If you only read one thing……the CoVid-19 alphabet
The situation is, unsurprisingly, changing by the hour so the information below is as up to date as was possible at the time of writing. There are many links below that will help members check for the most recent information. For information on the government financial support such as grants, rates relief and the job retention scheme check the official government business support schemes pages –
For Northern Ireland
A new "route map" for Scotland was published on 18 June 2020. Key differences from England include the size of groups that can meet being set at a maximum of 8 and travel from home being restricted to 5 miles wherever possible.
1 August 2020: In theory theatres can re-open for indoor performances from this date. In practice it's going to be a little more restricted than that. Audiences will have to be socially distanced and for the time being singing and playing woodwind instruments is not allowed indoors. Here is the latest guidance for CoVid secure indoor theatre making in England.
ACAS: Provides a range of resources for employers dealing with CoVid19 related issues, including
Live Twitter Q&A sessions every Friday. Send your questions in advance to @acasorguk #AskAcas https://twitter.com/acasorguk
Template letter for furloughing staff
and recordings of their webinars are available online
Access to Work: Changes have been made to the Access to Work scheme to take into account impacts of the CoVid19 outbreak. For example recipients support needs may have changed due to working at home or their financial situation may have changed.
Bounce Back Loans: This scheme, introduced at the end of April 2020, offers loans of between £2,000 and £50,000 to small and medium-sized businesses that are based in the UK and have been negatively affected by CoVid19. Loan terms are 6 years, no repayments will be due during the first 12 months and there are no fees or interest to pay during that period. The scheme is not open to businesses that are claiming under the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS).
Business rates are suspended in 2020/21 for leisure industry businesses, including the performing arts sector, with a rateable value under £51k. If you already get small business rate relief you may be eligible for grants of £3-7k instead.
The Charity Commission
has provided guidance on administrative issues in the current climate covering topics such as
• Cancelling or postponing AGMs or other key meetings
• Annual Report submission deadlines and other reporting requirements
Company Accounts Filing: It is now possible to apply online for up to 3 months' extension for filing company accounts. If the delay is CoVid19 related an extension will be granted automatically.
The Information Commissioner’s Office has issued information on a wide range of Covid19 related topics and has provided a useful guide to how health authorities can use your personal data for health & safety purposes. Don’t forget to remind your staff that
data security is important wherever they are working.
Eighty PerCent: Whilst HMRC is refunding only 80% of furloughed employees' pay, they must usually be paid their full salary for the period when they are laid off. Unless the contract already allows for the employee to be laid off on reduced or no pay or an agreement to vary the employee's contract so they only get 80% of salary has been negotiated, their pay cannot be reduced.
Employment and Support Allowance (“ESA”): You can apply for Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) if you have a disability or health condition that affects how much you can work. ESA gives you money to help with living costs if you’re unable to work or support to get back into work if you’re able to. You can apply for ESA if you’re employed, self-employed or unemployed. If you claim ESA because of the virus you will not be required to produce a fit note or an isolation note.
Force Majeure: Contractual provision for dealing with parties’ rights and obligations under a contract when outside events prevent performance of the contract. It is entirely up to the parties to define the events and the parties’ rights and obligations upon the occurrence of such events. Force Majeure clauses can be difficult to claim under, the party making the claim must prove their case decisively, key questions are likely to be:
• Is the event defined as “force majeure” in the contract? For example, some clauses cover “pandemics”, CoVid-19 was not officially declared a “pandemic” until 11 March 2020.
• Did the occurrence of the event impact the company's performance of its contractual obligations?
• Has the company used all reasonable endeavours to mitigate the effects of the event?
• Have the notice requirements been satisfied?
Freelancers: Full information on the provision for ‘Statutory Self-Employment Pay’ is here. This is currently a taxable grant worth 80% of trading profits up to a maximum of £2,500 per month, being paid until the end of July 2020. Individuals can apply for the first SEISS grant until 13 July 2020. A second, taxable, grant will come on-line in August 2020. The new grant will be worth 70% of average monthly trading profits, will be paid out in a single instalment covering three months’ worth of profits and capped at £6,570 in total. The eligibility criteria are the same for both grants: individuals are eligible if their business has been adversely affected by coronavirus, they traded in the tax years 2018/19 and 2019/20, intend to continue trading, earn at least half of their income through self-employment and have trading profits of no more than £50,000 per year. An individual does not need to have claimed the first grant to receive the second grant. If you want to check whether you or the creatives you engage are really freelancers or whether they fall under the worker/employee categories who pay PAYE. check out this article by ITC explaining the differences in tax and employment law.
Frustration of contract: UK law says that a contract can be frustrated if performance of the contract is prevented by events outside the control of the parties. If that is happened the contract is considered to have ended and the parties no longer have any obligations to each other. It is considered that the CoVid-19 outbreak is unlikely to be arguable as a frustration event but this may change.
Fundraising Support: Arts Fundraising & Philanthropy are offering a free daily Power Hour of consultation at 9-10 am, book here. We have also been accumulating a list of useful fundraising resources and links here.
Furloughed Employees: A US term being used to describe employees who are not working but will be paid under the Corona Virus Job Retention Scheme, rather than being laid off or made redundant. Employees taken on after 19 March 2020 are not eligible for this scheme. See Job Retention Scheme below for more information.
Furloughing Flexibly: From 1 July 2020 employers will be able choose whether to bring employees back to work from furlough of any length on either a full time or part time basis. If full time employees are returning on a part time basis, i.e: they are still furloughed for part of the time, you will be able to claim the CJRS grant for their normal hours not worked. Employers will need to report and claim for a minimum period of a week and employees will need to have been furloughed for at least a full 3 week period prior to 30 June 2020. The government will contribute as follows:-
• 80% of the employee’s salary, up to £2,500, per month plus Employers’ NI and pension contributions until the end of July 2020.
• For August 2020 the contribution will remain at 80% but employers will pay NICs and pension contributions.
• In September 2020 employers will have to pay at least 10% of wages plus all NICs and pension contributions, the government will contribute 70% up to a maximum of £2,187.50.
• In October 2020 employers will have to pay at least 20% of wages plus all NICs and pension contributions, the government will contribute 60% up to a cap of £1,875.
Furlough Letters: There's useful guidance in ACAS's template furlough letter and ITC can help too.
Furloughing After Family Friendly Leave: People on paternity and maternity leave who return to work in the coming months will be eligible for the government’s furlough scheme after the 10 June 2020 cut-off date so long as their employer has previously furloughed employees. https://www.gov.uk/government/news/parents-returning-to-work-after-extended-leave-eligible-for-furlough
Gift Aid & Tickets: Theatres and other cultural venues that are recognised as charities by HMRC can claim Gift Aid on the value of tickets for cancelled events if the patrons have agreed not to be refunded for the cost of the ticket and agree for the same amount to be treated as a donation. Make sure, if you are doing this, that the patrons have made a Gift Aid declaration for their donations to qualify for Gift Aid More info
Government grants: The Retail and Hospitality Grant Scheme will provide businesses in the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors with a cash grant of up to £25,000 per property. Smaller businesses, defined as a rateable value of under £15,000, will receive a grant of £10,000.
Holidays: Workers who have not been able to take all of their statutory annual leave entitlement due to COVID-19 can carry up to four weeks over into the next 2 leave years, if they have more than 4 weeks to take this may also be carried forward by mutual agreement. More info here
Home Working: When staff are working from home you are still responsible for their health, welfare and safety. There’s online guidance from the Health & Safety Executive on a range of topics from computer display screens to mental health of homeworkers.
Income Tax (Self-Employed): Payments due in July 2020 under the Self-Assessment system will be deferred to January 2021.
Insurance: Check your policies for the level of cover you have in place for business interruption, third party claims and, if applicable, losses resulting from disrupted travel. Government advice is that businesses that have cover for both pandemics and government-ordered closure should be covered, as the government and insurance industry confirmed on 17 March 2020 that advice to avoid pubs, theatres etc is sufficient to make a claim as long as all other terms and conditions are met but insurance policies can differ significantly.
Isolation notes: Whilst employees can self-certify for the first seven days off work, employers may ask for evidence of sickness absence after that. There is now an “isolation note” available on the NHS 111 website that can be used to provide evidence of absence being due to advice to self-isolate because of symptoms of coronavirus or living with someone who has symptoms.
Job Retention Scheme: Businesses that created and started a PAYE payroll scheme on or before 19 March 2020 will be able to access support to continue paying part of their employees’ salary for employees who would otherwise have been laid off during this crisis. HMRC will reimburse up to 80% of salaries, with a cap of £2,500 per month. Gov.uk Guidance for employers and employees Whilst the scheme does not generally apply to organisations that receive public funding for staff costs the DCMS has confirmed that arts organisations in receipt of funding from either Arts Council England or a Local Authority do not fall into this category so can furlough staff and apply for funds under the Job Retention Scheme. The Scottish Government have announced the same for Scottish arts organisations.
Loans: A new temporary Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme is being launched to help small and medium sized businesses. The government will provide lenders with a guarantee of 80% on each loan of up to £5 million in value.
Meetings: If your company’s Articles of Association date from a few years back they may not contain provision for the electronic meeting formats that are currently the new normal. Whilst you may want to update them in the future, for the time being the Charity Commission has indicated that where there is no such clause Board or Members’ meeting minutes should record the fact that it was decided to meet electronically and that this was done to demonstrate good governance of the charity.
Networking: https://www.voluntaryarts.org/creativenetwork Voluntary Arts has launched #CreativeNetwork - a daily Zoom gathering from 9.30 am – 10.30 am. It’s open to anyone involved in arts, culture and creativity who would welcome the opportunity to talk to others about dealing with the current situation, the challenges of working from home and what we can do together to make the most of difficult circumstances.
Online theatre: Under the ITC/Equity agreement recording is currently only allowed without extra pay for archive and rehearsal play back purposes. With live theatre closing down we now have agreement from Equity that recordings of this type can be put online for viewing during the period of closure and for up to six months after. This is always subject to having permission from the performers and creative contributors and if the recording is of a show that closed early because of CoVid-19 the company must have been paid properly. If you are suggesting that viewers make donations, Equity asks that some of these monies go to the company - performers and creatives. If you are Ethical Manager Members and want to create new work online during the closure period the minimum rates for performers, stage management and creatives apply as they do to live performances.
Overseas Workers: If you are sponsoring workers under Tier 2 or Tier you do not need to report when they are absent from work or working at home if this due to CoVid19 illness of self-isolating & sponsorship does not need to be withdrawn for those absent from work for more than four weeks. https://www.gov.uk/guidance/coronavirus-covid-19-advice-for-tier-2-4-and-5-sponsors
Reimbursement of Statutory Sick Pay (“SSP”): Employers with fewer than 250 employees at 28/2/2020 will be able to reclaim up to 2 weeks’ SSP for any employee who has claimed SSP as a result of COVID-19. Apply online from 26 May 2020.
Renting Office or Rehearsal Space: Rents are not being waived (though you may be able to negotiate with your landlord) but you don't have to pay immediately https://www.gov.uk/government/news/extra-protection-for-businesses-with-ban-on-evictions-for-commercial-tenants-who-miss-rent-payments
Risk Assessment: The Health & Safety Executive has produced guidance on undertaking CoVid19 Risk Assessments.
Statutory Sick Pay: Is now payable from day 1 for employees on sick leave because they are self isolating on medical advice/caring for self-isolated people in their household.
Travel: Don’t even think about it….but if you are doing check the Foreign & Commonwealth Office advice first
Useful Links: You can find even more useful links on ITC's Covid-19 guidance and useful links page
VAT: A reduced rate of 5% will apply to ticket sales and other eligible supplies that are made between 15 July 2020 and 12 January 2021. However, if your ticket sales are currently exempt that will take precedence and these supplies will not qualify for the reduced rate. https://www.gov.uk/guidance/vat-reduced-rate-for-hospitality-holiday-accommodation-and-attractions
Wages: Furloughing is for staff who are paid wages and this is defined as those who have PAYE tax and NI deducted from their pay. This will exclude the majority of performers and many Stage Managers.
Writers: ITC encourages members, particularly Ethical Manager Members, to follow these guidelines, produced by the Writers Guild of Great Briatin, for best practice whilst venues are closed They are designed for use when dealing with writers you may have commissioned before lockdown or when commissioning new works for digital transmission during this period when conventional venues are closed.
1. The WGGB Agreements are still in force so Members who have issued the ITC/WGGB Ethical Manager Contract to writers should continue to follow those terms and conditions.
2. Plays that were scheduled or intended for future performance should be postponed rather than cancelled wherever possible.
3. To encourage this, writers should grant theatres a free licence extension of nine months from the date of the theatre or venue’s reopening (with the option of the theatre offering a further extension of six months, where there is a serious prospect of production).
4. Upfront fees: Writers should not be asked to return upfront fees. Where a writer has been given a further, non-returnable advance on royalties (on top of the acceptance fee) such payment should be non-returnable but entirely set against royalties when the play is presented.
5. New plays (including short plays and monologues) commissioned to be digitally broadcast during lockdown should be paid for. The spirit of WGGB agreements should be honoured, and fees for ITC contracts calculated at 50% of pro-rata to those in the current agreements. For example, based on the current rates in the ITC/WGGB Agreement, the minimum fee for a 10-minute script would be £500. Fees for longer and shorter plays should be pro-rata with those figures.
6. Where existing shows are streamed, and fees are being paid, writers will be included. Any donations should not simply underwrite the running costs of the venue, but – where possible – help to stimulate the creative ecology of theatre, including writers, as a whole.
7. ITC and WGGB are committed to encouraging new commissions and the production of new plays, and support the campaign for a national New Commissions Fund.
8. Donation income: Where tickets have been sold but not used because the play has been taken off, theatres have offered refunds but invited ticketholders either to accept exchanges or to donate the price of the ticket to the theatre. Where this happens companies should consider dividing donation income between the theatre and freelancers.
9. Delivery deadlines: Where a writers’ working circumstances have changed radically during the emergency (for example, through illness or increased family responsibilities) commissioning companies should be open to extending delivery deadlines.
You: Go carefully, please. This sector is very special and you, every one of you, are its most important resource!
Zoom: The video conferencing medium of choice in a time of social distancing. Apparently it’s being use not just for online meetings, but for social gatherings and even weddings. It’s free for up to 40 minutes and 100 people too. If you’re not already using it there’s guidance here https://zoom.us/docs/en-us/covid19.html Alternative advice from a member is to ask your IT people about installing Microsoft Teams if you don’t already have it.