UNISON’s New Application Forms: Questions and Answers
Why has UNISON got new application forms?
Changes to the law taking effect in March and May mean that the questions we ask people
who want to join the union, the way we deal with their information and how we handle
their payments need to change.
What are the changes?
There are two pieces of legislation: the Trade Union Act of 2016 and new data protection
regulations, known as GDPR.
These changes will affect every way people join the union – whether online, by phone or by
filling in a physical application form.
The online joining form at join.unison.org.uk have been changed, alongside the introduction
of new paper forms.
What do we do with old, unused forms?
Recycle them immediately! From 1 March they no longer comply with the law.
The Trade Union Act and UNISON’s political fund – what does it mean?
The Trade Union Act means new members – those who join after 1 March 2018 – have to
actively sign up to pay into the union’s political fund by making a campaign fund
This will mean them agreeing to pay an additional 5%, over and above their normal subs, to
fund UNISON’s political and campaigning work.
Initially, this campaign fund contribution will be collected via Direct Debit. To facilitate this,
and meet data protection regulations, we are introducing separate Direct Debit and DOCAS
Under new data protection rules, political belief is what’s known as “special category”
information, which should not be shared with third parties, including employers.
The Act, and these changes, do not apply to Northern Ireland.
Using the new purple DOCAS form
Because of changes to legislation we cannot currently collect political fund contributions
through DOCAS. Therefore they have to be collected separately and by Direct Debit.
The Direct Debit section of the purple DOCAS form is for political fund
contributions only. You must process this part of the application form as you would all Direct
Debit applications. Please follow the usual procedure and send the Direct Debit mandate to
your region for safe storage.
And beyond the joining process?
The Act included a one-year transition period from 1 March 2017 to 1 March 2018. UNISON
used that period to set up a working group, led by lay members, on the changes that we
needed to introduce. This included two union-wide consultations.
As a result, rule changes will be going to this year’s national delegate conference so that our
rules governing the political funds comply with the law.
One change will see the union’s general political fund, or GPF, renamed the Campaign Fund,
and the affiliated political fund will be known as UNISON Labour Link.
So what’s all this about data protection?
The new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) comes into force in May 2018. Under
it, all organisations have to seek specific, carefully worded, clear and transparent
permissions before they contact people.
This requirement applies to all of UNISON: branches, regions and head office.
The regulations aim to protect individuals from the misuse of their personal data by any
organisation. It has legal force and there are very large fines for non-compliance.
This will change what information UNISON collects about members and how it collects it.
The basic rule is that any information we ask for must be necessary for the purpose we
collect it for.
So the new forms will include very clear explanations of how we will and will not use the
information people provide on the form, including allowing them to choose whether or not
the information they give can be used to communicate with them through various channels.
What about equality monitoring?
The new regulations are specific on how organisations process “special category” personal
data – things such as ethnic background, political belief or trade union membership.
None of this information can be shared with an employer – except union membership –
through a DOCAS form.
Equality monitoring information is not necessary to joining the union and under the law it
would be “excessive” data collection if we collect it from people when they apply to join.
However, UNISON is committed to monitoring the diversity of our membership.
We can legitimately collect this information from our members, should they wish to provide
it, but not as part of the application to join the union.
UNISON Centre will be working with representatives of all of the union’s self-organised
groups to develop a new framework for gathering information, linked to our membership
information, and looking at new ways to engage our members in this process.
How do these changes match with devolution?
The Trade Union Act applies in all UK jurisdictions except Northern Ireland. So there has
been no new form introduced there to take account of the political fund changes introduced
by the Act.
However, the new GDPR data regulations apply in all four countries: England, Wales,
Scotland and Northern Ireland. New forms for Northern Ireland, which will match the
regulation’s requirements on data handling, will be produced for Northern Ireland for May.
What about branches’ tailored application forms?
Branches will still be able to over-print application forms with their branch branding.
But the content of the form will not be amendable. The form has undergone numerous legal
checks to make sure it complies with the law.