Church Worker Wage Levels

There is an interesting call from Church Action on Poverty to ensure that the hourly wage of Church workers meets a minimum of £6.80.

This is expanded on by Ekklesia here.

This relates to my recent item Exactly Who is Doing the Giving?.

My two comments are:
1. The Poverty line in this country is a relative income which is a certain proportion of the average (or perhaps median, I can’t remember) income. This is a bit bizarre because as society gets wealthier the poverty line moves up – so getting further and further from the ‘real’ poverty line. Some countries use a ‘real’ poverty line where the calculation is based on people being able to afford certain basics including food and shelter.
2. Providing the legal minimum wage to a worker is often a way of getting a balance between the worker giving and the worker being provided for (and the providers of the wage doing the giving) – see my post mentioned above.

For a Christian worker to get a high wage and then give money to other things is very tax uneffective. For example the incremental tax rate (including tax credits, NI contributions, etc.) for two parents (of two kids) on the minimum wage is around 62% – i.e. if they earn an extra £1,000 in one year (perhaps doing overtime, or perhaps through a pay rise) they only see a net increase in income of £380. This is a massive tax rate which is interesting to compare with the rate of tax refund on ‘Gift Aid’ giving of only 22%.

Basically if you want to give it is better to be able to do this by accepting a lower wage (and effectively giving of your time to some degree) than having a higher wage and giving money. This is more tax efficient to the tune of £400 per £1,000 extra pay (in certain circumstances).

8 thoughts on “Church Worker Wage Levels

  1. Good observations. I guess having a lower wage and seeing that as part of ones giving doesn’t feel so much like ‘giving’ as you don’t have the physical deliberate decision to give. Also I wouldn’t chose to aim my giving to a church- but seeing as I don’t intend to work for one for longer than I have to I guess that’s not an issue!

  2. 🙂

    Come on, it’s an extremely deliberate decision to be prepared to do something good for a low wage. I have particular customers who I have on a lower rate because I believe in what they are doing and want to support it, not just make money from them.

    There is a great deal of difference between:
    1. Contributing work that you see as valuable either for free or at a low rate (which perhaps means that the church incidentally saves money)
    2. Giving money to a church – which one may feel doesn’t go to good causes.

    Surely one does the particular work one does because one sees value in it? It’s not really ‘for’ the church, it’s more for the people it directly, positively, effects.

  3. A number of issues seem to come into play here:
    1: 6.80 is an interesting level, i wonder how they got there? And along side this, is the question of a worker being worth paying, if someone is doing a good job, they should be entitled to a decent wage. And also should the church pay less than say a staturgery organisation such as community education for ecample.

    2: The issue in Marks original post about ax credits and ting other things into account is something that myself and my wife have had to face up too. We realised that she could only work a certain amount of hours, due to the fact that we also had to pay for child care costs ar a nursary, (leaving family values and that alone for the moment), but we had to think as to how muchw ould she be taxed, how much tax credit, and how much would we have to pay, and how much were we getting in, as well as the issue of, my wife actualy enjoying company with other adults and wranting to work.

    ultimately I guess we should do the job that we get satisfactionfrom, and also maybe that God has called us too. so many people are misserable about pay because they aren’t necessarily doing what god wanted them to do in the first place.

    Had arguments with others on other websites about pay, and mya rguemnt there has been, surely everyone is entitled to a decent level of living, and if some earn more than others,then it is their duty to help those have little or nothing. beleive that this is the way that God would have wanted it, that we all help each other rather than helping ourselves.

    Sorry about the bity nature of this, other things on mind at the same time.

  4. hi Andy, your thoughts made me think about the market place for workers:

    If you have two candidates of equal quality for a job and one was demanding pay of £10 per hour the other of £5.35 per hour (the minimum wage as from this Oct) who would you give it to, if there was no other way of deciding between the two?

    You would be wise with your resources and give it to the guy who wants £5.35 per hour… surely.

    And if you had someone, of equal quality again, willing to do it for nothing you would choose them.

  5. I would set the wage at what the work they were going to be doing was worth.

    Also- on giving time- By giving time to working for a church you are giving the time which you could be using earning money in order to give to a more worth while cause. 🙂

  6. LOL! You really do have a downer on what you do for your church! Surely, even if your church is mucking up what it does, you don’t have to muck up what you do. You’re not really doing what you do for the church are you? Surely you are doing it for the beneficiaries of your skills and time?

    Some would say the job was worth whatever the marketplace decides – the market place in my example being the three different people who were willing to do it for different amounts.

    In my example someone was willing to give their time for free – I’m not going to stop them! Why not let them do it for free and use the money to do it again – two good works for the price of one! 🙂

    If there were either less workers or more money available the pay would go up. As there are plenty of workers and not loads of money chasing them the pay isn’t good.

  7. I can understand what you are saying mark about being wise with resources, but we also have to think about what we do and how it looks to others maybe, about how we value people or their work. I guess i would want to know reasons behind the three different demands fo the workers for why they would be asking for different levels, but there is still the balance to work out, between being wise with resources, but also valuing whoever does the job to the proper value. both of which seem to me to be ways that god would want us to look at htings, not sure personally which outways the other.

  8. Good point Andy. If you can actually do something specifically good for someone by paying them, which couldn’t be done better in another way then I guess that would come into it.

    The scenario I was trying to lay out was where there was equality between the candidates, but I didn’t address (or even thing about!) whether they had specific different needs which could be met best by agreeing to take them on on their pay terms.

    But spending £5 or £10 an hour to do someone good would take a lot of justification – it would have to be an exceptional circumstance. Even with youthwork we don’t treat the kids to that level of financial commitment – we might spend 50p per kid per hour.

    However, all things being equal between candidates you still have to assume that you would hire the cheapest.

    In terms of ‘how it looks’ I think that everyone involved needs to agree that the pay isn’t the sum of the value, but rather the pay, plus the choice of the worker to give of himself at low pay gives a better understanding of the value of the work being done.

    Just because I do voluntary stuff doesn’t mean it has no value. In fact I see my voluntary stuff as being the most valuable stuff that I do – much more important than my paid work.

    If I look at my tax return and think about how many hours I worked, I work out that my rate of pay was around £3.10 per hour last year (if I were to include all my voluntary work then it would be lower still). This is a choice that I made, my previous job (nearly three years ago now) was around £10 per hour. Combined with some other income of 2.5k I don’t feel that we have suffered poverty because of it. My wife only makes around 4.5k. It’s just what we choose to do.

    If the church wasn’t paying enough nobody would be working for it. No one is forced to do low paid Christian work – people just choose to.

    I think that it is a great statement to society that people are willing to do this work for little money.

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