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Can they do this to me, legally, while I'm on maternity leave?

(12 Posts)
Kyte Sun 19-Aug-07 20:20:03

Hi, I need some advice...

I'm a Church of England curate in the first month of maternity leave. My diocese has never given me a maternity policy despite my asking for one. I agreed with them that I would take the full year's maternity leave from mid July (9 months paid minimum pay amount & 3 months unpaid)and I put this in writing.

My house comes with the job but some months ago they said they wanted to charge me rent during maternity leave. I refused and they agreed to drop it - but this was all discussed verbally and they still haven't given me anything in writing. An hour ago I accidentally discovered that behind my back, they have gone to my local church and told them to charge me rent. My local church were horrified and refused, but the diocese is insisting that they charge full market rent for the last three months of my maternity leave. The diocese have said nothing to me about this. The market rent is far too expensive for us to afford. And my curate's contract is due to run out at exactly the same point as my maternity leave is due to end. So officially I'll still be the curate at the point where they want to charge rent, even if I'm not being paid. Where do I stand, legally, please?

bran Sun 19-Aug-07 20:44:00

If charity begins at home the CofE aren't exactly setting a good example are they?

I suspect that they may legally be able to do this as it's a benefit, so technically a payment in kind, and the last three months of your leave are unpaid. It's very nasty though. Can you get your parishoners (sp?) to bring some pressure on the diosese? I have a feeling that that the upper echelons of the church are uneasy about angry mobs of lay people.

Hopefully some legal bod will come along to tell you that it's not legal though.

Bubble99 Sun 19-Aug-07 20:48:36

Unfortunately, all 'benefits' including use of company car etc and, in your case, the use of the house rent-free, cease at the end of the 9 months stat maternity leave.

BetsyBoop Sun 19-Aug-07 22:32:17

legally I think they can do it for the unpaid part of AML (last 3 months), morally is a different matter entirely

I can think of two options where you "return" early, but aren't actually at work IYKWIM, thus saving you paying rent - you have to give at least 8wks notice to change your retutn date, so you've got plenty of time yet.

Have you considered taking parental leave instead? (only 4 weeks/year max , but you get all your normal employment benefits, apart from wages, during parental leave)

The other option is to take your accrued annual leave (they did tell you about your entitlement to that didn't they?!) YOu get your contractual a/l on OML & the statutory a/l on AML (20 days pa rising to 24 from 1/10/07)

squiffy Sun 19-Aug-07 23:09:41

Or how about option number 3: go straight to the press.

at the CoE attitude; thay can spend decades overlooking the odd vicar fiddling with the choirboys without a whisper of a conscience, but heaven help the curate who actually fornicates with her husband.....

Your house and your family are the core of your being and they are being attacked. The CoE is playing dirtier than Britney Spears in a rugby club bath: if you don't strike back and sort this out you will feel as if you are the 'soiled' party in all of this....

I would get on the phone ot the local press tomorrow, or better still, hang round here.... with Justine's contacts, I am sure there will be a journalist along in a minute....

Kyte Mon 20-Aug-07 11:06:29

I must admit I had no idea they could do this. I assumed that the house was a vital part of the job because we're paid a living (stipend), not a salary, because we need a house to live in.

I'm not sure how they expect us to pay when they aren't paying me my stipend for the last 3 months anyway - where do they think the money can come from?

fedupwasherwoman Mon 20-Aug-07 11:15:29

Sorry for your predicament but this is why so many women go back to work before they really want to, they can't afford not to and your situation is no different.

I think the answer to your question about where do they expect the money to come from is that they expect you to make the decision to return to work after 9 months mat leave instead of a full year's mat leave if you can't afford to pay the rent.

What will happen when your curate's contract runs out ? Are they planning on keeping you on or will you have to move anyway ?

Kyte Mon 20-Aug-07 12:23:39

In theory, I could move to another position in the diocese, where a house would be provided.

The idea behind the pay structure is that you are given a house and enough money for you and your spouse to live in it. So that every town / village could have a vicar no matter how expensive the area is. It is just about possible as long as you live simply.

Obviously, you don't go into this for the money, but out of a sense of calling. Yet it's hard to see how to manage as a mum and a priest when you find yourself working 60hours+ a week for the church and not being able to cover even just the childcare costs with your stipend. Even going back to work full-time is going to be very tricky.

littlefrog Mon 20-Aug-07 12:39:27

I thought that the CofE was still kind of exempt from normal employment law because your employer is God, not the church?! And how does the relationship between parish and diocese work - who is your employer (ie can the diocese insist that the parish charge rent, or just try and bully them?)

If you can, I'd try and get them to put something in writing and not worry about it until they do (MUCH easier said that done). You've got several months before you need to make a decision about when you're going to go back etc.

Good luck... I really hope you get this sorted out properly, the church needs women.

phdlife Mon 20-Aug-07 12:45:06

iirc there was a case not so long ago when the CofE was fighting an unfair dismissal case that was precisely about this kind of discrimination. Thought the "her employer is god" argument got caned in court?? (Sorry bf brain, can't remember)

fedupwasherwoman Mon 20-Aug-07 12:51:19

To be honest, IMHO, a full year's maternity leave is a luxury not everyone can afford and I think you may have to cut your cloth accordingly.

Where I am, the only women in the church are those who took it up after their child rearing days were behind them but this doesn't reflect the populations that they minister to unlike the younger males who have wives at home to take care of their children.

How were you planning on managing such a time heavy job with children, will yourdh be able to do a substantial amount of the childcare or is he working too ?

bran Mon 20-Aug-07 12:56:52

I wonder if you could call their bluff and offer to move out of the house for 3 months so that it can be rented at market value, and end your maternity leave a week before your contract is up so that the house will have to be available to you for that last week.

The thing is that market value rent is a bit like the length of a piece of string, and I don't think anyone will actually want to rent your house for less than 3 months unless the rate is quite low.

You could also point out to them that there is a big difference legally between someone who is living in a property that comes with a job and someone who is paying rent. Once you have a rental agreement you have all sorts of rights that you didn't have before and they could be leaving themselves open to future problems.

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