Managing the cost of living crisis - Museums Association

Managing the cost of living crisis

Wellbeing is affected by a range of factors both inside and outside our working environment.

While we may feel we can easily separate our working and personal lives, they are linked. For example, the reason you may be less able to concentrate at work is that your sleep has been disturbed outside of work, or the reason you may be ‘short’ with a member of your family is because you have increasing demands at work.

This is why it is always helpful to think about both your working life and your home life when trying to identify factors affecting your wellbeing.

Over the last six months increases in food costs, fuel costs, inflation and salary freezes have led to financial precarity for many working in and with museums. This has placed increasing pressure on our financial stability, often causing a sense of uncertainty which impacts our wellbeing.

This page has been developed to support museums to think about the ways in which they can reduce the burden of the cost of living crisis.

The following recommendations will make a real difference to employees, volunteers, freelancers and those applying to be part of the workforce. The MA’s salary guidelines are currently being updated and will be available in the autumn. We recommend that organisations review their salaries in line with the guidance and would always recommend paying the Real Living Wage as a minimum.


  • Provide access to season ticket loans to help with travel costs and financial management
  • Explore schemes such as childcare vouchers or cycle to work programmes and other salary sacrifice schemes
  • Increase employee discounts for in-house food, drink and retail products which will also support revenue generation
  • Provide free sanitary products


  • Be mindful of the costs associated with celebrating events, for example leaving presents or leaving parties – do not place anyone under pressure to participate
  • As we approach December think about whether the financial burden of a Secret Santa or Christmas party is appropriate and do not place anyone under pressure to participate


  • Enable access to petty cash in advance so individuals are not out-of-pocket while waiting for expenses claims to be paid
  • Where appropriate provide business credit cards
  • Review mileage rates and ensure they apply to volunteers, employees, trustees and freelancers
  • Pay all expenses accurately and in a timely manner
  • Pay expenses for those participating in selection processes for jobs, tenders or volunteering opportunities


  • Ensure fridges, kettles and microwaves are accessible to all and maintained, and provide tea/coffee, condiments and a water dispenser
  • Think about the process in place for ‘fridge clearing’ and make sure all colleagues understand when this is happening
  • Actively encourage use of and positively promote local services such as Freecycle, food banks, school banks, etc.

Financial management

  • Highlight employee benefits that support improved individual financial management
  • Provide workshops, advice and signposting to other support that may be helpful, for example there may be free training available through local authorities/colleges

Hybrid working

  • While not all roles lend themselves to working from home, there can be real benefit for organisations and individuals from flexible and hybrid working
  • Individuals may also want to work more in person or on-site during autumn and winter when energy costs have greater impact

Manager training

  • Be proactive in your support of your team and create opportunities to talk about pressures collectively or individually where people need more confidential help and support
  • Bear in mind that colleagues’ behaviours and responses may be affected by increased external pressures – look for signs indicating that something is out of the ordinary and offer support
  • Manage with empathy, develop and employ active listening and flexible approaches to performance management

Organisational waste

  • Explore the redistribution of café and retail stock when safe to do so


  • Review salary policies and terms and conditions and identify pay gaps to ensure that individuals or protected groups are not underpaid or disadvantaged
  • If possible, target pay increases at the lowest paid members of staff, as those are most likely to experience the disproportionate impact of the cost-of-living crisis
  • Pay in line with the Real Living Wage
  • Review all policies regarding payment for participation, especially for those with lived experience, who may already be experiencing the crisis more deeply
  • Ensure all new employees are placed on the correct tax code and relevant documents are submitted on time to decrease the risk of emergency tax deductions
  • Ensure all core pay and overtime is paid accurately and on time
  • Pay freelancers, other suppliers and businesses in line with their payment schedules and terms of service
  • Review policies relating to any unpaid work like volunteering or internships

Shift patterns

  • Apply flexible working policies and, where possible, develop shift patterns to coincide with cheaper travel costs – for example compressed hours or working patterns that allow staff to take advantage of discount travel schemes like weekly tickets
  • Be flexible to decrease the impact of childcare costs
  • Think about creating contracted hours that support those already receiving benefits so access to benefits can be maintained


  • Encourage and incentivise the use of public transport, walking and cycling
  • Provide a process or mechanism to support car sharing, i.e. car parking space on site or an enhanced mileage rate for business travel


  • Where uniform is stipulated but not provided, be sensitive to the fact that these costs may be prohibitive and provide grants where necessary
  • Provide access to laundry facilities or services


  • Develop a comprehensive wellbeing policy
  • Ensure the way the museum functions doesn’t add additional pressure in already difficult situations, for example redundancy programmes or restructures
  • Share good practices with others

This is not an exhaustive list, so please do let us know if you have any other suggestions of items to add to this page by getting in touch with Tamsin Russell, our workforce development lead, via