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Incentive payments to research volunteers

An incentive payment is a small sum to cover out of pocket expenses and as compensation for the time of research volunteers.


Volunteers taking part in a research exercise can be paid a small sum to cover out of pocket expenses and as compensation for their time. This may be paid through a cash float advance to the researcher or by the purchase of a float of vouchers.

Some of the volunteers may be University staff. They can also receive a small sum provided that:

  • their participation in the research is not part of their duties of employment
  • they do it in their own time
  • they are under no obligation to take part.

Managing a float of cash or vouchers

Vouchers are treated as if they were cash, and the same controls and procedures must be exercised. The overnight insurance limit for cash and vouchers is £500 if not kept in a safe or £1,500 in a safe that has not been specified in the University’s insurance schedule.

The person issued with the cash/vouchers is responsible for their safekeeping and for compliance with the insurance limits above. The responsible person must maintain a regular reconciliation of the cash/vouchers issued to them, payments made and balance remaining.

View an example of a reconciliation template.

The float requested/stock purchased should be limited to the immediate need. Particular care needs to be taken with vouchers such that where possible to buy from a source that will refund unused ones and to ensure that there is not a restrictive use by date

Schedule of payments.

A Schedule of Payments must be maintained. The individual payee must always sign to evidence receipt, and details of their name and address obtained.

Where the sum given is more than £50, then the individual’s National Insurance number must also be recorded and the approval of the Payroll Manager in Finance & Procurement obtained in advance.

Where research requires the anonymity of participants, this will need to be cleared in advance with the Payroll Manager. HM Revenue & Customs is entitled to ask for details of all payments made to research volunteers.

View an example of a schedule of payments.

Final reconciliation

At the end of the research exercise a final reconciliation should be done, any unused cash paid back to the Cashiers Office and vouchers if possible returned to the issuer.

If it is not possible to get a refund on vouchers they should be retained by their Faculty Finance Office for future use. If this happens then the faculty is responsible for the safekeeping of these vouchers and must maintain an audit trail.

The final reconciliation together with the list of payees should be returned to the payments team either as part of the accounting for the cash advance or to be filed with the original voucher purchase invoice. This must be done within two weeks of the end of the research exercise.

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