Parishes are legal entities and are therefore responsible for their own safe, legally compliant recruitment. For example, advertising and selecting must follow anti-discriminatory regulations and safe recruitment especially with reference to child protection and the protection of vulnerable adults. You must follow diocesan policies and procedures including:
- offer letters “subject to satisfactory DBS clearance and references”;
- that references are always followed up that no one is doing the job until a DBS check has been received and that specific safeguarding awareness training is appropriate to the role.
Before recruiting you should establish your budget for the post, in particular, what salary and benefits you are going to offer. Ensure that you budget for all ‘on costs’ including Employer’s NI and pension. You will also need to ensure you have the budget for materials such as a computer or desk. All parish recruitment processes should follow the national Church safeguarding Safer Recruitment guidance.
Read the ACAS guide to hiring staff. This sets out the issues and guidance on advertising, interviews and discrimination. To help PCCs when recruiting staff please refer to the free download and use the Recruitment Checklist template.
Many roles in parishes are filled by those who are part of the church community. In some cases, therefore, low-key advertising via noticeboards, word-of-mouth, etc may be sufficient to attract candidates.
You do need to be careful, however, that you are advertising widely enough not to exclude anyone who might be interested. This could lead to claims of discrimination and you could miss out on the perfect candidate.
You can place a vacancy on the diocesan website for free by sending it to the HR and Safeguarding Team. You can also place it for free on the Government’s Find a Job website, aimed at jobseekers. Generally, you can advertise a role for as long as you wish, although the recommended timeframe is no less than two weeks.
The ACAS guide has useful advice on advertising. Be careful that any skills or qualifications you say are required really are essential. Otherwise, you can unnecessarily and unfairly exclude potential employees.
Parishes can reasonably expect their staff to keep to its values and culture and therefore the ethos of the parish, without actually belonging to its particular religion or belief. It is possible therefore to state in the advert that the job holder must be ‘in sympathy with the aims and ethos of the Church’. This does not mean the same as asking them to be a Christian.
The pay you offer as a PCC is for you to decide, of course, however, you must comply with the statutory National Living Wage (NLW) for those aged 23 and over and National Minimum Wage (NMW) for those of at least school leaving age. Every year on 1 April these rates change. Currently, the NLW is £10.42 per hour for people aged 23 and over. The NMW which is a legally enforceable minimum level of pay is dependent upon one's age; refer to the government website for current rates.
The real Living Wage is higher than the government's minimum, or National Living Wage, and is an independently calculated hourly rate of pay that is based on the actual cost of living. The Diocese of Oxford is now accredited as a real Living Wage employer, the current rates as of 24 October 2023 are £12.00 per hour in the UK and £13.15 per hour in London.
You must ensure pay between similar employees is consistent. If you offer other benefits then you need to be clear about whether these are to form part of the employment contract or not. If they do, it will be hard to vary or remove them. There could also be potential tax implications if you offer generous benefits. The government website has useful advice on this.
- Consider who will be involved in the interviews. It should be the same people that conducted the shortlisting;
- Prepare for the interview. Be professional with how you invite people in. Use a quiet space with an informal setting if you can. Avoid barriers like desks between you and the candidate. You get more information from a relaxed candidate. Make sure they talk most of the time. Ask your questions clearly and make sure they are understood. Ask pre-agreed competency-based questions where you can. Avoid questions about personal life and interests;
- Be honest about the job and the business. Emphasise your values and sell your brand;
- Make notes during the interview so you can score candidates against the criteria you have set. Be careful what you write as they can be used later if someone complains and makes a claim for discrimination;
- Be professional when making an offer. A candidate may have more than one offer, so make sure they choose you;
- Prepare well for their first day – it is the beginning of an important relationship.
- Avoid health-related questions in paperwork to candidates;
- Don’t share information unnecessarily;
- Don’t hold on to recruitment paperwork longer than necessary.
- Receipt of references that are satisfactory to the parish (detailed references are especially important if the individual is working with children or vulnerable adults);
- Evidence of right to work in the UK (see the Right to Work section below);
- If evidence cannot be provided then you may need to sponsor the individual under the Home Office immigration requirements;
- There are many occupational health providers available who will tell you whether an individual is fit for the role or whether adjustments may be necessary;
- Evidence of qualifications that may be required for the role, e.g. an accountancy qualification may be needed for a Finance Manager role;
- Disclosure and Barring Service check and confidential declaration (if required) (see Safer Recruitment section below).
You can make the offer verbally but always follow up in writing. You will also need to provide a contract of employment.
Contracts of employment are different to “contracts for services”, which would be used for those who provide a service but who are not employees (ego self-employed or casual workers). Contracts can be permanent or fixed term. Contracts can be made verbally or in writing but any employee who has been employed for one month or more has the statutory right to a written “statement of particulars of employment”. This confirms rights and responsibilities, entitlements and records employment details. These are often expanded on in a staff handbook which sets out various policies and procedures. This usually does not form part of the contract. Employment contracts consist of a mixture of ‘Express’ and ‘Implied’ terms:
- Express terms: those that are actually stated in writing and which must meet minimum legal standards in many areas, such as the right to paid holidays and the right to rest breaks. As of 25 May 2018, you need to ensure your employment contract is GDPR compliant;
- Implied terms: those that are not necessarily written down but still apply. For example, a duty of mutual trust and confidence between the employer and employee.
The ACAS site has guidance on contracts and a template for the written terms and conditions of someone's employment. Guidance and an example contract of employment are available from Just Employment. An updated version of the contract is available here.
Fixed-term employees should not be treated any less favourably than comparable permanent employees and are entitled to the same or equivalent benefits. Normally the only difference in the written contract would be in relation to an end date, or on completion of a specific task (and any notice required etc) and perhaps a pro-rata holiday allowance and salary.
It is important that fixed-term contracts explain whether notice to end the contract is required or not and whether it can be ended because of a specific event, for example, because of a withdrawal of funding from an outside party. When a fixed-term contract ends on the agreed end date, whilst the employer will normally not need to give notice of the termination of employment, for employment law purposes is still considered a dismissal. Therefore, if the employee has been continuously employed for two years or more, they may have the right to statutory redundancy pay (at the same level as permanent employees) unless different treatment is objectively justified.
If a fixed-term employee is dismissed and they have two years of continuous service they may also have the right to claim unfair dismissal. Where an employee has been continuously employed on successive fixed-term contracts for four years or more, he or she will automatically achieve permanent status, unless there is an objective reason that justifies a further renewal for a fixed term (e.g. funding or the fixed-term nature of the project).
Zero-hours contracts are good when services are required on an ad-hoc and casual basis. There is no obligation (whether express or implied) on the part of the organisation to provide an individual with work and the individual is not under any obligation to accept any work offered. The individual would usually be an employee. ACAS has issued guidance on using zero-hours contracts.
You have an obligation to ensure that any new employees have the right to work in the UK and must check an applicant's original documents before you can employ them. In order for you to verify the candidate’s identity, the Home Office has produced a list of suitable documents as well as guidance on what copies to keep and for how long. Here is the latest Employer's guidance on carrying out right to work checks effective from 6 April 2022. If you employ an illegal worker and have not carried out the correct right-to-work check you may face a civil penalty (fine) of up to £20,0000 per illegal worker.
You do not need to undertake checks for existing employees from the EU, EEA or Switzerland if the employee came to the UK before 1 July 2021. You can no longer accept biometric residence cards or permits from 6 April 2022, instead, ask the applicant for a share code.
Safer recruitment - references & DBS
Please see the Safeguarding pages on the Diocesan website for useful information on safeguarding including:
- the safeguarding handbook;
- parish safeguarding;
- safeguarding training;
- templates and resources; and
In addition, see the latest Safer Recruitment and People Management guidance issued in 2021. The diocesan advice on Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) can be found here. The Church of England guide to roles requiring a criminal record check is here. Full guidance on Safer Recruitment and People Management can be located within the Church of England Safeguarding e-manual.
- In most cases, the Equality Act 2010 makes it generally illegal to ask an individual about their health before you offer them a role. Exceptions may be if: You wish to find out whether any adjustments are required for the interview process
- You are monitoring applications for diversity and equal opportunity purposes
- You need to find out if an individual can carry out an intrinsic part of the role (for example a care home assistant may need to be able to lift and physically support patients).
Even in these cases, the questions need to be well-thought-through. It is better to request an occupational health assessment for an individual after you have offered them the role. The offer can be subject to the outcome of the health assessment. Further information about asking health-related questions can be found here.
This is not recommended as it could make the process unfair. If you receive detailed references for one candidate but none or very little for another, it could mean that you are making a judgement based on unequal information. The lack of detail in a reference is not generally a reflection on an individual as nowadays employers give very little information in a reference. Most companies now only provide job titles and dates of employment. We would normally advise that you only request references for your ideal candidate once you have conditionally offered them the role.
We would always recommend that parishes think carefully before employing a trustee or even someone who worships in their congregation. Whilst it is likely the employment would work well; we do often hear of situations where it isn’t working which can mean there is not only the employment relationship to rectify but it also creates issues pastorally.
The Charity Commission does have guidelines relating to employing Trustees. The PCC’s governing documents (The Church Representation Rules and The Parochial Church Councils (Powers) Measure 1956) do not normally allow trustees to be paid, so the PCC would need to apply to the Charity Commission for permission before employing the individual.
The ending of a fixed-term contract counts as a statutory dismissal in law and as the individual has more than two years’ service they are also protected under the unfair dismissal legislation. Therefore, we would recommend that you follow a standard fair dismissal/redundancy procedure for the position, which will include entitlement to a statutory payment if the person is made redundant.
Further details in relation to redundancy can be found on the ACAS website.
The duty to give notice is part of a contract of employment. If your employee doesn’t give the right notice then that would be a breach of their contract. This can occur if the contract requires notice to be given in writing, but it was only given verbally or for example, if not enough notice (or none at all) is given.
The practical response would be to sit down with the individual and try to negotiate with them. A claim in the courts for a breach of contract would cost the parish time and money, so trying to settle the issue informally would be the best solution.