An investigation by the Department of Social Protection into bogus self-employment among RTÉ workers is unlikely to conclude before 2023.
The investigation, which began in tandem with a probe by the Revenue Commissioners into instances of unpaid social insurance tax on the part of the State broadcaster, is receiving “good cooperation from RTÉ” according to John McKeon, the secretary-general of the Department.
Mr McKeon said his department’s investigation is being conducted by inspectors from its Employment Status Investigation Unit (ESIU).
The inquiry is being conducted in tandem with “all other employment status investigations in other sectors”.
“These investigations examine the entire duration of each individual’s contract,” Mr McKeon said. "Given the number of cases involved, it is expected that the investigation will continue throughout 2022 and most likely into 2023."
Renewed focus has settled on the Department’s investigation of the treatment of 82 workers with RTÉ after the broadcaster admitted it had made a settlement of €1.2 million with Revenue due to those workers being engaged as individual contractors, rather than full-time employees.
Bogus self-employment, which sees affected workers denied the statutory social insurance contributions and benefits that PAYE workers receive, is an issue that affects many industries, including construction, IT, and transport workers, such as couriers.
Revenue’s justification for not carrying out an independent investigation into the courier industry has been sharply criticised by a leading activist on the issue.
Such an independent probe has been a recommendation of the Dáil's Public Accounts Committee.
In a recent note to the PAC, Revenue said a 1997 decision that cast all couriers as being self-employed is “still valid today”.
Revenue chair Niall Cody said the four criteria used to make the decision - that the courier owned the vehicle they used; paid all its outgoings; were engaged under a self-employed contract; and did not receive a basic wage - remain in compliance with the Government’s own 2021 guidelines for determining employment status.
However, activist Martin McMahon told thethat the four criteria mentioned “clearly do not meet the standards of the updated code of practice”.
“Revenue is deliberately misleading the Public Accounts Committee,” he said.
"The true position is that the four factors deemed by Revenue to indicate self-employment have all been rejected by the courts and do not at all meet the necessary criteria in the code of practice."
The code of practice, in terms of a courier owning the vehicle they work in, states it is “possible that the provision of tools or equipment will not have a significant bearing on reaching a conclusion about which employment status is appropriate”.
“Many employees, including social welfare inspectors, Revenue employees, and journalists are required to use their own vehicles in the everyday course of their employment,” Mr McMahon said.
“They are basically saying that ‘as long as we deem these guys to be bona fide self-employed then there is no reason to investigate’. In other words: ‘don’t question us’.”