Thursday 18 April 2019

RTÉ faces back-pay bill for staff wrongly rated 'self-employed'

Eimear Cusack
Eimear Cusack

Allison Bray

RTÉ could be forced to pay out retrospective employment benefits for years to 157 workers who were wrongly classified as self-employed.

A review by legal experts Eversheds Sutherland found up to 157 workers at the State broadcaster were wrongly classified as being self-employed freelances instead of employees.

The review, which was carried out at the behest of unions, found the wrongly-classified workers lost out on such employee benefits as holiday pay, pension entitlements, sick pay, maternity pay and other staff entitlements.

RTÉ's director of human resources Eimear Cusack said the broadcaster intends to fulfil the review's recommendations, which includes introducing a policy for engaging with freelances as well as instituting clear guidelines on hiring contractors and employees.

The new policy and guidelines will be in place by September followed by a review of individual contracts. But RTÉ stopped short of commenting on the potential for significant retrospective payments owed to the wrongly-classified workers except to say the priority was to put the guidelines in place first and "other issues would be discussed after that", according to a report last night on the RTÉ website.

Meanwhile, Séamus Dooley, Irish secretary of the National Union of Journalists, said the review vindicates the union's long-standing concerns over employment contracts at RTÉ.

"The NUJ has long claimed that RTÉ was guilty of breaching the employment rights of workers by forcing them to accept self-employed contracts. This was done as a means of avoiding granting workers sick pay, maternity and paternity leave and pension rights," he said in a statement last night.

"RTÉ has also denied these workers the right of access to trade union representation - even when they sought to challenge their bogus self-employed status. This report shows that a significant number of workers trapped in inappropriate contracts have employment rights and must have their status corrected."

While he said he accepts it will take some time to address individual issues, "priority must be given to ensuring that workers long denied their rights are granted employment status and appropriately compensated by way of retrospective payments."

He added that RTÉ is not the only media company in which "bogus self-employment" is an issue.

Irish Independent

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