Our Head Office will be closed for Christmas from 5pm on 22nd December 2017, and will reopen on 2nd January 2018 at 9am. Please email us with your enquiry and we will get back to you once the office is open.

Call us for a free Consultation on: 0800 028 4551

What does a trade union rep do? Understanding the role of a trade union representative.

Superhero

Image source: Pixabay.com

When working relationships breakdown, are under threat or become strained the role of a trade union representative can be invaluable.

Opinions and views on the role, aims and usefulness of a trade union (1) and its representatives in the modern workplace vary widely. While some view them as a cause for good, others see them as disruptive troublemakers.

The role of the union has changed significantly in the last three decades during which there has reportedly been a sharp fall in membership. In 1980 union density is said to have stood at 50 per cent compared to 27 per cent in 2010.

A trade union aims to safeguard and advance the interests of its members. It can play a key role in negotiations on pay and conditions and the production and implementation of policies.

In the workplace a trade union representative (2) is an employee who will represent and defend the rights of workers.

Representatives are entitled to raise any concerns with management on behalf of union members. If management work with a representative in a constructive manner it can help to address and resolve problems before they escalate.

Trade union representatives can also accompany workers to range of formal meetings with management, such as those to discuss a worker’s capability, sickness record or a flexible working request.

In recent years the significant financial difficulties and constraints faced by many organisations has meant that trade union representatives have had an increasingly important role to play in the workplace. This includes being involved in negotiations about pay and representing the interests of employees in discussions about the restructuring of an organisation.

Redundancy (3) is one situation where the role of the trade union representative is certainly valued by the under threat workforce.

The stress worry and anxiety about job security and the complexities of the redundancy process can be daunting. The support of a trade union representative in such situations helps to reassure the employee that they have someone fighting for them, they will be treated fairly, their views heard and options fully explored and considered.

Employers are required to consult with union representatives if a business is being transferred, if there is going to be a takeover or if they are planning to make more than 20 people redundant within 90 days.

Trade union representatives can also accompany any worker to a disciplinary or grievance hearing with management.

The Employment Relations Act 1999 provides workers with a statutory right to be accompanied by a companion at a disciplinary or grievance hearing (4).

Workers can request that an official from any trade union accompany them at a disciplinary or grievance hearing, regardless of whether or not they are a member of the union or if it is recognised.

The representative has to be certified in writing as having experience, or having received training, in acting as a worker's companion at disciplinary and grievance hearings.

If the chosen representative is not available on the proposed date for a hearing, the worker does have a statutory right to suggest another one within five working days of the original date. The employer should comply with this.

Diligent, experienced, knowledgeable and effective union representatives can often be viewed as a disruptive influence by employers during a disciplinary or grievance hearing. However is worth remembering that a representative's role during such meetings does allow them to confer with the worker during the hearing, put the worker’s case, sum up the case, respond on behalf of the worker to any view expressed at the hearing (5). What the representative cannot do is answer questions put directly to the worker.

Workplace based trade union reps have a number of rights. They are entitled to be paid time off to do training and to do their work as a representative. This is where the union is independent, officially recognised by the employer and accepted as being involved in various work-related negotiations

Paid time off extends to the representative taking part in negotiations re pay and terms and conditions, accompanying members during formal meetings such as those during the disciplinary, grievance or redundancy process.

References:

  1. Introduction to trade unions [Internet]. nidirect. 2015. Available from: https://www.nidirect.gov.uk/articles/introduction-trade-unions
  2. Trade Union Support [Internet]. Castle Associates Ltd. 2014. Available from: https://castleassociates.org.uk/?q=employee-support/trade-union-support
  3. Redundancy | Advice and guidance. 2008 Feb 14; Available from: http://www.acas.org.uk/index.aspx?articleid=1611
  4. Employment Relations Act 1999 [Internet]. Available from: http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1999/26/section/10
  5. Anonymous. Right to be accompanied [Internet]. TUC. 2011. Available from: https://www.tuc.org.uk/workplace-issues/basic-rights-work/c-your-basic-rights/08-right-be-accompanied/right-be-accompanied

The Help you need when you need it.

We offer support on a wide range of employment law and HR issues. Our dedicated adviser are here to answer your questions and help you with your concerns. Your call is free and with no oblgation. Calls may be recorded for monitoring and training purposes.

Call us today on 0800 028 4551 or request a call back

Minimize close

Request a call back

By submitting this form, you accept the Mollom privacy policy.

Recent Posts

forum

Testimonials

5

Adrian was very professional and knowledgeable, helped with my query and put my mind at ease.

Julie Simpson

5

After a very distressing time in my employment caused by bullying and discrimination I finally found Castle Associates. I was very impressed by the speed and service provided by Castle Associates. I would strongly recommend this company and know from my own experience they are genuine.

Nisha

5

From the moment I met Laura from Castle Associates I felt at ease and confident that she would ensure that I would be well represented. Until that point the whole situation felt very one sided, with me feeling as if I would never get the chance to properly present my side of the argument.

Kevin

5

After working for the same company for many years my Daughter was made redundant. Before we looked into any legal aspect of the way the selection process was managed we felt that the whole process had been unfair and discriminatory.

Joe

5

I just wanted to say a personal thank you for the support provided by your organisation to my staff at a very difficult time.

Katie

5

After twenty five years working for a business I was suspended without warning and threatened with disciplinary action. I received very valuable support and professional help at a very difficult time.

Andrew

5

I have used the services of Castle Associates on two occasions. In both cases I have found them to be professional, caring and thorough. They helped me through the minefield of employment laws and in both cases the conclusion was extremely satisfactory.

David

5

As I had a disappointing experience with my own union, I was apprehensive to instruct Castle Associates to act on my behalf, however after speaking to Mark Ferron (MD) he instantly gained my complete trust and confidence.

Gagandeep

5

I was involved in being beaten up at work by a colleague who committed GBH on me resulting in a bleeding mouth, bruising and two fractured ribs. There were no witnesses and my employer seemingly attempted to get us both sacked regardless.

D of Leicester

5

I recently had to use Castle Associates to help me with a grievance process I had taken out against my employer. They guided and advised me through a very stressful process and I truly believe the outcome (which was good) was down to the representation I had.