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Priests to be given Employment Rights

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... or at least, so says the BBC news website this morning.

According to the BBC, the Church of England has announced it will give clergy employment rights, including the right to paid holiday, redundancy payments and the right to claim unfair dismissal.

Section 23 of the Employment Relations Act 1999 authorises the Secretary of State to extend employment rights to categories of workers who are not currently protected by the employment legislation.

It has been mooted for some time that employment rights would be given to ministers of religion. But my reading of s23 does not suggest that the Church of England has power to introduce an SI implementing employment rights for priests. So the BBC may have been meaning to say that the Church of England will recommend to the Secretary of State that an Order under s23 should be made.

It is unclear where this leaves ministers of other religions. The point is not yet free from controversy, so be cautious if advising ministers (or religious establishments) as to imminent changes to the law.