On being elected, every steward needs to ensure that his/her branch notifies UNISON Regional Office. There is a green form (the Notification of Workplace Representatives Form – order no 0852) that must be used for this purpose. Without this form being completed and forwarded to the Regional Centre a workplace representative will not be listed on RMS and will not be added to the Education Service mailing list. On receipt of the green form Regional Office will issue the steward’s accreditation, either directly to the steward or via the branch.
This basic accreditation, covered by the Trade Union & Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992, provides for stewards, in workplaces that recognise UNISON, the right to undertake trade union duties and to take part in appropriate trade union training. In addition it provides some specific legal protection against action taken by an employer to prevent or deter employees participating in the activities of a union and victimising union representatives.
The Employment Relations Act (1999), puts an obligation on unions to ensure that union representatives are “experienced” and/or have attended specified training in order to represent members in grievance and disciplinary cases. UNISON policy is that stewards involved in representing members, must have completed an appropriate training course. The courses that lead to ERA certification are the UNISON 5 day ‘The Organising Steward’ course, and the TUC 10 day ‘Union Representatives Stage 1’ course. On receiving confirmation that a steward has completed an appropriate training course the Region will issue ERA stewards credentials.
Stewards designated as who have attended training will be “ERA certified” by the Region, (either directly or via the branch), after the Regional Office has been notified using the Notification of Workplace Representatives Form.
All newly elected stewards will be notified of training courses by the Region in order that they may be ERA certified. However, local branch policy will generally set out who is responsible for case-work in the branch.
In 2010 the National Executive of UNISON introduced a policy that all ERA stewards are obliged to attend refresher training every 5 years.
Health & Safety Representatives
Health & Safety Representatives are entitled to time off with pay to undergo training in aspects of their duties under the Safety Representatives and Safety Committees Regulations (as amended) regulation 4 (2).
Union Learning Representatives
Union Learning Representatives have the same legal rights to time off with pay to attend training as other union representatives. This is set out in the “ACAS Code of Practice 3 Time Off for Trade Union Duties and Activities” (April 2003).
The Right to Request Time off for Training for Members
There is no general right to take time off for training or study with pay. There is however a legal right, (set out in section 40 of the Apprenticeships, Skills, Children and Learning Act 2009) to request time off which must be properly considered by an employer. There are a number of conditions linked to this right.
- The request must be from an employee
- An employee must work for an organisation with at least 250 employees
- An employee must have worked for the employer for more than 26 weeks
- The training or study must lead the employee to improve performance in the job
This time off is usually unpaid, although many employers will agree to pay if there is evidence the training or study will bring improvements to performance or productivity.
If you want to make a request you should follow your employers procedure for this. If your employer does not have a procedure start with “This is a request made under Section 63D of the Employment Relations Act 1996” and provide:
- The date(s) of the training
- The subject matter or content of the training
- The location of the training
- Who providing the training
- Any qualification or specific skill that you will gain
Normally you can only make one request every year.
Your employer must either agree to the request or hold a meeting with you to discuss this within 28 days. If a decision is to hold a meeting the employer has another 14 days before giving you an answer. If the answer is no you have a right to appeal, which must be made with 14 days of this decision.
At every stage of your request please involve your Union Learning Representative or Steward.