Invaluable in a Crisis
2020 has shown that in a crisis FoH workers are invaluable, their work to reopen museums, respond to the constantly changing environment, create a safe, comfortable visitor experience and are at the heart of this sectors recovery. As England heads into lockdown, Scotland introduces new measures and Wales and North Ireland emerge from their respective lockdowns we reflect on the vital importance FoHMuseums have head in 2020 and remind the sector of the continued need to show their support for FoHMuseums as we head towards Christmas and 2021.
From the onset of this pandemic, FoH have played a crucial role in the museum sectors response to the ongoing crisis. It was FoH who issued the first measures to ensure visitor, staff and volunteer safety way back in February and March. FoH were vital in the communicating of closures and preparing their mueums for extend period of closure. For many such as those working operations and security closure did not change their role, through lockdown they continued to work to ensure our museums were ready, flushing toilets, carrying out essential maintenance and keeping our buildings safe. For many this time of closure was immediately spent planning for possible futures, thinking about how to bring staff and visitors back to the museum when it was safe to do so. Vital work to ensure museums were ready to reopen as soon as it was possible to do so.
Some FoH were redeployed internally, moving into digital engagement providing vital in museums community engagement in lockdown, adapting to new environments and developing or expanding skill sets. Many other FoH were redeployed in the fight against Covid-19 becoming frontline workers ensuring councils could maximise their response to the crisis.
3608 Redundancies so far….
However, this was not the case for all FoH, many were furloughed and unable to, and to date 3608 redundancies have been made reported on the Museums Association’s Redundancy Tracker. FoH will form a sizeable portion of this figure. It is likely this figure will only grow; it may only be the tip of the Iceberg. The true impact on FoH will be unknown for months maybe years to come. What data do we need to collect to understand the real impact?
Through this unrivalled fear for livelihoods, and constant awareness of the risks of contracting Covid-19 FoH returned to work, often the very first to return to site. They introduced measures to reduce the chances of staff and the public from contracting Covid-19 and prepared museums across the UK for their eventual reopenings. Welcoming visitors back across the country into new environments, developed and tested by FoH. Again FoH have demonstrated why they remain so important to the sector, particularly during times of crisis.
We have just finished half term, FoH have been at their best welcoming families and creating a safe and secure environment in a climate which was increaisngly becoming uncomfortable as infections rates began to grow rapidly. A week later museums arenow preparing for closure, in only a matter of days their role has been turned upside down, but as always, they will respond and thrive.
Support Still Need The Sectors Support
As we move forward looking to the future, each nation and region will face different challenges at different times but FoH will always be vital. During this forthcoming lockdown in England as we have seen in the first lockdown FoH will be performing a variety of roles responding to the needs of their organisations. It is likely many FoH will again be furloughed. We urge you to put in place the measures to ensure your staff’s good mental health and financial security. FoH are frequently on vulnerable unstable contracts, these need to be secured. FoH typically earn the least in the sector and many already struggle to make end meets. Not paying that 20% furlough will mean bills will not be paid and put people at threat from economic hardship. Losing that 20% takes people below the Real Living Wage, and below the minimum wage. Is that fair when many others will not be? (You can read more on our open letter to the sector from March here). As we approach Christmas we need ensure the economic security of all FoH.
No doubt as with the reopening of musuems in the summer, FoH will again be the first to return to museums, and immediately back visitors who are again feeling uncomfortable and need the professionalism of FoH to feel safe and secure back in museums. In 2020 we need FoH more than ever before.
FoH have proven vital throughout the pandemic, we ask the sector to show their support and ensure the right support for FoH is there across the coming months and into 2021.