The Supreme Court has overturned the decisions of the EAT and the Court of Appeal and held that a Methodist Minister was not an employee. She could not therefore bring an unfair dismissal claim.
Ms Preston was ordained a Methodist Minister. As a Minister, Ms Preston received a salary, accommodation, holiday pay, sick pay & membership of a pension scheme and she was subject to annual appraisals and disciplinary procedures.
In 2009, Mr Preston resigned and brought an unfair dismissal claim against the President of the Methodist conference. The tribunal held that Ms Preston was not an employee and that it did not have justification to hear her claim. Only employees can bring unfair dismissal claims. Ms Preston appealed.
The Supreme Court by a majority decided that to determine the employment status of a minister of religion it is necessary to examine the rules and practices of the particular church and any special arrangements made with the particular minister. Whether an arrangement was a legally binding contract depended on whether the parties intended the benefits and burdens of the ministry to be the subject of a legally binding agreement between them.
On applying that approach to the facts of this case, the majority concluded that ministry was a vocation and that a minister’s rights and duties did not arise from a church contract.
This case will be of particular interest to ministers of any denomination.
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