Coronavirus: Organisational and Employment FAQs

Information correct at 19 May 2020
The Museums Association (MA) is 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 increase and improve this advice, please get in touch: 

For organisations

1. How do I access government support to pay my staff?

Under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, all UK employers will be able to access support to continue paying part of their employees’ salary for those employees that would otherwise have been laid off during this crisis. Employers need to:

  • Designate affected employees as ‘furloughed workers,’ and notify employees of this change. Changing the status of employees remains subject to existing employment law and, depending on the employment contract, may be subject to negotiation; and
  • Submit information to HMRC about the employees that have been furloughed and their earnings through a new online portal. HMRC will set out details on the information required.
  • HMRC will reimburse 80% of furloughed workers wage costs up to a cap of £2,500 per month.
  • HMRC are working to set up a system for reimbursement. Existing systems are not set up to facilitate payments to employers. If your business needs short term cash flow support, you may be eligible for a Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan.

If your staff have to take sick leave due to the current outbreak, the government will allow small-and medium-sized businesses and employers to reclaim Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) for up to two weeks’ SSP per eligible employee who has been off work because of Covid-19.

In most museums, some staff will be required to continue in employment to carry out vital functions, such as securing and maintaining buildings and collections.

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

Among the different types of museums, independent charities are generally the most exposed to the financial impacts of the coronavirus, as they tend to be most reliant on earned income.

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

  • 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 £2000-50,000 over a period of six years with some costs covered by the government. However, some independent museums have highlighted that loans are not appropriate at present, as boards of trustees are not willing or able to take on extra debt for their organisations. The MA is lobbying government for an improved system of grants.
  1. 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.
  2. Cash grants for retail, hospitality and leisure businesses (including independent museums) in England. Organisations with a rateable value of between £15,000-£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 details of the grant.
  • Businesses will also be supported by deferring Valued Added Tax (VAT) payments for three months. 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.
  • The 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.
  • The government announced a £750m package of support for charities on 8 April 2020, the majority of which will be directed towards charities that are helping to support the public efforts to combat coronavirus. The MA is seeking clarity on whether museums will be eligible for any of these grants.

3. 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.

However, this group of museums is not eligible for most of the business support that has been announced by governments. Museums in this category are expected to discuss with their parent bodies what measures need to be taken to maintain the viability of the service and the protection of museum sites and collections.

In England, your museum may be able to take advantage of support from one of the emergency funding streams announced by Arts Council England (ACE). There are equivalent schemes in Scotland and Wales. Museums across the UK are eligible for National Lottery Heritage Fund emergency funding.

4. 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 has launched 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 its website here
  • Museums Galleries Scotland has launched a £700,000 Urgent Response Fund with grants of up to £60,000 for museums in Scotland. It has also issued further advice and guidance for museums in Scotland here

  • 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. You can apply for this funding here

  • Northern Ireland Museums Council is updating its website with news on the coronavirus here

  • The Welsh Government has launched a £1m Cultural Resilience Fund with grants of up to £25,000 for organisations and £7500 for individuals. You can apply for this fund here

  • 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. You can apply for this fund here

  • The Art Fund has set out a range of responses to the coronavirus here

  • The Museums Association’s Esmée Fairbairn Collections Fund has introduced a new Sustaining Engagement with Collections Fund worth a total of £350,000, 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. Find out more here

5. 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 contact the Museums Association:

For Coronavirus Business Interruption Loans, organisations should apply directly to one of the British Business Bank’s 40+ accredited lenders, which are listed on the British Business Bank website here. 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.

In England, your museum may be able to take advantage of support from one of the emergency funding streams announced by Arts Council England (ACE). There are equivalent schemes in Scotland and Wales. Museums across the UK are eligible for National Lottery Heritage Fund emergency funding.

6. 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.

The MA has advised that: “Clearly our paramount responsibility is the health of our staff and our communities and we would advise currently that all staff should be working from home apart from those dealing with critical security, estates and collections matters with careful social distancing and lone working practices in place.”

The MA is advocating to governments and key funders for specific emergency funding that will allow museums to maintain sites and collections during the coronavirus outbreak.

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. Will I still get paid?

You may continue to perform your duties as an employee either on site (if absolutely required for site or collections security) or from home. You may be given new duties to perform if you are not able to do your normal work remotely. If you work in a larger organisation, such as a local authority or university, you may be given new duties in a department outside of the museum.

The government has announced it will pay wages through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme if your organisation is forced to temporarily close or reduce its activities because of coronavirus.

This will be available to anyone on the PAYE scheme (permanent or fixed contract) and your employer will need to contact HMRC to apply. In order for you to qualify, your employer will have to re-assign your employment status as a furloughed worker’. When you are a ‘furloughed worker’ you cannot undertake any work for the organisation.

In most museums, some staff will be required to continue in employment to carry out vital functions, such as securing and maintaining buildings and collections. Some organisations are coping with operational demand by furloughing staff on a rolling basis, such as three weeks on, three weeks off. This is allowed under the terms of the scheme.

The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme will pay 80% of retained workers’ salaries, up to £2,500 a month. Your employer can top up your salary to more than this if they choose to.

Wages under the scheme will be backdated to 1 March and the scheme will be open for at least three months. There is no limit on amount of funding and the government will pay grants to support as many jobs as necessary.

The first of the grants are hoped to be paid before the end of April so it could take a few weeks to get your money.

The 80% wage guarantee will not cover zero-hour contracts or casual workers, unless they work on the PAYE system.

There is further guidance on the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme here.

2. I am self-employed/freelance. What help is available for me?

A separate government support scheme has been set up to help the self-employed. This scheme will allow you to claim a taxable grant worth 80% of your trading profits up to a maximum of £2,500 per month for the next three months.

This may be extended if needed.

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 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 constitute 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 constitute more than half of your average taxable income in the same period.
If you started trading between 2016-19, 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 do 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:

  • 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 Iobcentre.
  • 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 for 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.

3. I have already been made redundant because of the coronavirus crisis. What support is there for me?

If you have been made redundant due to the coronavirus, you should contact your employer to see if they are now willing to take you back on and reassign you as a furloughed worker.

If you have already made a claim for benefits, contact the relevant benefit helpline for advice on what to do before you cancel your claim.

If you have already received a redundancy payment and your employer could now take you back on, speak to your employer or the ACAS helpline for advice on what to do.