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#1 Cyrilla

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Posted 14 October 2020 - 22:31

...are church organists treated so appallingly, far too often???

 

:(


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#2 Gran'piano

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Posted 15 October 2020 - 08:20

Our organist finds that most people don't seem to realise he exists. "The organ was beautiful this morning", "I loved that bit the organ played after the sermon".

And the idea that "the organ" might like to run through a piece before a funeral and doesn't like everything changed at the last minute, is news to most folk too.


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#3 Barry Williams

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Posted 18 October 2020 - 16:00

"Are church organists treated so appallingly, far too often???"

 

Yes, but now that almost all appointed church organists are deemed to be employees, they have access to rights under the Employment Rights Act 1996.  Not all churches fulfill their obligations as an employer and a number have found that the consequences are quite costly if the matter goes to an Employment Tribunal - as several cases have in recent years.

 

Barry Williams


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#4 elemimele

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Posted 18 October 2020 - 20:24

... I think many churches are not only ignorant of the law (I certainly am) but suffer from a big ambiguity in their heads. They haven't made a clear decision about whether their organist is an employee or a volunteer. Instead they get stuck in a half-and-half state where they have employed an organist from outside the congregation because they wanted musical skills beyond those immediately available, but they somehow expect their organist to consider it a duty and joy, something that they should be happy to do to support the church and their Creator - forgetting that the organist might need it as part of his/her cash-flow and considers the job a job. And no matter how much we love our jobs, Tesco still insist on us paying for bananas.

 

Churches perhaps don't ask themselves the questions they should. If they find themselves thinking up reasons why the organist isn't a "proper employee" in order to justify treating him worse then you'd treat an employee, they ought to be wondering whether they are any better than an exploitative employer? The reasons for treating employees properly go beyond the law: it's a matter of morals and ethics. The great Quaker industrialists didn't make life good for their employees because the law told them to. They did it because it was Right.

 

And the other way, if someone works for you because they believe it to be their duty, that they should be happy to do it without thought of recompense, without thought for themselves, then they are putting themselves in a position where they are very vulnerable to exploitation. Churches should be doubly cautious, taking great pains not to exploit their volunteers. So they ought to be taking care of their organist, whether they consider him an employee or a volunteer - not treating him casually because he's somewhere between the two (in their mind).

 

Of course the other problem is that few will recognise how skilled is their organist and choirmaster. Really good musicians make music look easy. This applies as much to enthusing others about music as it does to performance; great music teachers and organisers also make it look as though it happens automatically, by osmosis. And if the church can't see how many years' experience, how much effort it takes to get that good, they perhaps won't realise just how valuable an asset a good organist and choirmaster is.

 

But that's still no excuse for treating them badly.


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#5 Barry Williams

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Posted 19 October 2020 - 07:44

The Church of England's Legal Advisory Commission gave this advice a couple of years ago:

 

https://www.churchof...h musicians.pdf

 

(If that hyperlink fails type 'General Synod Legal Advisory Commission Parish Music'. It deals clearly and decisively with the question of volunteers and the all-important employment status of most organists.)

 

A number of churches have had their metaphorical fingers financially burned by assuming that the absence of PAYE and NIC deductions equals self-employment.  The case law indicates that it does not and in recent years almost all the cases that have gone to the Employment Tribunal have been decided on the basis that the organist is an employee.  I cannot recall a single case in the past twenty years where the organist has lost the case - there may be one or two, but I cannot think of one.  This is because the churches have often failed as an employer - providing pension schemes, holiday pay, etc.  Thus even when the behaviour of the organist has been unsatisfactory, the organist tends to win because the Employment Tribunal expects employers to act properly as employers.

 

There are, however, many churches who do treat their organist well and pay them properly with invariably happy results.

 

Barry Williams


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