The Church of England is set to create an HR department for the first time in its 475-year history, at a cost of £800,000.
A new report, the Review of Clergy Terms of Service, recommends that up to 18 strategic HR professionals be appointed to oversee people management in the church.
They will work at regional level and bishops will have the responsibility to ensure that HR advice is obtained and followed.
The report said clergy needed good professional advice, particularly when faced with the prospect of dismissal or going through review procedures, as they faced the prospect of not only losing their livelihood, but also their home.
The review will be debated and given statutory footing in the church parliament, the Synod, this month. About 11,500 clergy would be covered under the new recommendations.
David McClean, the chairman of the working party that drew up the proposals, told Personnel Today that the HR function in the Church of England needed to have a more professional oversight and structure.
“What we are saying is that the church has not been good at HR management,” he said.
Reverend Tony Bell, chairman of the clergy and church workers branch of the Amicus union, welcomed the creation of an official HR function, and said it would also help combat sexism and racism.
The report recommends that all ministerial education should regularly include training in cross-cultural awareness, including challenging racist and sexist assumptions.
“It’s an education process,” Bell said. “The system functions on goodwill – people are trained as priests, not as managers.”
The union is also strongly supporting proposals to give clergy standard employment rights.
This would mean clergy would be covered by the Employment Act 1999, giving them the rights to maternity and paternity leave as well as being able to take unfair dismissal claims to secular employment tribunals.
Traditionally, the clergy have been exempt from employment rights because members were deemed to be office holders, not employees, and as such were working for God, rather than an earthly organisation.