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.
The Charities Act, 2009 is now in force and, as a consequence, 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 publicly advertised. This usually will be done through the media of church magazines, schools of music, organ teachers and the local community. If, following the stated closing date, no appointment is made, it is good practice to re-advertise publicly, while the search for a musician continues.
The person appointed should be given an employment contract or a letter of appointment. Organists and choir directors should request such documentation, which usually will cover 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
Is a parish church musician employed or self-employed?
Clergy and select vestries should consider and look into this question very carefully. 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’.
An article in the September 2017 issue of the RSCM’s Church Music Quarterly examines the law in this matter, 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 but by the facts. 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’. This view is informed by recent Guidelines-click issued by the Legal Advisory Commission of the Church of England.
In Ireland, these matters are, ultimately, for the Courts to decide.
At present Church Music Dublin expresses no particular view on this subject, other than to point to the over-arching requirement to adopt good governance practice. It does appear that, in almost every instance where there is a formal appointment, the musician should be regarded as ’employed’ and therefore paid through the parish PAYE payroll. Clergy and select vestries should probably opt for this course in the case of all new appointments. Some parishes have already transferred their in-post organist to the payroll. Parishes may find it useful to seek guidance from the diocesan office.