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Self-Employed Pilots with Ryanair

Published: Thursday 6th December 2018

Pilot in cockpit flying in the skyBecoming an airline pilot might seem like a good career choice, but not, apparently, if you’re working for Ryanair. In October 2017, Ryanair pilots came under scrutiny by HM Revenue & Customs over the complex employment structures imposed on them by the airline.

The investigation came about when Germany investigators informed UK authorities that Brookfield Aviation International, a contractor agency for Ryanair, may have been evading tax liabilities by supplying pilots on a ‘pseudo-self-employment’ basis. It was thought that Brookfield Aviation was acting as a ‘letterbox’ company for Ryanair and that the company should really have been paying PAYE tax and National Insurance on behalf of the pilots.

False stampFalse self-employment?

The charges are significant as Brookfield Aviation provides around half of Ryanair’s entire pilot workforce. It’s thought the employment structure was created so that Ryanair could avoid paying the pilots standard work benefits such as sick pay.

Pilots resident in the UK had to create a company in Ireland for tax purposes. The HMRC is saying that these taxes should have been paid in the UK. Worse still, it means that pilots are being targeted by HMRC also. Some reported having to send their log book off to HMRC in the course of the investigation, meaning they were unable to work, and others have even had to sell assets to settle tax bills.

Clearly, being under scrutiny for non-payment of taxes can be incredibly stressful for any worker, and since being a commercial airline pilot means assuming a lot of personal responsibility and risk, these levels of stress could compromise safety. Already, some pilots have left due to the pressure and anxiety brought about by their working arrangement with Ryanair.

Ryanair logoNow Ryanair is doing the same thing in Poland

Despite the ongoing investigation, recently this year, Polish pilots were asked to do the same by Ryanair – this time through an agency in Poland known as Warsaw Aviation – owned by Ryanair. As a result, these positions will be assessed as self-employed jobs by Ryanair and pilots will not have permanent employment rights or be allowed to join a union. These agreements also mean that the workers can have their schedules modified at a day’s notice, obviously not a secure or stable way to be employed.

False self-employment is becoming an increasingly big problem in the workplace as evidenced by other cases in the gig economy. In 2015, Citizens Advice calculated that as many as 460,000 people could be falsely self-employed. But most recruitment experts believe that instead of investigating workers, the government should make sure the focus is on the companies that enforce these practices on workers in order to avoid giving workers employment rights.

To avoid falling into the same trap, you can find a genuine PAYE job with an ethical organisation at Zoek. Right now, we have a number of jobs in Manchester, jobs in London and jobs in Birmingham in a number of fields, including aviation. Start your job search at Zoek today.


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