Legal services

UNISON provides high-quality legal services to members and their families across a wide range of issues. We work with our specialist legal services provider, Thompsons Solicitors, to provide access to high-quality employment, personal injury, and criminal law advice. Thompsons are committed to the trade union movement as a whole and we work closely to monitor their work in line with our agreed standards of service.

When you’re covered

You must have joined UNISON at least four weeks before the incident that leads you to seek legal advice.

You must be up to date with your subscriptions, and you must continue to be a UNISON member and pay the correct subscriptions whilst you are receiving legal assistance and/or representation. There are different types of membership, so if your position changes at work, you need to make sure you continue to pay the correct subscriptions.

If you need employment advice it is important that you contact your branch as soon as possible, as there are strict time limits within which any legal claims must be brought. For example, claims in the Employment Tribunal must be lodged within three months (less one day) of the incident complained of. All other services are best accessed through UNISONdirect.

Your eligibility for legal assistance will only continue if you case continues to have reasonable prospects of success and as long as you remain in membership.

All legal assistance/representation is granted at the discretion of the National Executive Council.

For full details of the terms and conditions of representation, please click here.

Scope of UNISON’s legal scheme

UNISON offers advice (and representation if certain criteria are met) for personal injury matters, where you are defending work related criminal allegations, employment law, wills and conveyancing. We also offer up to 30 minutes free legal advice on non-work-related matters.

  1. Employment
  • If you require employment related advice, please contact your branch in the first instance – many problems can be resolved without the need for a referral to a lawyer.
  • If further advice is required, your branch will approach the region. If the region is unable to resolve the issues, they may refer your case to UNISON’s Legal Services department or the union’s external solicitors, Thompsons.
  • Time limits in the Employment Tribunal are very short and they are strictly applied, so you should not delay in seeking advice.
  • Please note that you must not instruct a solicitor or barrister direct, as UNISON is unable to reimburse any costs that you may incur. UNISON representation is provided on the understanding that UNISON or their nominated legal providers remain the only representatives.
  1. Personal injury scheme
  • UNISON provides legal assistance where you have an accident/injury/disease, whether or not it is work related. This also includes assistance following an assault at work.
  • Your family members are also covered for any non-work-related accident or injury.
  • Time limits also apply in personal injury claims (generally 3 years from the date of the injury/illness), so you should not delay in seeking advice.
  1. Criminal law representation scheme
  • You are entitled to legal advice if you are defending work related criminal allegations.
  • At the NEC’s discretion, UNISON’s external solicitors will represent you up to and including any Magistrates or Crown Court trial.
  • Our lawyers will obtain state funding where possible, and the funding of Legal Aid contributions thereafter is discretionary.
  • To access emergency criminal law advice, outside of UNISONdirect hours you can contact UNISON’s 24-hour criminal helpline on 0800 587 7530.
  1. Free legal advice
  • You are entitled to up to 30 minutes free legal advice on any matter not related to your employment. The advice must be specific to you as a member and does not include advice for family members. The advice is limited to initial advice only and does not include legal representation or cover complex matters.
  1. Wills and conveyancing service

For more detailed information about the services UNISON offers, as well as the best ways to access legal support, please read our legal help guide.

Remember, it is important that you:

  • Seek advice as soon as possible, as legal claims have strict time limits.
  • Keep your membership up-to-date
  • Assist us as much as possible by providing any information and documents you are asked for, to try and ensure the best chance of a successful resolution.

Getting help

Can’t find the answer you’re looking for here? Get help by:

UNISONdirect’s hours are Monday to Friday 6am to Midnight / Saturday 9am to 4pm.