NEW guidance on parental pay and leave for clergy and ordinands has been published by the Ministry Division, which wants the Church to be more consistent in what if offers.
Although not legally binding, the documents encourage dioceses to be as generous as possible in their support for clergy who are starting a family.
The guidance is the product of consultation across the Church, prompted in part by concerns that some clergy have to struggle to persuade dioceses to provide appropriate parental pay and leave.
Priests who are office-holders — i.e. not working under an employment contract — have always been eligible for statutory maternity pay (provided they have completed 26 weeks of stipendiary service before the baby is born), but the guidance suggests that dioceses go beyond their legal obligations.
Statutory maternity pay is 90 per cent of normal earnings before tax for the first six weeks, but then falls to £148.68 a week.
The Ministry Division recommends that priests on maternity leave be paid 26 weeks on the full stipend, followed by 13 weeks at the lower statutory level.
This enhanced maternity pay (which also applies to parents after adoptions) should be paid regardless of whether they have completed the 26 weeks of service to qualify legally. Male stipendiary clergy should also be offered two full weeks of paternity pay and, if they choose, shared parental leave and pay on the same terms as women.
“We hope that [the guidance] will encourage more consistent and visible support for and investment in ordinands and clergy who become parents,” the Director of People for the National Church Institutions, Christine Hewitt-Dyer, said.
“We hope this will enable them to return to training or ministry after time off with their baby and help them to have a lifetime’s flourishing ministry. Our aim is that clergy becoming parents is seen less as a problem that needs to be solved and more as a cause for celebration.”
The guidance says that, in some instances, dioceses will need to absorb the financial burden of supporting clergy, such as priests who become pregnant at the very beginning of a curacy,
In these cases, because such a curate is not eligible to claim statutory support, the diocese will be unable to reclaim the cost of providing her with maternity pay from the state, but it should provide it regardless, the guidance says.
Another scenario covered by the guidance is that when an ordinand becomes pregnant during her training, when legally she is not entitled to paid maternity leave.
In this situation, maintenance grants and provision of accommodation from the diocese for an ordinand studying full-time should continue for up to a year of maternity leave. Fathers should also be given two weeks of paternity leave, and their grants should continue as normal.
For those who have children after ordination but before beginning their title post (and therefore are not legally entitled to support), “dioceses should consider paying a maintenance grant for up to a year as if the ordinand were still in training,” the guidance says.
The Revd Jules Middleton, the recent author of Breaking the Mould (SPCK), a book on how to be a mother and a minister, said: “I hope that many dioceses will take note and implement their own family-friendly policies,” she said. “I am really pleased to see the guidance ending by noting they are keen to hear real-life stores and good practice; it is in sharing our own experiences that we can really help and encourage one another.”
The director of the Ministry Division, the Rt Revd Dr Chris Goldsmith, said that the guidance recognised that clerics’ vocation to parenthood was as important as their calling to the priesthood. “The vocation of parenthood is to be celebrated and supported as generously as possible,” he said. “We want to invest in our clergy to ensure they complete the race marked out for them, and this is one way of doing that.”
Notes attached to the guidance provide case studies of some of the struggles that clergy have faced in the past when they become parents.
“Sometimes particular sacrifices will have been made by ordinands and their families — for example a spouse changing jobs or moving house — and it is appropriate for the Church to provide appropriate support to ordinands and their families and enable them to complete their training,” the notes state.
“Substantial sums and time will already have been invested in training. It is vital not to jeopardise this investment by being inflexible, or trying to avoid a comparatively small additional expenditure.
“Generosity and humanity on the part of the institutional Church is more likely to produce a fruitful harvest of long and fulfilling ministry.”
Research also suggests that the recruitment of younger female ordinands is boosted by having policies in place (available to the public on diocesan websites), which “visibly demonstrate” that they will be supported if they become mothers.
Besides covering parental leave and pay, the guidance also offers good practice on flexible working during leave and when returning after a child is born.
Read the guidance at www.churchofengland.org/more/clergy-resources/national-clergy-hr/family-friendly-policies
‘I didn’t need to choose’
An assistant curate who did not want to be named:
“I became pregnant in my final year of training at St Mellitus College and was already on placement at the church I was to be curate at. As I was not employed, I was not technically entitled to maternity allowance or maternity pay.
“The diocese discussed options with us, and also mentioned the possibility of shared parental leave as my husband was in his first year of curacy at a different church. After some discussions, the diocese agreed to pay me the same amount that they would give a curate who was on maternity leave.
“I took nine months of maternity leave and returned to work full time after meeting with the Bishop to confirm I was ready.
“The provision of maternity pay enabled me to continue to pursue my vocation while being a new mum — I did not need to choose between the two.
“I was very grateful for the generous maternity provision, but even more so for what this could mean for women called to ordination in the future, who could trust that they would be supported and provided for, and not have to choose between having a family or getting ordained. . .
“The first person that I baptised was my daughter, which was a really special occasion.”
‘If you can, take time off’
The Revd Toby Gibbons, assistant curate of St Chad’s, Knavesmire, diocese of York:
“My wife is also a curate; she is serving in the neighbouring parish to mine. Our son was born on 13 December last year and I had the statutory two weeks of paternity leave, and then I took another two weeks from my wife’s maternity leave — four in total.
“On the Monday before he was born, we went into hospital with reduced movements and they decided to induce, starting on the Wednesday. My training incumbent said ‘Take that week off’; so I effectively had five weeks off.
“York is an interesting diocese because they are not used to it; so the policy is still being worked out. . . It wasn’t like we had to ask them and they had to dig out the paperwork that says what they are and aren’t allowed to do. I think they were kind of making it up as they went along, but they were definitely on our side. There was no fighting; there was no arguing. It was really good.
“I had been off for two weeks, and I was sat there thinking, if I hadn’t taken those two weeks, I’d be going back to work tomorrow. And I just thought ‘No! — I’m nowhere near ready. The baby has just arrived and you’re still figuring it out.’ . . . I would have been absolutely useless at work. So, if you can, take the time off.
“My incumbent has been brilliant, which is not a diocesan thing; but actually part of that is culture. If the diocese is modelling the culture, then other incumbents will see that. . .
“I’ve been chatting to other people in the parish and the fact that [in our diocese] women get nine months paid, and another three months if they want to. . . That’s quite rare.”