Under UK law, details of all births, stillbirths, deaths, marriages and civil partnerships must be registered and recorded on official documents. Registrars collect and record this information. There are four main areas of work:
Registering births - the registrar asks the parents for information which they then enter on to the birth certificate, usually using a computer. It is necessary to make sure the parents understand the questions fully and to answer any queries they may have regarding birth registration. The registrar will then issue the parents with the documents they need.
Registering deaths - the registrar must first check that the documents which describe why the person died are in order. Sometimes they are not and the registrar must consult a doctor or coroner before proceeding. The registrar interviews someone close to the person who has died to obtain information for the death certificate. They then issue the required documentation to allow the funeral to go ahead.
Performing marriages and civil partnerships - the registrar interviews the couple to make sure they are legally able to marry or form a civil partnership. The registrar must inspect documents and complete formal notices of intention which are then signed by the couple in front of the registrar. Registrars also perform and record marriage ceremonies and civil partnership formations at a register office or other venues.
Keeping records - registrars are responsible for keeping historical birth, death and marriage registers dating back to 1837, when civil registration began in the UK. On request, certificates are issued from these registers for legal purposes and to those researching family history. The issue of these certificates forms a large part of the registration service's work, although it is often carried out by clerical assistants rather than by registrars themselves.
Registrars usually work 37 hours a week, often including Saturdays. There are opportunities for part-time work. There may also be a rota system for on-call duties to cover overnight, Sunday and bank holiday periods. This is necessary to give authorisation for the funerals of people whose faith requires that the ceremony takes place within 24 hours of death.
Registrars are based at register offices, which every local authority in England and Wales must provide for their area. The organisation of the service varies greatly between local authorities. In some rural areas, registrars work alone in small part-time offices, while other registrars work in large city offices and may become highly specialised in a particular type of work.
They may conduct marriages or civil partnership ceremonies in a wide variety of indoor locations including hotels, castles, football clubs, hospitals and prisons. A driving licence and car are often an advantage.
Starting salaries may be around £16,500 a year. With experience this may rise to £22,000 or more.
There are about 1,750 full- and part-time registrars in England and Wales.
Registrars are employed by local authorities and are responsible to the Registrar General.
Vacancies arise only occasionally. They may be advertised in Jobcentre Plus offices, Connexions centres and in local newspapers, online at www.lgjobs.com and on the website's and printed job bulletins of individual local authorities. The website www.direct.gov.uk has contact details for all local authorities.
There are no minimum entry requirements for registrars, but many employers prefer candidates with some GCSE's, including English and mathematics. Candidates are expected to demonstrate experience of dealing with a wide range of people. Computer literacy is also required.
People with experience of working as a clerical assistant in the registration service may have an advantage.
Some people, including doctors, midwives, ministers of religion, funeral directors and anyone working in the life assurance industry, are not allowed to become registrars.
Training is given on the job and includes detailed training in registration law. A variety of methods, including distance learning, may be used. In most areas local authorities join together to form training groups which co-ordinate and facilitate training courses.
Local government employees also undergo regular job appraisals where individual training needs are identified.
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A registrar of births, deaths, marriages and civil partnerships should be:
Assistant registrars may be promoted to higher grades where they will usually undertake some specialist responsibilities or manage other registrars.
With additional training it may be possible to move into other areas of local authority work.
General Register Office,
Identity and Passport Office,
Trafalgar Road, Southport PR8 2HH
Improvement and Development Agency (I&DeA),
Layden House, 76-86 Turnmill Street,
London EC1M 5LG
Tel: 020 7296 6880
Additional resources for job seekers and those already in a job.