Supreme Court steers back towards orthodoxy in Methodist minister case

Not many of us have the opportunity to offer advice to ministers of religion. However, the latest case about their employment status to reach the UK’s highest court can perhaps give an indication of the general direction of travel on this important topic.

In President of the Methodist Conference v Preston the majority of the Supreme Court has decided that Ms Preston was not an employee after all. In doing so it has overturned the decisions of the Court of Appeal and the Employment Appeal Tribunal to the opposite effect. So what was the reason for this change in direction?

One clue can be derived from the way the majority interpreted Percy v Church of Scotland, which, prior to Preston, was the most recent case involving the status of ministers of religion to reach the UK’s highest court. In Percy, the claimant was ultimately given the green light to commence sex discrimination proceedings against the church in which she served. Like all cases of this nature, the decision was specific to her particular circumstances, but it has been highly influential in persuading the lower courts to give individuals on the border-line of employment or worker status the benefit of the doubt…

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