Jump to... Flexibility & cover | Requesting time off | Further advice
Holders of parochial offices already have a high degree of flexibility over how they carry out their duties, which is not always the case with employees, who will generally have defined hours of work.Office holders may not always need therefore to request flexible working to care for a dependant in the way that an employee might.
However, clergy/licensed lay workers still need to bear in mind the need to arrange appropriate cover if they are taking time off. For example, if they wish to take half term as leave, they should check with the area dean that one of their colleagues is available to provide cover during this period. Similarly, an incumbent or priest in charge still has a responsibility to ensure that someone is available to take weddings on Saturdays, despite any family commitments.
Where clergy need to vary their duties in order to care for a dependant (for example, reducing a post from full time to part time with a commensurate reduction in stipend), they should use the procedure below.
The request may only be made in order to help care for a dependant not for any other purpose. “Dependant”, as defined in paragraph 3(6) of the Directions, embraces a spouse or civil partner, a child, a parent, a person living in the same household as the office holder (other than a tenant, employee, lodger or boarder), or anyone who reasonably relies on the office holder for assistance or provision of care in the event of illness or injury.
The provision therefore covers a wide range of possible arrangements, from a few days’ time off in an emergency to a longer-term adjustment of duties to accommodate, for example, the need to care for an elderly parent or a disabled child.
The Directions confer the right to make a request – and have the request properly considered. The request may be refused if there is no other reasonable way of meeting the pastoral needs of the parish and the requirements of the office.
In line with the advice by the Archbishops' Council the procedure in the diocese for making a formal request should be as follows, and that the clergy person should:
- make the request in writing;
- set out the date of the request;
- make no more than one request during a 12-month period;
- state that the request is being made under the Ecclesiastical Offices Terms of Service) Directions 2010;
- set out the reasons for needing an adjustment to the duties of the office;
- set out the change requested;
- state whether they have made any previous requests in their current post;
- identify the effect the proposed change will have on the provision of ministry to the parish;
- suggest how such an effect could be mitigated (the office holder may wish to consult colleagues about this first so that they are in a position to indicate that the proposed solution might have their support in principle);
- give a proposed start date;
- indicate whether the proposed adjustment is intended to be permanent, or, if not, for how long it might be expected to last.
Accepting the request
The bishop, on receiving the request, is required by paragraph 3(5) to consult the PCC(s). The bishop may also wish to consult any of the clergy’s colleagues who are likely to be affected by the request.
Once the bishop has received a reply from the PCC(s), the office holder's request should be considered promptly.
If the bishop agrees to the request, the office holder and the PCC(s) should be informed in writing of the bishop’s agreement.
If the bishop is not in a position to agree immediately, the bishop should arrange to meet the individual concerned as soon as possible to discuss the request. The office holder may bring a colleague or trade union representative to the meeting.
In good time after the meeting (normally within 14 days), the bishop should inform the office holder of the decision. If they do not accept the request, they must give the reason in writing and give reasonable time (normally 14 days) for the office holder to appeal. The appeal should be held and the office holder informed of the result within reasonable time (in both cases, normally 14 days).
A revised statement of particulars should be issued to reflect any changes made, unless they are very temporary and short term. The office holder will need to be informed that this will be a permanent change to the duties of the office, and there is no automatic right to have the duties adjusted back to the original terms at a later point, unless this has been agreed in advance.
Refusing the request
The bishop should not refuse the request simply because the PCC does not support it or the proposed solutions. Potential grounds for refusing a request include:
- inability to reorganise duties among existing clergy;
- inability to recruit additional clergy;
- potential effect on the office holder's performance of their duties.
In our diocese, the bishop has delegated consideration of these requests to the area bishops.
If the diocesan bishop needed to adjust the duties of their office to care for a dependant, they could use their power under s13 of the Dioceses Mission and Pastoral Measure 2007 to delegate their functions to an area bishop by instrument. This would require the approval of the Diocesan Synod or, where the bishop considers that the matter is urgent and it is not practicable to obtain the approval of the Diocesan Synod, the Bishop’s Council and standing committee of the Diocesan Synod.
Some of the instances where clergy/licensed lay workers may need time off may include:
- to provide assistance if the dependant is ill, gives birth, is injured or assaulted;
- to make arrangements for the provision of care for a dependant who is ill or injured;
- to deal with the death of a dependant;
- to deal with an unexpected disruption or termination of arrangements for the care of a dependant;
- to deal with an incident involving a dependent child which occurs unexpectedly in a period during which an educational establishment, which their child attends, is responsible for him or her.
In all cases when time off is given, it is the duty of the clergy member/licensed lay worker to keep the incumbent and Archdeacon informed of the length of emergency and intention to return to work.
This policy is available to all clergy/licensed lay workers through the diocesan Clergy Handbook webpages.
Clergy/licensed lay workers can also contact Clergy HR in Church House Oxford about the application of the above and relevant pay scheme.
In addition, information on statutory rights and entitlements and related matters may be found online: