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 have also affected the work and livelihood of visual artists.
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: February 1, 2022.
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.
Restrictions and art exhibitions
In Finland, regional COVID-19 recommendations and restrictions are in effect. THL has created a portal to information on the COVID-19 recommendations and restrictions and the development of the epidemic in the regions.
If art galleries and museums are subject to restrictions, operators can in certain situations use the COVID-19 passport as an alternative to restrictions. More information on the COVID-19 passport can be found on the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health’s website.
In addition, hygiene requirements laid down in the Communicable Diseases Act are in place until the end of 2021. More information on hygiene requirements can be found on the Regional State Administrative Agency’s website.
Cancellation of commissions or work assignments
In principle, the cancellation of events due to a decision of the Regional State Administrative (AVI) 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.
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.
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 organizer directly. Whether the exhibition is cancelled for reasons beyond the artist’s control, Artists’ Association of Finland (AAF) recommends that
- Exhibition fees, such as gallery rent, paid in advance should be refunded to the artist despite the contract’s terms and conditions.
- In the case of an already opened but suspended exhibition the exhibition fees should be refunded to the artist according to the cancelled dates.
Galleries of AAF’s member organisations have committed to these measures. AAF encourages artists and exhibition organizers to come to an agreement related to exhibition arrangements. In the event of a dispute, members of our member organisations can contact the association’s lawyer.
The Artists’ Association of Finland’s website has comprehensive instructions for artists who become unemployed. Please note while reading these instructions, that coronavirus caused temporary changes to the law concerning unemployment benefit.
Temporary amendments have been made to the Unemployment Security Act for the period from 1 January to 28 February 2022. For the period January-February, self-employed persons can qualify for labour market subsidy if their business has been hit by the coronavirus epidemic and the income from self-employment is, because of the coronavirus epidemic, less than EUR 1,103.92 per month. Stopping self-employment activity is not required to qualify. Business income is also adjusted according to the self-employed person’s own declaration if there has been a significant change in income due to the corona epidemic. In addition, changes have been made to the waiting period for unemployment benefit. Applicants for unemployment benefit must normally complete a five-day waiting period, during which unemployment benefits are not paid. The waiting period requirement is waived for the period 1 January - 28 February 2022, which means that unemployment benefits are available right away starting from the first day of unemployment.
Unemployment benefits for artists who are self-employed and who pay into YEL insurance depends on the artist’s amount of YEL income. In 2022, for example, YEL income must be EUR 13,573 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 13,573 per year in 2022, and s/he has been an entrepreneur for at least 15 months in the 48 months preceding unemployment.
A self-employed artist, who supports themselves with part time work, may have a right to an adjusted unemployment benefit.
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.
Due to the COVID-19 situation, the Tax Administration is streamlining operations such as VAT refund processing times.
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 on the Tax Administation’s website.
Please note that you can request a change to your prepayments on 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’s website
Residencies 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.
Company financing and loans
The fifth application round for business cost support starts on 21 December at 9:00 and ends on 18 February 2022 at 16:15: Business cost support (Valtiokonttori.fi)
The fifth application round of cost support covers the costs for companies that have suffered from public law restrictions related to the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. The support covers expenditure incurred between 1 June and 30 September 2021. The new round of business cost support will be allocated to tourism, restaurant and event companies in particular. Art companies are also eligible to apply.
Cost support is intended for companies that meet the following conditions:
- The company’s main sector of business as reported to the Tax Administration on 1 March 2021 is within the scope of the support.
- The company’s turnover has decreased by more than 30% compared to the reference period.
- The company has salary and fixed expenses that are difficult to adjust.
- The company has at least 2000 euros of costs for the support period.
Several banks have responded to income losses for entrepreneurs and the self-employed with measures such as easing and extending payment schedules for loans and rents. 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.
For artists with YEL-insurance, it is possible to delay their pension insurance bill for several months. Contact the pension insurance company about the terms of payment.