Guidance for PCC’s on Employing Staff
Employing staff

Many parishes, benefices or groups of parishes employ staff, either on a full-time or part-time basis. Whether it’s a full-time administrator or youth-worker, or someone who is paid to cut the grass in the churchyard, it’s important that the church has excellent employment practice. This not only ensures legal compliance, but provides a good basis for individuals to contribute effectively to the church’s ministry.

What constitutes employment?

It’s not always easy to know whether someone is employed or self-employed or is a volunteer, and what action you need to take. However, it is your responsibility as an employer to verify the correct employment status of each of your workers.

It is important to get your workers’ employment status right because it affects the way Tax and National Insurance contributions are calculated for them. And it determines whether or not you have to operate PAYE on their earnings.

The Parish Resources website have  produced a Short Guide to Employment Status Guide for tax purposes for PCCs. This covers issues such as payments to clergy, including occasional payments to retired clergy, the payment of fees to choir members and bellringers, and the payment of expenses.  It is only possible to produce simple, generic guidance – each context can be different, and you may well need to further explore the status of some local situations further.

Further guidance can be found at

Employment of musicians - Organists: employed or self-employed?

The appointment of Organists and Directors of Music is covered by Canon Law (Canon B20), contract law and as appropriate, employment law.

The status of the working relationship between the Organist and Parish can usually be determined using the ‘Employment Status Indicators’.  In most cases, as there is generally a high degree of mutuality and control, you will find that the organist is an employee of the PCC.

In terms of the remuneration, there has been a tradition of describing payment to the Organist as an honorarium. However a true honorarium is a ‘one-off’ payment after the event to say thank you to someone, it is not usually pre-determined.  Therefore, paying a regular sum of money each week or month (even where it is topped up occasionally with separate payments for weddings, funerals etc.) is likely to be regarded as a ‘salary’.

Recent employment tribunal case law (2008 onwards) suggests that tribunals are of the mind that most if not all organists are employees; even if the parties have explicitly agreed at the beginning of the working relationship that it is one of self-employment.

The Church of England's Legal Advisory Commission has produced in 2017 new official Guidance on the engagement of organists and musicians and the use of music in churches.  This comprehensive revision is probably the most significant advice ever offered on music in the Church of England and covers every imaginable scenario.

A new template for a contract for organists / directors of music, by the Guild of Church Musicians, which is downloadable.

Can PCC members also be PCC employees?

There are strict rules around members of PCCs becoming PCC employees, and employees becoming PCC members.  For advice on this, please see this document from the Diocesan Registrar Mary Allanson.  

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