Activist Training pathways

We offer a range of courses from getting started as a union representative to developing your branch and building the union.

Workplace representatives

Once appointed you will be invited to complete the short online Introductory eNote for new stewards to help you get started. You should then arrange with your branch education officer to sign up for the UNISON Organising Steward course, the essential course for new workplace representatives. It will help you develop your skills, knowledge and confidence to tackle workplace issues with members and understand where and when to seek advice and guidance.

This course will certify you as competent to accompany members at disciplinary and grievance hearings in order to comply with the Employment Relations Act (ERA)1999. After that you can take further training to develop your negotiating and representation skills.

To keep up to date and to maintain your ERA certification under UNISON’s Scheme of Steward Accreditation, you should attend a course such as the Stewards Refresher Course at least every five years.

Contact your regional education team to find out about the courses available in your region – freephone 0800 0 857 857.

Health & safety representatives

The essential course for new health and safety representatives is Organising for Health and Safety. You will learn about health &andfety legislation, including the law relating to risk assessment, and also your employers’ responsibilities.

It will help you work with members to tackle workplace issues and develop your confidence to represent them effectively. You can complete follow-on training on topics such as display screen equipment, manual handling, mental health at work, and more.

Contact your regional education team for more information on freephone 0800 0857 857.

Union learning representatives

The core course for new union learning representatives explains UNISON’s approach to lifelong learning and helping working people to gain skills and qualifications and learn for personal fulfillment.

With a focus on those who have traditionally been excluded from learning, you will learn how you can work with members and employers to identify learning needs, promote UNISON’s learning offer, and organize around learning. Follow-on training is also available on topics such as Dyslexia in the Workplace. Contact your regional education team for more information on freephone 0800 0857 857.

Training for branch officers

The primary branch officer training course is Leadership Development for Branch Secretaries which focuses on branch processes and procedures, the responsibilities of the branch secretary, and planning a branch development strategy.

Branch education coordinators are also crucial to ensuring that reps and officers in their branch take up appropriate training and receive the support they need to become active in their branch. See the Developing and Supporting Activists Guide to Branches and branch education coordinators’ starter pack in the Resources section below to help you get started.

There is also training available for each of the branch officer roles and UNISON regions usually deliver these simultaneously in their branch officer Training weekend to enable officers to network. Contact your regional education team for more information on freephone 0800 0857 857.

Training for branch welfare officers may be organised in your region or for cross-regional groups.  See information about courses available in the Resources section below.

Employment law courses

One-day introductory courses on a range of employment law subjects are offered at regional level. Contact your regional education team for details on freephone 0800 0857 857.

Experienced reps can build their skills and knowledge with advanced courses delivered at national level – see list of courses in Resources below.

Additional training for reps and officers

Ask your branch education coordinator or regional education team about UNISON courses and workshops on :

  • Campaigning and equalities: eg tackling bullying at work or racism
  • Branch development and organising: eg setting up branch mentoring schemes or using social media in the branch
  • Short organising workshops: These workshops, developed for delivery in branches, vary in length from half an hour to half a day. Speak to your regional education officer or organiser if you wish to run any of these in your branch. Alternatively contact for copies of materials if you or another activist wish to deliver them in your branch.

Lay tutor training

Discussion leaders training and lay tutor training is available for lay members who want to run short workshops or courses to get members involved in branch activities. Contact your branch education coordinator or regional education organiser for more information.