COVID-19: Letter to the Chancellor

The Rt Hon Rishi Sunak MP
Chancellor of the Exchequer
11 Downing St
Westminster
London
SW1A 2AB

16 March 2020

Dear Chancellor

The coronavirus COVID-19 is having a dramatic impact on the music industry, particularly on musicians who are self-employed or employed on zero-hour contracts.

This vital workforce, which is the backbone of the £5.2billion music industry, is severely at risk financially as the threat of the global virus pandemic mounts. At the ISM we are seeing musicians and music teachers losing a significant amount of work and income due to being affected by COVID-19 such as school closures or short-notice cancellation of concerts and festivals.

In the case of performers, many engagers are using the ‘force majeure’ clause within contracts - therefore in a circumstance such as COVID-19, they can cancel or postpone concerts, festivals and other engagements without obligation to pay their musicians. These cancellations and postponements are happening at short notice. In the case of educators, many teachers are working within schools and music education hub settings and are very worried about the threat of school closures and the consequent loss of work and wages.

As you are aware, gig economy workers such as the self-employed and those on zero-hour contracts are not currently entitled to Statutory Sick Pay (SSP). The Universal Credit system, announced by Government as one of the most suitable measures (along with ‘new style’ Employment and Support Allowance) to protect these workers, is not appropriate in covering the loss of earnings musicians are already experiencing due to COVID-19. It is paramount the Government urgently rethinks this position and extends SSP to all types of workers affected by COVID-19 or advised to self-isolate.

We are also calling on the Government to advise places of work to assist workers who are self-employed or freelanceto demonstrate they earn at least £118 per week from their employer in order to qualify for SSP. In addition, we would urge the Government to advise places of work to discount absences due to COVID-19 from management sickness policies. We have been discussing these specific asks with Music Mark, the main membership organisation for music education hubs, and action is yet to happen to support teachers in their place of work.

This is a critical time for the country and stability is much needed for everyone, including musicians. Musicians should not be penalised for the financial losses they are now experiencing as a result of COVID-19. SSP must be extended to cover all workers without delay.

Yours sincerely

Deborah Annetts

Chief Executive
Incorporated Society of Musicians