RTÉ has been advised to change the way it hires “core” Fair City actors as self-employed contractors after several were hit with big tax bills.
report carried out by Eversheds solicitors and obtained by the Sunday Independent concluded there were flaws in the contracts offered to Fair City actors, and those who have been on the show a long time should be hired as employees.
The Dáil’s Public Accounts Committee, which has been investigating alleged bogus self-employment at RTÉ, last week resolved to write to the broadcaster about the Fair City issue after it was raised by Catherine Murphy, the Social Democrats co-leader.
RTÉ last year revealed it had made a €1.22m tax settlement with Revenue over alleged bogus self-employment. There are dozens of affected RTÉ employees seeking restitution from the station over issues such as sick pay and lost promotion opportunities.
Tony Tormey, the longest-serving actor in the soap, last month filed a High Court claim for negligence against RTÉ. Tormey claims the broadcaster’s wrong categorisation of his employment landed him with a tax bill. High Court civil actions concern claims for damages in excess of €75,000. Tormey, who plays Paul Brennan, appeared in the soap’s very first episode in 1989.
The Eversheds report into Fair City covered 174 actors who appeared on the soap between 2017 and the end of 2019. No actor was interviewed but the Siptu trade union was consulted.
The report said most actors wanted to be engaged as self-employed contractors as many had outside work in theatres and other roles. Fair City was said to be very different to any other RTÉ production. The “fluidity of the story” meant it was subject to change right up to the point of filming. The production runs for the whole year with only a short break at Christmas.
The fact that actors continually worked on other projects, had agents who inform RTÉ of their availability through the year, that they have no set hours and are not paid sick leave and receive additional payments when episodes are played on the RTÉ Player all pointed to them being properly classified as self-employed.
Factors that indicated they were more akin to employees included a “Fair City allowance” of €186 paid a week and the fact they get overtime if they work over six hours on site. Actors get breakfast, lunch and coffee provided in the canteen on filming days.
The review found the contracts for actors was “lacking in some of the more general wording which we would expect in an independent contractor arrangement”. There was no explanation of how tax was deducted from payments. It recommended that this detail be included. It found on balance the contract pointed towards a relationship with an independent contractor.
It said there were “a number” of actors who had worked for Fair City for many years with a “long-established routine and an expectation of ongoing work”.
Video of the Day
Some of these “do not in reality provide acting services elsewhere and Fair City is likely to be their sole source of income”.
RTÉ told the review it is important to engage actors as contractors because the storyline is fluid. “A character may be ‘killed-off’ at any point and therefore the flexibility of an independent contractor is required,” it said. The review noted “anecdotally” that actors engaged on Virgin Media’s Red Rock and TG4’s Ros na Rún were engaged as employees.
The report’s authors said they had discussed the employment of actors with a number of experts. The prevailing position is that “all actors are engaged as employees for a film”, except lead actors, who are employed as independent contractors.
It was suggested this was done so actors like Tom Cruise or Renée Zellweger would not be employees of an Irish production company while filming in Ireland. It was pointed out Fair City was different to films as it is recorded over the course of a year and it is not possible to plan in advance at what point actors would be available.
The review recommended that RTÉ change how some actors are engaged. “It would be best practice to decide on core actors for the year ahead,” it said. “Those core actors should be engaged as employees for the duration of the production.” This would require more advanced planning and less ability to change scripts very quickly.
“While we understand the commercial desire to ensure programmes are fresh and engaging, this does not negate the legal requirement to classify individuals in the correct groupings,” it said. There was “less legal risk” with actors engaged for short periods but for those employed for more than four weeks over a year RTÉ should consider if they should be hired as an employee.
It said an actor’s fixed-term contract should not be a standard RTÉ contract but one that allowed them to continue to work outside the broadcaster.
Denial of responsibility! planetcirculate is an automatic aggregator around the global media. All the content are available free on Internet. We have just arranged it in one platform for educational purpose only. In each content, the hyperlink to the primary source is specified. All trademarks belong to their rightful owners, all materials to their authors. If you are the owner of the content and do not want us to publish your materials on our website, please contact us by email – [email protected]. The content will be deleted within 24 hours.