Why is the Act important?
The Act permits civil marriages to be solemnised
at places outside registrars' offices for the first time, bringing
civil ceremonies in line with religious ones. Prior to the Act
civil marriages could only be conducted in the marriage suites
of local authorities.
Licensing of other venues
From 10th June 2002 venues where marriages
are to take place must be licensed by the local authority, with
either a period licence for three years (likely to be granted
to hotels, country houses and other places where lots of weddings
will take place) or a temporary licence (for private houses and
other on-off venues).
Each local authority has discretion over which venues
will be granted licences and the factors that will be taken into
account. The Act provides that places where marriages take place
must not undermine the 'dignity and solemnity' of the marriage
Registrars' current terms and conditions
The Act does not alter Registrars' current terms
and conditions. However, the deregulation of marriage venues will
mean additional burdens on registrars and some local authorities
are renegotiating terms and conditions as a result. Registrars
are employed on terms and conditions that vary between local authorities.
Some registrars are on GS1-3, with more senior registrars on AP3
and above. Registrars often staff council information services
and one-stop shops as well as providing registration of births,
deaths and marriages.
Having to conduct civil weddings outwith the office
is a significant additional burden for registrars – not only for
those registrars having to travel to perform weddings but also
for those left behind to staff the office and make sure registrars'
other duties are fulfilled. This Briefing provides some pointers
for branches on the issues to be aware of when negotiating with
local authorities on new working arrangements for registrars.
Hours of work for registrars
Some authorities have already agreed that they will
not conduct marriages on Sundays or public holidays and some have
agreed that the last time for a wedding booking will be 6pm Mon-Fri.
Payments for out-of-hours working
Some authorities make special payment for 'Saturday'
marriages. These range from £20.95 at Inverclyde for Saturday
working, to £130 + travelling expenses recently agreed for working
more than 3 hours on a Saturday at East Renfrewshire. Some authorities
also give time off in lieu, whilst others have a 6 day working
week with a day off during the week and a rota system for Saturday
Impact of marriages outside the office on registrars'
Many registrars also fulfil other functions within
the council – e.g. information services and staff one-stop shops.
Many registrars are worried about the workload if colleagues are
frequently absent from the office to conduct weddings.
Health and safety implications
Where negotiations have taken place, employers seem
to have addressed these issues and have put risk assessments in
place. They also appear to be aware of concerns over lone working
and have put in place measures to require two registrars to be
in attendance at marriages outwith the office.
In some authorities registrars will do the pre-licence
inspection and be involved in the granting of temporary licences
to ensure that they are happy with the proposed venue.
De-skilling of registrars' posts
Dumfries & Galloway are currently advertising
for marriage officers, to be employed on temporary contracts,
hours 8am to 8pm, £18 per marriage.
The Registrar General of Scotland is citing Dumfries
& Galloway's Code of Practice on Civil Marriages as a model
code for other local authorities, which UNISON Scotland certainly
would not agree with.
Some other authorities have agreed not to use temporary
and contract staff to conduct marriages initially but will review
in the light of experience.
Key bargaining areas
UNISON Scotland is concerned at the low status of
registrars, given the vital function they fulfil. We are concerned
that 'marriage officers', as proposed by D&G, will be brought
in to conduct civil marriages, diluting existing terms and conditions
and eroding status of registrars.
Some employers are paying a ridiculously low wage
for such a vital function; the public is unaware of just how badly
paid registrars are.
UNISON Scotland believes that regrading is an issue,
given both the low grading of many registrars and the increased
volume of work and additional responsibilities (e.g. inspections
and licensing) that the new Act brings.
Registrars will need training on new licensing requirements.
Any new staff will also need properly trained to fulfil the Registrar
General's qualification requirements.
BRANCH ACTION LIST
Ascertain local attitude towards use of casual/temporary
staff; although this can lead to de-skilling, we recognise
that, particularly in rural authorities, casual registrars
are already employed.