THINKING ANGLICANS

worthy of their hire

The Cash section of today’s Observer has an article by Jon Robins on clergy and UK employment law:
Doing God’s work, but denied rights as employees.
As the article makes clear, the issues are not specific to the Church of England, but affect clergy of all religious bodies.

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DaveAlan HarrisonPeter OwenSimon SarmientoMartin Reynolds Recent comment authors
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Martin Reynolds
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It is an interesting fact that those clerics I know personally who have been involved in studying the law around employment of clergy have joined a Union.

Dave
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Dave

Dear Martin, they could be self-selecting of course! (ie would you both studying employment law if you are happy with your employment situation?!) I gues that most free church ministers, and non-ordained CofE staff such as youth ministers and worship leaders in the bigger churches, are probably employees of the local church (set up as a charity). I don’t know whether they would have no claim to secular employment rights because the charity is a church though. Maybe Simon knows ? If we do move to secular “employment” status for priests too, I would prefer that the local church council(s)… Read more »

Simon Sarmiento
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UK employment laws apply without distinction as to charity status. The particular issues addressed in this article do not apply to lay employees of Church of England bodies. Of course some of those bodies may be poor employers of lay staff as well! The issue of how employment rights should be granted to parochial CofE clergy was discussed in the McClean reports. The recommendation was that such clergy should not become employed by anyone, but should remain as office holders, rather than become employees. So neither the local Parochial Church Council nor anybody else will become the employer of the… Read more »

Dave
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Dave

Dear Simon, Thanks for the background information. The last (moderate sized Charismatic-Evangelical) CofE church that I was involved in in the UK had several lay employees in key roles. The same people are still there 9 years later so I guess that that church IS a good employer. One problem with the current system is that clergy, as against lay employees, are not always the free choice of the local church, nor does the PCC have much it can do if the priest becomes unsatisfactory (nor the Bishop if they have freehold). I guess the PCC becoming the Employer would… Read more »

Simon Sarmiento
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Incumbents in the Church of England are not chosen by the Parochial Church Council, although their chosen representatives have a right of veto over the nominee of the Patron.

The problems that arise from unsatisfactory clergy who cannot be easily be moved will be eased if the McClean proposals to replace Freehold with Common Tenure are eventually adopted.

Alan Harrison
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Alan Harrison

I have read this discussion with some interest. I’m a lecturer in employment relations and branch president of the Association of University Teachers – at least for the next couple of weeks until I rejoin the dole queue with a redundancy payment. Simon, unusually, doesn’t get it quite right. There are a couple of cases where the parishioners DID choose the parish priest. I was PCC secretary of one of them, and the experience does not incline me to share dave’s optimism about the desirability of the practice. As a member of London Diocesan Synod, I was frankly appalled by… Read more »

Simon Sarmiento
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I happily agree with Alan that my statement “not chosen by the Parochial Church Council” has a few exceptions. But I am glad he agrees it does not automatically lead to happiness. Nor will Common Tenure lead automatically to happiness. But my own GS election address says (and I hope Alan doesn’t find this too distressing): The McClean reports are two of the best-written synod documents I have ever seen. They proposed that future appointments of clergy, with and without the freehold, should be on the basis of common tenure, normally open-ended until retirement, but subject to removal after a… Read more »

Peter Owen
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I refer to Alan Harrison’s last sentence. The proposal is that clergy removed from office following the capability procedure will have the right to appeal to an Employment Tribunal. There is no intention to set up the church’s own parallel system.

Alan Harrison
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Alan Harrison

Peter Owen wrote: “I refer to Alan Harrison’s last sentence. The proposal is that clergy removed from office following the capability procedure will have the right to appeal to an Employment Tribunal.” Sorry, Peter, perhaps I didn’t make it clear enough. At least one GS candidate for London has made it a plank of his campaign that cases should NOT go to an employment tribunal, but to a specifically ecclesiastical tribunal. At the London Diocesan Synod meeting to which I referred, there was considerable support (applause) especially from the clergy for a speaker proposing such a tribunal. For my part… Read more »

Dave
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Dave

Simon, Alan, I was optimistic about church workers being appointed by the church rather than by Patrons, based on my own limited experience. However, they were probably people already known to the church, rather than folk recruited from the national market. The local church as employer would have the right to do that, I guess, as the number of employees would be small. If the diocese were the employer, wouldn’t they have to advertise every post nationally and consider all suitable applicants (rather than the existing curate or a person the local church wants ‘cos they know him/her for instance?)… Read more »