Some trade union members pay their union subscriptions by deduction from their wages. The employer passes these payments directly to their union. These arrangements are commonly known as the 'check-off'.
Administering the check-off
Where check-off arrangements exist, you may lawfully make deductions only where the worker has given you their written consent and has not subsequently withdrawn that consent.
The consent must be signed and dated and contain their authorisation to check-off deductions being made from their wages. The authorisation document is effective from the date on which the worker signs it and remains valid until it is withdrawn.
You can pre-print consent forms as long as the worker signs and dates the form personally.
A union can obtain the written authorisation and then forward it to you. However, you remain responsible for ensuring that deductions are not made unlawfully.
A worker who has union subscriptions deducted from their wages by their employer may make a complaint to an industrial tribunal against the employer if the deduction was made without proper authorisation.
The duration of check-off arrangements
You are not obliged to keep making check-off deductions indefinitely. Check-off is a voluntary arrangement, and you have no statutory duty either to operate it at all, or to continue to do so having started.
However, if you have entered into a contractual agreement with workers to operate check-off, you could be in breach of contract if you stopped the arrangement.
Worker's withdrawal of consent to the check-off
If a worker wants to withdraw their consent to the check-off, they must write to you notifying you that they no longer wish to have check-off deductions made. They must allow you reasonable time to stop the deductions.
The role of the union
The union has no statutory role in administering the check-off.
However, you can involve the union in carrying out your statutory duties with regard to check-off.
You could, for example, ask the union to help you get initial consent from its members. You may also choose to charge the union for the administration involved in providing the service of collecting its members' subscriptions.
However, it remains your responsibility to ensure that you act lawfully when you make check-off deductions.