Surviving and Thriving: Time off (section 1)

I have not done a post for a while as (very appropriately considering this post’s topic) we have been away and had family visiting. I have also been having a fun time going on to all the diocesan websites and seeking out their clergy handbooks, which I hope demonstrates my dedication to the CS cause. I now know more about diocesan policies on annual leave than is healthy but I wanted to get a clear picture of what the actual guidelines are, as moving dioceses made me realise that each area does things a bit differently. There is much to be said about how time off and clergy workloads affect clergy spouses, so I will do a couple of posts sharing my experiences.

The take home message I got from reading the handbooks is that the guidelines do allow for a decent amount of time off. The baseline minimum for all clergy seems to be:

  • 36 days a year
  • bank holidays (or time in lieu if the bank holiday is a work day)
  • 24hrs off each week

These are the basic entitlements for clergy in common tenure positions. As I understand it (please correct me if I’m wrong) those with freehold are not ‘entitled’ to this time but are encouraged to have the same amount of leave. In addition to the structured time off, most dioceses have extra guidelines. These can be found in your diocesan clergy handbook which outline policies on time off, along with lots of other information, so they are worth a read for you as well as your spouse. I will put up a separate post with links to all the handbooks (except for the odd one I couldn’t find) so that you can locate them easily if you don’t have a hard copy/want to look at what a potential future diocese does.

Most handbooks give advice on how clergy can look after themselves, and their family, whilst working 6 days a week. They encourage clergy to use the flexibility of their hours to the best of their advantage. Suggestions are:

  • Where the morning, afternoon and evening are each a ”session” try to work only 2 out of 3 sessions each day
  • If you do too many days working all 3 sessions, take a day/part of a day off elsewhere in the week
  • Have a light day per week
  • Aim for a 48-50hr working week
  • Ensure you have time each day for yourself
  • Take time in the working week to do family things/household tasks etc

If you and your clergy person use this time well it can make life much more manageable and fun. Some clergy keep the same time each day free. This means that others learn not to expect them to be available at this time. Or you can keep things flexible – we do this at the moment as our baby is not in a reliable schedule. The danger of this is that if you don’t have a set time it is easy to fill the whole day with work. To protect against this we have a set of aims: for James to spend at least 30mins with us during the day, for him to do baby bath time at least once a week and to have a significant chunk of time with the baby each week (separate from the day off). He is also very strict about using time in the week to do chores, tasks etc so that the day off really is a day off and not spent catching up on non-work related things. We’ve found you have to put thought and intention into finding a balance, to sit down and agree on what is reasonable. By writing down our aims we can easily see if they are not being met.

Of course this is all easier said than done. There are aspects of the clergy life, and life in general, which can make it a challenge to get enough time together. In my next post I will look at these difficulties and potential ways of dealing with them.

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One thought on “Surviving and Thriving: Time off (section 1)

  1. Excellent idea to have links to diocesan handbooks.

    I did some digging around a while ago too, especially around holiday entitlement and Sundays off. Most dioceses allow clergy 6 Sundays off each year (for those on Common Tenure) but Chichester, Manchester and Rochester give 5, and Newcastle and Salisbury only allow 4 – despite adhering to the statutory minimum of 36 days’ holiday. So the pernicious term “the inside of a week” arises – i.e. have days off during the week but be back Sunday. I don’t know many clergy who can have Monday to Saturday off, and then be on top form on Sunday. In other words if you’re on duty Sunday, the Friday or Saturday before are unlikely to be truly “time off.”

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