Deduction of contributions at source (DOCAS) regulations 2023

All public sector employers that provide a DOCAS service, including those in the NHS, must comply with the 2023 regulations.

20 March 2024

From 9 May 2024, the government will bring into force the Trade Union (Deduction of Union Subscriptions from Wages in the Public Sector) Regulations that stem from the Trade Union Act 2016.

Deduction of contributions at source (DOCAS) or also known as check-off, is the practice of a worker paying their union subscriptions by having them deducted from their pay by their employer at source, and then paid to the relevant trade union. 

There is no statutory obligation for an employer to provide this service. From Thursday 9 May, all public sector employers that provide a DOCAS service, including those in the NHS, must comply with the 2023 regulations, in which a relevant public sector employer can only make deductions from its workers’ wages in respect of trade union subscriptions if: 

  • the trade union pays the employer a reasonable amount for this service; and, 
  • workers have the option to pay their subscriptions by other means. 

The Cabinet Office has issued guidance for public sector organisations, which:

  • helps employers understand what their obligations are 
  • supports employers in determining reasonable costs and identifying alternative methods of the payment of subscriptions
  • provides frequently asked questions (FAQs) and work scenarios to support with implementation.

Actions for employers

DOCAS and the provision of membership data can be seen as part of the employer’s commitment to collective bargaining and the partnership relationships described in the NHS Social Partnership Forum agreement and the NHS Terms and Conditions of Service Handbook. 

The NHS Staff Council has produced a check list to support employers with the implementation of the changes to DOCAS.   

Please note: some unions may collect subscriptions via direct debit and therefore not part of this guidance. Employers should be aware that there could be recognised union members amongst those who are not covered.

  • Scope 

    • The regulations only cover organisations in England and Scotland that are either wholly or mainly public funded. They do not apply to devolved Welsh Bodies (due to the passing of the Trade Union (Wales) Act 2017). However, any  public sector organisations that operate within Wales and are not devolved, must comply with the regulations.  
    • Whilst there is no statutory obligation for an employer to provide this service - the regulations do not seek to remove check-off in the public sector.
    • There is no requirement for employers to stop deductions of contributions at source (DOCAS) arrangements currently in place however, existing arrangements should be applied in accordance with the regulations.


    • Where there is no (discernible) cost associated for administering check-off, there must be no charge to the trade union.
    • Any payments should be reasonable, and only cover the costs of making the deductions also the fee recharged must be substantially equivalent to the total cost of administering check off.
    • Employers must not profit from any recharge arrangements. Employers should not charge excessive amounts or use a mechanism for administering check-off that is more costly than needed.   
    • Employers should look to administer check-off in the most cost-effective way. Employers should only charge unions for the additional cost of check-off, not the purchase of a contract or the full cost of using the payroll system. Costs should be updated when the contract or provider changes.
    • Employers must not seek to charge retrospectively (so new arrangements can only apply from 9 May 2024).
    • Administration costs may include: 
      • wage and non-wage costs such as national insurance, pensions contributions
      • setting-up costs for a new system - time spent introducing the system and procurement costs or additional staffing resources. Employers cannot charge for this if the system is already in place 
      • adding new staff and processing consent forms. And staff asking to stop check off 
      • ongoing admin costs such as time taken to process deductions and any changes as a result of a subs increase.
      • one off payments for example, late notice from unions for changes which result in additional admin time. 

    Making arrangements 

    Local partnerships may wish to put in place agreements to capture the formal arrangements about what deductions will be made and how the membership information and financial remittance data will be provided.

    • Agreements should be consistent with relevant legislation, including the General Data Protection Regulations 2016. The DHSC guidance states that employers may wish to assess the costs incurred, including time associated with admin and third-party suppliers. 
    • Provide information to unions of the cost and calculation, how costs will be split between unions, and be able to evidence how they reached the calculation and provide reasonable data to support their considerations. 
    • Provide the opportunity for unions to comment.
    • Aim to reach agreement within a reasonable period. For these arrangements to take place before the coming into force date (9 May 2024).
    • Submit a monthly invoice or agreed percentage reduction to the fee transferred from member subs.
    • Keep arrangements under review.

    Maintaining agreements 

    The regulations do not seek to remove check-off. In the event that parties experience difficulty in reaching agreement they are encouraged to seek advice and support through their respective sides and look at use of normal dispute resolution mechanisms.

    Please note: some of the wording contained in this checklist is taken directly from the guidance.


    i. Definitions 

    ii. Service provision 

    iii. Commencement and termination 

    iv. Review of agreement 

    v. Quality 

    vi. Confidentiality 

    vii. Data protection 


    i. Deductions from salary or wages 

    ii. Determination of a member’s subscription band 

    iii. Increases in subscription rates 

    iv. Cessation of subscriptions 

    v. Reductions in subscriptions 


    i. Monthly reports 

    ii. Customised reports 


    i. File format 

    ii. Frequency of data collection 

    iii. Preferred electronic media 

    iv. Procedure for introducing electronic data