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Vicar loses unfair dismissal claim

20 February 2012 #Employment

Buddy published a blog in November lasy year regarding vicar, Reverend Sharpe, who had brought a Tribunal claim against the Diocese of Worcester. He alleged that he had been forced to leave his post following a campaign of bullying, including  parishioners slashing his tyres, smearing excrement over his car, cutting his internet and phone connections, stealing his heating oil and even poisoning his dog.

The Diocese argued that Reverend Sharpe could not bring a claim against it or or the Bishop of Worcester, John Ingeas he was `employed by god` and not the Diocese or Bishop. The Tribunal has now determined, following a Pre Hearing Review, that Mr Sharpe was not in fact employed by the Diocese and as such his claim was dismissed.

Bishop John said: "The Employment Tribunal has recognised that those clergy who are freehold incumbents are not employees of the bishop, the diocesan board of finance or anyone else... Clergy themselves have repeatedly said that they do not see themselves as employees and do not wish to be seen as such... This case has shown that Church of England vicars are not subject to any employment contract but are free to exercise their ministry as they see best within the framework provided by the law of the land. We hope that Mr Sharpe and Unite will respect this judgement so that we can all draw a line under this.”

The Judgement is contradictory to a Court of Appeal decision published in December 2011 (see Buddy blog) in which the Court determined that Claimant Reverend Haley Preston was employed by the Methodist Church rather than God, as had been argued by her former employer.  Lord Justice Maurice Kay said, whatever the stance of the Church, "it surely does not embrace a doctrinal belief that a minister who is treated with unfairness or discrimination must be denied common legal redress". He concluded: "This is not a case where the evidence establishes that the existence of a contract of employment between the Church and a minister is contrary to its tenets."

It will be interesting to see whether in light of the conflicting decisions, Reverend Sharpe will appeal the decision. If so, Buddy will of course keep readers updated.

Clarkslegal, specialist Employment lawyers in London, Reading and throughout the Thames Valley.
For further information about this or any other Employment matter please contact Clarkslegal's employment team by email at by telephone 020 7539 8000 (London office), 0118 958 5321 (Reading office) or by completing the form on this page.
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