UNISON Northern Ireland

Women's Committee

More than two thirds of UNISON members are women.

UNISON’s women’s member group (known as a self-organised group) campaigns for equality in the workplace and for improvements to women’s rights in the workplace and in the wider community.

It also supports campaigns aimed at improving women’s lives – for example, to change the law to protect women experiencing domestic violence, or to raise awareness of health issues which mainly affect women.

As a member of UNISON, you have the support and guidance of thousands of other women members, who face the same workplace challenges as you. If you encounter issues such as the gender pay gap or denial of your maternity rights, UNISON can help you with practical information, support and legal advice.

Women’s role in UNISON

Our women members’ role is much wider than campaigning for equality and against harassment.

Becoming a member means that you encourage and organise activity in every aspect of the workplace. As the majority of members, and the majority of the workforce in the public sector, women form the largest voice in UNISON and lead the organisation in nearly every activity.

Proportionality for women

UNISON is committed to proportionality and fair representation of women at every level of the organisation. We take positive action to encourage women to be active within UNISON. This means:

  • fair election processes for committees, right up to national level
  • seats reserved for women (including low-paid women) to ensure their voices are heard
  • training and education targeted specifically at women
  • childcare and support for mothers and those with dependants

Pregnant workers and COVID-19

If you are pregnant the government has issued “strong advice” that you should work from home, if possible and be particularly stringent about ‘social distancing’ during the coronavirus pandemic.

There’s an existing legal framework that employers must follow regarding pregnant employees (and breastfeeding mothers).

Employers must assess the workplace risks for pregnant employees and their unborn children, and breastfeeding mothers who have returned to work.

Your employer should therefore consider allowing you to work from home. If your job isn’t suitable for home working then your employer should consider whether you can be temporarily re-deployed to a role that would allow home working for the duration of this crisis, on full pay.

If working from home isn’t an option then your employer should undertake a risk assessment to identify any additional steps they need to take, such as providing you with additional personal protective equipment and ensuring social distancing measures are in place.

They should also consider reallocating some of your duties or offering you alternative employment at the same rate of pay if available

If none of this is possible, because of the risks caused by COVID-19, they must suspend you from work on full pay for as long as necessary.

Your full pay should be based on your usual earnings, not pay based on your contractual hours.

If you are absent from work for maternity-related reasons (ie risks to pregnancy caused by COVID-19) the period of Ordinary Maternity Leave automatically begins 6 weeks before the expected week of confinement.

Pregnant women should not be placed on sick pay.

Local government employers have acknowledged that in some cases they will need to allow staff who can’t work from home to stay at home on full pay.

If your employer won’t let you work from home contact your local UNISON branch for help.

If there is no specific health and safety risk but your employer is affected for example by a lack of demand or they are carrying out non-essential work, they may consider putting you on ‘furlough’.

See our guidance on furloughed workers for more information.

If you feel you have been discriminated against due to your pregnancy then contact your branch for advice.

If you’re pregnant with a heart condition

If you are pregnant and also have a heart condition you should have received a letter from the government about “shielding”.

The government is strongly advising people in this category to stay at home at all times and avoid any face-to-face contact.

Your employer must suspend you from work on full pay for as long as necessary to protect your health and safety or that of your baby. Your full pay should be based on your usual earnings, not pay based on your contractual hours.

You may have additional rights under the Equality Act 2010 if you are disabled as well as being pregnant.

Speak to your UNISON branch if you think your employer is not following the guidance.

If you are pregnant and also have a heart condition but you have not received the letter, contact your GP by phone.

Womens Committee Newsletter June 2020


 April 2017 -  Celebration of Margaret McKee and Elizabeth Cameron

UNISON women's committee members Deborah Yapicioz and Amanda Sweetlove speak about their experiences with menopause in the first of a series of reports by the BBC.

You can watch the interview here http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-43882732

Anne Mc Vicker, UNISON'S Women Committee, speaking at the Childcare for All Launch at Stormont on Tuesday 1st May 2018 


PROCESSIONS Event - 11th June 2018

The UNISON Woman’s Committee proudly joined thousands of other women in Belfast, Cardiff, Edinburgh and London on 11th June 2018 to create a visual expression of equality, strength and culture to mark the 100 year anniversary of the day that some women won the right to vote.
It was a day of celebrating what it is to be a woman today and remembering past victories in the fight for women’s rights while acknowledging that there are still battles to be won on the path to true equality. We are ready for the next challenge- bring it on!!



ICTU Women's Conference 2018

Members of the UNISON women’s committee and regional office staff travelled from all over Northern Ireland to take part in the Irish Congress of Trade Unions Women’s Conference in Enniskillen on 13th and 14th June 2018. It was an extremely motivating couple of days with a fantastic group of women activists who made their presence felt at the conference speaking on the majority of motions with great passion, insight and enthusiasm This included several first time speakers who spoke extremely well on issues close to their heart. Jill Weir UNISON did a fantastic job welcoming delegates to her home town of Enniskillen in the opening address to delegates.
The UNISON delegation spoke on a wide range of subjects including Women’s Gynaecological Health and Reproductive Rights in the work place, Menopause, Breastfeeding in the workplace, Automation, Sexual Harassment, Domestic violence, women in leadership, Pension inequality, Ending violence against women and investing in childcare.
Patricia McKeown spoke passionately on the current situation in Gaza highlighting the recent death of Razan Ashraf Al-Najjar a young nurse killed while doing her job attending to the injured.
The UNISON motion “Combating Precarious Work and Discrimination in the workplace” was very well received and passed by Conference delegates.
There was great celebrating at the conference on the recent successful referendum to repeal the 8th amendment in the South of Ireland but it was also recognised that there was still much work to be done across the Island of Ireland on women’s reproductive rights with much discussion on where do we go from here?
The conference was a great opportunity to discuss issues important to women across the Island of Ireland and definitely an important event for women activists.

Sling the Mesh Campaign

UNISON NI Women's Committee supporting the Sling The Mesh Campaign. To find our more about the campaign go to https://slingthemesh.wordpress.com/


The Homeless Period Campaign

The UNISON Women's Committee are supporting the Homeless Period Campaign. The Homeless Period Belfast is a volunteer led campaign, providing homeless and vulnerable women across Belfast with sanitary and other hygiene items. With a mixture of donations and funds, we make care-packs full of sanitary products which are then delivered to various shelters, food banks and rough sleepers across the city.

To find out more about the Homeless Period Campaign Click Here

You can download a poster to display in your branch/area here

Abortion As A Workplace Issue Launch

The UNISON Women's Committee attended the launch of the Abortion As A Workplace Issue report on Tuesday 25th September 2018 in Stormont. The event was hosted by Clare Bailey from the Green Party. The report compiles information from a survey commissioned by trade unions across the North & South of Ireland. You can read the full report on our website here.


Irish Congress of Trade Unions Women's Committee seminar 2019

The Irish Congress of Trade Unions Women’s Committee Seminar took place in Slieve Donard hotel in Co Down on 7 and 8 March 2019.150 people gathered to discuss women’s leadership in trade unions, work and society.



Speakers included Congress General Secretary, Patricia King who told delegates that gender equality is no longer simply the right thing to do, but is an economic imperative. 
Director of Equality at the International Trade Union Confederation, Chidi King, updated delegates on the work at the International Labour Organisation towards a new international convention on violence and harassment in the world of work.





We also seek support and advice from other organisations to help members facing difficulties. Recently the Rowan Sexual Assault Referral Centre gave a presentation to the UNISON Women's Committee about the support and services they offer. You can download the information below.
Rowan Centre Leaflet - English
Rowan Centre Leaflet - Chinese
Rowan Centre Leaflet - Polish
Rowan Centre Leaflet - Romanian
Rowan Centre Leaflet - Portuguese
Rowan Centre Leaflet - Slovak
Rowan Centre Leaflet - Latvian
Rowan Centre Leaflet - Lithuanian