Organisational and employment FAQs - Museums Association

Organisational and employment FAQs

Information correct as of 6 January 2021

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 open to the public?

Due to the current lockdown, all museums in all nations of the UK are required to close.

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

2. How do I access the Culture 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 was 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 and museums working towards accreditation are able to apply for grant funding of £25,000 to £3m via Arts Council England under the second round of the scheme, which is open for applications until 26 January 2021.

Repayable loans of over £3 million were 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 provides £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?

The furlough scheme (Job Retention Scheme) was due to be replaced by the less generous Job Support Scheme (JSS) on 1 November. However, with the introduction of new lockdowns and restrictions across the UK, the furlough scheme has been extended.

Under the furlough scheme employees placed on leave receive 80% of their pay, up to a maximum of £2,500 a month. The scheme will work in the same way as it did in March 2020.

This means that the state will pay for the full 80% wage replacement (whereas employers previously had to pay a portion of the cost of furlough themselves from August to October).

The furlough scheme is extended until April 2021, with a review of the terms of the scheme due in January 2021.

There is no longer a requirement to have previously been furloughed to be eligible for the scheme, and it is open to all employers.

The government expects that publicly funded organisations will not use the scheme, as has already been the case for the scheme since March, but partially publicly funded organisations may be eligible where their private revenues have been disrupted.

The scheme is open to all employees who were on an organisation’s payroll up to 11.59pm on 30 October 2020.

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

Accredited museums and those working towards accreditation in England should apply to Arts Council England for Culture Recovery Fund grants of £25,000 to £3m. The second round of this funding is open for applications until 26 January 2021.

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

In November 2020, businesses required to close in England due to local or national restrictions will be eligible for the following:

  • For properties with a rateable value of £15,000 or under, grants to be £1,334 per month, or £667 per two weeks
  • For properties with a rateable value of between £15,000 and £51,000, grants to be £2,000 per month, or £1,000 per two weeks
  • For properties with a rateable value of £51,000 or over, grants to be £3,000 per month, or £1,500 per two weeks

Note that this is a devolved competence.

In Wales, additional support during the firebreak from 24 October 2020 includes:

  • Every business covered by the small business rates relief will receive a £1,000 payment
  • Small and medium-sized retail, leisure and hospitality businesses which have to close will receive a one-off payment of up to £5,000
  • Additional discretionary grants and support for smaller businesses which are struggling
  • The £80 million fund to help businesses develop in the longer term will be increased to £100 million, which includes £20 million ring-fenced for tourism and hospitality

There is further advice on available funding via Business Wales.

This support is in addition to the following financial support that has been in place since March 2020:

  • 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.

Your museum will probably be eligible for the furlough (JRS) scheme – see further details above in Q3.

Accredited museums and those working towards accreditation in England should apply to Arts Council England for Culture Recovery Fund grants of £25,000 to £3m. The second round of this funding is open for applications until 26 January 2021.

In England, your museum may also be able to take advantage of support from one of the other 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.

Accredited museums and those working towards accreditation in England should apply to Arts Council England for Culture Recovery Fund grants of £25,000 to £3m. The second round of this funding is open for applications until 26 January 2021.

Your museum may be able to take advantage of support from one of the other 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.

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?

The furlough scheme (Job Retention Scheme) was due to be replaced by the less generous Job Support Scheme (JSS) on 1 November. However, with the introduction of new lockdowns and restrictions across the UK, the furlough scheme has been extended.

Under the furlough scheme employees placed on leave receive 80% of their pay, up to a maximum of £2,500 a month. The scheme will work in the same way as it did in March 2020.

This means that the state will pay for the full 80% wage replacement (whereas employers previously had to pay a portion of the cost of furlough themselves from August to October).

The furlough scheme is extended until April 2021, with a review of the terms of the scheme due in January 2021.

There is no longer a requirement to have previously been furloughed to be eligible for the scheme, and it is open to all employers.

The government expects that publicly funded organisations will not use the scheme, as has already been the case for the scheme since March, but partially publicly funded organisations may be eligible where their private revenues have been disrupted.

The scheme is open to all employees who were on an organisation’s payroll up to 11.59pm on 30 October 2020.

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 up to 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.

Further information is available on the Government’s website.

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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