The General Assembly re-enact the regulations relating to the management of absence due to illness for ministers in pastoral charges as follows:
1. Short-term Absence
1.1 All illness in excess of seven consecutive days shall be reported to the Presbytery Clerk and a medical certificate shall be provided. The minister shall continue to provide such certificates, covering the whole period of absence, and a final certificate showing the date of return to work. The Presbytery Clerk shall:
(a) record the dates of commencement and end of absence in a record apart;
(b) inform the Presbytery of the minister’s absence;
(c) inform the Chief Administrative Officer of the minister’s absence;
(d) inform the Chief Administrative Officer, within seven days, of the minister’s return to work; and
(e) inform the Convener of the Presbytery’s Pastoral Committee as soon as possible so that the appropriate support for the minister and his family may be set in motion.
1.2 Presbyteries should at all times when dealing with the illness of ministers bear in mind their obligation to exercise pastoral care toward ministers, and toward congregations where many pastoral and other needs may arise in the absence of the minister. Presbyteries are reminded of the central role of their Pastoral Committee in providing support to the Minister.
1.3 If the illness is expected to exceed four weeks, the Presbytery shall consult with the minister through their Pastoral Committee. The Minister shall not undertake any duties in relation to his office. The Presbytery shall consider the pastoral needs of the congregation and take appropriate action for the welfare of the congregation.
1.4 If the absence of the Minister exceeds, or is expected to exceed, eight weeks:
(a) Presbytery shall appoint an Interim Moderator in consultation with the Kirk Session, if this step has not already been taken.(b) The Presbytery’s Pastoral Committee shall continue to monitor the minister’s progress throughout the term of his absence.
(c) The Presbytery, having informed the Home Missions Board, should also seek an Occupational Health Medical Report from an Occupational Health professional. The Occupational Health Report should address issues such as the minister’s health and prognosis, any work related factors which may delay a return to work, and an assessment of the minister’s capability to return to work. The costs of the report are to be paid for by the Home Missions Board. The Board have no need to see the report; the Presbytery merely need to exhibit the letter of instruction and the invoice to the Board, together with the minute of how it is intended to manage the ministerial absence, and how it will facilitate a return to work, where possible. Further update reports should be obtained bi-monthly until and including the sixth month of absence.
1.5 If the illness is expected to exceed 28 weeks, the Chief Administrative Officer shall be provided with the medical certificate by the end of the 28th week with a view to the completion of the appropriate HMRC forms. The Chief Administrative Officer shall deduct from stipend a sum equivalent to HMRC allowances to which the minister is entitled.
1.6 If the illness exceeds four months the Presbytery shall report to the Chief Administrative Officer and to the Clerk of the Home Missions Board by the end of the sixth month of illness. The report shall consider the needs of the congregation as well as the minister.
2 Long-term absence
2.1 If the illness exceeds six months the Presbytery shall obtain a further independent medical report and shall, by the end of the seventh month, meet with the congregation to ascertain (a) their condition in the light of their minister’s absence; and (b) their views on the most satisfactory way of meeting their pastoral and other needs. As a result of this meeting the Presbytery will make recommendations to the Home Missions Board as to the appropriate ministerial arrangements for the congregation in the continuing absence of the minister. In so doing the Presbytery will seek to balance the needs of the congregation with the particular circumstances of the minister and his family.
2.2 In the event of a minister returning to work after six months on a part-time basis, payment of stipend will be made at the full rate for a period up to twelve months from the first date of absence. If at the end of the twelve months the minister is unable to resume full-time duties the provisions of Section 3.2.5 onwards will apply.
2.3 If the illness exceeds nine months the Presbytery shall obtain a further occupational health medical report, the terms of which will be communicated to the Chief Administrative Officer and to the Clerk of the Home Missions Board by the end of the eleventh month.
2.4 If in the light of this report the illness is expected to exceed twelve months the Presbytery shall (a) meet with the congregation to give an update on the current situation with regard to the minister’s absence and to consider the way ahead; (b) assess the congregational needs and its spiritual health and (c) report on the present situation to the Home Missions Board.
2.5 If at the end of the twelfth month of absence the minister is still unable to resume his duties the Presbytery shall, in agreement with the Home Missions Board, either (a) inform the minister that his pastoral tie shall be dissolved, on a date that is determined by the Presbytery with due regard to all the circumstances; or (b) declare that exceptional circumstances exist, having obtained a further medical report, that justify a decision not to dissolve the pastoral tie.
2.6 If the pastoral tie is to be dissolved the Presbytery shall proceed to loose the minister from his charge and his name will be placed on the Roll of Resigned and Retired Ministers. A minister loosed from his charge under these re-enacted regulations shall be eligible to receive the full stipend for a period of six months or until taking up another appointment if earlier. If exceptional circumstances exist the Presbytery shall record in its minutes the reasons which constitute the exceptional circumstances. The Presbytery shall, in either case, report its finding to the Home Missions Board.
2.7 If, in the case of exceptional circumstances, the minister is unable to resume his duties after three months, the Presbytery shall (a) inform the minister that his pastoral tie shall be dissolved, on a date that isdetermined by the Presbytery with due regard to all the circumstances; and (b) proceed to loose the minister from
stipend for a further three months.
2.8 In the event of a minister being absent through illness intermittently for more than three months in totalover a period of two years, the Presbytery shall prepare a report for the Home Missions Board with a view to deciding on a plan of action appropriate to the case.
2.9 In the case of exceptional circumstances and in the event of a minister returning to work after twelve months of absence on a part-time basis payment of stipend will be made at the full rate for a period of three months. The Presbytery shall report to the Chief Administrative Officer and to the Clerk of the Home Missions Board of the implementation of this procedure. If at the end of this period the minister is unable to resume full duties he shall be loosed from his charge, and the minister shall be paid his full stipend for a further three months.
3. General provisions
3.1 All discussions on personnel matters should be held in camera, and any papers distributed should be returned to the Presbytery Clerk by the close of the Presbytery meeting. The Clerk should proceed to shred all documentation, other than papers retained for the purposes of the minutes. All discussions on personnel matters should be treated as strictly confidential.
3.2 The Presbytery and the Home Missions Board shall offer the minister such assistance and advice as it deems appropriate in all the circumstances. In particular, the Home Missions Board is to remind the Presbytery of the important resource that its Pastoral Committee may play during the period of absence.
3.3 The costs of the independent medical examinations will be met by the Home Missions Board for which due budgetary provision will be made annually.
3.4 Each Presbytery shall make financial provision for any additional support that may be deemed necessary for the minister and his family during his absence through the provisions of a Presbytery Benevolent Fund.
3.5 Pension rights at full stipend shall be conserved as long as stipend continues to be paid.
3.6 A minister who is absent as a result of illness may not attend a court or committee of the Church.
3.7 Any minister who was an active member of the Free Church of Scotland Pension Scheme maintains his entitlement to Ill Health Retirement Pension under the Rules of the Free Church of Scotland Pension Scheme which closed on 31st December 2007.
3.8 A minister may be eligible for a grant from the Invalid Ministers’ etc. Fund, to reimburse costs incurred as a result of illness.
3.9 It shall be the responsibility of the Personnel Committee to keep these provisions under review, in consultation with the Home Missions Board.
3.10 Act IV, 2001, is hereby repealed