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The roles of Accredited Representatives

Key aspects of the AR role include: 


ARs are vital in alerting the central team to individual and collective issues affecting members. We send information to ARs for circulation to members and asks ARs to gather the views of members on specific issues. 

Advising members 

Personal advice and representation in employment matters is available to all Essential members working in the salaried services. ARs provide general advice on terms and conditions and employment-related issues.  EROs support ARs in doing so and will deal with more complex cases requiring personal representation.  

Local negotiations 

ARs are strongly encouraged to participate in their local workplace Joint Negotiating Forum (all staff) and Local Negotiating Committee (Doctors and Dentists). See below for further information. 

Building relationships 

ARs are encouraged to meet regularly with their clinical director or main service manager to discuss current issues affecting members. This approach often helps resolve employment relations issues swiftly and informally. 

Recruiting members 

The strength of a trade union depends on its ability to recruit and retain members. ARs, through the support they provide in the workplace, play a crucial role in recruiting new members and retaining existing members. See below for further information. 

Support you can expect

Our Employment Relations Team is comprised of the Head of Employment Relations, three other Employment Relations Officers, and the AR Network Co-ordinator.  

Employment Relations Officers (EROs) each cover large areas of the UK; regular communication with the ARs within their ‘patch’ is therefore crucial in providing effective individual and collective support to our salaried members. 

Training and supporting our ARs is a key priority of the Employment Relations Team. ARs can contact their ERO at any time for advice or support in relation to the role, or any workplace issue. 

The Accredited Representative network

There are 11 AR regions within the UK. Across this AR network, there is an annual programme of regional and national meetings, training, and a Conference. Participation in these events provides an invaluable opportunity to get know colleagues from across the network, and to share knowledge and ideas. 

Elections and accreditation 

ARs are elected for a three-year period. Elections took place in 2021/22, with the next one due in 2024/25. 

Once an AR has been elected, we will inform the employer and will formally accredit the individual onto its AR network. Accreditation allows an AR to act for the BDA with all the legal rights and protections available to elected trade union representatives. These rights include reasonable (paid) time off from their normal duties as a dentists to carry out the role, and legal protection against detrimental treatment linked to trade union activity. 


New ARs, and those who missed earlier training events, are invited to attend an induction training course provided by the Employment Relations Team. This four-day residential training course provides a sound understanding of the role and, through group activities and negotiating scenarios, develops ARs’ confidence in advising and supporting members. 

A training day for all ARs is held annually and from time to time we organise single-issue training events.  

Regional meetings

All ARs are given the dates and venues of regional meetings where they can discuss political or local issues. We fund three AR meetings per year in each region. These meetings are attended by an ERO. 

Each regional AR committee has a chair and, ideally, a secretary, who are responsible for arranging the meetings, taking minutes, and co-ordinating the meeting agenda. 

Annual AR Conference 

We host an annual conference for all ARs to debate motions on employment or policy issues affecting the salaried service. All ARs are encouraged to participate in this event. Motions debated and passed at the conference are then discussed at national committees with a view to being implemented as BDA policy. 

The Regional and National AR Chairs also meet annually to plan activity for the AR network over the coming 12 months. 

AR Facebook Group 

Once accredited ARs are encouraged to sign up to the AR Facebook Group – a useful tool for sharing thoughts and ideas with AR colleagues across the UK. 

The AR network co-ordinator 

In addition to support from the EROs, the AR network is also supported by a Network Co-ordinator. The Co-ordinator helps with regional meetings, conducts elections and by-elections, organises training courses and events, and is the first contact for support on issues that are not covered by EROs directly. 

The AR Network Co-ordinator can be contacted on 0207 563 4168. 

Other trade unions and local negotiations

The NHS, and other organisations employing members, recognise a number of trade unions representing different groups of staff, including UNISON, UNITE, the RCN, the GMB, and the BMA. Working with other trade union colleagues as part of the local ‘staff side’ is a key aspect of the AR role. 

Participating in local negotiating forums 

Local negotiations are conducted between the organisation’s management and the trade unions and generally relate to matters not covered under national terms and conditions. These local negotiating bodies are often referred to as the Joint Negotiating Committee (JNC), the Joint Negotiating Forum (JNF), the Local Partnership Forum (LPF), or similar. 

ARs have a seat on their employer’s local negotiation forum and, with colleagues from other unions, are members of the ‘staff side’. The staff side will usually have a chair and secretary; ARs are eligible for these roles. 

ARs are encouraged to attend meetings of their local trade union negotiating forum, if unable to attend, they should receive meeting papers and provide comments on issues that affect members. 

Dentists’ and Doctors’ Negotiating Forums 

NHS organisations usually have a separate negotiating body for dentists and doctors – commonly referred to as the Local Negotiating Committee (LNC). Where these exist, ARs should participate as the items discussed will be relevant to dentists. 

Matters discussed 

One of the main activities of local negotiating bodies is to agree the procedures or policies for the employing organisation, covering matters such as bullying and harassment, sickness absence, IT usage, union recognition, part-time working, and work/life balance. The ARs should consider the effect on members of any policies that are to be introduced or changed (with advice from an ERO whenever required). 

ARs will also be able to present staff opinions on issues such as budgets, resource decisions and on wider issues affecting patient care in their communities. 

ARs are vital in protecting and promoting the interests of members within these fora. 

Trade union duties

Employees that are elected as representatives of a recognised trade union are entitled to reasonable paid time off during working hours to carry out the duties of their trade union role. 

NHS organisations and other employers providing a salaried dental service (Community Interest Companies, for example) recognise the role of the BDA in collective negotiation and partnership working. A ‘recognition agreement’ describes the governance arrangements for the relationship between the employer and the trade union, which should include: 

  • Arrangements for consultation and negotiation 
  • Management of day-to-day business 
  • Health and safety arrangements 
  • Facilities for trade union representatives (e.g. access to office space, computers, and photocopying facilities) 
  • Time off to carry out trade union duties and to receive training 

The recognition agreement determines the matters that are subject to local negotiation between employing organisations and the BDA. The main terms and conditions of employment and pay are generally negotiated nationally. 

Trade union duties for an AR employed within the CDS will generally include: 

  • Attending trade union training and meetings 
  • Attending local negotiating forums 
  • Consulting with BDA members on proposals to re-organise a service, or a forthcoming TUPE transfer 
  • Negotiating facilities for trade union representatives 
  • Accompanying members at sickness absence meetings for example. (The ERO Team will provide representation in more complex cases.) 

Reasonable time off should also be granted if members need to be briefed or to prepare for meetings with management. 

The right to time off 

Paid time off to undertake trade union duties is a statutory right and, provided the trade union is recognised, an employer should not refuse. Managers should be given as much notice as possible when time off for trade union duties is needed. Regional AR meetings are usually planned for the year ahead to allow adequate notice to be given, minimising disruption to the service. 

A manager may decline a request for time off if it is submitted with little notice and the needs of the service are affected. Where an AR has followed the terms of the local recognition agreement but the request for time off is refused, the AR should discuss the matter with an ERO and the secretary or chair of the staff side. 

Recruiting members

The starting point for recruitment is, of course, the workplace. ARs should ensure that colleagues are aware of their legal right to join a trade union and the benefits of belonging to the BDA. 

Colleagues may not be immediately aware of the work undertaken by the BDA in: 

  • Improving pay, conditions, and workplace safety 
  • Promoting equality and fair treatment at work 
  • Providing additional services and benefits to members, including professional and educational resources 
  • Influencing health policy and lobbying government on issues relevant to dentistry. 

It is therefore important to have regular conversations with workplace colleagues to ensure that they are aware of our work on their behalf, and the benefits of BDA membership. 

New employees 

Speaking to new starters provides an ideal opportunity to recruit new members to the BDA. Many employers invite members of the staff side to speak to new employees as part of their induction. HR departments can provide information on induction programmes and how staff-side representatives might participate. 

ARs should get to know new starters and understand the issues that are important to them in their working lives. It is often helpful to explain the role of the AR and the support available to members from the EROs.  

Retaining members 

Retaining existing members is as important as recruiting new members. Ensuring that colleagues are aware of the work being undertaken by the BDA on their behalf is crucial.  

Attending staff meetings or events and reporting on our work ensures that colleagues know what the BDA is doing on their behalf, both locally and nationally. These meetings provide a valuable opportunity to hear about issues or concerns that require help.  

Regular email updates to members within the workplace can also be an effective way of maintaining awareness of the work undertaken, locally and nationally.  

Member benefits 

Acquiring a good working knowledge of the services and benefits provided as part of membership can help ARs to recruit and retain members. 

The services and benefits available to ‘Essential’ members include: 

  • Workplace representation 
  • British Dental Journal (24 issues per year) 
  • BDJ In Practice (12 issues per year) 
  • Over 130 hours of verifiable CPD per year 
  • The facility to earn, track and record CPD online using the CPD Hub 
  • Access to Europe’s largest dental library 
  • Access to the BDA local branch network 
  • Professional financial planning and advice 
  • Generous discounts on books, events, and training. 

Sharing good ideas! 

We are always keen to hear about workplace initiatives that have proved successful in terms of member recruitment and retention. Regional AR meetings and the annual AR Conference also provide an opportunity to share examples of success in recruiting and retaining members. 

Contacting the Employment Relations Team

Telephone: 020 7563 4582 

Email: [email protected]