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Act 22, 2023 – Leave of Absence for Ministers

The General Assembly, seeking to update and clarify the regulations for Annual Leave and Leave of Absence for Ministers, enact and ordain as follows:

1. Day of Rest. Ministers should ensure that they take at least one day of rest a week.

1.1. Presbyteries. Presbyteries should encourage Ministers to follow this practice through the normal course of the activities of its Pastoral Team.

1.2. Kirk Sessions. Kirk Sessions should also encourage the Minister to follow this practice and should make every effort to relieve the Minister of regular pastoral duties on the designated day of rest.

2. Annual Leave. In addition to the weekly day of rest, Ministers shall be entitled to annual leave as follows:

2.1. Entitlement. Ministers who work a six-day week are entitled to forty-two days annual leave in any one calendar year, of which six may be Sundays.

2.1.1. This holiday entitlement is the equivalent of seven weeks annual leave.

2.1.2. There is no additional entitlement for public holidays. 

2.2. Holiday Period. Any one holiday period shall not exceed 28 successive days without the Minister informing the Presbytery of his proposed arrangements.

2.3. Holiday Entitlement Period. All holiday entitlement shall be taken up before 31st December or may be extended to 28th February of the following year with the agreement of the Presbytery. The amount of holiday entitlement carried over will be limited to one week.

2.3.1. Ministers are encouraged to plan their holidays well in advance and to make timeous arrangements for cover.

2.3.2. Preaching supply expenses incurred during the Minister’s holiday periods shall be met by the Deacons’ Court.

3. Paternity Leave. Ministers may be granted up to two weeks of paternity leave on application to the Presbytery subject to him being at least twenty-six weeks in the ministry. The Minister will be paid the full stipend for the two weeks.

4. Compassionate Leave. Compassionate leave on grounds of bereavement, family illness, or special circumstances, may be granted to the Minister by the Presbytery.

4.1. Bereavement. In the event of a bereavement in the Minister’s family, or of a close relative, or of a dependant, the Minister shall automatically be entitled to receive compassionate leave with pay for up to five working days.

4.2. Family Illness. In the event of serious family illness where the Minister’s ability to focus wholly on his duties is impaired, he shall be entitled to compassionate leave. The period of compassionate leave shall be determined by the Presbytery in consultation with the Minister and giving due regard to the personal circumstances prevailing at the time.

4.3. Special Circumstances. Where special circumstances apply, it will be open to the Presbytery to set the period of compassionate leave.

4.3.1. The Presbytery, through its Pastoral Team, shall monitor closely the specific circumstances in each case.

4.3.2. The Pastoral Team may be authorised to make interim arrangements (e.g., appoint Interim Moderator or arrange supply), after consultation with the Minister, and then report to Presbytery.

4.4. Miscellaneous. The following rules apply regarding compassionate leave:

4.4.1.Compassionate leave will not exceed a period of four weeks.

4.4.2. The Minister will be paid for the duration of compassionate leave up to the maximum of four weeks.

4.4.3. In situations where the need for an extended period of absence arises, the Minister will contact his GP to be signed off work. The regulations regarding the Managing Minister’s Absence from Work will then apply.

4.5. Presbytery. The Presbytery, acting through its Pastoral Team, will take all reasonable pastoral care of the Minister and his family during such occasions where Compassionate Leave is considered appropriate.

4.5.1. The Presbytery Clerk (or other appointed Presbytery representative) is to be authorised to make interim arrangements after consultation with the Minister and then report to the Presbytery.

5. Care of Dependants. Time off may also be granted to Ministers to deal with emergencies involving a dependant.

5.1 A Dependant. A dependant can be a wife, a child, a parent, or anyone living in your household as a member of the family. 

5.2. Allowance. The Minister will be allowed reasonable time off to deal with the emergency and make any arrangements that are needed.

5.2.1. A reasonable time off will normally be one or two days, but this may be extended to a maximum of one week at the discretion of the Presbytery Pastoral Team and depending on the circumstances.

5.2.2.In a situation where a period of more than one week of time off is required to deal with an emergency, the Minister may be granted Compassionate Leave.

5.3. Notification. The Minister shall notify the Presbytery Pastoral Team as soon as possible after the need for time off to deal with an emergency has arisen.

5.4. Stipend. The Minister will be paid for time off to care for dependants in cases of emergency for up to a period of one week.

6. Special leave. Special Leave for Ministers in pastoral charges may be granted by the Presbytery under the following conditions:

6.1 Internal Assignment. Special Leave may be granted to undertake work within the Free Church of Scotland, e.g., as a delegate, at the specific request of a department of the Church. In each case the department shall obtain the permission of the Presbytery and the concurrence of the Congregation. The preaching supply costs, and any other additional expenses required to cover the Minister’s absence, shall be borne by the department concerned.

6.2 External Organisations. Special Leave may be granted to undertake work for any organisations outside the Free Church of Scotland. This would involve secondment to an organisation and the organisation concerned would meet the full cost of the Minister’s absence, including pension costs. In granting such leave the Presbytery shall have the concurrence of the Congregation.

6.3.Sabbatical Leave. Special Leave may be granted to undertake sabbatical leave for study, writing, reading and reflection, or extra-denominational work. A Minister shall be entitled to sabbatical leave for every seven years of service since ordination.

6.3.1. Sabbatical Leave may be granted where the Minister has served at least three years in his present charge or position. The leave of absence, on full stipend, may be granted up to a maximum of three months.

6.3.2. The Presbytery shall consult with the Kirk Session and the Mission Board before a final decision is taken. The Congregation and the Mission Board shall have the right of appeal.

6.3.3.The congregation will maintain their level of contributions to the remittances scheme for the whole period of Sabbatical Leave.

6.3.4. The pension rights of Ministers shall be conserved as long as paid leave extends.

6.3.5 The Minister shall bring firm proposals for study, writing or extra-denominational work to the Presbytery when submitting his application for sabbatical leave. He shall bring a report to the Presbytery and the Mission Board when the period of sabbatical leave has been completed. He shall, at all times, inform his congregation of his proposed absence and of pastoral arrangements during such absence.

7. Notification. The Presbytery shall notify the Chief Executive Officer and the Finance Manager in all cases of leave of absence granted to Ministers which extend to more than two weeks.

8. Repeals. The General Assembly repeal Act 27, Class 2, 2005, Act 19, Class 2, 2010, and Act 7, Class 2, 2018.