Synod backs increase in statutory minimum rest time for clergy

06/07/2024

The General Synod has backed moves to introduce a statutory entitlement to 36 hours rest a week for clergy office holders in an effort to encourage Church of England priests to take sufficient time off work.
Alison Coulter Sam Atkins / Church of England

Members of the Synod meeting in York voted in favour of plans to amend church regulations to introduce a statutory right to a minimum of 36 hours rest - a day and a half a week – for clergy office holders, covering most clergy.

The new right would include an uninterrupted rest period of 24 hours.

The Synod heard that as office holders, rather than employees, clergy already have the right to arrange their work to take time off to rest without seeking permission. In addition, the current regulations for most clergy specify a minimum of 24 hours uninterrupted rest a week.

But in practice they are not taking enough rest, Canon Alison Coulter, from the Diocese of Winchester, told the Synod.

Introducing the General Synod debate, she said the proposals represented a ‘modest increase’ to 36 hours as the minimum amount of rest clergy should take each week.

“Clergy could take a day and a half or even two days rest each week without this proposed change to the Terms of Service Regulations. But we all know that they don’t," she said.

"By voting for this motion we will not actually be changing the right of clergy to have more rest – they already have that.

"But we are clarifying and raising awareness in the church that in order to care for our clergy, we need to ensure they feel able to take long enough periods of uninterrupted rest each week."

Addressing clergy, she said: "You are a precious resource and have given up much to serve us, so our priority needs to be to care for you."

Under the plans backed by the Synod, draft regulations to enact the changes will be brought before the General Synod for approval at a later date.

Notes

The amended General Synod motion, as shown below, was carried with votes recorded as follows:

  • In favour: 336
  • Against: 3
  • Abstained: 6

Rest periods for office holders

‘That this Synod recognising that:

  1. Sabbath, as a time to cease and to delight, is part of God’s plan for humankind and for all creation and is modelled by God in Genesis 2.1-3
  2. A weekly Sabbath rest is a life-giving gift of God and important for the wellbeing of all people
  3. A day off spent catching up on necessary tasks is not a Sabbath day,

Request that the Archbishops’ Council lay before it for approval draft Regulations amending the Ecclesiastical Offices (Terms of Service) Regulations 2009 so that an office holder is entitled to not less than 36 hours (a day and a half) of rest in any period of seven days, to include an uninterrupted Sabbath rest period of not less than 24 hours, but so that the statement of particulars of office may continue to specify that any rest period may not be taken on or include a Sunday or any or all of the principal Feasts of the Church of England or Ash Wednesday or Good Friday.

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