Free Interpreting Service for trade unions

 The Free Interpreting Service aims to provide equitable access to key services for people with limited or no English language proficiency.

Trade unions can access the Free Interpreting Service to assist workers to access support and advice.

Why trade unions use interpreters

Australia has a rich cultural diversity. The 2016 census revealed that Australians were born in almost 200 different countries and speak more than 300 languages.

Trade unions represent the interests of their members and help them to access supports. Trade unions can use credentialed interpreters to communicate technical or complex information to members with limited or no English language proficiency. This is particularly important when explaining entitlements, advocating on behalf of a member or promoting workplace health and safety.

Using the Free Interpreting Service is easy and convenient. It is quick and simple to register and you will be connected to a phone interpreter within a few minutes.

Services available to trade unions

Trade unions can use the Free Interpreting Service to access interpreting services delivered by TIS National, including:

  • immediate phone interpreting
  • pre-booked phone interpreting
  • pre-booked on-site interpreting.

Immediate phone interpreting is most useful for unplanned interactions. It provides:

  • access to more than 2700 interpreters in more than 150 languages.
  • interpreting services 24 hours a day 7 days a week
  • connection to an interpreter within a few minutes of calling.
  • Pre-booked phone interpreting is useful for planned interactions, such as member meetings or events, or if you need to request a less common language.

When phone interpreting is not suitable, TIS National can arrange an interpreter to arrive onsite for a face-to-face appointment. This may be important when you have a group of people needing the same language interpreter, when you are discussing complex ideas or when you anticipate that the appointment will go for an extended period of time. On-site interpreter bookings must be for a minimum of 90 minutes.


Trade unions are eligible to access the Free Interpreting Service to communicate with anyone in Australia who has a Medicare card.

The Free Interpreting Service can be used to provide support and advice to workers, including but not limited to:

  • providing support and advice about
    • employment or award conditions
    • union services
    • occupational health and safety concerns
  • representing a member during a dispute resolution.

The Free Interpreting Services cannot be used by trade unions for:

  • contract negotiation
  • recruitment activities and membership drives
  • attending legal proceedings, where the responsibility for providing interpreting services lies with the Fair Work Ombudsman or the relevant court or tribunal
  • communicating with people who are not eligible for Medicare, such as temporary work and student visa holders.

If you need to communicate with members on matters not covered by the Free Interpreting Service you may wish to set up a user-pays code with TIS National.

Register for a client code

Each trade union will need a unique client code to access the service.

To register for a client code, complete the online client registration form on the TIS National website. If you require assistance with registering contact TIS National on 1300 575 847

How to access the Free Interpreting Service

  1. Call TIS National on 131 450.
  2. Provide the operator with the language of the interpreter that you need.
  3. Provide your client code and the name of the trade union.
  4. Request an interpreter of a particular gender, if required (subject to availability).

More information

Free Interpreting Service: 131 450

Download the PDF version of the Free Interpreting Service - trade unions information sheet

Download the DOC version of the Free Interpreting Service - trade unions information sheet