Are freelance museum educators treated fairly?
Museums Association
Alistair Brown, policy officer, Museums Association (MA)

“The MA’s Salary Guidelines research showed that museum workers are paid less than equivalent jobs in sectors such as academia and teaching. The sector should be working harder to bring pay up to standard, so it’s disheartening to see museums create more cheap and unstable freelance roles. But I don’t think we should single out education roles. Freelancing is growing across the workforce. That makes it all the more important that museums get to grips with their legal and ethical responsibilities to be fair employers to all their workers – freelancers and staff.”

Pete Brown, museum consultant

“The short answer is, not always. Museum jobs have been lost, but the work still needs to be done, which is why there is a greater reliance on freelancers or volunteers. It’s a popular sector in which people will work for literally nothing, so it’s not surprising to see freelance contracts advertised at pay rates barely above the minimum wage. I’ve also witnessed work described as freelance, when
it’s really a job. Freelancing should be a collaboration based on mutual respect, but I think the attraction of the ‘gig economy’ to unscrupulous employers has unbalanced that relationship.”

Richard Stemp, former educator, National Gallery, London

“The first thing we need to establish is what ‘freelance’ means, and this is why, following 24 years at the National Gallery in London, I am one of 27 educators taking it to tribunal. We were, in effect, the gallery’s public face for decades, paid through payroll and taxed at source, but without the benefits employment should include – holiday and sick pay, for example – and were unfairly dismissed in October 2017. We are raising legal costs via crowdjustice.com, and hope that this will determine the status of educators in museums, and end all forms of ‘bogus’ self-employment in the public sector.”

Rachel Tranter, director, Group for Education in Museums (GEM)

“GEM has set up a working group to advocate for fairer pay and conditions for learning roles in museums (gem.org.uk/resource/starting-freelancer-heritage-learning). There are more freelancers working in museum learning than ever before. A lack of certainty around funding and a culture of short-term projects has contributed to a rise in regular freelance roles. GEM supports fair pay, terms and employment certainty for everyone working in museums, in particular for those who have given long service, and calls for better support for the freelance community.”

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