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Employers will no longer have to seek employees' approval every three ...
Employers will no longer have to seek employees' approval every three

years to deduct their trade union subscriptions direct from pay, under plans issued for consultation.

The proposals aim to remove the present costly three-yearly requirement under the so- called 'check-off' arrangements, which

impose a bureaucratic burden on both large employers and small firms.

'Check-off' allows employers to pass workers' subscription fees deducted from pay at source direct to their trade union. It is

estimated that several million trade unionists pay their subscriptions in this way.

Under the proposed new arrangements employers will only have to obtain written consent from workers to begin deducting their union subscriptions by 'check-off,' with a notification that employees are

free to opt-out of the system at any time. The requirement for employers to issue advance notification of increases in check-off'

deductions will also be repealed.

Ian McCartney, DTI minister said:

'The current 'check-off' arrangements serve no useful purpose, impose

significant administrative burdens on business and disrupt the orderly conduct of industrial relations. Repealing the three yearly re-authorisation is another commitment fulfilled.

'These proposals being issued for consultation today are sensible

measures, which remove unnecessary bureaucratic burdens while retaining the essential rights for individuals to opt in or out. It

will bring union members who pay by 'check-off' into line with those

who choose to pay by direct debit.'

Repeal will be by means of a deregulation order under the

Deregulation and Contracting Out Act 1994.


1. Some workers pay their union subscriptions by deduction from their

pay at source, a practice known as 'check off'. In 1990, the last

year for which reliable and representative data are available, 73 per

cent of workplaces with some union members operated the 'check-off'


2. Under sections 68 and 68A of the Trade Union and Labour Relations

(Consolidation) Act 1992 (inserted by section 15 of the Trade Union

Reform and Employment Rights Act 1993), employers are required by law

to obtain written consent from their employees to deduct their union

subscriptions by 'check-off', and to renew this consent at least

every three years. In addition, the legislation requires employers

to notify the affected workforce at least a month in advance if the

amount deducted is to increase. There is evidence, including from the

CBI, that employers regard the requirement as a significant and

unnecessary burden on them.

3. The power to make deregulation orders was created in sections 1-4

of the Deregulation and Contracting Out Act 1994. It enables changes

to be made to primary legislation in order to remove or reduce a

burden as long as any necessary protection is maintained. Under the

Act, there are requirements to undertake prior consultations of such

organisations as ministers consider to be representative of interests

substantially affected by proposed deregulation orders.. The Act also

provides for parliament to consider the substance of proposed orders

before they are made. Under special parliamentary procedures, a

select committee in each house scrutinises proposed orders and makes

a report. The orders must then be approved by a resolution of each


4. Comments on the consultation, which ends on Friday 31 October

1997, should be sent to: Jenny Thomas, Employment Relations Directorate, Department of Trade and Industry, 2.D.46, 1 Victoria Street, London SW1H 0ET


5. From 1 September the DTI's Industrial Relations Directorate will

be re-named Employment Relations Directorate (ER). This updates the

rather traditional image of 'industrial' relations, to reflect the

diversity of wealth-producing sectors and employment relationships

with which it is concerned. It also underlines the directorate's

broader interest in employment and labour market policy, where DTI

and DfEE ministers have agreed on the need to co-operate closely in

taking forward the new government's policy agenda.

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