When and how to give incentives to research participants

It‘s normal to pay members of the public an incentive when they take part in research activities with us.

This guidance explains how we agree incentives with clients and pay incentives to participants.

It builds on the basic guidance on giving incentives in the Service Manual.

Who gets incentives #

We will normally pay incentives to members of the public, including people who use a government service for their work. Professionals and members of groups may not be comfortable with getting an incentive themselves, and may want the incentive given to their organisation or donated to charity.

We do not expect to pay incentives to our clients‘ staff or to other public servants who take part in research related to their work.

When we are paying an incentive, make sure the participant knows the amount of the incentive and how they will receive it. Include this in the [information sheet](link to consent guidance).

Agreeing incentives #

It’s best to include estimates of incentives and other research expenses in the statement of work.

You can then confirm the exact incentive with the client when you are planning a batch of research.

On previous project we have paid:

  • £30 of Love2Shop vouchers for 1.5 hours of in-person usability testing
  • £50 cash for geographically-specific users to take part in 1 hour of remote mobile usability testing
  • £100 cash for an hour-long discovery research session with people likely to need assisted digital support
  • £100 cash for 45 minute research session with small businesses

Confirming incentives at the start of the research session #

Handle the incentive at the start of the research session - either giving the incentive, or confirming that the incentive will be sent. This avoids any suggestion that participants have to ‘earn’ their incentive. It also means you don’t have to deal with the incentive if you want to stop a problematic session.

Paying incentives through a recruitment agency #

If you are using a recruitment agency, ask them to pay the incentive to the participant. They will know how they do this. They may charge a small fee for handling the incentive.

If a participant contacts dxw to say they haven’t received their incentive, apologise and contact the agency to let them know.

Paying incentives using shopping vouchers #

Where we are paying the incentive, we use shopping vouchers. Normally from Love2shop.

Request the amount of vouchers you need through the #help-purchasing Slack channel and purchasing form. They should be in £5 and £10 denominations so they are easier to spend.

In a face-to-face research session, give the vouchers to the participant and have them sign a receipt.

For a remote research session, ask for the vouchers to be posted or emailed to the participant. When posting vouchers, enclose the vouchers with a signed thank you sheet.

Other ways to pay incentives #

Other options for paying incentives might be a donation to a preferred charity, or a hamper that can be shared with a team.

Withholding incentives #

We do not pay the incentive (or any recruitment fee) if the participant doesn’t show up for their session. Although we might still pay the incentive if the participant tries to attend, but is stopped by an emergency or severe travel problem beyond their control.

If a recruitment agency provides a participant who does not match the brief, we will pay the participant their incentive, but we will not pay the agency their recruitment fee.