Are you Scared of your Trade Union Rep?

March 14, 2018

Are you nervous at the thought of meeting with a trade union rep? In this blog, Laura tells you why you haven’t got anything to worry about!

By Laura Rigby

I recall the first time an employee advised me that they were bringing a trade union representative to support them in a formal meeting. It was early on in my HR career and I was nervous at the thought of having to deal with a militant and dominant individual who I was certain would try to take over the conversation and lead us up the garden path.

I was wrong. This was not the case and to date, has never been the case. There was no need to be apprehensive and I’ll tell you why…

If you act fairly, you’ve got nothing to fear!

If there are grounds to take action, and you proceed in line with ACAS best practice, a trade union representative will have no interest in trying to muddy the waters or give an employee false hope. Their role is to protect the employee from discrimination or unfair treatment; if treatment is fair and reasonable, there’s nothing to worry about!

A good trade union rep will help facilitate the process.

I have experienced trade unions who truly help the employee understand the allegations raised against them and help them to respond in a way that enables the employer to determine the facts of the situation. Or alternatively, the circumstances that might mitigate their conduct.

It’s in everyone’s interest that the employee feels as comfortable as possible.

Understandably, employees brought into formal meetings are often very apprehensive, which can cause them to shut down or be defensive… neither of which is going to be particularly helpful for the process.

Ideally, you want the employee to be open and transparent. If they have a professional in the meeting and feel supported by them, this will encourage the employee to feel more at ease and less protective of themselves, and therefore, will enable a more productive conversation.

Sometimes they make no difference.

I have witnessed both strong and weak employee companions and the same can be said for trade union representatives. If they’re erring on the weak side, it’s likely that their role will make no difference to the overall process.

I have experienced trade union reps who sit there and say and do nothing and others write reams and reams of notes that were simply a replication of the conversation that was being recorded anyway.  If this is the case, there is no difference to the process so there’s nothing to fear.

In summary

There’s no reason to be nervous of a trade union representative! The likelihood of them being aggressively confrontational as you may have seen on TV or read about in history books is slim in today’s environment.

If there is reason to act and the process you follow is fair and in line with best practice, there should be no concern with a trade union rep attending the meeting. You may find a need to alter your approach slightly, to be more inclusive of them and the decision maker may opt for a less risky outcome. However, this is no reason to be apprehensive! If you follow the policies and procedures in place and if these are equivalent to, or over and above those recommended by ACAS / set out in employment law, you have nothing to worry about.

For more information, get in touch with the HR180 team!

Leeds based HR180 is a team of superheroes in HR Outsourcing, Projects and Consultancy committed to work in partnership with organisations of all sizes to establish working policies to go above and beyond Employment Law requirements, to protect both employees and employers alike. We love to hear from you, so call us on 0113 287 8150 or hit the Rescue Me button.

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