March 2020 - the CoVid-19 alphabet

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 England
For Scotland
For Wales
For Northern Ireland

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
Template letter for furloughing staff
and recordings of their webinars are available online

Arts Council England (“ACE”) Emergency Funding Package:
ACE has re-purposed its funds to create emergency funding streams that will be open to applications soon. Guidance will be published on Monday 30 March 2020 and too apply for any of these funds you need to be registered for Grantium by Friday 3 April 2020. Key headlines are:
National Portfolio Organisations: £90m available to reboot creative work and also to alleviate financial pressures. ACE is also rolling over the current National Portfolio for one year, to 31 March 2023.
Organisations outside the National Portfolio: £50m for organisations not in receipt of regular funding, including those who have applied for National Lottery Project Grants
Funding for individuals: £20m for individuals to sustain themselves and their work given as grants of up to £2,500, will require a track record in publicly funded culture. £4m of this fund is earmarked for benevolent funds targeted at other cultural workers.
• Applications for the previous funding streams that are in the system without decisions or are new applications made recently will not be considered at present. Applicants will be invited to reapply when the funds are back up and running.
• Individuals or organisations who have had to cancel or change plans due to Covid-19 will not be asked to pay back awarded funding.

Business Rates:
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

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 will be a taxable grant worth 80% of trading profits up to a maximum of £2,500 per month for the next 3 months. Applicants must have submitted an Income Tax Self Assessment tax return for the tax year 2018-19, have traded in the tax year 2019-20, be trading when they apply or would be except for COVID-19, intend to continue to trade in the tax year 2020-21 and have lost trading/partnership trading profits due to COVID-19. It's worth checking whether the artists and creatives you contract 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 28 February 2020 are not eligible for this scheme. See Job Retention Scheme below for more information.

Furloughing: There's useful guidance in ACAS's template furlough letter and ITC can help too.

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. 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: 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.

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.

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

Social Distancing:
Closure of theatres and other venues.
Official guidance on how to keep your distance.
Guidance from Mind on self care whilst stuck at home.

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: VAT payments are deferred for all businesses until the end of June2020.

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.

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 Alternative advice from a member is to ask your IT people about installing Microsoft Teams if you don’t already have it.