Self-employed teachers: Coronavirus (COVID-19) advice

We outline some of the key issues in this article, but please note that this for information only and not a substitute for legal advice in relation to individual particular circumstances.

The government have asked parents to keep their children at home, wherever possible, and for schools to remain open only for those children who absolutely need to attend. Please also read our up-to- date advice on the steps in early May to ease the lockdown and what they may mean for music teachers.

If you are self–employed and the school you teach at is closed as a result of a directive from a public authority, you cannot (and must not) give any music lessons.

In legal terms, this amounts to a 'frustration' of the contract since neither party is able to fulfil their part of the agreement, through no fault of their own, because of an unforeseen event. If you have a written agreement in place with the school, check whether it contains a force majeure clause or describes what happens in the event of the school being closed.

If you do not have an agreement in place, it may be difficult to get paid by the school or pupils’ parents in the event that the school closes.

To avoid cancelling lessons, consider:

  • offering rescheduled lessons at a later date
  • online teaching through the use of video calls

We have produced the following guidance on online teaching:

Offering an alternative to face-to-face lessons at school demonstrates that you are making every effort to uphold your contractual obligations. If your proposal is refused, there may be a breach of contract, in which case you may be able to pursue a claim for your fees.

Communicate clearly and openly with the school and parents as soon as possible in order to agree what approach you will take.

If the school or parent who pay you under the contract closed or discontinued lessons prior to government advice to do so, it is unlikely that either force majeure or frustration would apply at that point since both parties were able, in theory, to undertake their contractual obligations. The ISM legal team will be able to support members in this situation to make the case for your continued payment.

Whatever your situation, we urge you to clarify your position as soon as possible in order to minimise the risk to your earnings. Giving lessons online, if you are able to, is highly recommended.

We have produced financial advice for self-employed musicians affected by COVID-19. This offers guidance on how to access benefits if you can’t work because you are sick or self-isolating, or if your income has dropped, as well as tax measures to support the self-employed.

Updated 13 May 2020

We are able to offer more specific advice to ISM members. If you need urgent legal support, please contact us at [email protected].

To help our team with your enquiry, please attach as much supporting evidence as possible to your email.

Members should note that, although we are prioritising cases with concerns relating to the coronavirus crisis, we have a high number of queries to process. Thank you for your patience at this time.