Ministers of religion can be unfairly dismissed

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An employment appeal tribunal has decided that ministers of religion can be unfairly dismissed.

Historically courts held that ministers of religion were appointed to holy office and therefore were office holders and not employees.

But in 2005 the House of Lords held that it was possible for office holders to be employees so ministers could qualify as employees for the purposes of discrimination – but the law lords left the question of unfair dismissal open.

The employment appeal tribunal has now brought unfair dismissal cases for ministers of religion into line with discrimination cases.

Judge Ansell said: “The House of Lords have clearly stated that if the relationship between church and minister has many of the characteristics of a contract of employment in terms of rights and obligations, these cannot be ignored simply because the duties are of a religious or pastoral nature.”

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