Updated 6th August 2021
Church Music Dublin strongly recommends that current best practice in the community, voluntary and charities sector should be followed when appointing to the position of organist / choir director and in regard to remuneration.
By virtue of the Charities Act, 2009, parish clergy and other members of church governing committees are deemed to be ‘charity trustees’. This brings with it a responsibility to operate in accord with contemporary standards of governance and transparency; and to comply with statutory and revenue requirements.
The position should be widely advertised. This usually will be done through the media of church magazines, schools of music, organ teachers and the local community. While the cost of display advertisements in the national press is prohibitive, parishes should consider placing less expensive ‘lineage’ advertisements in Situations Vacant columns. If, following the stated closing date, no appointment is made, it is good practice to re-advertise, while the search for a musician continues.
We strongly discourage appointments without prior advertisement. Public advertisement brings the vacancy to the attention of younger organists, seeking a position, and those who would like a change. It also demonstrates that the parish, as a registered charity with a responsibility to the wider community, operates openly and transparently.
Some parishes may decide to appoint two persons as organist, to share the work. Such an arrangement will require clear agreement between the two musicians with regard to running the choir, and related matters.
The person appointed should be given an employment contract or a letter of appointment. These should be drawn up by legal / human resources professionals and signed by the incumbent on behalf of the select vestry. Church Music Dublin may be able to supply templates. Organists and choir directors should request such documentation, which usually will cover most of the following matters, and maybe other items:
● Date of commencement
● Person to whom the musician reports (In the case of Church of Ireland and Roman Catholic parishes, this always is the rector / priest-in-charge / parish priest)
● Responsibilities – number of services and choir rehearsals and related matters
● Basic remuneration
● Remuneration for additional duties
● Annual leave
● Sick leave
● Maternity/paternity leave
● Arrangements for periodic review of remuneration
● Arrangement re fees for weddings and funeral services
● Arrangements re deputy organists
Church Music Dublin recommends that there should be a specified retirement age. 75 years is suggested. This does not prevent a new agreement being made with the current organist. But it does create the opportunity for a change should this be desired.
In some places an organist may decline to accept payment or will work on a voluntary basis. In such cases we recommend that a written non-legally binding volunteer agreement is entered into. This will clarify key aspects of the working relationship between the organist and the parish and will serve to avoid any misunderstandings that may possibly arise. It also will affirm the value and importance of the post and of music within the ecology of the parish. Volunteer agreements are widely used in the not-for-profit sector. There are many examples on the web, such as the Sample Volunteer Agreement (click) on the website of the Methodist Church in Britain.
Is a parish church musician employed or self-employed?
The employment status of a paid worker depends on, amongst other tests and criteria, what they actually do, the way they do it, the extent to which they report to or are under the control of another person or persons, the extent to which they are seen as part and parcel of the organisation, and the terms and conditions under which they are engaged. It is not simply a matter of a worker or their employer calling the job ’employed’ or ‘self-employed’. All the facts and circumstances of the employment need to be considered.
The Revenue Commissioners, jointly with the Department of Social Protection and the Workplace Relations Commission, publish a very helpful Code of Practice on Determining Employment Status. Click on the following link for the latest (July 2021) version.
Informed by this Code and other research, the Executive Committee of Church Music Dublin strongly recommend that appointed parish organists should be engaged as employees and paid through the PAYE system.
When launching the Code of Practice on 22 July 2021, the Minister for Social Protection said that it is intended to place the code on a statutory basis later this year.
An article in the September 2017 issue of the RSCM’s Church Music Quarterly examines the law in regard to the employment of organists, pointing out that ‘contrary to popular opinion’ the status (i.e. employed or self-employed) of the relationship between the church and the organist is determined not by the written contract or an arbtrary decision by the church and musician but by the facts and reality of the situation. And further that ‘applying tests (see above) to the average church musician’s situation usually indicates employment, or what in law is known as a “master and servant relationship”‘. Copies of the article are available from Church Music Dublin.
The law in Ireland on these matters is very similar to that in the UK.
Church Music Dublin has consulted professionals, who have advised that a church musician who has been appointed is an employee on a contract of service (even if not explicitly stated) and, consequently, that their remuneration lies within the ambit of Section 112 of the Taxes Consolidation Act, 1997. Income tax is chargeable on such remuneration, which places an obligation on the parish to apply PAYE on all payments. Failure to do so could open the parish to potential financial exposure should it be determined at some point in the future that PAYE ought to have been operated.