests.

What can trade unions do for me?

Trade union membership means a representative can represent and defend the rights of workers. A trade union can also:

  • Provide legal advice
  • Provide financial support
  • Give advice and support
  • Provide education, learning and training opportunities
  • Offer discounts and savings at high street retailers
  • Discuss members’ concerns
  • Discuss and help with any workplace bullying or unfair treatment
  • Accompany members in grievance and disciplinary meetings
  • Negotiate agreements with employees on conditions and pay
  • Be consulted on significant changes to the workplace – for example, considerable scale redundancy.

What is the role of a trade union representative?

Trade unions reps are there to:

  • Discuss any concerns or grievances you have about your employer
  • Accompany you to a disciplinary or grievance hearing with management
  • Represent you in negotiations. This can be about employment conditions or payment terms
  • Meet with your employer to find a solution to workplace issues
  • Develop health and safety procedures with your employer
  • Raise any concerns with management on your behalf

They can help resolve and address an issue before it escalates and can arrange formal meetings to discuss matters such as:

  • Flexible working requests
  • Sickness record
  • Worker’s capability

Community representatives are the key point of contact for members, and have been given specialist training to be able to help and support members with any issues at work and beyond.

Employers must consult the trade union rep if:

  1. They are planning to make 20 or more people redundant within 90 days
  2. There is going to be a business takeover or transfer.

When you have trade union membership, you are entitled to have your union rep with you at management meetings. For example, if you want to raise a grievance (bullying, bias, unfair treatment, etc.) with your employer, or if you’re facing a disciplinary charge.

Trade union benefits

Trade union membership has many benefits, but ultimately, it’s reassuring that someone has your back in the workplace. A union will stand with you against grievances, unfair treatment or complaints.

We will strive to work with your employer to come to the most amicable and suitable agreement that works in your interests.

Your trade union representative is there to help and support you. You can learn more about Community and the reasons to be a part of our union here.