Representing Members

Representing members can be one of the most challenging aspects of being a UNISON rep. When people face problems at work, the first person they turn to for help is their union rep.


 

Every member has the right

  • to seek advice about workplace problems, and to be represented;
  • to help from UNISON to make sure their employer gives them a fair hearing;
  • to be treated with respect and integrity;
  • to be helped by a trained UNISON rep.

Use the links below to browse a how-to guide to representing UNISON members individually or in a collective action; examples of good practice by others, to help you get the best out of the representation process; templated documents and assets for help with representing members.

On this page:

Introduction 
About your job as UNISON representative 
The rights of members to advice and representation 
How to advise and represent 
Talking to members 
Need help? 
Training

Introduction

Our ability as a union to recruit or retain members is influenced by how well we represent them.

That’s why our reps deserve all the support and training we can offer to help you in your work.

Representation can sometimes be complicated: a member may want to complain about another member; a member might seem to ask for the impossible; a problem might be shared by others that we need to deal with as a collective action.

Whatever the problem, you’ll find help in the UNISON Guide to Representation.

Guide to Representation 

About your job as UNISON rep

Facing up to managers at a formal hearing, with all the power and resources they control, can often force employees to give in.

That’s where you come in. You can’t “make it all go away”, but you can ensure fairness by making sure a manager sticks to procedures, that you collate all the evidence and that it is presented – and by being there to give support to your member.

The rights of members to advice and representation

Every UNISON member has the right:

  • to seek help on matters relating to their employment; 
  • to be treated with respect and integrity;
  • to be helped by a trained UNISON representative;
  • to understand that no action or representation will be made on their behalf without their agreement;
  • to expect confidentiality unless otherwise agreed.

 

In the workplace, every UNISON member has the right:

  • to seek advice about workplace problems, and representation as appropriate;
  • to receive help from UNISON to ensure their employer gives them a fair hearing.

 

How to advise and represent

When a member comes to you for help, there are some simple, clear steps to take:

  • find a quiet place where you won’t be interrupted to sit down and put your member at ease;
  • listen to the member;
  • make a note of the key facts;
  • advise the member how to proceed, what you will do next and what they must do;
  • make sure your member agrees with the course of action and agrees what you hope to achieve based upon your assessment of the available evidence and information.

 

Before we can give formal advice or assistance to a member on a grievance or disciplinary matter a UNISON case form must be completed.

UNISON case form 

Talking to members

  • Make sure your member feels comfortable to talk to you.
  • Listen to all your member’s concerns.
  • Check out the procedure the issue falls under.
  • Make sure all legal time limits are covered.
  • Investigate the facts, any witnesses, good practice, rules, codes of practice or conduct, employer policies and past practices.
  • Make two lists: one of all the facts that are helpful to your case; one of all the facts that are unhelpful.
  • Consider what help the member can be to you in getting information.
  • Check for collective issues.
  • Advise your member on what you think may be possible and about any legal rights.
  • Reach an agreement with your member on how you will proceed. Keep your member informed every step of the way.
  • Get advice if you are uncertain about anything.
  • Make sure the UNISON case form is complete and signed.

Need help?

If you are not sure how best to proceed, ask for help. Far from undermining confidence in you, your member will appreciate that you have back-up when you need it.

You can get help from another steward, your branch secretary or a special branch officer.

UNISONdirect (0800 0 857 857) can provide a range of information, including booklets and factsheets that can help you to advise your member or prepare your arguments.

Training

New representatives should get relevant training within a few weeks of appointment.

We organise a wide range of courses for workplace representatives, safety representatives and members elected to roles at branch, regional or national level.

We also offer a range of specialist training courses which you can use both to fine tune your skills and to gain expertise in areas of personal interest.

Are you new to being a rep?


We know our reps and activists need support and information, help and advice – even more so if you’re new to the role.

More on being a UNISON rep