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Mr T Singh v. The Members Of The Management Committee Of The Bristol Sikh Temple & Others


Employment Appeal Tribunal

A tribunal was wrong to find that priest at a Sikh temple was not entitled to the national minimum wage because he was not a 'worker' under the National Minimum Wage Act, according to the Employment Appeal Tribunal.
Michael Ford, instructed by Thompsons, successfully represented Mr Tejinder Singh at the EAT. In effect, the decision reverses earlier case law (which found Sikh priests were not employees or workers because of the spiritual nature of the role).
Mr Singh was as Granthi (priest) at the Bristol Sikh Gurdwara (temple) and claimed that he was entitled to the national minimum wage for his work there.
The Employment Tribunal originally ruled that he was not a worker, and thus not subject to the national minimum wage, because:
  • he did not provide his services in return for "certain remuneration"
  • he could allow substitutes to work in his place
  • the spiritual nature of his role and the religious beliefs of the Gurdwara were inconsistent with a contract
The EAT ruled that the tribunal was wrong on all three points:
  • it was irrelevant that the source of his payments was voluntary donations and that he held an office, and the provision of accommodation to him could amount to consideration for his promise to serve the temple
  • there was no evidence that he had an unfettered right to send along a substitute, and the documents suggested that he owed a personal obligation to serve the Temple
  • the tribunal had given too much emphasis to the spiritual nature of the role, following recent decisions holding that church ministers could be workers or employees.


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