At our church, we are beginning to pay a regular cleaner
for a few hours each week. Do we have to set up a PAYE
EVERYTHING that a church does is under the same employment law
as the rest of the country and all other employers. Depending on
the amount a worker earns, he or she may have to pay National
Insurance and income tax. Working a few hours a week for the church
may not bring the worker up to the "primary threshold", which is
the minimum amount of earnings after which National Insurance must
be paid, and all workers have an agreed level of income before tax,
depending on their circumstances.
There is information on the HMRC website, and the site also
suggests that enquirers could consult the Citizens Advice Bureau.
It is important to get this right, as the employer/church will
become liable for all National Insurance (employer's and
employee's), and missed tax payments, if the omission is discovered
Some dioceses take on the administration of PAYE and NI for
smaller or poorer churches, and certainly the finance department
can give initial advice. Not knowing or not finding out the rules
does not excuse the church from liability.
Remember, too, that other laws also apply. The church should be
seen to be an equal-opportunities employer, and, under the law,
your cleaner can be of any faith or none. He or she simply has to
be a good cleaner; so don't think that the church is exempt from
rules on advertising jobs for cleaners, administrators, and
Only when an employee's work involves active engagement in
religious activity, such as leading a service, can the requirement
that he or she be a practising Christian be upheld. A person of
another faith who has enough understanding of Christian faith to do
his or her work is fine for the job.
Part-time employees are entitled to a contract, agreed hours and
pay, and appropriate conditions of work. They should know who their
line manager is; to whom they can make a complaint when necessary;
the extent of the notice that is required; and how their work will
be reviewed. They should have reasonable facilities available for
breaks, and a proper agreement about holidays. The Church Urban
Fund produced a good booklet on employment practice, and you could
always ask your local Council for the Voluntary Sector.
Clergy are not always best placed to advise on employment
practice, because their own employment agreement is so unusual in
contemporary culture. They are office-holders with few formal
conditions of work, such as hours, holidays, facilities, and so
But how does the Church get away with offering only voluntary
work, or non-parochial work, to one half of clergy married couples,
when clearly this has a hugely negative impact on their future,
from having a credible CV to eventual benefit and pension rights?
We need clearer thinking in high places. I suspect that the will to
change from the diocesan point of view is insufficient to overcome
the Hardyesque, parish- level expectation that the clergy should be
available at all hours.
So, can a Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, or Rastafarian be employed in
your church? Of course they can, and they must have appropriate and
legal terms of employment.
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