Employment appeal tribunal backs Methodist Church minister
Tue 22 Mar 2011
Members of the clergy could potentially take legal action against their employers following a ruling in favour of a Methodist Church minister.
Haley Moore, who worked at Redruth in Cornwall, alleged she was the victim of unfair dismissal and attempted to take the President of the Methodist Conference to court, the Western Morning News reports.
Previous rulings have suggested a member of the clergy is not in conventional employment, as they are bound by the doctrines of their faith and their spirituality rather than a standard contract.
However, an employment tribunal decided that Ms Moore could be deemed to be in employment, since she paid tax, National Insurance, was given a pay slip and had relevant HM Revenue and Customs documentation.
The ruling could redefine the legal protection afforded to members of the clergy and open the door for more to make similar claims.
John Rees, ecclesiastical law partner at Winckworth Sherwood, commented: "This is an important case for many non-Anglican churches - though it may yet be appealed by the Methodist Conference, because of its important implications.
"It is not obvious that it has any real bearing on the position of most C of E clergy: those who came under 'Common Tenure' on 1 February this year already have access to Employment Tribunals, and arguably have greater protection under that legislation than they would have by relying simply on general employment law."
According to government figures, the number of tribunal claims in Britain rose by 56 per cent last year to 236,000.
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