Trade unions are organisations that defend people’s rights at work, make sure their working conditions are safe and bargain for better pay and conditions for their members.
Trade unions can provide you with guidance to claim many of the rights in this guide. To find out how to join a union.
Trade unions are independent of your employer and the government and you are allowed to join a union by law.You do not have to tell your employer if you are a union member. In the UK workers who are in union-organised workplaces are on average better paid and safer so it is important to join a union.
If an employer ‘recognises’ a trade union, the union is able to bargain on behalf of workers with management on pay and conditions. This is called ‘collective bargaining’ and produces ‘collective agreements’. Many workplaces have collective agreements above the legal minimum on pay and conditions that are health and safety, maternity and paternity rights, among other issues.
If you are a member of a trade union and have a problem at work, unions can offer you a representative to help you settle the issue with your with your employer. Trade unions also provide legal representation, eg. employment tribunals or if you have an accident at work, if taking legal action against your employer is the only way to secure and protect your rights at work.
If you are a union member working in a workplace where the union is not recognised, workers and employees still have a right to be represented by a union at grievance and disciplinary meetings and your union will give you advice on the rights you are entitled to at work.
If you are not a union member and work in a workplace where the union is not recognised, it is still worth contacting a union in case they are prepared to give you advice if you join.