2016 Trade Union Act : Union Subscriptions Paid Via ‘Check Off’ Arrangements

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The Trade Union Act 2016 brought in new restrictions on deducting union subscriptions at source (DOCAS).

Some of your Employees may currently pay their union membership subscriptions directly out of their wages and through the school’s payroll.  The school’s payroll then passes these membership subscriptions to the union.  This DOCAS arrangement is often referred to as the ‘check off’.

School / Academy Employees who are member of the support staff unions Unison, GMB and Unite may pay their union subscriptions via ‘check off’ arrangements. Employees who are in teaching unions generally pay their subscriptions through individual direct debit agreements with the union.

Employers aren’t obliged to operate ‘check off’ arrangements on behalf of unions.  The new legislation means unions must provide an alternative method for members to pay their subscriptions (for example by direct debit). In addition where Employers operate these arrangements they may charge an administrative fee for doing so. Any charge levied should reflect the cost to the employer’s payroll provider of operating the check off arrangement. 

These changes were due to come into effect from 10th March 2018 – however this has now  been  postponed and it is not currently known when the changes will become law.  We are aware that Unions may have been contacting Schools / Academies directly regarding these changed arrangements.

In anticipation of these changes KCC has recently reached agreement with GMB regarding the rate to be charged for operating check off arrangements.   Kent Maintained Schools who purchase our SPS IntePay service will automatically have this fee deducted from the membership subscriptions passed to the GMB once the legislation takes effect.  There will be no additional cost to the school.

Discussions are ongoing between KCC and the Unison and Unite unions.

If your School currently purchases our SPS IntePay service we will contact you directly in due course and once the legislation has been enacted to advise you the details of any agreement reached with unions on behalf of maintained schools.

Regrettably it is not possible to offer this facility to Academies. Academies using our IntePay service should advise employees who currently pay their union subscriptions via the payroll that they need to make alternative arrangements to pay these via individual direct debit in the future.

If your School / Academy uses an alternative payroll provider you are advised to liaise with them about the cost of operating the ‘check off’ on your behalf. In this instance individual Schools / Academies will be responsible for reaching an agreement with unions about any fees to be charged once the new legislation comes into effect.

Where an agreement can not be reached about rate of the administrative fee to be charged a School / Academy may decline to provide check off arrangements for union members. Where check off arrangements are withdrawn Employees should be advised that they will need to convert any subscriptions to payment via direct debit.