Pay in museums - Museums Association

Pay in museums

Research and recommendations to address low sector pay

We campaign for inclusive and diverse museums that prioritise fair working conditions and workforce wellbeing. We’re pleased to publish our Salary Research and Recommendations, and we encourage employers, staff and funders to use the findings in this report as an advocacy tool to highlight the serious issues around low pay in the museum sector, negotiate better salaries and demonstrate the urgent case for reform.

This report aims to provide clear and accurate data on the current state of pay levels in the museum sector, covering both support and specialist jobs as well as management. It also examines staff benefits, and some of the changes that have occurred since our previous Salary Guidelines were published in 2017.

The MA’s director Sharon Heal said: “We often say that people make museums – and it’s true. All the people who work in and with our museums are essential to creating the amazing lifechanging experiences that we deliver. But we also know that we are a poorly paid sector and that museums workers often don’t get the recognition and reward that they deserve.

“This research demonstrates that years of pay freezes and budget cuts have had a severe impact on the living standards of museum workers. The pandemic and now the cost-of-living crisis have taken a toll on wellbeing and pay; as a historically underpaid sector we are falling further behind as inflation hits double digits and the cost of essentials soars.

“Museums need a workforce that represents our communities and is respected and fairly rewarded. As employers we should take a holistic approach to our workforce which means including everyone that works in and with museums at every level. I hope this report can support employers, funders and stakeholders to be brave and progressive and to respect and reward the hard-work, knowledge and experience of our museum and gallery workforce.”

We have previously published a number of reports and guidelines on salary levels in the sector, beginning with the Pay in Museums report in 2004, followed by salary guidelines in 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2017.

We welcome comments, particularly from those who have used the document as an advocacy tool or as a practical guide for setting salaries.

Please email with any queries: cpd@museumsassociation.org

Our recommendations

  • We recommend that employers and funders use the upper quartile of salary ranges to set salaries, regardless of the size, type or location of their institution.
  • Employers and funders should not use the lower quartile ranges to set pay rates.
  • We recommend that all workers, regardless of contract type or hours of work, should at a minimum be paid the Real Living Wage set by the Living Wage Foundation, which is calculated annually based on what people need to live.
  • We recommend that organisations work with trade unions and staff to develop progressive working policies, terms and conditions.
  • We recommend that employers embed fair and inclusive recruitment practices, ensuring that job specifications are based on competence and knowledge, and that formal qualifications are sought only where necessary for the role. The MA is currently developing guidelines for inclusive recruitment.
  • We recommend that employers and funders consider the recruitment, remuneration and wellbeing of the workforce in a holistic way.
  • Our Workforce Wellbeing research, Front-of-House Charter for Change and Competency Framework may be used as complementary documents to this report to support progressive workforce policy.
  • We recommend that employers set aside budget for staff wellbeing initiatives and listen to and act on staff and freelance concerns in this area.
  • We recommend that funders use these guidelines to assess whether applicants for funding are paying fairly and have best practice workforce policies in place.
  • Although the salary ranges in this survey do not cover freelance rates, we recommend that museums:
    – Respect and value freelancers as a core part of the sector workforce.
    – Pay on time or ahead of payment terms recognising that cashflow for freelancers is an issue.
    – Pay fairly: don’t put downward pressure on freelancers’ rates because of the cost-of-living crisis. Recognise that a freelance day rate covers costs such as such as pensions, training, tax and insurance.

Image: Participants in the Multaka Project at Pitt Rivers Museum, University of Oxford. Photograph by Ian Wallman

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