Organist contract

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Fr Allen Morris
Posts: 16
Joined: Fri Oct 11, 2013 4:19 pm
Parish / Diocese: Westminster

Organist contract

Post by Fr Allen Morris » Fri Jun 07, 2019 5:54 am

Any help available?

I am trying to set up organist contract but local HR is saying no subbing clause allowed if we have an employment contract per se. We could have a service level agreement but then organist gets no holiday or sick pay.

Any guidance would be helpful!

alan29
Posts: 1149
Joined: Fri May 27, 2005 8:04 pm
Location: Wirral

Re: Organist contract

Post by alan29 » Fri Jun 07, 2019 7:28 am

Lucky organist to get a contract!
The RSCM has guidance here
https://www.rscm.org.uk/our-resources/g ... musicians/

Southern Comfort
Posts: 1868
Joined: Sat Feb 23, 2008 12:31 pm

Re: Organist contract

Post by Southern Comfort » Fri Jun 07, 2019 8:05 pm

This whole area is fraught with problems because some organists want to have paid holidays and sick pay, and others don't. Traditionally organists' earnings were never taxed, but HMRC is now trying to insist that a regular organist is an employee and therefore needs to be taxed. Parishes, often at the insistence of a diocese (but see below), are requiring organists who have monthly or annual salaries to have tax (and even national insurance) deducted from their earnings. If an organist wants to be on a salary, which means they have paid holidays and sick pay, then they will probably need to agree to have tax deducted by the church.

However, the key factor in all this is whether the organist can be described as self-employed, in which case they should be responsible for their own tax and NI. The technical term is a "sole contractor". For example, an organist who receives income from a number of different sources (e.g. from crematorium work, from numbers of private pupils, from deputising at other churches, etc, etc) is clearly self-employed, and HMRC reluctantly confirms this. In order to avoid the hassle of the process and paperwork associated with deducting tax and National Insurance, etc, etc, a church making use of the services of such a self-employed person may want to consider going down the route of requiring the organist to bill the church for the organist's services. Obviously there will be no pay during holidays and time off through sickness, but the organist will retain the advantages of self-employed status, which include valuable tax allowances and allowable expenses. This also means that the organist will be paid on a piecework basis, and not via a regular proportional payment of an annual salary.

The question of deputies in the case of absence will also arise. In case of absence, a self-employed organist should not only be responsible for finding an acceptable substitute, but s/he should still bill the church as usual and pay the deputy out of the monies s/he receives from the church. If the church pays the deputy direct, it is more difficult to maintain that the organist is self-employed.

The reason for mentioning all this is because some dioceses try to prevent their parishes from using self-employed organists at all, because they are frightened that HMRC will penalise the diocese. This in turn affects the kind of contract or service agreement that the church is able to offer. But it is also well known that HMRC doesn't really understand church organists, and certainly not those who have a number of sources of income, of which the church may not even be the principal one. It is also well known that dioceses don't understand the difference between an employee on an annual salary and sole contractors who offer their paid services to the church on a piecework basis. In order to attract the right kind of candidate, you may even find yourself in dispute with the diocese! I have known instances where the best candidate has said "I need to work for you on a self-employed basis, or I will go elsewhere."

It will certainly affect the wording of whatever is put in writing concerning compensation. An annual salary of £X is one thing, a payment of £Y for a Mass and £Z for a rehearsal is another.

So, in summary, in addition to setting out the principal duties that the organist is expected to perform, you may also need to specify the mode of compensation, whether annual salary paid monthly or piecework, whether the organist is required to submit an invoice for services rendered, and what the arrangements are for deputies in the case of absence (will they be obtained by the organist or the church? — together with, perhaps, an agreement on the maximum number of absences over a set period of time).

Also needing to be included will be arrangements for weddings, funerals and other special services (for example carol services, school Masses, etc). Decisions to be made will include whether the organist has the right of first refusal for all these services, and what happens if, for example, the outside body or bodies would like someone else to play. Some churches operate a system of bench fees, which mean that the organist must be paid even if s/he does not play, because that is income which the organist would normally expect to receive. That also includes services where the outside body asks for CDs to be played instead of having live music. Other churches (especially those where there have been problems with damage) do not allow anyone else to play except the regular organist. The question of who decides the fees, the church or the organist, also needs to be addressed.

In the past, churches have had scales of wedding fees (in many cases the fee was doubled if the service was to be video'd, but these days with everyone videoing like mad on their mobile phones most churches have given up that particular practice and simply raised the fees). Some organists like to play for funerals for nothing, but they should remember that most funeral directors include an amount for the cost of an organist as part of their standard funeral packages, even if no music has been requested! That fee may come to the organist direct, or via the church. It should not remain in the funeral director's pocket. If the organist does not want to receive it, it can always be donated to the church later. All these and many other things need to be spelled out and should not be left to chance.

Access to the instrument for practice, and in some cases teaching, may need to be covered. The minimum period of notice to end the agreement needs to be specified, and whether there is any kind of probationary period (essential if you have not auditioned the candidate beforehand).

I expect there are lots of other things that I have forgotten to include, but hopefully this will be a good starting point.

justMary
Posts: 82
Joined: Sun Apr 25, 2010 9:53 pm
Parish / Diocese: Republic of Ireland

Re: Organist contract

Post by justMary » Sat Jun 08, 2019 9:51 am

An organist plays:
1) in the church's premises (using the church's light and heating)
2) on the church's instrument,
3) at the time of the church's choosing.
4) Officially, the music they play is chosen or at least approved by the church.

The only tool which might be their own is the sheet music they play from. If the church also buys this, then it seems to me very clear that they are an employee. If not, then it may be evidence of genuine self-employment - but given points 1-4 above, and the relative costs, it would be a difficult argument to make.

Having income from multiple sources is a red herring. Many people have multiple part-time jobs, instead of one full time one. That doesn't made them necessarily self-employed: tests about the degree of control they have over the work and the ownership of the premises and tools used still apply.

Given that a parish is likely also employing a secretary and possibly a cleaner as well (and that these people should be paid and have tax deducted and employer-tax for them), it surely is not too onerous to treat the musician similarly.

Fr Allen Morris
Posts: 16
Joined: Fri Oct 11, 2013 4:19 pm
Parish / Diocese: Westminster

Re: Organist contract

Post by Fr Allen Morris » Sat Jun 08, 2019 3:55 pm

Many thanks to all
After much negotiation with diocesan HR it was agreed to establish a service level agreement (similar to that offered as standard by musicians union). It means no official holiday allowance or sickness, and that organist takes responsibility for tax etc, but allows for subbing expectation which is a real advantage for us... (ie for me!)
I wonder whether SC might consider an article on this matter for Music and Liturgy!?!?

JW
Posts: 845
Joined: Sat Mar 03, 2007 8:46 am
Location: Kent

Re: Organist contract

Post by JW » Sat Jun 08, 2019 8:08 pm

It's worth noting that a self employed sole trader can claim a £1000 tax free allowance instead of claiming for expenses. See the HMRC website for details. I hadn't been aware of this till this year.

My organist's income for weddings & funerals dropped below £1000 in my last tax year and, when I submitted my self assessment, HMRC did not tax it, even though I'm a taxpayer.
JW

Southern Comfort
Posts: 1868
Joined: Sat Feb 23, 2008 12:31 pm

Re: Organist contract

Post by Southern Comfort » Sat Jun 08, 2019 9:01 pm

justMary wrote:
Sat Jun 08, 2019 9:51 am
An organist plays:
1) in the church's premises (using the church's light and heating)
2) on the church's instrument,
3) at the time of the church's choosing.
4) Officially, the music they play is chosen or at least approved by the church.

The only tool which might be their own is the sheet music they play from. If the church also buys this, then it seems to me very clear that they are an employee. If not, then it may be evidence of genuine self-employment - but given points 1-4 above, and the relative costs, it would be a difficult argument to make.

Having income from multiple sources is a red herring. Many people have multiple part-time jobs, instead of one full time one. That doesn't made them necessarily self-employed: tests about the degree of control they have over the work and the ownership of the premises and tools used still apply.

Given that a parish is likely also employing a secretary and possibly a cleaner as well (and that these people should be paid and have tax deducted and employer-tax for them), it surely is not too onerous to treat the musician similarly.
Have to disagree with this. Perhaps the tax authorities in Ireland operate differently? Multiple part-time jobs (not just two or three) are indeed evidence of self-employment, particularly if you are invoicing people for services rendered. (The invoices themselves will say "For the services of AB during the month of C" and then give the number of occasions and the rate for each.)

As far as your points 1) to 4) are concerned, they would all be just as true if you hired Elton John to give a concert in your church; but that wouldn't make him an employee of the church. He'd be offering a service to the church. You may counter this by saying ah, that's a one-off occasion. So it is, but for someone who has multiple income sources, or gigs, or whatever you want to call them, everything that person does is a series of one-offs, too. The fact that they may be regular or semi-regular from the church's point of view does not affect the fact that, from the organist's point of view, they may be just one occasion among many others in the course of a week or month. If you re asking someone to be a full-time musician in a parish, that would, of course, be different.

As I said in my post above, the circumstances that pertain to people who provide occasional services by using their brains and their talents are not easily fitted into a tax system whose concept of taxing employment is based principally on people who work at a desk or a machine 9-5 in a workplace, whether office or factory, with all that this entails. A church is none of those things (though the parish office may be), and the people who offer their musical services (notice that I keep using that phrase) are very different from secretaries, cleaners, who are employed to do a job whose outcomes are quantifiable in a way that playing for a Mass or funeral isn't.

An organist will only be an employee of a church if s/he agrees to be an employee. Some organists want the security of this. Others, especially those who have multiple sources of income, do not.

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