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Participation payments to Research Volunteers

The University may make payments to individuals who volunteer to participate in research activity.  Such volunteers include:

  • people who take part in tests or interviews or
  • other "lay" people or "users" (e.g. former or current patients, representatives of particular groups) who are invited to attend meetings to give their views on various matters to inform the research process and direction.


Payments should cover no more than out of pocket expenses and compensation for the time spent so that the sums received do no more than reimburse the individuals' reasonable costs of participating in the trial or research, including the costs of travel and subsistence.

Suggested payments for compensation of time are:

  Up to one hour More than one hour More than 1/2 a day
Standard £25 £50 £100
Invasive/Intensive £50 £100 £200

HMRC Guidance

Provided such "Participation Payments" comply with HMRC guidance, they are not treated as employment income (since no employment relationship exists) and are not liable to tax or NIC at source.  (There may, however, be a tax liability for the research volunteer.)

HMRC is entitled to ask for details of payments to non-employees at their discretion, so records of payments and the reasons for them should be maintained by the Faculty.

In the event of an audit by HMRC the University may have to demonstrate that any such arrangements do not implicitly create a contract of employment which may be a risk where volunteers are used frequently as sometimes happens in long and intensive research programmes.  Should you be concerned that you are using a volunteer who has taken part in frequent voluntary research activity (where payments made could possibly be classed as employment income) then you should obtain further advice from your HR Partner.

University Staff

Where volunteers are members of staff, their participation in research should be voluntary, independent of their duties of their employment and be undertaken in their own time.

Best Practice

To protect the interest of the University it is recommended that:

  • a letter is issued to all research volunteers
  • The Faculty keeps records of payments made, to whom, and for what project in the event of an audit by HMRC.

Template letter and claim form

Participation payments letter template

Participant Payment Request Form

(University access only)