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The School Support Staff Guide to Unions

Should I join a union? Which unions represent school support staff?

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99% of our work as technicians is a joy. But what happens when something goes wrong at work? What if you’re the subject of an allegation from a parent or student? We’d hope that this never happens to you, but unions can provide you with protection and advice, should an issue arise.

What else can unions do for you?

Unions differ in their services, but here are some common functions that they might carry out:

👩‍⚖️ providing legal assistance

👥 advising and accompanying you in disciplinary meetings, if a complaint is made against you by a parent, student or colleague

💸 representing support staff by negotiating for higher pay

💼 providing insurance services

📃 helping you understand your terms of employment

📢 influencing government policy

Which union should school support staff join?

Not all unions offer all of the above benefits, nor do all unions represent school support staff. We’ve collated a handy comparison table of unions that offer membership to support staff to help you make a decision.

*If you’re less interested in pay representation and politics, but still want specialist legal representation in the case of an event at work, Edapt provides this for school staff at a low cost, without engaging in other union activities.

You might want to ask which union colleagues at your school have joined. Unions can offer enhanced support if they are well represented at your school.

How do I join a union?

Go to the union’s website above, fill out their application form and pay for their membership fee online or by direct debit.

When should I join a union?

It’s safest to join as soon as you can. Unions cannot represent you if an incident occurs and you’re not a member at that point in time.

Can support staff join teacher strikes?

Only if support staff in your union voted to strike, and the turnout was greater than 50%, will you be called to take part in strike action.

Even if you are not striking, some schools may decide not to pursue disciplinary action against support staff supporting teacher strikes. Check with your HR department before deciding what to do.

I work at a private school. Will unions represent me?

What unions can do for you in the independent sector depends on your school.

Individual independent schools can sign a Trade Union Recognition Agreement, which gives workers the right to be consulted when key changes are made to their working conditions. Not all independent schools have such an agreement, however, so do check with a member of your staff body or the union that you intend to join.

But do note that staff in independent schools can still benefit from the legal and insurance services offered by unions.

Ten good reasons to join a union

  1. 💰 You earn more. Union members earn, on average, 10 per cent more than non-members.
  2. 🏖️ You could get more holiday. Unions are the people who brought you the weekend. Unions campaign to protect your holiday entitlement.
  3. 🫄You can get better terms for maternity or paternity leave, pensions and redundancy, winning you more than the legal minimum.
  4. 🤕 You are less likely to be injured. There are 50% fewer accidents in unionised workplaces. Unions work to ensure employers protect employees from risks to their health and safety.
  5. 👥 Support whenever you need it. All members have access to free advice, support and legal representation when required. With support you can stand up for your rights and make sure you are treated fairly at work.
  6. 🏠 In or out of work, there is a place for you. Union communities offer a place for all those out of work, studying or retired - meaning that you are always part of something bigger.
  7. 🎓 You get more - and better - training. Union members are more likely to get on with better training and development. Unions have fully trained learning reps to help you update your skills.
  8. 💸 You can get better compensation. Union members keep 100% of any compensation awarded.
  9. 💼 You have better job security. Union members are more likely to stay in their jobs longer - on average five years more than non-members.
  10. Being part of the fight for fairness, from defending our NHS to fighting for decent homes, to campaigning against discrimination.

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