01 October 2002

Advice to church employers: work towards a 'living wage'

Churches seeking to employ a lay person need to balance legal and ethical considerations about pay against other commitments, says the Methodist Church. To be legal, pay should be at least at the level of the minimum wage and, to be ethical, consideration should be given towards paying a 'living wage'.

The Methodist Church was responding to a survey published today by Church Action of Poverty on church employment practices that calls on churches to take a lead on fair pay by giving their employees a 'living wage' of £5.80 per hour.

The head of personnel for the Methodist Connexional Team, Ms Anne Baird, said: "We have come a long way in better employment practices, but we shouldn't get complacent about the need to meet ethical and legal requirements."

Churches also need to balance employment obligations against other obligations that they face, such as charitable giving or running costs for buildings, said Ms Baird.

She said that the Methodist Church in Britain is constantly updating its advice for churches and other Methodist organisations on good employment practice.

The current version of a nationally available employment pack already includes advice on pay and conditions and states that all posts must be paid at least the level of the minimum wage (£4.10 ph). Many posts, such as youth and community workers, have nationally recognised salary scales.

In an updated version of the employment pack, currently being prepared, "churches will be encouraged to consider the living wage and take account of market rates," said Ms Baird.

There are historic tensions over pay that churches face, she acknowledged. These include the fact that many churches experience tight finances as well as them having a history of members offering voluntary 'service' as a response to Gospel principles and for the good of the community.

Church councils need to be clear about when work for the church is undertaken on a voluntary basis or when an employed post is created for particular work. If a full or part-time post is created, correct employment practices should be followed.

The Methodist Connexional Team's Personnel Office offers appropriate guidance for Methodist districts on the latest employment law and practice. This includes the development of good practice, including the ensuring of proper job descriptions and contracts.

Each of the 33 Methodist Districts in Britain has a Lay Employment Committee, with a secretary that advises churches and circuits on employment practice in liaison with the Connexional Team Personnel Office.

Read the Church Action of Poverty report, 'A Living Wage Church'


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