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Marriage (Scotland) Act 2002 Briefing 40

July 2002


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 service.

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 marriages.

Impact of marriages outside the office on registrars' other work

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.


  • Find out current status of negotiations over new working arrangements.

  • Emphasis the inadequate grading and status of registrars by stressing the importance of the service registrars perform and the commercial advantages to the authority of well-thought out arrangements for new civil marriages.

  • Press for registrars to be involved in the inspection of premises applying for temporary licences and for them to receive proper training on the licensing process.

  • Ensure the local authority has proper risk assessment procedures in place to minimise health and safety risks of venues outwith the office.

  • Ensure that lone working in venues outwith the office is not permitted.

  • 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.

  • Have a review of the new working arrangements once the new arrangements have been in place for a while to address any new problems


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