The EAT has, today, handed down a decision holding that ministers of religion can claim unfair dismissal.
Ministers of religion have been regarded by the UK courts as appointed to a holy office and not as employees of a church. In December 2005, the House of Lords held that they might qualify as employees for the purpose of discrimination claims, but left the position regarding unfair dismissal open (see bulletin 15/12/05).
The EAT (HHJ Ansell presiding) has now held that the old cases stating that ministers are not employees for the purposes of unfair dismissal claims cannot stand: "if the relationship between church and minister has many of the characteristics of a contract of employment...these cannot be ignored simply because the duties are of a religious or pastoral nature" (para. 27).
New Testament Church of God v Reverend Sylvester Stewart