Press release

New steps to tackle taxpayer-funded support to trade unions

The government plans to abolish ‘check off’, the outdated practice of state-run union subscription payments, in the public sector.

  • outdated practice of state-run union subscription payments to be ended, removing the taxpayer-funded administrative burden on employers
  • union subscriptions can be paid by direct debit, modernising the relationship with trade unions and giving public sector workers greater consumer protection
  • removal of ‘check off’ in the public sector to be included in the Trade Union Bill, as part of curtailing public cost of ‘facility time’ subsidies

The government has today announced its intention to abolish the practice of ‘check off’ across all public sector organisations, modernising the relationship between employees and trade unions.

Currently – under the check off process – many public sector workers who are union members have their subscriptions taken directly from their salary, administered by their employer. This was a practice introduced at a time when many people didn’t have bank accounts, and before direct debits or digital payments existed as a convenient and secure way for people to transfer money.

The removal of check off will modernise the relationship between employees and their trade unions, while removing the burden of administration from the employer. The move also gives the employee greater control over their subscription, allowing them to set up their own direct debit with their chosen trade union, and giving them greater consumer protection under the Direct Debit Guarantee.

Cabinet Office Minister Matt Hancock said:

In the 21st century era of direct debits and digital payments, public resources should not be used to support the collection of trade union subscriptions.

It’s time to get rid of this outdated practice and modernise the relationship between trade unions and their members. By ending check off we are bringing greater transparency to employees – making it easier for them to choose whether or not to pay subscriptions and which union to join.

The government intends to update legislation in the Trade Union Bill to facilitate the policy being adopted across the whole of the public sector. This change is part of the government’s commitment to tackle ‘facility time’ – the taxpayer-funded subsidies given to trade unions.

This announcement follows the successful removal of check off by a number of central government departments including the Home Office, HM Revenue & Customs and Ministry of Defence.

Published 6 August 2015