Common Tenure is legislation which clarified the rights and responsibilities of clergy and improved their terms and conditions in line with best practice.
The Government has power to give the rights of employees to those in work who are not employees (including clergy, most of whom are office holders), and is in a position to impose legislation on the Church.
It was brought into effect from 31 January 2011 by means of the Ecclesiastical Offices (Terms of Service) Measure 2009 and the Ecclesiastical Offices (Terms of Service) Regulations 2009 and subsequent amending legislation.
Scope of common tenure
- It applies to all new appointments to offices with effect from 31 January 2011.
- Incumbents appointed before 31 January 2011 have the right to opt into common tenure whenever they choose.
- Priests in charge, team vicars and assistant curates appointed before that date were automatically transferred onto common tenure, and now usually have open ended terms of office until retirement, as their term of office may be limited only under the circumstances specified in regulation 29.
- Compensation for financial loss is payable to clergy if removed from office as a result of pastoral reorganisation or where a priest in charge's licence is revoked when the vacancy in a benefice comes to an end. (No compensation is payable when a fixed term office under regulation 29 comes to an end.)
Legal entitlements of clergy on common tenure
Common tenure confers the following legal entitlements on clergy:
- to be provided with a written statement of particulars setting out the various particulars of the office;
- an uninterrupted rest period of not less than 24 hours in any period of seven days;
- a minimum of 36 days annual leave;
- maternity, paternity, parental and adoption leave in accordance with directions given by the Archbishops' Council as Central Stipends Authority (this includes Shared Parental Leave with effect from 1 December 2015);
- to request time off, or adjustments to the duties of the office, to care for dependants in accordance with directions given by the Archbishops Council as Central Stipends Authority;
- to spend time on certain public duties other than the duties of the office, with the matter being determined by the bishop if there is any dispute;
- access to a grievance procedure set out in a Code of Practice made by the Archbishops' Council;
- a right of appeal to an employment tribunal if removed from office on grounds of capability.
Legal obligations on clergy on common tenure
Common tenure confers the following obligations on clergy:
- to participate and co-operate in ministerial development review (MDR);
- to participate in arrangements approved by the diocesan bishop for continuing ministerial education and development (CMD);
- to use all reasonable endeavours to make arrangements for the duties of the office to be performed by another person when unable to perform the duties of office through sickness, which may, where appropriate, consist of notifying a responsible person or authority of the absence;
- to undergo a medical examination where the bishop has reasonable grounds for concern about the office holder's physical or mental health;
- to be subject to a capability procedure which may be instigated where an office holder's performance gives cause for concern, and which may, in the last resort, lead to removal from office in cases where performance is not satisfactory and fails to improve.
You can also download the Church of England Guide to Common Tenure - 2016 Edition here.