Organisational and employment FAQs

Information correct as of 16 October 2020

We are working in close partnership with other sector bodies to make the case for urgent and practical help to the museums sector and those who work in and with museums.

We are providing advice to the sector on this page and will continue to update the contents as the situation develops – if you have further questions or want to help us to improve this advice, please get in touch via info@museumsassociation.org.

For organisations

1. Can my museum reopen or stay open?

In England, Wales and Scotland, museums are allowed to reopen provided that they follow official guidance, including maintaining social distancing and participating in the Test and Trace scheme. See the full guidance for England.

The Scottish government has issued guidance for museums on reopening, which is explained in further detail on the Museums Galleries Scotland website.

The Welsh government has also issued guidance on reopening in Wales on their website.

It is up to museums themselves to decide the best date for reopening according to their own plans and financial circumstances. Some museums are reopening now, while others are choosing to remain closed for a longer period.

Note that visitors to museums in England are now required by law to wear a face covering in the museum. Museums should prepare signage and information about this requirement to share with visitors prior to their visit.

Police have the power to arrest and fine anyone not complying with this requirement, but they will not be actively patrolling museums to enforce it.

Since the introduction of new coronavirus restrictions in England, Scotland and Wales in October 2020, museums and galleries observing COVID-secure guidance are allowed to remain open, but must ensure that no one mixes indoors or in most public outdoor venues with anyone they do not live with (or have formed a support bubble with). In England, this applies at all three tiers of the current guidance.

In Northern Ireland, museums have been asked to close by the Northern Ireland Executive for a period of tighter lockdown restrictions (current as of 16 October 2020).

Given the constantly changing situation, we recommend that museums remain in regular contact with local authorities regarding the restrictions in your area.

2. How do I access the Cultural Recovery Fund?

In July 2020, the UK government announced a £1.57 billion Culture Recovery package intended to support culture and the arts to recover from the impacts of the coronavirus. This package includes:

  • £1.15 billion for cultural organisations in England delivered through a mix of grants and loans. This will be made up of £270 million of repayable finance and £880 million grants
  • £100 million of targeted support for the national cultural institutions in England and the English Heritage Trust
  • £120 million capital investment to restart construction on cultural infrastructure and for heritage construction projects in England which were paused due to the coronavirus pandemic
  • An extra £188 million for the devolved administrations in Northern Ireland (£33 million), Scotland (£97 million) and Wales (£59 million)

In England, non-national accredited museums were able to apply for grant funding of £50,000 to £3 million via Arts Council England. The first tranche of this funding has now been distributed, but a further round of funding under the scheme is likely to be made available in the coming months.

Repayable loans of over £3 million are available to larger museums in England from Arts Council England. They can be used to cover organisational costs incurred up to 31 March 2022 and will be repayable on loan terms including a payment term of up to 20 years, an initial repayment holiday of up to four years and a 2% interest rate per annum. During the four-year repayment holiday, loans will accrue interest on a six-monthly basis.

Capital funding is available in England to cover additional Covid-related costs incurred by ongoing capital projects in cultural organisations. Arts Council England’s Capital Kickstart Fund will provide £55 million of funding to get capital projects moving again. There are further capital funds available from Historic England (for heritage sites) and from the National Lottery Heritage Fund (a closed fund for existing grantees).

In Scotland, Museums Galleries Scotland have launched the £4 million Recovery and Resilience Fund for independent museums.

In Wales, independent and local museums are eligible for funding through the Welsh Cultural Recovery Fund, while galleries are eligible for funding from the Arts Council of Wales.

3. How do I access government support to pay my staff?

From 1 November 2020, the Job Support Scheme will replace the Job Retention (Furlough) Scheme. Under this scheme, organisations will continue to pay an employee for time worked, but the cost of hours not worked will be split between the employer, the government (through wage support) and the employee (through a wage reduction), and the employee will keep their job.

The government will pay a third of hours not worked up to a cap of £697.92 a month, with the employer also contributing a third. This will ensure employees earn a minimum of 77% of their normal wages, where the government contribution has not been capped.

Employers using the Job Support Scheme will also be able to claim the Job Retention Bonus if they meet the eligibility criteria. The scheme will open on 1 November 2020 and run for six months (until April 2021).

All employers with a UK bank account and UK PAYE schemes are eligible for the scheme. Neither the employer nor the employee needs to have previously used the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, but large employers will have to demonstrate significantly reduced turnover due to the coronavirus crisis.

More information on this scheme can be found on the government’s Job Support Scheme page.

4. My museum is a charitable organisation. What help is available?

Accredited museums in England should apply to Arts Council England for Culture Recovery Fund grants of £50,000 to £3 million. The first round of this funding has closed, but a further round of funding is expected.

Charities are eligible for a range of government support announced by the chancellor:

  • The Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan scheme will provide loans of up to £5 million to businesses, with the government covering interest payments and fees for the first 12 months
  • The government has also launched the Bounce Back Loan scheme which will allow organisations to borrow £2,000 to £50,000 over a period of 10 years, with some costs covered by the government

There is direct support for leisure businesses (including independent museums) via:

  • A Business Rates holiday for museums in England for the year from April 2020. This will apply automatically and will not require any action. Equivalent measures on business rates have been taken in Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland
  • Cash grants for retail, hospitality and leisure businesses (including independent museums) in England. Organisations with a rateable value between £15,000 and £51,000 will automatically receive a grant of £25,000, while businesses with a rateable value of under £15,000 will receive £10,000 in grant funding. You do not need to take any action to access this grant. Local authorities will contact businesses soon with further details
  • Small businesses that already receive Small Businesses Rate Relief of Rural Rate Relief will get a grant of £10,000. Further local authority grants of up to £25,000 are available directly from your local authority via the Local Authority Discretionary Grants Fund
  • Tourism and hospitality businesses, including museums, are eligible for a temporary 15% cut to VAT until March 2021
  • The UK government is also showing flexibility on tax payments for businesses affected by the coronavirus outbreak. All businesses and self-employed people in financial distress, and with outstanding tax liabilities, may be eligible to receive support with their tax affairs through HMRC’s Time To Pay service. These arrangements are agreed on a case-by-case basis and are tailored to individual circumstances and liabilities. If you have missed a tax payment or you might miss your next payment due to Covid-19, you can call HMRC’s dedicated helpline: 0800 0159 559
  • In England, your museum may be able to take advantage of support from one of the emergency funding streams announced by Arts Council England. There are equivalent schemes in Scotland and Wales.

Non-governmental support is also available:

  • The Weston Culture Fund is now accepting applications for funding for registered cultural charities, with grants ranging from £100,000 to £2 million depending on the size of your organisation
5. My museum is run by a public body. What help is available to my museum?

Museums that are funded by government departments, arms-length bodies or local authorities (or a combination of these) have experienced an almost total loss of earned income due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Accredited museums in England should apply to Arts Council England for Culture Recovery Fund grants of £50,000 to £3 million. The first round of this funding has closed, but a further round of funding is expected.

In England, your museum may also be able to take advantage of support from one of the emergency funding streams announced by Arts Council England. There are equivalent schemes in Scotland and Wales.

6. My museum runs grant-funded programmes. What should I do about these?

Many grant funders have responded to the crisis quickly and are keen to show flexibility in the terms of existing grants. We recommend that you get in touch with your individual grant provider to discuss any changes that may be required.

Major grant funders

  • National Lottery Heritage Fund has made a statement promising flexibility for current grantees and is operating a £50 million Heritage Emergency Fund
  • Arts Council England has launched a £160 million emergency fund to support the arts sector in England. This includes £90 million for organisations in the NPO group, £50 million for non-NPOs, and £20 million for individual creative practitioners. It will also be relaxing NPO, NLPG and CPP funding conditions. The Arts Council will be contacting NPO and CPP grant recipients to discuss their situations, and will provide further updates on the Arts Council England website
  • Museums Galleries Scotland has launched a £700,000 Urgent Response Fund with grants of up to £60,000 for museums in Scotland, a £55,000 Digital Resilience Fund and a £330,000 Adaptation Fund for reopening costs. It has also issued further advice and guidance for museums in Scotland
  • The Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations has also launched a Third Sector Resilience Fund for charities which is providing grants of up to £100,000, as well as some loans
  • Northern Ireland Museums Council is updating its website with news on the coronavirus
  • The Welsh Government has launched a £1 million Cultural Resilience Fund with grants of up to £25,000 for organisations and £7,500 for individuals
  • The Welsh Government is also working with the Welsh Federation of Museums and Art Galleries to provide an additional £325,000 for small emergency grants to the sector
  • The Museums Association’s Esmée Fairbairn Collections Fund introduced a new Sustaining Engagement with Collections Fund worth a total of over £500,000, providing grants of up to £30,000 to museums for projects which explore different ways of engaging with collections while physical access is not available or is severely limited. The first round of this fund closed in May 2020
7. How does my organisation apply for financial help?

Some of the emergency measures to support businesses and other organisations are automatic. As long as your organisation is eligible for a business rate holiday; a cash grant of £10,000 or £25,000; and VAT deferral, these will be applied to your organisation automatically and you do not need to take any further action. Your local authority will get in touch with you with details of how the business rate holiday and cash grants will be applied.

If you are struggling to get a grant that you think you are entitled to via your local authority, then please contact us: info@museumsassociation.org.

For Coronavirus Business Interruption Loans, organisations should apply directly to one of the British Business Bank’s 40+ accredited lenders. In the first instance, businesses should approach their own provider – ideally via the lender’s website. They may also consider approaching other lenders if they are unable to access the finance they need.

In England, Accredited museums should apply to Arts Council England for Culture Recovery Fund grants of £50,000 to £3 million. The first round of this funding has closed, but a further round of funding is expected.

Your museum may be able to take advantage of support from one of the emergency funding streams announced by Arts Council England or equivalent schemes in Scotland and Wales.

8. What support is there to maintain and secure museum sites and collections?

Every museum should have an emergency plan to secure sites and collections. This should be enacted at this time, with clear advice to staff around social distancing.

We have advised that: “Clearly our paramount responsibility is the health of our staff and our communities and we would advise currently that all staff should be working from home apart from those dealing with critical security, estates and collections matters with careful social distancing and lone working practices in place.”

We are advocating to governments and key funders for specific emergency funding that will allow museums to maintain sites and collections during the coronavirus outbreak.

Accreditation bodies in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have clarified how the Accreditation Scheme and Government Indemnity Scheme will continue to run during this time.

For individuals

1. I am a museum employee. What help am I eligible for?

Until 31 October 2020, the UK government will pay wages through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme if your organisation was forced to temporarily close or reduce its activities because of coronavirus.

This was available to anyone on the PAYE scheme (permanent or fixed contract).

The Job Retention Scheme is being replaced by a Job Support Scheme on 1 November 2020. Under this scheme, you must work for at least a third of your normal hours. For any hours that you do not work, the cost will be split between the employer, the government (through wage support) and the employee (through a wage reduction), and the employee will keep their job.

The government will pay a third of hours not worked up to a cap of £697.92 a month, with the employer also contributing a third. This will ensure employees earn a minimum of 77% of their normal wages, where the government contribution has not been capped.

More information on this scheme can be found on the government’s Job Support Scheme page.

2. I am self-employed/freelance. What help is available for me?

A separate government support scheme – the SEISS – has been set up to help the self-employed. This scheme will allow you to claim a taxable grant worth 80% of your trading profits up to a maximum set by government which changes in each phase of the scheme. The scheme was initially set up to cover the first three months of the coronavirus crisis, but has now been extended to cover a series of further three month periods until at least the end of April 2021.

Individuals must apply for the SEISS grant and will need to confirm that their business has been adversely affected by coronavirus. An individual does not need to have claimed the first grant to receive a later grant: for example, they may only have been adversely affected by Covid-19 in this later phase.

Who can apply?

You can apply if you’re a self-employed individual or a member of a partnership and you:

  • Have submitted your Income Tax Self Assessment tax return for the tax year 2018-19
  • Traded in the tax year 2019-20
  • Are trading when you apply, or would be except for Covid-19
  • Intend to continue to trade in the tax year 2020-21
  • Have lost trading/partnership trading profits due to Covid-19

Your self-employed trading profits must also be less than £50,000 and more than half of your income must come from self-employment.

This is determined by at least one of the following conditions being true:

  • Having trading profits/partnership trading profits in 2018-19 of less than £50,000 and these profits constituting more than half of your total taxable income
  • Having average trading profits in 2016-17, 2017-18, and 2018-19 of less than £50,000 and these profits constituting more than half of your average taxable income in the same period

If you started trading between 2016 and 2019, HMRC will only use those years for which you filed a self-assessment tax return.

If you have not submitted your Income Tax Self-Assessment tax return for the tax year 2018-19, you must have done this by 23 April 2020 to be eligible for the scheme.

In addition to the grant scheme there are a range of additional measures that have been set out by government for self-employed people to date:

  • If you’re self-employed, income tax payments due in July 2020 under the self-assessment system will be deferred to January 2021. This is an automatic offer. Taxpayers will be given until the end of the 2020-2021 tax year to pay any liabilities that have accumulated during the deferral period
  • HMRC will work with self-employed people in financial distress and with outstanding tax liabilities on a case-by-case basis to agree a time-limited deferral period on tax owed. If you have missed a tax payment or you might miss your next payment due to Covid-19, you can call HMRC’s dedicated helpline: 0800 0159 559
  • People will be able to claim Universal Credit and access advance payments where they are directly affected by Covid-19 (or self-isolating), without the current requirement to attend a job centre
  • The Minimum Income Floor in Universal Credit will be suspended ‘for everyone affected by the economic impacts of coronavirus’. This means that self-employed people can now access Universal Credit at a rate equivalent to Statutory Sick Pay for employees (approximately £94.25 per week)
  • ‘New style’ Employment and Support Allowance will be payable for people directly affected by Covid-19 or self-isolating according to government advice from the first day of sickness, rather than the eighth day
  • The proposed rollout of IR35 to the private sector in April has been postponed for one year as a result of Covid-19

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