Tuesday, 30 September 2008

Do vicars have worldly employment rights?

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We'd have had the Church of England down as fairly decent employers - short hours, free biscuits ... you get the picture. Plus your overall boss would be the Archbeard, who seems like a nice enough guy. But it turns out the Diocese of Worcester has been trying to sidestep giving its clergy protection under regular employment law by claiming the buck stops at an infinitely higher desk.

Rev Mark Sharpe, Rector of Teme Valley South in Worcestershire, claimed "he had been subject to constant abuse while his vicarage was infested by mice and frogs, with dangerous heating and electrical systems", and went to the Bishop of Durham to complain. It seems he got as far as the Bish, but was told "I'm sorry but you're not employed by the diocese, you have no legal relationship with the diocese and as such you're not entitled to any form of grievance management process".

Rev Sharpe says this is because "The cliche is we're employed by God", and has been pursuing a compensation case against the diocese in an ongoing tribunal. No decision has been reached yet, but Sharpe claims a recent admission by the diocese that he "had the status of a worker for the purposes of this claim" could set a precedent for all clergy to have the same rights as other workers in the future.

[Thanks Christina]

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