Changing UNISON’s application forms

New application forms are coming. Legal changes take effect in March and May, and these 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.

These changes will affect every way people join the union – whether online, by phone or by filling in a physical application form.

New online forms and phone scripts for staff at UNISONdirect are in hand and won’t affect branches and regions.

And all the existing paper application forms will be replaced by 1 March. Using the old forms after then, and processing the information in them, will be unlawful.

Bulk supplies of the new forms will be mailed to UNISON regions and branches, in the week beginning Monday 19 February. As soon as they receive the new forms, they should destroy all the old application forms they have.

Any online joining forms on regional or branch websites will need to be updated in line with the new legal requirements, or taken down, with potential recruits directed to

If branches have a pdf file of the paper application on their website, they should make sure that it is no longer accessible from the end of this month by removing it from their website and server.

UNISON is having to make the changes because of two pieces of legislation: the Trade Union Act of 2016 and new data protection regulations, known as GDPR, to protect people’s privacy.

DOCAS and UNISON’s political funds

The Trade Union Act means the union is busy renegotiating and clarifying 8,000 separate arrangements with employers who collect members’ subs direct from their wages and pass them onto UNISON.

It also means new members have to actively sign up to pay into the union’s political fund by making a campaign fund contribution.

This will mean them agreeing to pay an additional 5%, over and above their normal subs, to fund UNISON’s political and campaigning work. In the future, the union’s General Political Fund will be known as the Campaign Fund and the Affiliated Political Fund as UNISON Labour Link.

Initially this campaign fund contribution will be collected via direct debit. To facilitate this, and meet data protection regulations, we are reintroducing a separate direct debit and DOCAS membership form.

The direct debit form will be green and the DOCAS form purple.

However, the purple DOCAS form will also include a tear-off direct debit section for political fund contributions only. The completed direct debit section must not be sent to employers with the DOCAS form as it contains personal sensitive information.

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.

Collecting and keeping information about members

The new data regulations are designed to protect people from unwanted marketing emails, texts, phone calls etc and stop companies and others hoovering up information about them.

It aims to protect individuals from misuse of personal data by any organisations and to give individuals more rights to challenge how their data is collected and used. It has legal force and there are very large fines for non-compliance.

This will mean some changes on 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: ie joining the union.

So the new forms will include very clear explanations of how we will and will not use the information they provide on the form, including allowing people the option to choose whether or not we use the information they give to communicate with them through various channels.

The new regulations also have very specific rules on how how organisations process “special category” personal data: which includes things such as ethnic origin, political belief and trade union membership.

None of this information can be shared with an employer – except union membership through a DOCAS form. Equality monitoring information is also not necessary to joining the union: according to the law, it would be regarded as “excessive” data collection if we collect it when people apply to join.

However UNISON is committed to monitoring the diversity of our membership which means collecting such information from our members, should they wish to provide it.

The union will be working with representatives of all of UNISON’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.

Essential ordering information for the new forms after 1 March

DIRECT DEBIT ONLY membership application form. 

Essential cover wherever you work. Stock number: 3866

DOCAS-only membership application form. 

Essential cover wherever you work, Stock number: 3873

Bilingual Welsh/English, DOCAS-only membership application form.

Essential cover wherever you work.Stock number: 3881

Bilingual Welsh/English, DIRECT DEBIT ONLY membership application form. 

Essential cover wherever you work. Stock number: 3868

The Trade Union Act applies to all UK jurisdictions except Northern Ireland and the new GDPR data regulations apply in all four countries: England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

The changes were overseen by a steering group of lay members and officers, and the political fund changes were subject to two separate consultations with members

Because of the strict legal requirements on the new forms, branches will not be able to amend them, though they will be able to overprint their branch logo on the form.