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

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

The Methodist Church was responding to a survey published todayby Church Action of Poverty on church employment practices thatcalls on churches to take a lead on fair pay by giving theiremployees a 'living wage' of £5.80 per hour.

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

Churches also need to balance employment obligations againstother obligations that they face, such as charitable giving orrunning costs for buildings, said Ms Baird.

She said that the Methodist Church in Britain is constantlyupdating its advice for churches and other Methodist organisationson good employment practice.

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

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

There are historic tensions over pay that churches face, sheacknowledged. These include the fact that many churches experiencetight finances as well as them having a history of members offeringvoluntary 'service' as a response to Gospel principles and for thegood of the community.

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

The Methodist Connexional Team's Personnel Office offersappropriate guidance for Methodist districts on the latestemployment law and practice. This includes the development of goodpractice, including the ensuring of proper job descriptions andcontracts.

Each of the 33 Methodist Districts in Britain has a LayEmployment Committee, with a secretary that advises churches andcircuits on employment practice in liaison with the ConnexionalTeam Personnel Office.

Read the Church Action of Poverty report, 'A LivingWage Church'