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Submission made to determine if GPs are ‘false self-employed’

If successful, the move would dramatically alter GP labour rights in Ireland, giving GPs collective bargaining rights and effectively allowing them to strike. 

The NAGP decision comes four years after an Irish GP first began a journey seeking an examination of their employment status in an effort to get a decision on whether or not they are “false self-employed”.

Under Irish competition law, GPs are viewed as self-employed or ‘undertakings’ and, therefore, are prohibited from collective bargaining. Employees, however, are permitted to engage in collective bargaining and to strike.

The NAGP submission follows the ‘Dutch Musicians’ case before the European Court of Justice in 2014, where the court ruled the self-employed musicians were in fact “false self-employed” and were in reality employees.

The GP, who wishes to remain anonymous and is seeking to be viewed as an employee, after first raising the issue with Revenue four years ago, is now awaiting an oral hearing with the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection on their case.

The GP told MI several GPs’ main income comes from State schemes, such as the GMS medical card scheme.

Many GPs also have a State GMS superannuable pension, which is unique in the public service and is usually only given to employees, the GP added.

“I am not looking for this to be generally applied to all GPs, but this needs to be applied depending on a GP’s balance of public-private work. For instance, a GP on the Aran Islands will most likely be all GMS, but a GP in South Dublin may have much less GMS work,” the GP explained.

According to the CCPC, the judgement in the ‘Dutch Musicians’ case was a “restatement of well-established principles of EU law regarding the application of competition law to collective labour agreements”.

“A number of factors may need to be considered in each particular case, but one of the key elements will be whether the individuals concerned are, in reality, subject to the detailed direction of an employer in carrying out their daily tasks and do not have the degree of independence of action that are characteristic of the self-employed trader.”

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