News by email Donate


Top Stories

Most Read

Popular Videos

UK News

EXCLUSIVE: Document reveals methods used to get rid of staff at student ministry UCCF

by Tola Mbakwe
uccf thumb.png - Banner image

A new document has shed light into how student ministry The Universities and Colleges Christian Fellowship (UCCF) actively encouraged its workers to resign between three and five years of being in their post.

In a 2009 document seen by Premier Christian News entitled “Legalities of leavers”, the organisation outlined how a contract of employment could be terminated for Christian Union Student Workers (CUSWs) without it being in breach of employment law.

It stated that the charity wants CUSWs to leave by five years because they run out of energy and ideas, in contrast to leaders who have been in their post for several years. It also questioned whether that would be the same reason for them leaving after three years.

It added: “These reasons have two motivations behind them- we don’t want CUs to be under resourced, we don’t want staff to get stuck in a rut- it’s not good for either party.”

It highlighted that resignation and dismissal are the two ways to terminate a contact of employment and acknowledged that none of their reasons for dismissal match fair reasons for dismissal according to employment law, so the best way to ensure a worker was no longer employed with them was through resignation. 

 “What we need to [be] leading staff to is termination by mutual consent (unless our staff hand in their resignation off their own backs- then we don’t have to worry about legalities,” it added. “What we need to work on is how we phrase our language with staff in such a way that these resignations are mutual by consent, rather than being seen as constructive dismissal.”

The document states that UCCF could suggest a resignation and not face repercussions for it as long as the CUSW felt like they have had time to think about quitting outside of the initial discussion.

Three scenarios were presented to instruct a team leader on how to handle a suggested resignation.

One said that if a CUSW didn’t want to leave after five years and is discussing it at their end of their year appraisal, then UCCF would want to ideally convince the person it is right for the work and students for them to leave the charity. It added that if the worker agrees, then that is technically resignation by mutual consent.

It concluded that the key is to make the worker feel like they have a choice in whether they resign or not.

“… we want to do what we can to stay within the law (the black and whites it gives us), but not at the expense of the ministry we undertake”.

UCCF has downplayed the relevance of the document and insists that it doesn’t reflect how the organisation currently operates, despite an investigation finding serious breaches of HR malpractice in 2023.

Simon Day, chair of the UCCF Trust Board told Premier Christian News in a statement: “Premier Christian News has today published a story based on a leaked January 2009 Human Resources document, detailing speaker notes for a talk by an employee for a leadership training session that month. This 15-year-old document was not then, nor after, an official Policy document.

 “The culture and practices referred to in the memo are not what UCCF stands for. Today, UCCF has new trustees with senior HR, business, and governance backgrounds, and a new, highly experienced Director of People is commencing work in March. UCCF Staff Worker contracts are open-ended contracts and employees are fully and explicitly informed of their employment rights in this area by UCCF”.

On 27th February, UCCF announced its national director Richard Cunningham had stepped down after 20 years in his role.

The resignation followed several months of public controversy at UCCF, in which the board of trustees suspended Cunningham and field director Tim Rudge in December 2022, pending an investigation.

In October 2023, the investigation undertaken by an employment barrister concluded that UCCF had badly handled the termination of some staff contracts and been potentially unlawful at times. Both Cunningham and Rudge were re-instated.

The organisation’s statement to Premier Christian News continued: “We have fully accepted the findings of a recent independent investigation, specifically acknowledging the failings in relation to the termination of CU Staff Worker contracts of the kind described in this 2009 memo. We have apologised publicly to all concerned for past failings and have changed our employment practices.

“This memo came to our attention in early 2023 and was provided to Hilary Winstone during the course of her investigation. Ms Winstone was the senior employment law barrister brought in by the Trustees to carry out an investigation into various allegations raised, including an examination of the legality of UCCF’s employment practices.”

UCCF said its staff workers are employed on open-ended contracts, with a three month notice period. The organisation requests that its staff commit to completing at least three years’ service, “both to maximise the impact of their work and for their own sense of job satisfaction”.

While the organisation has stated that CUSW role “is envisaged as a four-year commitment. Staff have the option, and right, to stay beyond four-years”.

UCCF maintains that due to the CUSW contract being a permanent one, “any final decision on whether employment will continue beyond four years rests solely with the employee other than in exceptional cases such as redundancy”.

However, former CUSW Katie Norouzi has said the reality is that the organisation fostered a more unfair and intimidating resignation procedure.

On Monday, she went public about the distressing process of being forced to resign from UCCF after three years.

In an opinion article on Premier Christianity, Norouzi said her “world came crashing down” in October 2010 when a senior member of staff held an end of year review meeting with her after two years in her role and encouraged her to resign. It came as a shock to Norouzi who said her team leader, who had recently resigned, only had positive things to say about her job performance and even encouraged her to apply for her position.

“I was presented with the senior leader’s thoughts on my performance. He questioned my abilities as a staff worker, whether my personality fitted the post and ultimately whether I was able to help students make Jesus known in the context I was working in. He tried to convince me that it was best for everyone for me to leave at the end of the year,” she wrote.

“In the stress and shock of the meeting I found myself accepting his premise. I would resign and my contract would be terminated.

Reflecting on what she described as “the most difficult periods of my life”, Norouzi said she wished she would have challenged the senior leader at the time but she was inexperienced in employment law and “confused”, leading her to question her abilities and dedication to the job.

She wrote: “I dutifully served out my third year in extremely difficult circumstances. I had a new team leader, but he was told that I was leaving ‘for the good of the ministry’, raised very few questions and accepted the decision as the right one”.

Norouzi left UCCF in August 2011 after she was sent an email reminding her to hand in her resignation letter.

She told Premier Christian News: “Although I am aware that UCCF have made broad apologies, I have received no personal apologies from directors for being forced out of my job and the impact that this had on me during my final year on staff and beyond.”

In February, Nay Dawson, a former 18-year UCCF employee gave a public apology for being part of an “unhealthy” culture that “damaged” employees.

A Monthly Gift Of $11 Makes A World Of Difference

In a world of fake news there’s never been a greater need for quality Christian journalism. Premier’s mission is to provide the Church with the most up to date and relevant news, told from a Christian perspective. But we can’t do it without you.

Unlike many websites we haven't put up a paywall — we want to keep our journalism free at the point of need and as open as we can. Premier’s news output takes a lot of time, money and hard work to produce. No one in the USA is sharing news like we are across radio, magazines and online so please help us to continue that today.

For a monthly gift of $11 or more we’d also be able to send you a free copy of the brand new Premier Bible, a wonderful Anglicised version of the NLT packed with exclusive bonus content, reading plan and resources to help you get the most out of scripture.

Your monthly support will make a world of difference. Thank you.

Support Us
Continue the conversation on our Facebook page

Related Articles

Sign up to our newsletter to stay informed with news from a Christian perspective.

News by email