The Government has opened up two new communications channels for business:
HMRC Business Support Helpline – 0800 024 1222
Coronavirus WhatsApp Information Service: To use this free service, simply add 07860 064422 in your phone contacts and then message the word ‘hi’ in a WhatsApp message to get started.
You can also visit the Government's COVID-19 support pages for businesses here:
England/UK wide: https://www.gov.uk/coronavirus/business-support
Northern Ireland: https://www.nidirect.gov.uk/articles/coronavirus-covid-19-business-and-employers
Following our previous requests for information, we have been advised that the process is now even more streamlined such that if you run a business / organisation (which would include a production) that employs 50 or more people, you can register to order tests for employees who cannot work from home. Organisations can then directly book themselves onto some ‘Intro’ webinars and sign-up to DHSC’s digital platform, Egress, for ordering and receiving tests. As a reminder, the community testing offer is still available via local authorities for organisations with less than 50 employees who have staff that are unable to work from home.
We continue to engage with government on the issue of access to rapid tests for those working with under 50 people, and will keep you updated on progress.
In the last few days three new announcements have been made on funding in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland:
- Scotland: ‘A further £17.5 million of emergency Coronavirus (COVID-19) funding has been allocated to support creative freelancers and the events sector.’
- Northern Ireland: ‘Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey has said that £10million of funding being offered today to a wide range of arts and creative organisations, will help stabilise the sector which has been disproportionately impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic.’
- Wales: ‘Further £8.9 million to support creative sector freelancers.’
Performing Arts Guidance – Updates
The guidance for Performing Arts working safely during COVID-19 has now been updated following the Prime Minister’s announcement on 4 January.
From 5 January, new national restrictions have been put in place to prevent the spread of Coronavirus. During this period, performing arts venues can continue to operate under Stages 1 and 2 of the performing arts roadmap. This means that:
- Performing arts professionals may continue to rehearse and train, and perform for broadcast or recording purposes
- Other than for this purpose, theatres, concert halls, grassroots music venues and entertainment venues must close. Professional dancers may continue to use dance studios.
- Non-professional activity, such as amateur choirs and orchestra, cannot take place.
- Indoor and outdoor performances with an audience cannot take place.
- You can only leave home for work purposes where it is unreasonable for you to do your job from home, including but not limited to people who work within critical national infrastructure, construction or manufacturing that require in-person attendance.
Job Support Scheme
- replaces the Job Retention Scheme
- rather than being made redundant, employees will work on a part time basis: employers pay for the hours worked, while the Government and employer pay a further third each of the remaining hours not worked
- this will mean employers paying a slightly larger contribution than the hours that an employee works (HMT infographic)
- all SMEs are eligible, however non-SMEs will be exempt unless their turnover has fallen
- open to companies who have not previously used the Job Retention Scheme
- employers who take up the Job Support Scheme can continue to claim the Job Retention Bonus
- self-employed grant extended on the same conditions as Job Support Scheme - you can read the factsheet here
Pay as you Grow
- bounce-back loans extended from 6 to 10 years, "nearly halving monthly payments"
- payments can be suspended for up to six months and credit rating unaffected
- Government will continue to guarantee Coronavirus interruption loans for up to ten years
- deadline for loan applications has been extended to the end of this year
- a successor loan programme will begin in January
- businesses can spread their VAT bill over eleven smaller repayments with no interest
- will remain at the reduced rate of 5% for hospitality and tourism sector until no sooner than 31 March 2021
HMT has published the Winter Economy Plan update in full and a press release on the announcement. The following factsheets can be viewed for reference:
New HMRC employment status guidance for performers, stage management and creatives
As you know, over a lengthy period we have been working with HMRC alongside Equity and media sector representatives on HMRC’s guidance for determining the employment status (for tax purposes) of performers, stage management, directors, designers and choreographers. We are pleased to say that the guidance, which has been incorporated into HMRC’s Employment Status Manual (links below), has now been finalised and published.
This is now the main sectoral guidance for these roles, and we hope that it will assist members in determining employment status for these roles. A key point is that HMRC has confirmed the long-established position that most performers will be self-employed for tax purposes.
If you have any questions or feedback, please contact the Legal Team.
Actors and other performers:
Designers, directors and choreographers:
Arts Map launched - Add / claim your listing
The Public Campaign for the Arts has launched the Arts Map, a new online platform to grow and express support for arts organisations in local communities across the UK.
The Arts Map enables anyone to type in their postcode, check the status of arts organisations nearby, and show support for them with messages and donations. You can receive all messages for use in your fundraising and advocacy.
To find out more and to register, visit https://www.campaignforthearts.org/map/
SOLT and UK Theatre form partnership with Arts Inc to diversify theatre workforce BME Arts organisations and individuals working across heritage, visual and performance arts have joined forces to form a collective voice for those in the sector from Black and minority ethnic backgrounds.
SOLT and UK Theatre have today announced a partnership with Inc Arts to diversify theatre workforces, and support its members’ engagement with BME staff.
The collective aims to work across art forms, job roles and positions of seniority to create long-term solutions to diversify the workforce, and support people of colour who work in the arts. Inc Arts will do this through leading on advocacy and research to drive evidence-based positive change, and provide a support network for the BME arts workforce. Click here to read more.
Guidance on potential alternatives to making employees redundant
SOLT and UK Theatre have produced guidance on some potential alternatives to making redundancies in response to the current Coronavirus situation.
SOLT and UK Theatre have advised BECTU that SOLT and UK Theatre members are considering retainer arrangements as alternatives to redundancy for some staff. BECTU are supportive in principle but they stress that such arrangements must be subject to individual agreement with the employees concerned and, in the absence of a significant element of contractual pay continuing to be paid, the employee would still be entitled to claim that they are redundant and receive all contractual and statutory payments due.
UK Theatre and Equity Commercial Theatre Agreement – COVID-19 Variation Agreement
UK Theatre and Equity have worked together to agree a variation to the Commercial Theatre Agreement for Actors and Stage Management designed to assist with the recovery of the industry and in particular, the touring sector.
Other than stated in the document, all of the other terms and conditions remain as set out in the CTA.
Trade Credit Insurance guarantee launched
Theatre businesses with supply chains which rely on Trade Credit Insurance and who are experiencing difficulties maintaining cover due to Coronavirus should have a look at this latest support scheme from government.
Purple Seven & TRG Arts provide venue dashboards to assist with recovery planning
Purple Seven and TRG Arts are providing all interested venues access to their own online dashboard of key metrics demonstrating the impact COVID-19 is having on their organisation. This dashboard will enable organisations to benchmark your dataset against your peers, and provides a range of key metrics, to assist you in short and long-term recovery planning. The data given is provided in almost real-time, making it extremely accurate and useful for business planning.
As part of this arrangement, SOLT & UK Theatre will also have access to country-wide data, to enable us to compile information which we can use to lobby government. There is no charge for signing up to and accessing your dashboard, and organisations should be able to sign up within a matter of days. The online sign-up process is quick and easy, via this link.
Managing Financial Difficulties: guidance and a toolkit for arts and cultural organisations
Created in partnership with Arts Council England this new guidance and toolkit has been developed with the aim of offering practical, realistic and holistic support to organisations as they come to terms with and respond to financial crises. It draws on Dawn and Susan’s extensive experience of working with organisations in financial difficulty, including Susan’s work as an insolvency practitioner and Dawn’s role as Director, Organisational Development at the Arts Council.
The materials were created before the current crisis hit but the advice, tools and templates could scarcely be more relevant.
Northern Ireland – funding
On 3 September the Arts Council of Northern Ireland opened the Organisations Emergency Programme (OEP) in a second call to arts and cultural organisations across Northern Ireland.
Scottish 2021-22 Budget
Today Cabinet Secretary for Finance, Kate Forbes MSP set out the budget. In terms of culture, it’s a budget of £176.7 million for culture and major events that will support ongoing delivery of A Culture Strategy for Scotland, focused on three main ambitions: strengthening culture, transforming through culture and empowering through culture. Some relevant headlines for the theatre sector:
- The Budget will invest in a diverse and resilient culture sector in Scotland, including: £63.2 million for our creative industries and the creative economy, including Screen Scotland and Creative Scotland; £77.7 million for the national collections, maintaining free access to the permanent collections.
- £22.9 million for the five National Performing Companies, ensuring Scotland’s unique culture reaches a wide audience, both digitally and through live performances once safe to resume.
- £75.9 million for Historic Environment Scotland, caring for our heritage and communities, creating local training and employment and supporting the maintenance of traditional craft skills.
Scotland - Culture, Tourism, Europe and External Affairs Committee
On 28 January the Committee heard evidence on the - Impact of COVID-19 on Scotland's cultural sector. Witnesses included: Federation of Scottish Theatre; Writers Guild of Great Britain; and BECTU. It was broadcast live and we will share the transcript when it becomes available.
Scotland’s Work programme - National Partnership for Culture (NPC)
The Partnership has agreed the work programme that it will undertake during 2021 based on initial priority areas of focus, cross-cutting principles and with the recovery and renewal of the culture sector in Scotland at its heart:
- cross-cutting theme: promoting the recovery and renewal of the culture sector in light of the COVID-19 pandemic
- cross-cutting principles: (i) Improving joined-up government (ii) Supporting a Human Rights-based approach (iii) Increased equality, diversity and inclusion
- priority themes: (i) Wellbeing (particularly mental health) (ii) Fair work (iii) Culture in education (including skills) (iv) Measuring Change.’
Emergency COVID funding for the Performing Arts - Scotland
Three organisations will receive a share of £3 million of additional funding as part of the ongoing emergency Coronavirus (COVID-19) support for culture. These are:
- Aberdeen Performing Arts – which runs His Majesty’s Theatre, Aberdeen Music Hall and The Lemon Tree – will receive £1.4 million;
- Eden Court Highlands – Scotland's largest single-site arts venue – will receive £800,000;
- Capital Theatres – which operates the Festival Theatre, the King’s Theatre and The Studio in Edinburgh – will receive £800,000.
Guidance for the performing arts and venues sector - Scotland
The Scottish government on Friday 21 August published their guidance for the performing arts and venues sector both professional and non-professional and it sets out the expectations on what businesses and organisations of all sizes and sub-sectors need to consider as part of their planning for restart.
Welsh Government: Creative industries statistics
The Welsh Government has released its statistics on the creative industries and the economy and labour market for 2019.
Rehearsing, performing and taking part in the performing arts: guidance for a phased return
The Welsh Government have published guidelines on performing and rehearsing in the arts sector and taking part in the performing arts. At present Theatres and Concert Halls are unable to open, this guidance has been developed to set out principles to be considered in order to support the return to work.
Find out if you are eligible for support from the Welsh Cultural Recovery Fund
The Eligibility Checker for the Cultural Recovery Fund went live on Tuesday 1 September. There will also be a £7 million fund for freelancers to support individuals in the sector who have been impacted by the pandemic. Please visit the eligibility checker to find more detail for this fund.