Organisational and employment FAQs - Museums Association

Organisational and employment FAQs

Information correct at 21 May 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?

In England, all indoor museums are allowed to reopen from 17 May 2021. At present, they must continue to implement Covid-secure guidance.

Outdoor museums, museum shops, museum takeaway kiosks and outdoor hospitality have been allowed to open from 12 April.

In Scotland, museums have been able to open from 26 April 2021. The Scottish Government has reverted to a tier-based system from this date, meaning that different levels of restrictions are likely to apply in different areas. We advise museums to discuss reopening plans with their local authorities.

In Wales, all indoor museums are allowed to reopen from 17 May 2021. At present, they must continue to implement Covid-secure guidance.

In Northern Ireland, all indoor museums are allowed to reopen from 24 May 2021. At present, they must continue to implement Covid-secure guidance.

Further advice on how to open in a Covid-secure way is available via the official guidance here:

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 has been topped up in 2021 with a further £300m for the Culture Recovery Fund in England, £90m for national museums and £77m for spending by devolved administrations.

In England, the second round of Culture Recovery Fund grants is now closed. We are awaiting news on how the final round of CRF grants will be disbursed.

Under the CRF rounds to date, non-national accredited museums and museums working towards accreditation were able to apply for grant funding of £25,000 to £3m via Arts Council England and non-accredited museums were able to apply for funding via the National Lottery Heritage Fund.

Repayable loans of over £3m 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 has been made available in England to cover additional Covid-related costs incurred by ongoing capital projects in cultural organisations. Arts Council England’s Capital Kickstart Fund provided £55m 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 Recovery and Resilience Fund for independent museums, with a deadline for Round 2 of 19 February 2021.

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 until September 2021.

Under the furlough scheme employees placed on leave receive 80% of their pay, up to a maximum of £2,500 a month. This means that the state will pay for the full 80% wage replacement.

As the scheme winds down, employers will be expected to pay 10% towards the hours their staff do not work in July, increasing to 20% in August and September. The furlough scheme will end at the end of September 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.

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

Following the Budget in March 2021, some museums in England will be eligible for Restart Grants of up to £18,000 per premises. The grants are designed to support hospitality, accommodation, leisure, personal care and gym businesses – including museums.

Accredited museums and those working towards accreditation in England were eligible for Arts Council England Culture Recovery Fund grants of £25,000 to £3m. This scheme is currently closed to new applications. We are awaiting further detail on how the third round of the CRF will be disbursed.

Previous support

Charities have also been 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 were 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 included:

  • 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 £80m fund to help businesses develop in the longer term will be increased to £100m, which includes £20m 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 £5m 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.
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 were able apply to Arts Council England for Culture Recovery Fund grants of £25,000 to £3m. This scheme is currently closed to new applications. We are awaiting further detail on how the third round of the CRF will be disbursed.

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 £50m Heritage Emergency Fund
  • Arts Council England has launched a £160m emergency fund to support the arts sector in England. This includes £90m for organisations in the NPO group, £50m for non-NPOs, and £20m 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 £1m 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.

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 until September 2021.

Under the furlough scheme employees placed on leave receive 80% of their pay, up to a maximum of £2,500 a month. This means that the state will pay for the full 80% wage replacement.

As the scheme winds down, employers will be expected to pay 10% towards the hours their staff do not work in July, increasing to 20% in August and September. ). The furlough scheme will end at the end of September 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.

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 September 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 or 2019-20
  • 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.

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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