Guidelines for visual artists on the impact of the coronavirus
The arts and culture sector is being affected in various ways by the coronavirus and the measures to prevent it from spreading. Cancellations of commissions, closures of exhibition venues and changes brought about by the situation are also affecting the work and livelihood of visual artists.
It is a good idea for self-employed artists as well as those, who are employees of registered companies or any other form of business, to keep a record of all income lost during the coronavirus outbreak.
We have compiled information in this article on the effects of the coronavirus on the work and social security of visual artists. The information package covers issues such as sick pay, unemployment benefits, contracts in emergency situations, sickness allowance on account of an infectious disease and loss of earnings, and the right of a self-employed person to compensation in the event of loss of earnings.
The situation is exceptional in many ways, and the guidance is constantly being updated with more information. Most recent update: 6 April 2020.
In addition, Aura Lehtonen, the Artists’ Association of Finland’s legal advisor, is offering advice to artists in our member organisations by telephone and email. You can find our contact details on our website.
Based on government decisions, the cancellation of events of more than 10 people is a force majeure case in contractual relationships. When a commissioner cancels events that have been agreed on, the contract between the artist and the commissioner needs to be assessed. The contractual relationship determines whether the artist will receive payment for the cancelled event or whether there will be no payment.
Receiving the payment depends partly on whether the artist signed the contract in the role of a contractor or an employee. The starting point is that a binding contract cannot be cancelled without a force majeure event. The cause of a force majeure event is examined on a case-by-case basis.
The status of a contract signed as a contractor and the payment should primarily be negotiated with the contractual partner. As a rule, the contractual relationship is governed by what the force majeure clause in the contract stipulates. If there is no mention of a force majeure event in the contract, it may still be invoked. In addition Suomen Yrittäjät has composed the attached information in which different contract matters are addressed.
If the cancelled event incurs costs to the artist themself and the contractual partner will not reimburse these costs, said costs may be reported as deductions in the artist’s tax return.
If your livelihood is at risk due to cancellations, you can contact your unemployment fund if you are a member of one. In addition, those who are self-employed part-time are entitled to a daily allowance for jobs that are cancelled because of the coronavirus. To be eligible for earnings-related unemployment allowance, you must be a member of an unemployment fund for entrepreneurs per se.
On March 20th 2020 The Finnish government has determined to secure the livelihoods of entrepreneurs and freelancers regardless of the type of company by improving the access to unemployment security. The access to unemployment security is for those sole entrepreneurs and freelancers whose income or prerequisite for operation has been compromised due to coronavirus.
Employees are entitled to a maximum of 14 days’ pay when they are prevented from working for reasons beyond their, or their employer’s, control. The coronavirus pandemic can be considered this kind of reason. If the job was only due to begin in the coming weeks, the 14-day period will be counted from the time the job that was cancelled was going to start. The employer’s obligation to pay wages ends after 14 days, after which employees are entitled to unemployment benefit.
Postponed or cancelled exhibitions
If an artist’s exhibition is cancelled, suspended or postponed due to the coronavirus or precautionary measures to prevent its spread, the artist must contact the gallery or exhibition organiser directly. For example, the possible refunding of the exhibition venue rent should be negotiated directly with the gallery to find a solution that is satisfactory for both parties. If the exhibition is postponed, the exhibition rent will not be refunded. If it is not possible to postpone the exhibition, the situation will depend in part on whether there is a clause in the contract regarding the cancellation of the exhibition. In the event of a dispute, members of our member organisations can contact the association’s lawyer.
On 20 March 2020 the Finnish Government has taken new measures to secure entrepreneurs’ and freelancers’ livelihoods due to coronavirus. All entrepreneurs and self-employed workers whose income and prerequisite for operation regardless of company form has been weakened by the coronavirus are entitled to labour market support. The company does not have to end their business to receive labour market support. Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment is currently preparing these policies and the Finnish Parliament has to approve the legislative amendment.
The change will not sort out different company forms and the nature of operation can be full-time or part-time. Entrepreneur’s own notification is enough which simplifies unemployment security related procedures in TE Offices. The benefit can be received from TE Offices with an explanation related to the situation affected by the coronavirus epidemic.
In addition TyEL-, YEL-, MyEL and MEL-fees are postponed by three months.
These new measures are temporary and their duration is three months.
Also financing for sole entrepreneurs from municipalities can be applied side by side with the extended unemployment benefit which is aimed for entrepreneurs’. If a sole entrepreneur has already applied for support from municipalities it will be taken in account when applying employment security.
Read more: The Government decided to improve the access to unemployment security for sole entrepreneurs and freelancers, regardless of the type of company. On Thursday 26 March 2020 the Finnish Parliament will confirm the temporary changes concerning the unemployment benefit. Information related to this will be updated after Thursday.
The Artists’ Association of Finland’s website has comprehensive instructions (in Finnish) for artists who become unemployed. Please note while reading these instructions, that coronavirus may cause temporary changes to the law concerning unemployment benefit.
An unemployed artist should register as an unemployed jobseeker with the TE Office. A precondition for receiving unemployment benefit is the ability to accept full-time employment. Unemployment benefit may be granted, at the earliest, from the date on which the registration is received by the TE Office, not retrospectively from an earlier date.
For self-employed artists, the TE Office assesses whether the individual’s artistic activity has completely ceased or whether it is a part-time artistic activity. There is no entitlement to unemployment benefit if the TE Office deems the artist to be in full-time employment. An artist who works part-time in an artistic activity may be entitled to adjusted unemployment benefits.
Unemployment benefits for artists who are self-employed and who pay into YEL insurance depends on the artist’s amount of YEL income. In 2020, for example, YEL income must be EUR 13,076 for an artist who is an entrepreneur to be eligible for unemployment allowance. In this case, the entrepreneur may be eligible for Kela’s basic unemployment allowance or, as a member of an unemployment fund, for earnings-related unemployment allowance.
One of the preconditions for receiving unemployment allowance is that the entrepreneurial activity must have been substantial, as referred to in the Unemployment Security Act, and that the condition regarding previous employment is fulfilled. The condition is fulfilled if the entrepreneur has a YEL income of at least EUR 13,076 per year in 2020, and s/he has been an entrepreneur for at least 15 months in the 48 months preceding unemployment. If the condition is not met or the YEL income is lower than this, the self-employed artist is not eligible for unemployment benefits, though s/he may be entitled to the labour market subsidy paid by Kela. The labour market subsidy is means-tested.
Legislative amendment: Right to unemployment benefit during lay-off regardless of engagement in business activities or studies
On 30 March 2020 the Finnish Parliament has accepted a legislative amendment which expands laid off employee’s rights considering the unemployment benefit. From 1 April 2020 employees laid off will be entitled to unemployment benefit even if they are engaged in business activities or studies. The change will simplify unemployment security related procedures in TE Offices during the coronavirus epidemic. This amendment to the Unemployment Security Act will remain in force until 31 July 2020.
The most significant change is that employees who register as jobseekers have the right to unemployment benefit during lay-off even if they were engaged in business activities or studies. The amendment provides easier and quicker access to unemployment benefit to those who study or engage in business activities while laid off. If the person who has been laid off has income from business activities, the Social Insurance Institution of Finland (Kela) and the unemployment fund take this income into account in the adjusted unemployment benefit.
The payment of unemployment benefit to a person who has been laid off will still require that the person registers as a jobseeker at the TE Office. The obligation to accept work offered by the employer will continue during lay-off. The TE Office will not look into a refusal to accept work offered by the TE Office by a person laid off, or any negligence related to an employment plan or another similar plan or service.
Cancellation of commissions covered by insurance
The artist or the contractual partner should have professional indemnity insurance. You can ask the commissioner if their insurance covers any of the costs incurred. Costs incurred due to a force majeure event are rarely covered by insurance. One exception is business disruption insurance related to an epidemic, where a cancelled commission results in a loss of turnover. In such cases, compensation may be claimed for loss of the interruption cover.
Applying for sickness allowance on account of an infectious disease due to quarantine
An entrepreneur who has been ordered to stay away from work, to be isolated or quarantined in order to prevent the spread of an infectious disease is entitled, during this period, to receive from Kela sickness allowance on account of an infectious disease. A quarantine order is personal and issued by a doctor. The same rights apply to guardians of children under the age of 16 if the child has been placed in quarantine and for this reason the guardian cannot go to work.
Sickness allowance on account of an infectious disease is paid from the first day, and it fully compensates for the loss of earnings caused by the quarantine. An entrepreneur’s daily allowance is determined on the basis of his/her/their YEL or MYEL annual earnings at the start of the period of absence. The employee’s daily allowance is determined by the wages she/he/they would have received if they had been at work. In exceptional circumstances in the case of an employment contract, this may be the pay for sick leave provided for in a collective agreement.
Sickness allowance on account of an infectious disease is only paid when the decision to quarantine is made by the doctor responsible for infectious disease control in the municipality or hospital district. The amount of loss of earnings must be demonstrated in writing. Cancelled jobs and events must have been agreed on in writing in advance, and the notice of cancellation must also be in writing. However, the daily allowance will not be paid for the duration of the annual leave.
Kela can also pay a daily allowance to a person who is isolated or quarantined in the EU.
Sickness allowance is paid as compensation for loss of income due to incapacity for work lasting less than a full year.
A medical certificate is required in order to qualify for sickness allowance. Sickness allowance is usually available for up to 60 working days if based on a medical certificate A. Following these 60 days, payment can continue only if the recipient is able to present a medical certificate B or other statement about his/her/their incapacity for work. Recipients may be asked to provide further documentation even before the 60-day period is over.
Sickness allowance is available after completing a specified waiting period. The waiting period usually consists of the first day of illness and the following nine working days.
Further information on sickness allowance can be found on the Kela website.
The Tax Administration is in the process of clarifying the terms of the tax payment arrangement in cooperation with the Ministry of Finance. The Tax Administration’s website provides up-to-date information about the situation.
The Tax Administration is streamlining operations such as VAT refund processing times, payment arrangements, changes to advance taxes, non-recovery of late fees and requests for extended deadlines for tax returns.
The Tax Administration is offering the opportunity to apply for an extension to the deadline for filing tax returns, and the late-filing penalty can be waived for a special and justified reason, such as illness.
The Tax Administration is also offering extensions to payment deadlines to individuals, companies and corporations. If you have temporary financial difficulties or you need more time for paying your taxes, you can ask for a payment arrangement.
While you have a payment arrangement in force, the Tax Administration will not send the taxes included in the arrangement to the enforcement authorities for recovery. In addition, a payment arrangement prevents a business from being removed from the prepayment register and having its tax debts published on the tax debt register or on the protest list.
You can request a payment arrangement here:
Please note that you can request a change to your prepayments in MyTax if your company’s income is lower than estimated.
The Tax Administration also offers guidance on what to do if you receive income from social media platforms, streaming or fundraising campaigns. More information can be found on the Tax Administration website.
Residences and grants
If the virus outbreak is stopping an artist on a grant from working or complicates the work, it is a good idea for the artist to contact the organisation that provided the grant directly and find out its recommendations for spending the travel or work grant in a case of emergency. Many organisations have already been flexible in terms of how grants are spent and related project plans. With residences, practices vary.
For conference costs, travel expenses and other expenses that are lost due to the epidemic, it is best to contact the party to whom they were paid. It is also worth checking if airlines and car rental companies have imposed new cancellation policies and other conditions applicable in this situation and granted the right to change tickets that have already been purchased.
The Arts Promotion Centre Finland is currently working to grant swift assistance to artists who have been hit hard by the coronavirus outbreak. The Swedish Cultural Foundation in Finland, together with the Konstsamfundet, has also announced that it will help artists who lose income due to the virus. The article, in Swedish, can be read here. Additionally MELA has gathered information related to coronavirus and insuring the recipient of the grant.
Company financing and loans
Sole entrepreneurs will be able to apply for financing from municipalities to address difficulties caused by the coronavirus. The aid is 2 000 euros and companies can apply for it from their local municipality. The support can be used for any business expenses, particularly fixed costs such as rents. Municipalities will inform when the support opens.
Companies with up to five employees are able to apply for support from the Centre for Economic Development (in Finnish) to cope in the conditions caused by coronavirus. Business Finland’s funding services are intended for mid-cap companies and SMEs (oy, oyj, ay, ky, osk) with at least six employees who operate in Finland and whose business is negatively affected by the coronavirus crisis. The funding is intended for the creative field among others.
Several banks have also responded to income losses for entrepreneurs and the self-employed with measures such as easing and extending payment schedules for loans and rents. The OP Financial Group, for example, is offering both households and SMEs the opportunity to defer credit payments for up to 12 months if the coronavirus pandemic has affected their customers’ ability to manage their finances. Changes to the payment programme are not subject to a separate fee.
It is advisable that individuals, entrepreneurs and the self-employed contact their bank or landlord about possible funding needs and changes to existing payment programmes.
Different foundations, organisations and institutions are also considering different ways to improve the difficult financial situation caused by the coronavirus. Business Finland is launching two new financial services to help small and medium-sized businesses and midcap companies to develop solutions to the problems caused by the coronavirus. The sectors that the funding is targeted at includes the creative industry.
For artists with YEL-insurance, it is possible to delay their pension insurance bill for several months without paying the penalty interest. This concerns bills that due between March 20 and 30 June 2020. Contact the pension insurance company about the terms of payment.
The Union of Journalists in Finland: https://journalistiliitto.fi/fi/ohjeita-freelancereille-koronaepidemian-varalta-miten-haen-sairauspaivarahaa-mita-jos-keikka-peruuntuu/
The Musicians’ Union’s guideline: https://www.muusikkojenliitto.fi/koronavirusepidemia/
Suomen Yrittäjät: https://www.yrittajat.fi/yrittajat/kaikki-koronasta-yrittajalle
Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment of Finland: https://tem.fi/kysymyksia-ja-vastauksia-yrittajien-oikeudesta-tyottomyysturvaan