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Diocesan ad for parish organist

11 August 2017

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Your answers

Some recent advertisements in the Church Times have run along these lines: “The Diocese of x seeks to appoint an organist & choirmaster to y parish.” I thought that the incumbent and PCC were the joint employer of organists, not the diocese. Since the new Legal Advisory Commission Guidance (C of E website), it seems that the PCC is now the employer; so how does that square with these advertisements? Who, in fact, employs organists?

Although some advertisements might suggest that the appointment would be made by the diocese, in practice it is the parish that makes the appointment.

Recent case law has shown that many parish organists, including those with “self-employed” contracts, are in fact employees, with all the consequences that brings, both to the employee and the employer. As control is one of the principal elements for a contract of employment, the permanent engagement of an organist, if there is a contract, it will almost certainly be that of employment.

The Church of England’s Legal Advisory Commission has recently given some very helpful guidance on this: www.churchofengland.org/media/3956676/organists.pdf, and indicates that the PCC is normally the employer. This is because the PCC is the only ongoing corporate body. Further, in virtually every case, the PCC pays the organist or other musicians. In practice, when a dispute goes to a tribunal, the tribunal joins both the minister and the PCC as the employer and they appear together as joint party opponent.

These advertisements are, in fact, incorrect. All those that I have seen, quite properly, refer the enquirer to someone in the relevant parish, not to the diocesan office. I have written an article about these matters which will appear in the Royal School of Church Music’s magazine, CMQ in September.

A model contract for employed organists is available to download free from the Guild of Church Musicians’ website at: www.churchmusicians.org/node/149.

The Church Times is still one of the best places to advertise vacancies for church organists.

Barry Williams (Special Adviser, The Royal School of Church Music)

Beddington, Surrey


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