As a UNISON member you have direct access to representatives, or reps, who are available to support you.
UNISON stewards are trained to help you deal with most of the problems that arise at work. They can offer you advice and help you if you need to write raise an issue at work. If you take a grievance against your employer, they can help represent you. And if you are involved in a disciplinary they can come along with you to meetings with the management.
When you first contact your steward they will sit down with you, talk with you about your problem and discuss possible solutions with you.
There are different kinds of workplace reps and they can each help you in different ways.
A steward may also be known as a workplace rep. They are someone who has been officially elected to represent UNISON members within a particular workplace.
Your workplace rep can also support you during grievance or disciplinary procedures if you need them to. Your rep will be able to advise you on your rights and how to tackle the problem.
Your steward can help you to deal with issues including:
- disciplinary or grievance procedures;
- collective problems or grievances at work;
- long-term sickness or absence;
- issues around time off to care for your dependents.
If you do not have an elected steward or any specialised reps in your workplace, you may have a UNISON workplace contact.
Workplace contacts are not elected, but they represent UNISON in the workplace and will be able to advise you on where you can get the help you need.
Your equalities rep is trained to improve equality in the workplace and deal with inequalities and discrimination.
Ask your equalities rep for help and advice if you are:
- being bullied or harassed;
- not receiving fair pay;
- being discriminated against for any reason.
Health and safety rep
Workplaces with union safety reps and joint safety committees have half the serious injury rates as those without (The union effect, TUC publication, 2011). Our reps play an important part in keeping the workplace safe.
Employers have a legal responsibility to keep the workplace safe by carrying out risk assessments to find potential dangers – and then acting on the findings. UNISON health and safety reps make sure that employers act to minimise risks.
As well as helping to prevent accidents, our reps also provide support when things go wrong. UNISON reps advise members on:
- reporting – accidents, near misses and violence in the workplace must be reported to help prevent them from happening again;
- personal injury claims – if your employer has been negligent, you may be able to make a claim for compensation;
- UNISON accident benefit – we offer short-term financial help to members who can’t work;
- There for You – we can offer longer term support to members who need more time to recover from an accident through our welfare charity, There for You;
- state benefits – if you are off work because of an accident and you’re struggling financially, you may be eligible for state benefits.
Branch welfare officers
A branch welfare officer is a member who has volunteered to be the local representative of There for You. They are often the contact person for There for You staff at national office.
Local branch welfare officers are the first point of contact for members who are experiencing personal, emotional or financial difficulties, or for those who need advice. They also help members apply for help or funding.
A learning rep promotes lifelong learning and workplace development.
Speak to your UNISON learning rep if you need help negotiating training with your employer or to find out about learning opportunities.