How the legislation changes affect industrial and provident societies and credit unions in Northern Ireland: further information

On 6 April 2018, new legislation comes into effect. These are legislative changes passed by the Northern Ireland Assembly in the Credit Unions and Co-operative and Community Benefit Societies (Northern Ireland) Act 2016 (‘2016 Act’).

This means that from 6 April 2018, anyone looking to set up a new society must register using one of the two new legal forms. People will no longer be able to register an ‘industrial and provident society’.

People looking to set up a new society must register as one of the following:

  • a co-operative society
  • a community benefit society

You cannot register as both.

Existing industrial and provident societies do not become a ‘co-operative society’ or a ‘community benefit society’. Industrial and provident societies will stay registered but will be considered 'pre-2016 Act societies' (generally referred to as 'registered societies').

The 2016 Act amends

  • the Industrial and Provident Societies Act (Northern Ireland) 1969 (‘1969 Act’)
  • The Credit Unions (Northern Ireland) Order 1985 (‘1985 Order’)

Industrial and Provident Societies Act (Northern Ireland) 1969

The 2016 Act renames the 1969 Act to:

  • the Co-operative and Community Benefit Societies Act (Northern Ireland) 1969

The 2016 Act replaces the ‘industrial and provident society’ legal form with two new legal forms:

  • co-operative society
  • community benefit society

Societies registered before 6 April 2018

All societies registered before 6 April 2018 will be referred to as ‘registered societies’.

Letterhead and websites 

You could write: ‘[name of society] is a registered society under the Co-operative and Community Benefit Societies Act (Northern Ireland) 1969.’

If your society was registered before 6 April 2018 you should not refer to your society as a ‘community benefit society’ or a ‘co-operative society registered under the Co-operative and Community Benefit Societies Act (Northern Ireland) 1969’.

Changing your name 

You do not have to change your name, even if the words ‘industrial and provident society’ appear in it.

If your society has ‘co-operative society’ in its name, we expect it to be a bona fide co-operative. Equally, if its name contains the term ‘community benefit society’ we expect it to exist to benefit the community.

If you do wish to change your name, you must use this form to apply to the FCA.

Changing your rules 

You do not have to change your rules.

The next time you are making a rule amendment you could change references to the ‘Industrial and Provident Societies Act (Northern Ireland) 1969’ to the Co-operative and Community Benefit Societies Act (Northern Ireland) 1969. This is optional. References to the old name are automatically taken as referring to the new name.

Non co-operative or community benefit societies

All societies must either:

  • be a ‘bona fide’ co-operative
  • exist for the benefit of the community

Societies that feel they don’t meet these conditions for registration could consider converting to a company. We can cancel the registration of any society that does not meet one of these conditions for registration.

All societies must decide which condition for registration they think they meet, and stick with it. For instance, if a registered society has decided it will meet the ‘existing for the benefit of the community’ condition for registration, it can’t change that in the future.

Switching types of societies

You cannot switch between the legal forms without registering a new society.

Societies registering from 6 April 2018

You must register as either:

  • a co-operative society
  • a community benefit society

You cannot be both. It is no longer possible to register an industrial and provident society.

There are important distinctions between the two legal forms. More information can be found in chapters 4 and 5 of our guidance.

The Credit Unions (Northern Ireland) Order 1985 (‘1985 Order’)

The 2016 Act introduced provisions about the attachment of shares. These apply where a member’s paid up shareholding is, or would be following a withdrawal, less than the member’s total liability to the credit union.

The 2016 Act introduces requirements that affect:

  • loan agreements, and
  • the ability of the credit union to allow the withdrawal of shares.  

These provisions start on 6 April 2018.