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Church of England Rector ‘Not An Employee’

A Church of England rector who claimed to have been unfairly dismissed and penalised for whistleblowing was neither an employee nor a worker within the meaning of the Employment Rights Act 1996, the Court of Appeal has ruled.

The rector had lodged his complaints against the Bishop of Worcester; however, an Employment Tribunal (ET) ruled that there was no contractual or employment relationship between them and that it therefore had no jurisdiction to hear his case. The bishop had not nominated him to his parish, was not responsible for paying his stipend and had very limited control over the way he went about his work.

That decision was later overturned by the Employment Appeal Tribunal. However, in allowing the bishop’s appeal, the Court of Appeal found that the ET’s conclusion was correct. Whilst expressing sympathy for the rector’s arguments that ministers of religion ought to be regarded as employees and afforded modern employment rights, the Court found that they could not prevail on the facts of the case.