Your web browser is outdated and may be insecure

The RCN recommends using an updated browser such as Microsoft Edge or Google Chrome

Employment partnerships

Establishing a formal partnership with the RCN can benefit you and your employees as well as your patients or clients. A formal partnership agreement makes it possible for us to discuss matters of mutual interest be they professional or employment policies and practices.

Organisations can gain significant advantages from working in partnership with the RCN. This partnership is best supported through a recognition agreement. This is an agreed framework for joint working.

Legislation (Employment Relations Act 1999) gives trade unions the right to seek an order from the Central Arbitration Committee for the statutory recognition to negotiate on pay hours and holidays. However, the RCN believes that agreeing voluntary recognition brings far more effective and productive relations to the employer as well as added RCN expertise in professional development and nursing matters.

The RCN is a modern professional trade union so any agreement does not need to be an onerous arrangement - the function of the agreement can be negotiated to suit your organisational structure and governance arrangements. The agreement would normally include a commitment that we meet on a regular basis, can discuss employment and professional matters of mutual interest and that the RCN can facilitate the election and training of RCN representatives to support and communicate with members locally.

Recognition agreement

A recognition agreement is a framework for establishing positive employment relations between the employer and trade union outlining matters of mutual interest. It details agreed commitments and arrangements for the RCN to represent our members through consultation and collective bargaining.

For recognition agreements to be effective they will include arrangements for electing and training workplace representatives, paid time to undertake their duties, as well as time for members to engage in activities.

A recognition agreement also provides the consultation structure to enable an organisation to comply with statutory obligations for information and consultation regulations; redundancy; organisational change; TUPE business transfers; pension change proposals and matters of health and safety.

The specific terms of a recognition agreement can be negotiated to suit your commitments. You can view a model Recognition agreement.

Secondary recognition with the RCN where you already recognise other trade unions

When a company already recognises another union but would like the RCN to comment on policies and allow RCN representatives time off for trade union duties, we can develop secondary recognition. This type of agreement may be suitable where you already recognise Unison or GMB for example. In this case the RCN may not have a seat on the negotiating committee.

Memorandum of understanding (MOU)

There are a number of situations when the RCN works with small organisations where full recognition is not practical or where companies are agencies which engage flexible workers. Using a letter of agreement is useful to describe the relationship and provide some understanding of how we will work together, but falls short of recognition. You can see an example of a MOU.

Union learning agreement

A union learning agreement may be brokered with organisations that recognise a trade union and are committed to learning in the workplace. It establishes a specific framework to facilitate educational development and lifelong learning.

Working in partnership with employers the RCN, as a professional organisation and trade union can work to protect and promote learning in the workplace. You can read about Learning agreements: the benefits for independent health care sector employers or Learning agreements - a guide for RCN staff and activists.

Facilities agreement for RCN representatives

A facilities agreement is needed where an organisation has a recognition agreement with the RCN. The facilities agreement forms part of the recognition agreement and outlines how an RCN elected representative can access time and facilities to undertake training, their duties and professional activities. View an example of a Facilities agreement.

RCN representatives

Through partnership working the greatest benefits to productivity and efficiency are gained through RCN support delivered in local workplaces through RCN representatives. Follow the links below for details on what the representative roles involve.

Find further information about the roles of RCN representatives.

RCN training will be given to a representative to achieve competency in all descriptors for their role. However, once trained, the representative will review and agree with their RCN mentor which specific practice standards and competencies apply to their role within their particular work place and employer situation.

Contact us

To discuss how your business can benefit from any of these agreements in more detail, contact Clare Jacobs, Employment Relations Adviser on 020 7409 3333 or email

Page last updated - 03/08/2019