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Dm Article: Granthi Should Be Paid A Wage.

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Volunteer worker at Sikh temple who received £50 a week in donations wins right to be paid minimum wage

By Steve Doughty, Social Affairs Correspondent

Last updated at 9:13 PM on 20th February 2012

A volunteer worker at a Sikh temple may be entitled to be paid the minimum wage, a court ruled yesterday.

The decision means religious organisations, charities and groups which depend on voluntary help are at risk of having to pay a salary to thousands of people they believed were giving their help free.

It also marked a further erosion of the autonomy of religious believers.


Case: Tejinder Singh, who served as the granthi, or priest, at Bristol Sikh Temple claims he should have been paid minimum wage even though he had agreed to act as a volunteer

The ruling on the helper at Bristol’s Sikh temple follows in the wake of key court decisions which downgraded the rights of Christian believers.

One said local councillors have no right to say Christian prayers as part of the public agenda of their meetings, and another quashed the appeal of a couple of Christian hoteliers who wanted the right to reserve double rooms for married couples.

The case involved Tejinder Singh, who served as the granthi, or priest, at the temple for seven years until 2009.

Mr Singh claimed at a tribunal last year that even though he had agreed to act as a volunteer, he should have been paid the minimum wage, which is currently set at £6.08 an hour.

He had accepted free accommodation from the temple for himself and his wife, and the temple gave him £50 a week from the donations of worshippers for performing prayers and blessings.

Some worshippers would also pay him for his prayers on special occasions, like weddings, at rates suggested by the temple management.

He paid no tax or national insurance, and the temple managers said that to treat him as a paid worker would conflict with principles of ‘voluntarism and a traditional interpretation and application of the Sikh scriptures.’

The tribunal last spring said that Mr Singh did not qualify as a worker.

But at the Employment Appeal Tribunal Mr Justice Beatson said it had been wrong, and threw the case open by sending it back to the same tribunal to be reconsidered.

The judge said: ‘The threshold for a finding that the relationship between a religious institution and its officers is not intended to have legal effect is a high one.

‘Arrangements between a church and its ministers should not lightly be taken as intended to have no legal effect.

There is no longer a presumption of no intention to create legal relations between a minister of religion and his or her church or congregation.’

The temple had agreed to accept Mr Singh as a volunteer on the grounds that he was to work without pay and not for gain.

His accommodation, it said, was provided to help him carry out his duties, and the £50 was paid out of respect for his position as an office-holder, and not as pay for his work.

It said that he regularly went on holiday to India, and was not paid while he was away.

But Mr Justice Beaton said the tribunal had made an error and Mr Singh should not have been considered among the temple office-holders who were required to work without pay.

Edited by SURYADEV
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I think this is a difficult one to tackle , if its the path the Granthi has chosen , then he/she needs money to make meets end and should be paid a reasonable wage , BUT then does it only become a job for them , do their duties 9-5 /whatever and then signoff , as i believe doing seva. paid/unpaid at a place of worship is a very big responsibility , you have to have the passion to improve , educate by means of dialogue with the sangat .

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