skip to main content

On this page you’ll find our guidance on

The Government has now removed the final remaining domestic restrictions related to COVID-19 in England. Free Lateral Flow Tests and Test & Trace Support payments are also being withdrawn.

The Government still advises the following, non-mandatory, steps to help prevent the spread of COVID-19:

  • Get vaccinated 
  • Let fresh air in if meeting others indoors, or meet outside 
  • Wear a face mask in crowded spaces 
  • Get tested if you have COVID-19 symptoms, and stay at home if positive  

Whilst it is appreciated that the removal of restrictions may have a positive effect on working opportunities and audience numbers in the music industry, given that COVID-19 still poses a considerable threat to individual health, especially those who are extremely clinically vulnerable the following advice has been prepared in relation to vaccination and testing in the workplace.

This guidance can only set out general principles to be aware of and should not be used as a substitute for legal advice now or in the future. Please refer to your regional MU office if any issues arise.

Risk Assessments

Despite the removal of restrictions in England, employers and engagers should continue to conduct a risk assessment specific to each engagement, and make the results of that assessment available to the musicians engaged. The risk assessment should continue to include an assessment of the COVID-19 transmission risk, and proportionate measures should be put in place to mitigate that risk as far as is possible, including the wearing of masks, increased ventilation if indoors, social distancing and increased cleaning and hygiene measures. Find further information about Risk Assessments.

Covid-19 vaccinations

The MU is supportive of vaccination as a way to maintain as safe a working environment for members as possible, and for the industry as a whole to remain working. However, there will be members that wish to work but have not been vaccinated, and those who cannot or do not wish to be vaccinated at all.

Employees

If you are an employee, then in the absence of vaccination becoming a legal requirement in the UK, your employer cannot insist on you doing so without your agreement.

However, an employer could, in future, attempt to prevent unvaccinated employees from entering the workplace or restrict their duties, depending on the circumstances of the case and subject to arguments around discrimination.

Some vaccines are not suitable for those with disabilities and there could be other discrimination angles, including religion, belief or race discrimination.

If you are an employee who is unvaccinated, your employer should work with you to ensure mitigations are in place to minimise the potential for COVID-19 transmission in your working environment. If you are not comfortable in this regard, speak to your employer in the first instance, and if matters are not resolved, please refer the matter to your regional MU office.

If you are an employee who works at different venues over time, it may be that a venue chooses to stipulate that all visitors must be vaccinated. This may be outside of your employer’s control. If you are yet to have a vaccine, or do not wish to be vaccinated, it may be that your employer is prevented from allowing you to work at that venue.

However, currently, this approach by venues could create potential discrimination issues, similar to those referenced above.

Therefore, if you find yourself faced with a suggestion that you cannot work at a particular venue, we would expect your employer to work with you and the venue, firstly to try to persuade the venue to re-visit its policies but secondly, if they refuse, then to try to find work for you at an alternative venue. If you have the requisite length of service, all alternative options to dismissal must be explored.

If you are prevented from working due to a vaccination requirement, we believe that the employer should continue to pay you. As an employee you should suffer no financial detriment as a result of this situation. If you do find this is the case, please contact your regional MU office to see how we can support you.

Self-employed

If you are self-employed, you may find an engager, or venue, is insistent upon only those who have been vaccinated entering the workplace.

If you have already been provided with a contract for the engagement and there is no mention of the requirement to be vaccinated, then you could demand that your engagement goes ahead as planned or seek financial compensation for any cancellation. However, if the engager is upfront about the vaccination requirement, and you accept the engagement, then unless there are any potential discrimination angles, there is probably little that can be done.

Whether someone has had a vaccination or not is not a protected characteristic in itself, and as such choosing only to engage those that have is not necessarily a case of discrimination. However, religious beliefs are protected, so someone who has not been vaccinated for this reason may be able to claim indirect discrimination if they are refused work as a result. As mentioned above, there may also be angles to explore around age, race, sex and disability discrimination.

We would expect engagers to accept alternatives to vaccination. An up-to-date confirmed negative test result should be acceptable, for instance. If you have been refused work due to your vaccination status, please contact your regional MU office for support.

Covid-19 testing

The MU has written to the Government to ask that free testing be retained for workers, like musicians, who are generally unable to work from home and often unable to socially distance.

MU members are encouraged to email their MP with their concerns at the end of free testing. You can find your MP’s email address on the official Parliament website.

Employers

The discontinuation of free Lateral Flow Tests leaves MU members and employers with an increased level of uncertainty regarding possible contact with individuals currently suffering from COVID-19 in the working environment.

An employer continuing to require the testing of members as a condition of employment, should bear the full cost of the testing for the duration it is required. We would hope that any employer wishing to undertake testing of staff, does so by first discussing the requirement and reasoning with the staff or their representatives, coming to a joint decision, and taking into account individual circumstances and mitigating factors.

Employers should be aware that under GDPR the results of such tests are classed as “Special Category Data” and therefore must only be collected and processed in compliance with the regulations. In order to make the decision whether it is reasonable and necessary to ask employees to undertake such tests and to process the results, employers should consider:

  • The type of work employees are to undertake, and the venue in which the work is to be undertaken.
  • Whether testing will contribute to a safe working environment (i.e. how accurate will the results be, will they be available within sufficient time to make a difference?)
  • Whether there are other measures that could limit transmission of Covid-19 as effectively

Employees

If you are an employee suffering from COVID-19 symptoms you should remove yourself from the workplace, take a test and stay at home if positive. You should isolate until you are no longer infectious to others, as per Government advice. If you are no longer suffering symptoms and you have returned a negative lateral flow test, you should be permitted to return to the workplace.

If possible, you should be permitted to work from home whilst isolating. If you are unable to work from home, you will need to discuss with your employer whether you will be paid as normal during this time, or whether there are other options you can agree, such as you taking annual leave or unpaid leave.

If a fellow employee displays symptoms and refuses to remove themselves from the workplace, this might give rise to serious health and safety concerns. If so, you should raise them with your employer and ask them to take action to protect you from harm.

Raising the issue will give you additional protection from detrimental treatment or dismissal. For example, if you feel you are at risk of serious and imminent danger, the employer refuses to address it and you feel you must stay away from the workplace you may have protection. However, it will depend on the steps the employer has taken to reduce the risk and how it responds to your concerns.

If you are an employee who works at different venues over time, it may be that a venue chooses to stipulate that all visitors return a negative Covid-19 test result. This may be outside of your employer’s control. A venue requiring the testing of members as a condition of admission, should bear the full cost of the testing for the duration it is required

If you do not wish to undergo a test, it may be that your employer is prevented from allowing you to work at that venue. If this is the case, if the venue cannot be persuaded to allow you to work there with effective measures in place to protect health and safety, we would expect your employer to work with you in order to find work at an alternative venue, or to continue to pay you whilst you are prevented from working.

Self-employed

If you are self-employed, you may find an engager, or venue, is insistent upon only those who have returned a recent negative Covid-19 test result entering the workplace.

If you have already been provided with a contract for the engagement and there is no mention of the requirement to be tested, then you could demand that your engagement goes ahead as planned or seek financial compensation for any cancellation. However, if the engager is upfront about the testing requirement, there is little that can be done. Whether someone has been tested or not is not a protected characteristic in itself, and as such choosing only to engage those that have is not necessarily a case of discrimination.

However, if someone refuses to be tested or cannot be tested due to a protected characteristic, such as a religious belief, or only certain groups who are perceived to be at a higher risk of having contracted Covid-19 are tested, discrimination issues may arise.

We would expect the engager to bear the cost of any testing and any additional out-of-pocket expenses incurred in obtaining a test. However, if you do not wish to submit to a test, speak to the engager about mitigations that could be employed in order to allow you to work safely without a test, and report the issue to your regional MU office, so we are aware.

Musicians at high risk of Covid-19

The removal of statutory COVID-19 restrictions in England may have a significant effect on musicians who have, until now, been able to continue working whilst at high risk due to COVID-19.

If you are at high risk, speak to your employer or engager about mitigations that could be retained in order to make the workplace secure for you to continue working. We would expect employers and employers to accommodate such requests wherever possible. There could be potential discrimination issues otherwise.

If you are at high risk of COVID-19 and need assistance please contact your regional MU office.

Latest news

Side view of Manchester bar at the nighttime with red neon sign saying 'Going out is the new staying in' after lockdown restirctions were eased last year.

The Road To Recovery: Musicians and Covid

Almost one year after restrictions began to lift, how is the fallout from Covid affecting UK musicians on the ground? Here artists across a range of genres share their experiences and assess the need for a fairer music industry.

Published: 13 July 2022

Read more about The Road To Recovery: Musicians and Covid