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The Court of Appeal has clarified the employment status of Methodist Ministers.

The Methodist Minister in this case resigned from her post and then went on to present a claim for unfair constructive dismissal against the President of the Methodist Conference. In order for her to succeed in her claim it was necessary for her to demonstrate that she was an employee of the Methodist Conference.

Before this the Courts had held that the spiritual nature of the work of a Minister of Religion meant the law presumed they could not be working under a contract of employment though this could be rebutted. However, the Court of Appeal recognised that the law has evolved and said that such decisions should no longer be followed. It said that there is no basis for concluding that a minister’s spiritual role in itself precludes an intention to create a contractual employment relationship. Accordingly, it ruled that she was an employee and, therefore, able to bring a claim for unfair constructive dismissal.

This case applied to a Methodist Minister appointed by a congregation or group of congregations, however there must now be a risk that other Ministers of religion may also be found to be employees .

Case reference: President of the Methodist Conference v Preston (formerly Moore).

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Employers will be relieved to hear that agency workers are not employees! Well, not in these circumstances case anyway.

This case concerned the legal status of 3 individuals who had been supplied by an employment business to carry out work for one of its clients prior to the employment business being placed into voluntary liquidation.

The EAT had to decide whether the individuals concerned were ‘employees’ of the employment business. If they were, the Secretary of State would be liable to them under sections 182-188 of the Employment Rights Act 1996 in respect of wages that had not been paid to them by the employment business.

The EAT was quick to dismiss the Tribunal’s earlier finding that the individuals were employees. The contract which governed the relationship between the employment business and its workers had been carefully drafted and made it clear that it did not amount to a contract of employment. There was no obligation on the employment business to provide work and the workers had no obligation to accept work. The workers would only be paid when on assignment and both the workers and the employment business were entitled to terminate the contract at any time without notice. In addition the employment business did not exercise any day-to-day control over the workers.

Case reference: The Secretary of State for Business Innovation & Skills v Mr J Studders and others.

It is hard to understand how the Tribunal reached its original finding that the workers were employees as there is nothing exceptional about the facts of this case. Only in rare cases will agency workers be regarded as employees as for a contract of employment to exist it will be necessary to show that the employment business has a sufficient degree of control over the worker’s work to make the employment business the worker’s ‘master’. It will also be necessary to show that the provisions of the contract are consistent with it being a relationship of employer and employee.

 

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