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In the course of undertaking research, particularly social science or medical research, volunteers are required to take part in tests, submit measurements or be interviewed. They may be paid a small sum to cover out of pocket expenses and as compensation for any inconvenience. Some of the volunteers may be members of staff of the University, but their participation in research is not part of their duties of employment and they do it in their own time and are under no obligation to take part. It makes no difference if a volunteer is used on a regular basis as long as no employment relationship is established for their 'volunteering' activities.

Closely related to the above is the use of 'lay' people or 'users' in research. In this case volunteers are invited to attend meetings to give their views on various matters to inform the research process and direction. Often they will be former or current patients, representatives of particular groups such as retired people, or representatives from charities. Payment is made to them for their participation in the meetings.

The amount paid to each individual should be a small sum; enough to cover out of pocket expenses such as travel, subsistence and for compensation for their time spent. A standard payment is desirable e.g. £10 -£15 for up to half day and £15 -£25 for a full day.

Criteria for payment level could be on:

  • nature of the trials
  • degree of inconvenience /discomfort to volunteer
  • ease of obtaining volunteers for example where the 'group' is very small e.g. parents of children with a specific illness
  • number of volunteers required
  • budget for payment
  • allowances for subsistence use the University rates as a guide


The requirements for Clinical Trials Insurance must be addressed prior to the commencement of any such activity, please contact the Insurance Office. The Head of Accounting Services will also be able to advise on appropriate payment methods (as there is no obligation to pay an individual in cash) and will ensure that we consider any other insurance or safety implications e.g. taking/storing money off University property, risk to the interviewer, payment of minors etc.

Payments to volunteers can be made either in cash, via a University cheque or by vouchers from retailers. They should never be paid either out of the personal pocket of an individual staff member (and then subsequently reclaimed) nor out of normal departmental petty cash.

UK cash payments

E-mail the Supervisor of Cash Management, in the Finance Division at least four working days in advance of when the cash is required detailing:

  • The purpose of the payment, e.g. the name and description of the study
  • The date the study will take place
  • The set amount that is going to be paid to each 'volunteer'
  • The number of 'volunteers' attending

Cash Management will arrange for this additional amount of cash to be available for the department in appropriate denominations.

E.g. If you are planning to pay 16 volunteers £10 each for their participation, then cash management will ensure that you have £160 in £10 notes

A representative can then collect and sign for this money from the Cashier at the Old Schools. Please note departments should ensure that they have adequate arrangements in place to store the cash securely.

Departments must maintain a record of actual monies paid out to volunteers which should include:

  • The name and address of the volunteer
  • The amount paid
  • Volunteer's signature to say that they have received the amount specified.

For larger amounts of cash, amounts over £500, Cash Management may advise departments that the security issues over the safe custody of cash outweigh the benefits. Cash Management has discretion to advise departments to use an alternative form of payment.

Cheque payments

In order to be paid via a University cheque each volunteer will need to be set up on the suppliers' database in the normal way as an "Individual". There, are then two options either:

  • The volunteers would each then submit an expenses form to the department for the set amount, the department would authorise. The expenses form would then be processed through UFS in the normal way on the weekly supplier pay run (although note that they are not employees); or
  • If the payment is to be a fixed amount then the cheques could be requested prior to the interviews and given out during the trial etc to the volunteers. Cheques for no-shows could be cancelled. Volunteers should sign to a voucher/log to identify that they have received their payment in this manner.

Payment in vouchers

Where payments are to be made in the form of vouchers for local retailers etc, then the Cash Management team will arrange for these vouchers.

Overseas payments

Please contact the Head of Accounting Services to discuss the most appropriate arrangement for payments that are to be made to 'volunteers' whilst undertaking research overseas.

Tax implication

In both the scenarios detailed HMRC has agreed that the amounts paid are not taxable under PAYE provided that they are not significant and hence do not need to be reported by the University on its P11D.

The University is not able to give advice on the taxation position of individual volunteers.

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