As part of Government policy to discourage/cancel check-off in the public sector over the past few years (culminating in the now withdrawn provisions in the Trade Union Bill proposing to abolish it), the DWP withdrew a long-standing check-off facility for its staff, recently contained within a Salary Policy published by the Department on its intranet. The DWP argued that the facility was not contractual and if it was it could be withdrawn on reasonable notice. The High Court (Mrs Justice Elisabeth Laing) disagreed, holding that the language of the relevant provision (“You can choose ….”) meant that staff had a right to check-off, which could not be removed unilaterally even on notice.
Following the DWP’s withdrawal of check-off, PCS had lost membership funds, despite a campaign for members to switch to Direct Debit payments (which the majority did). PCS claimed under the Contracts (Rights of Third Parties) Act 1999, on the basis that the check-off term conferred a benefit on the union. Laing J upheld that argument. There will be a further hearing to establish what damages are payable.
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Oliver Segal QC & Melanie Tether were instructed by Victoria Phillips at Thompsons.
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