Being at university is great.

It’s an amazing opportunity to expand our minds and critically understand things we’ve never really thought about before. It’s a time we can make new friends and live our best life! But unfortunately we’re also hit with the reality of balancing deadlines, a social life, our finances, and, as is the case for 58% of students here at Leeds Beckett, a job. Usually a precarious job, with either a low or zero hour contract, paying barely above minimum wage, or putting you on shifts which simply aren’t compatible with your course’s timetable.

This is where we want to help. We’ve put together this page to detail how to go about challenging your boss if you’re being treated unfairly at work. We’ve also included a list of Trade Unions which might be relevant to your job. Trade Unions are groups of    people coming together to achieve what individuals wouldn’t otherwise be able to. Joining a Trade Union is a great idea, as they can provide any legal support should you need it, and they run ongoing campaigns, such as one being run for a £10 an hour minimum wage!

Being at university should be about learning, not just earning. But with rising accommodation costs, cuts to bursaries and grant and ever more hidden fees, we often have no choice. So take this guide with you and demand to be treated with the dignity you deserve in the workplace! 


What To Do If Something Isn't Right

The first thing to do if you’re unhappy with the way you’re being treated at work is to establish the case, asking yourself;

  • Is the Issue about my local terms and conditions and/or my rights under the Law? Uncertain-then seek advice.

  • What resolution am I seeking?

Next, you need to find out what your rights are. There are a couple of ways you can do this!

  • You can contact your Trade Union rep (more details on Trade Unions later on!)

  • Come and speak to the Students’ Union Advice service (no appointment needed, just drop in!)

  • Research the Webpages of the TUC at  

Now you know your rights, it’s time to assert them! A few ways you can do this are;

  • Speak with workplace supervisors or managers  

  • Contact company HR team and/or 

  • Invoke the Company Grievance procedure with or without Trade Union Representation (

  • Make an application to the Employment Tribunal for redress through the justice system


General Unions

UNISON – the public service union
UNISON is the UK’s largest union, serving more than 1.3 million members. They represent full-time and part-time staff who provide public services, although they may be employed in both the public and private sectors. They are also the largest trade union representing healthcare students.

Student Membership: £10 per year 

Unite the Union
Unite is primarily an industry based union representing employees in the workplace, no matter where they work or what sector they work in. If you are not employed, you can still join Unite through its Community membership.

Full-time Education or Community Membership: £2.17 per month 

GMB is a general union – which means that anyone can join. They have members in every part of the UK economy doing every type of job.

Non-working Students Membership: £1 per month
Full-time Membership (inc. Students): £13.70 per month
Part-time Membership (inc. Students): £7.96 per month 

IWW – Industrial Workers of the World
The IWW “stands for everyone, everywhere, united together in one big union and fighting for change”. They welcome workers in any job, as they believe that all workers need a union.

Membership: varies by income. 


Education Unions

National Education Union
The NEU has recently formed from the merger of the NUT (National Union of Teachers) and the ATL (Association of Teachers & Lecturers).
The NEU is the UK’s largest education union representing teachers, lecturers, support staff and leaders working in maintained and independent schools and colleges.

Trainee and Student Membership: FREE
Newly qualified teachers (1 year): £1 

NASUWT – National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers
The NASUWT provides representation to teachers and headteachers in the UK.

Student Membership: FREE
Newly qualified teachers Membership: FREE in the calendar year in which you qualify  

Voice is the union for education professionals. They represent those working in the education sector, early years and childcare. Voice will never ask their members to take industrial action.

Student Membership: FREE
Newly qualified Year 1: FREE
Newly qualified Year 2: £7.42 per month 

UCU – University & College Union
The University and College Union represents over 120,000 academics, lecturers, trainers, instructors, researchers, managers, administrators, computer staff, librarians and postgraduates in universities, colleges, prisons, adult education and training organisations across the UK.

Membership for enrolled postgraduate students contracted to teach in UK higher education institutions: FREE for 4 years. and choose ‘standard full membership’ to activate the free membership option.


Healthcare Unions

RCN – Royal College of Nursing
The Royal College of Nursing is the world’s largest nursing union and professional body. They represent more than 435,000 nurses, student nurses, midwives and health care assistants in the UK and internationally.

Student Membership: £10 per year 

BMA – British Medical Association
The British Medical Association is the trade union and professional body for doctors in the UK.

Student Membership
-    First year (with direct debit for second year renewal): FREE
-    First year (without direct debit for second year renewal): £3.16 per month
-    Other student members: £3.66 per month 


Creative Practitioner Unions

Equity is the union of more than 43,000 performers and creative practitioners. Their members are actors, singers, dancers, designers, directors, stage managers, puppeteers, comedians, voice artists, and variety performers working on stage, on TV sets, on the catwalk, in film studios, in recording studios, in nightclubs and in circus tents.

Student Membership: £18.75 per year, which includes professional name reservation (if it is not already in use by another Equity member). 

MU – Musicians’ Union
The Musicians’ Union represents over 30,000 musicians working in all sectors of the British music business.

Student Membership: £19.60 per year 


Other Unions

BFAWU – Bakers, Food & Allied Workers Union
The BFAWU is the largest independent trade union in the food sector in the British Isles representing employees in the food sector, from production at factories through to sales at shops.

Full Membership: £13.13 per month
Young (under 18): £5.20 per month
Zero Hours Contract (only applicable in unrecognised sites): £5.20 per month 

CWU – Communication Workers Union
The CWU is the biggest union for the communications industry in the UK. They represent members in postal, telecom, mobile, administrative and financial companies including Royal Mail Group, UK Mail and BT, Telefonica O2, Virgin Media, EE and Santander, as well as outsourcing company Capita.

Membership costs from £4.37 to £15.43 per month. To find out exactly how much membership will cost the CWU need you to answer a few questions at 

Usdaw – Union of Shop, Distributive & Allied Workers
Usdaw provide advice and representation to workers in many different workplaces including all major retailers, road transport, warehouses and distribution, food manufacturing, dairies, pharmaceuticals, home shopping and more. They are one of Britain’s largest trade unions with over 436,000 members.

Standard membership rates: between £1.55 and £2.42 per week 

The FDA represents a membership that spans the senior and professional ranks of the civil and public services. This includes civil service administrators, policy advisers, tax professionals, lawyers, diplomats, economists, statisticians, graduates on the Fast Stream programme and many more

Full FDA membership for Fast Stream and equivalent schemes: FREE for the first six months and then £12 per month. 

International Union of Sex Workers
The International Union of Sex Workers is a branch of GMB and campaigns for the human, civil and labour rights of those who work in the sex industry. 
Membership is open to everyone working in the sex industry and adult entertainment – from erotic dancers to staff of shops selling adult videos to escorts, prostitutes, call girls and rent boys, from film or phone sex actors to sexual health counselors – and those who support the campaigning aims of the organisation.

Full-time Membership: £11.27 per month
Part-time Membership: £6.29 per month 

NUJ – National Union of Journalists
The NUJ is one of the biggest journalists’ unions in the world, representing journalists, including photographers, creative artists working editorially in newspapers, magazines, books, broadcasting, public relations and communications, and digital media; or as advertising and fashion photographers, advertising copywriters, front-end developers and coders; teachers of journalism in FE or HE, or any English language journalist or a journalist working in English who is a member of an IFJ-affiliated union with a reciprocal agreement with the NUJ.

Student Associate Membership: £30 for the duration of your course for students studying journalism or a related subject; or involved in student media. 

Writers’ Guild of Great Britain
The WGGB is a trade union representing professional writers in TV, film, theatre radio, books, poetry, animation and videogames.

Membership: Various categories of membership exist based on a number of criteria. For more information visit: 

Prospect is a trade union whose members work in areas as diverse as agriculture, defence, energy, environment, heritage, shipbuilding, film, theatre, telecoms and trsansport.

Student Membership: £10 per year