The following notes on lay employment have been prepared to help prospective and existing employers.
Churches, circuits and districts can all be employing bodies in their own right. The representatives of each employing body, i.e. the managing trustees, are responsible for their actions and for any financial or legal repercussions that arise out of employment relationships. So be careful! Employment law is complex: new legislation and Employment Tribunal decisions are continually re-shaping employment practices.
To help employing bodies the Connexion has prepared various standard documents related to lay employment. These can and should be accessed through the Methodist Church website's Lay Employment section. Guidance on the requirements is also set out in CPD standing orders 438A, 570, 574 and 575.
At the district level the Lay Employment Sub-committee has the role of:
-approving all lay employment contracts
-providing advice to circuit and church representatives
-overseeing employment arrangements within the district
-checking contractual documents prior to issue
-receiving information from the Connexional Personnel Office as issues arise
Standing Order 438A requires employing bodies to keep the District Lay Employment Sub-committee informed of all employment arrangements for all employees within the district. This is done through the District Lay Employment Secretary/Northampton District HR Officer, Leslie Jaeger, who can provide advice to employing bodies about recruitment, employment issues and termination.
Are You Considering Employing A Lay Person In Your Church Or Circuit?
When you begin to think about employing a lay person in your church or your circuit please make contact with the District Lay Employment Secretary/Northampton District HR Officer, Leslie Jaeger, as early in the process as possible.
It could be that you are thinking of employing a full-time lay worker and providing them with accommodation, or a cleaner for one hour a week, or anything in between – whatever the role you are considering, please make contact.
You will be offered advice that relates to the specific role you are considering and directed to the relevant resources that the Methodist Church has produced to support you throughout the process. Some of these resources are identified below but there are others that may be particularly relevant to you.
As you make your plans you also need to consider who will be the employer. It could be the church or the circuit but it is essential that the employing body has adopted all the necessary employment policies, such as Disciplinary Procedures, Equal Opportunities Policy, Grievance Procedures, Health and Safety Policies, etc. The Methodist Church has produced sample policies that you can adopt, and all these are available on the Lay Employment section of its website.
You must also think about the requirement to register any new employee (or existing employees) under the government's Vetting and Barring Scheme if they will be working with children or vulnerable adults. Full details about this are available on the Methodist Church website's safeguarding page, or you can contact the District Safeguarding Officer.
Most importantly if the job involves working in a Regulated Activity with children or vulnerable adults the employee will require a Criminal Record check through the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) before you enter into a contract of employment.
Recruiting A Lay Person
In order to be clear about the specific role you want someone to undertake and the sort of person you want, it is essential to prepare a job description and person specification. Detailed advice can be found in Sections 4 to 8 of the Lay Employment Pack available on the Methodist Church website.
You will need to prepare the following:
You should prepare your job description before starting the recruitment process, and provide a copy to prospective employees. This will assist your thinking about the post and satisfy legal requirements. It is a legal requirement (under the Employment Rights Act), to provide the title of the job and a brief description of the work, preferably before the employment starts but certainly within two months after the start of employment.
The amount of detail that is provided to prospective candidates will depend to some extent on the type of appointment being proposed. A detailed description of the job including background information may be appropriate if the appointment requires someone who
-will have undertaken some years of training;
-will be expected to have gained some years of working experience;
-might be appointed from outside the area.
This might be the case for Family Workers, Youth Workers and Community Workers.
A less detailed job description may be appropriate if there is not the same requirement for prior training and experience.
The following information should appear in all job descriptions:
Sample Job Descriptions are available on the Methodist Website.
You are advised to take care over the content of the person specification as claims of discrimination often relate to the wording of this document. You should consider the attributes that an applicant will need to have in order to carry out the job description.
Sample Person Specifications are also available on the Methodist Church website.
You should fill in the boxes giving careful consideration to whether requirements are 'essential' or 'desirable'. For example, if the post is one for a qualified Youth Worker then 'Youth Worker qualification' would appear under 'Education and Training' in the 'Essential' column. If the post is for a caretaker and previous experience as a caretaker is desirable, an entry would be made under 'Relevant Experience' in the 'Desirable' column.
Advertising the job:
The purpose of adverts is to:
-attract suitable candidates from as wide a pool as is reasonable, and
-provide sufficient information to allow people who might be interested in the role to self-select at this stage.
Posts should be advertised in a way that meets the commitments made in your Equal Opportunities Policy. Adverts may be placed in a variety of media, for example, the local Job Centre; the local, regional or national press; specialist journals or newspapers; or local notice boards. The choice of medium should be appropriate for the type of post. The cost of advertising should be considered and provision made, but remember that as this is for a charity VAT is not charged on such adverts.
Adverts should include:
Note: A requirement for an employee to be a Christian must be a Genuine Occupational Qualification. Advertisements with this requirement should include a reference to the mission or belief of the church or the work being advertised.
Sample application forms are available on the Methodist Church website.
The purpose of the interview is to select the best candidate for the job. The job description and person specification provide the basis for making this selection. The interview process should be well planned – it is the employing body's opportunity to sell itself to the prospective employee.
It is important that those involved in the interview process understand the type of questions which they are not legally allowed to ask, for example relating to the candidates' sex, race or disability, either directly or indirectly. Further guidance on interviewing is available in the Interview Guide available on the Methodist Church website.
Letter of Appointment
As soon as the candidate has been successfully selected, a Letter of Appointment should be sent out. This sets out details of the appointment, and is essential in cases where the offer of appointment is conditional upon for example, a medical report, suitable references, safeguarding clearance or a probationary period.
The Letter of Appointment can be detailed and be preliminary to the employment contract (called a "written statement") or a shorter version incorporating within it the contract of employment itself.
Sample Letters of Appointment are available on the Methodist Church website.
Employment Contracts (or "Written Statements")
The law requires employers to give, within two months of starting work, a written statement to all employees who have been in their employment for at least one month. It is good practice to provide the written statement before or on the first day of employment, if it is not incorporated into the Letter of Appointment. It helps to avoid misunderstanding and disputes about the employment arrangements.
These are available on the Methodist Church website.
Example 1: Minimum details
This example is a format that includes the minimum particulars that must, by law, be provided in writing. You are advised to include the statement about normal retirement age and information about the procedure to follow when unable to attend work.
Statutory provisions such as
are not covered but are implicit because an employer cannot contract to provide less than the statutory minimum.
Example 2: Full details
This example provides further information on the same and additional particulars.
Please ensure that a copy of the Letter of Appointment and Contract is sent to Leslie Jaeger as soon as it has been signed.
You must also send a sample contract for comment before it is issued together with such of the documents as are appropriate to your case and listed in the Appointment Checklist.
Changes To Employment Conditions
If you wish to make any changes to the conditions of employment of any lay employee you may need to make changes to their contract. Any such changes must be agreed by both parties.
Please ensure that a copy of Contract changes is sent to Leslie Jaeger as soon as agreed.
Should it be necessary to initiate the grievance or disciplinary procedures, it is crucial that the terms of the procedures are strictly followed. Any queries can be raised with the Lay Employment Secretary. In particular, the Lay Employment Secretary should always be notified, in advance, of an intention to dismiss an employee.
In all cases, when an employee resigns or the employment comes to an end by mutual agreement, please inform Leslie Jaeger.
In circumstances where the employer has to remove someone from working with children it is likely to have a legal duty to refer information to the Independent Safeguarding Authority (ISA). There is also a duty to consult the local authority (Local Authority Designated Officer). You should consult the District Safeguarding Officer if this situation appears to be arising.