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Compensation & Stipends

Each person has their own perspective and experiences to share. The best way to acknowledge their input is to compensate them; especially when they are taking time away from work to give us their thoughts.

Compensation is good practice because

  • We should compensate people for the time they spend with us, recognizing the value of their thoughts and opinions.
  • There may be child care considerations, long commute times, or other reasons where unpaid research is not a high priority.
  • People who are able to participate voluntarily generally have time or sufficient income to attend and this leads to poor sampling.
  • If you conduct free design research, most people are unlikely to take time off from work to participate. A good question to ask yourself is “How likely are you to participate in a one-hour, unpaid interview, where you would have to take time off to travel to their office and provide feedback?” Usually that question will illustrate why paying participants will make their effort worthwhile.

You cannot compensate

  • Employees or contractors of the BC Public Service
  • Ministry stakeholders, service partners, or organizations receiving operating funding from the Province
  • Participants who are part of a working group of the particular study or participants who are getting paid as part of their work to partake in the study
  • Municipal or federal employees

Compensation Amounts

Compensation should be appropriate in type and amount. The research team is responsible for assessing the level of compensation based on budget and number of participants.

All compensation should be provided fairly to all designs in the same study, with equal compensation for equal participation regardless of income, age, gender, or race.

Research Activity Duration Amount
Intercept Testing 10 to 15 minutes $10
Behavioural Interview 60 minutes $50
Usability Testing 30 to 60 minutes $25 - $50

Forms of Compensation

The easiest way to provide compensation is with a stipend. Stipends are normally gift cards purchased at a certain dollar value. Work with your finance department to purchase gift cards.

When planning which gift cards to purchase

  • Choose three to five options (for example, gas station, grocery store, restaurant)
  • Think about your research location and the services available there.
    • The location you are in will dictate which gift cards you offer. For example, not every city has an Esso or Save-on-Foods, but every region will have a gas station and grocery store. Look up what services are available in each research location
  • Avoid using prepaid Visas or Mastercards. These cards have an additional activation fee. Factor the activation fees into your budget if you choose to purchase prepaid cards
  • Let the participant select which gift card is best for them

Electronic Gift Cards

You can purchase electronic gift cards (eGift Cards) as stipends. You must follow core policy for online purchases when buying electronic gift cards.

Proof of Compensation

  • You must create a record of proof that the participant received the compensation for accounting and auditing purposes
  • Gift cards can be perceived as being for personal use so receipts are mandatory in case a Freedom of Information request is made, or an audit happens
  • For in person research, use a stipend receipt to create a record of proof that the participant received the gift card
  • For remote research, you can ask the participant to
    • Acknowledge they received the stipend on the consent form
    • Respond by email that they received the stipend
    • Sign and scan a printed stipend receipt

Talk to your finance department for how they would prefer to create records of compensation.

Before using the template, complete the highlighted fields with your project information.

Download Receipt Template

Honorarium & Gift Giving for Indigenous Peoples

Under development and review

Protocols for providing honorariums, gift giving, and elder payment when working with Indigenous peoples and First Nations.