British clergy to unionize?

There is a legal case in the courts of Britain that, depending on the decision, could have the effect of allowing clergy in Britain to unionize. Up until now, the custom has been to say that clergy are employed directly by God and therefore exempt from existing employment law. Depending on the way the court decides, its decision could, by implication, allow clergy to claim otherwise.

The Church Times Blog has an excellent overview:

“Unite is claiming that the case of Reverend Mark Sharpe, Rector of Teme Valley South in Worcestershire, will have significant implications for the employment rights of ministers. From their website:

Should Revd. Sharpe’s case be upheld after any appeal, it will mean that ministers across the UK will be subject to legislation covering: health & safety, the national minimum wage, paid holidays, ‘whistle-blowing’, anti-discrimination, paid holidays, family-friendly flexible working policies, the working time directive, and unlawful deduction of wages.

Rachael Maskell, Unite’s National Officer, Community and Non Profit Sector said: “We are poised for the biggest raft of employment benefits for ministers in the Church of England since it came into being under Henry VIII’s Reformation in the 1530s. It will also have implications for other faith groups.”

The union is claiming that that the Church of England has conceded for the first time that its ministers are employed by the Church rather than by God.

However, the Church is denying that the case will have such implications. From Charity Finance website Church denies union claims of employment rights revolution:

The Church, however, says that the tribunal case has no impact on the status of any clergy outside the case itself. Agreeing to consider Revd. Sharpe a ‘worker’ was a requirement to allow the case to move forward, said Sam Setchell, a spokesperson for the Diocese of Worcester.”

Read the full article here. (There are links on there to all the primary material.)

Thinking Anglicans has coverage here.

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