Icon Coronavirus survey: loss of work for conservators

In April 2020, Icon undertook a survey asking conservators to share how they had been affected by the Coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic

07 May 2020

Icon’s survey aimed to capture information specific to the conservation sector and its workforce across the UK and to complement the wider sector survey run by Historic England.

The dataset

In total, we heard from 168 respondents. The majority of these contributors represented freelancers, sole traders or private limited companies. 122 micro-enterprises (up to 10 employees) responded, with the majority (68%) employing 0-5 people. The highest numbers of respondents were book and paper conservators and those working in the field of gilding and decorative surfaces, but other specialisms were fairly evenly represented. The survey captured a good geographical spread across England, with Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland also represented. 41 respondents participated from outside the UK.

Significant impact

The results unsurprisingly revealed that the Coronavirus outbreak and associated social distancing measures are having considerable and severe impact on respondents.

Over 90% of respondents reported loss or postponement of work, while two out of five respondents reported postponement or cancellation of planned income-generating events. Other significant ways in which respondents had been affected included reduced opening and business hours (36%) and supply chain problems (29%). 70% of respondents said that their monthly income had decreased.  

The results suggest that furloughing has helped to mitigate impacts in the short term. 26% of respondents said they had furloughed staff but only 5% stated they had laid off staff.

Over half of respondents described the Coronavirus as presenting moderate risk to the medium-term viability of their business or organisation, though they hoped to be able to continue to operate if the negative impacts are successfully mitigated. However, 81 respondents indicated they are awaiting further clarification of Government support when asked which support measures they expected to access.

This confims our view that there is a notable need for further business support advice to help people navigate and accesss different support options and is a call for action that has featured continuously in our recent lobbying and advocacy work.

Next steps

Icon will continue to analyse the results and will share key insights with members and our partners over the coming days. We will use the information to tailor our support and to inform our policy and advocacy activities. We are incredibly grateful to all those who took part in the survey and have shared their experiences and case studies with us. If you would like to tell us how you are being affected, please email us

Read the full results here.

Find out more about our work to support the profession during the pandemic and access our list of guidance and resources here


Image: Creative Commons