Social protection survey on the status of RTÉ workers until 2023

A Department of Welfare investigation into bogus self-employment among RTÉ workers is unlikely to conclude before 2023.

The investigation, which began alongside an investigation by the tax commissioners into cases of unpaid social security contributions by the state broadcaster, has “good cooperation from RTÉ”, according to John McKeon, the secretary general of the department.

Mr McKeon said his department’s investigation was being carried out by inspectors from his Employment Status Investigation Unit (ESIU).

The survey is conducted in parallel with “all other employment status surveys in other sectors”.

“These surveys look at the entire length of each individual’s contract,” McKeon said. “Given the number of cases involved, the investigation is expected to continue throughout 2022 and most likely into 2023.”

Renewed attention has focused on the Department’s investigation into the treatment of 82 workers with RTÉ after the broadcaster admitted it had reached a €1.2million settlement with Revenue over the fact that these workers were hired as individual contractors, rather than as full-time employees.

Bogus self-employment, which sees affected workers denied social insurance contributions and legal benefits that PAYE workers receive, is an issue that affects many industries, including construction workers, IT and transportation, such as couriers.

mail industry

Revenue’s justification for not carrying out an independent investigation into the courier industry has been sharply criticized by a leading campaigner on the issue.

Such an independent investigation was a recommendation of the Dáil’s Public Accounts Committee.

In a recent memo to PAC, Revenue said a 1997 ruling that all couriers were self-employed “still stands today.”

Revenue chairman Niall Cody said the four criteria used to make the decision – that the courier owned the vehicle it was using; paid all his expenses; were engaged under a freelance contract; and have not received a base salary – remain compliant with the government’s 2021 guidelines for determining employment status.

However, activist Martin McMahon told the Irish Examiner that the four criteria mentioned “demonstrably do not meet the standards of the updated code of practice”.

“Revenues deliberately mislead the Public Accounts Committee,” he said.

“The true position is that the four factors considered by Revenue to indicate self-employment have all been rejected by the courts and do not meet the necessary criteria of the code of practice at all.”

The code of practice, in terms of the courier owning the vehicle they work in, states that it is “possible that the provision of tools or equipment will not materially affect the conclusion as to the status of suitable job”.

“Many employees, including welfare inspectors, tax officials and journalists are required to use their own vehicles as part of their daily work,” Mr McMahon said.

“They’re basically saying ‘as long as we consider these guys self-employed in good faith, there’s no reason to investigate’. In other words, ‘don’t question us.’

Joel C. Hicks