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Latest advice for funeral professionals – SAIF and NAFD updates

Funeral associations are receiving regular updates from Government with guidelines for the current pandemic. We will look to include the latest here whenever there is new information. The latest update from NAFD looks at guidance on Covid-19 restrictions at funerals

NAFD Update – 24 November

The NAFD is aware of concern among funeral directors over where liability for enforcement of Covid restrictions lies at a funeral and, specifically, the correct procedures to follow should a greater number of mourners than the Covid-secure limit of the venue seek to attend a funeral.
 
Official Public Health England guidance (COVID-19: guidance for managing a funeral during the coronavirus pandemic, PHE England – October 2020) is clear that funeral service staff should:
 
    •    communicate the need to comply with limits on gatherings
    •    signpost attendees to the advice on local restrictions
    •    facilitate remote attendance, particularly for mourners who are required to self-isolate
    •    remind mourners that they are legally required to wear a face covering

However, it is not their role to enforce the restrictions.

NAFD has drafted the guidance below to support funeral professionals in carrying out their role and guide conversations, should questions be asked about the limits of their responsibilities or actions.

This guidance has been reviewed by the Cabinet Office. No changes were recommended and they believe it will be a helpful document. Although this is based on PHE guidance, this guidance is suitable for all UK nations as the same basic principles around enforcement apply.

Enforcing Covid-secure restrictions at funerals

SAIF Update – 4 November

England Lockdown 2.0 update

SAIF has received further clarification from the Cabinet Office on new regulations due to be published today (Wednesday 4 November), with guidance to follow at a later date. We are now able to advise the following:

    •    Wakes are permitted for up to 15 people at Covid Secure locations but not at any of the hospitality settings that are closed
    •    Travel is permitted for funerals and mourners may stay overnight in hotels
    •    Ritual washing of deceased persons is allowed under certain conditions - please see existing guidance for further information
    •    Limousines are permitted to be used under existing regulations, however, passengers can only be from a single household or in a support bubble. Passengers must also wear face coverings
    •    Viewings of deceased are permitted and at the discretion of the funeral home, which should carry out its own risk assessment
    •    Funeral directors may attend for home visits but these are not recommended, with telephone or virtual meetings encouraged instead
    •    Clients may visit funeral homes but precautions between staff and clients should be in place, including measures such as two-metre social distancing, screens, and face coverings.

Northern Ireland

Circuit breaker lockdown latest

The following rules are in force in Northern Ireland, which is two-and-a-half-weeks into a four-week circuit breaker lockdown:

    •    A maximum of 25 mourners may attend funerals
    •    Pre and post-funeral ceremonies are banned
    •    People may travel to Northern Ireland to attend a funeral
    •    Funeral services may not take place in private dwellings, although remains of the deceased may be taken to private dwellings.

Scotland

Five-tier alert system in force

Scotland is currently in a five-tier alert system, although SAIF understands that no area is in Tier 0 (which is near normal) or the highest tiers 4 or 5. Mourner numbers are limited to 20 people across all parts of the country. However, there are no restrictions to travel within, into or out of Scotland to attend a funeral. Mourners coming from overseas should be aware of rules affecting those travelling into the UK. However, it is permitted for a person from a non-exempt country to leave their international quarantine location to attend a funeral. Further details can be found here.

Wales

Question mark over travel to funerals

SAIF is currently seeking confirmation from the Welsh Government that people may travel outside Wales to attend funerals. The regulations appear to state that people are permitted to travel within and into Wales to attend a funeral, however, it is unclear as to whether Welsh residents may travel outside the country. The circumstances in which people may attend a funeral in Wales are as follows:
(i) as a person responsible for arranging the funeral, (ii) if invited by a person responsible for arranging the funeral, or (iii) as the carer of a person attending.

All UK Nations

Central cremation service availability portal launched

The Deceased Management Advisory Group (DMAG), of which SAIF is a leading member, produced a Lessons Learned Report following the first wave of the pandemic. It contained a number of recommendations, including that:

A UK wide central cremation service availability portal is developed, and its adoption encouraged.

This has now been made available and it is believed that a central portal will deliver two key benefits for the sector during the pandemic, firstly funeral directors will have access to the booking diaries of all those crematoria who adopt the portal and secondly it will provide DMAG and Governments with the ability to see where there are increasing capacity issues.

For the central portal to deliver these benefits it is necessary for funeral directors to only make their cremation bookings on the central portal, and not directly with the crematorium. The crematorium will be advised electronically that the bookings have been requested and they can then enter them into their own system in the same way that they do now.

If a funeral director, or any person arranging a funeral, does not have access to a computer, they can still ring the crematorium, who can then make the booking for them via the portal.

After completing the online registration and setup of your organisation the ongoing process is straightforward.

For crematoria:

 1.  Receive email notification of booking request
 2.  Logon to byondcloud
 3.  Review the booking request
 4.  Approve the booking request
 5.  Enter booking onto own system
 6.  byondcloud sends confirmation of booked appointment to funeral director.

For funeral directors:

 1.  Logon to byondcloud
 2.  Create a new booking, providing details as required by the crematorium, typically;
    *   Deceased surname
    *   Deceased given name
    *   Select date & booking slot
 3.  Submit booking request
 4.  Receive email confirmation of booking request.
Each crematorium continues to use their current software and existing methods for administration and registration of cremations.

Further information and registration details can be found here.

SAIF Update – 3 November

England

New national lockdown impact on funerals

Following Prime Minister Boris Johnson's recent announcement that England will enter a new lockdown from Thursday 5 November, SAIF has been analysing the possible impact of the restrictions on funerals.

We're pleased to see that the number of people who are allowed to attend a funeral in England has not been reduced from 30 and that stone settings and ash scatterings can continue with 15 people in attendance. However, there is a renewed emphasis on only close family and friends attending, as was the case during the first lockdown.

Please also note that anyone working is not included in the 30-mourner total and social distancing should be maintained between people who do not live together or share a support bubble.

Places of worship have also been ordered to close with some exemptions, one of which is funerals.

The new lockdown for England has prompted a number of questions in relation to mourner overnight stays, funeral director home visits and wakes in hospitality venues, which SAIF has raised with the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) via the Deceased Management Advisory Group.

The answers are as follows:

1. Mourners will not be able to stay in others' homes before a funeral, however, the Civil Contingencies Secretariat (CCS) is still working through whether they will be permitted to stay in hotels.

2. The CCS has asked for further detail from the funeral profession on the types of scenarios in which funeral directors would be attending a home. Whilst these were not permitted during the first wave, there were concerns that some elderly funeral clients may experience difficulty arranging a funeral online. SAIF has asked that consideration be given where circumstances for a home visit occur in a Covid-secure manner.

3. Wakes will be permitted with up to 15 attendees as they are included within the definition of linked events. They will be permitted to take place in community centres and places of worship. Light refreshments will be permitted but the CCS is still working through the finer detail of this. Hospitality venues won’t be able to open for wakes, so guidance will advise that families can delay wakes until restrictions are lifted.

SAIF is also consulting with the MOJ on the use of limousines, chapel of rest viewings, and contact with clients during the new lockdown in England.

Current guidance on managing a funeral during a pandemic is yet to be updated and SAIF is keeping a keen eye on this. We anticipate that updated guidance may not be forthcoming until Parliament has voted on the lockdown on Wednesday. We will, however, be sure to update you as soon as information becomes available.

Further details about the new lockdown restrictions can be found here.

SAIF Update – 19 October

Safe travel in limousines during the coronavirus pandemic

Following the introduction in England of a tiered lockdown system, SAIF has sought to clarify whether there are differences in relation to limousine use across the three alert levels of Medium, High and Very High.

Having analysed the guidance, all three alert levels state: "It is difficult to socially distance during car journeys and transmission of coronavirus can occur in this context. So you should avoid travelling with someone from outside your household or your support bubble unless you can practise social distancing."

SAIF recommends that members make clients aware of this, as it aligns with current guidance for private hire use and car sharing.

We also remind members of recent advice from the Department for Transport (DfT) regarding face coverings for limousine and funeral vehicle drivers: "Passengers are legally required to wear a face covering when travelling in a funeral director vehicle or hearse. They are also strongly recommended for drivers.” 

It is DfT's understanding that a funeral car would count as public transport and therefore passengers or mourners would be required to wear a face covering. Drivers are not required to wear one, however, it is advisable. Guidance for transport operators with regard to face coverings can be found here.

Limousine use in other nations of the UK: vehicle sharing guidance in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland

Whilst all governments across the UK have produced their own specific guidance on transport use for passengers and drivers, it is a universal rule of thumb that passengers should not share a car with people outside of their household, extended household or support bubble.

Guidance for Scotland can be found here, Wales here, and Northern Ireland here. Both Wales and Northern Ireland recommend that mourners use their own transport to attend funerals for the time being.

SAIF Update – 13 October

England

Three-tier system of coronavirus prevention measures introduced in England

The Government has switched to a tiered alert system of local interventions in an attempt to control the coronavirus pandemic.

The three alert levels, which apply from 00.01 on Wednesday 14 October, are Medium, High and Very High. Medium is the default tier for all parts of England not facing more serious measures under High and Very High levels. For details of local lockdown restrictions in different areas of the UK, please view this webpage. Under all three levels, funeral services remain subject to Government guidelines as set out on the official webpage Guidance for managing a funeral during the coronavirus pandemic, with a range of specific elevated restrictions:

Medium

Funerals must only take place in Covid-19 Secure venues or in public outdoor spaces with up to 30 people in attendance. Wakes or linked ceremonial events (such as stone-settings) before or after the funeral are limited to 15 people and must not take place in private homes. Where food or drink is consumed, this should be in the form of a sit-down meal.

Anyone working at a wedding, civil partnership ceremony, reception, wake or funeral is not generally counted as part of the limit. Within these larger gatherings, people do not need to limit their interaction to groups of 6 or their own household, but social distancing should still be followed between people who do not live together or share a support bubble.

High

Funerals must only take place in Covid-secure venues or in public outdoor spaces with up to 30 people in attendance. Wakes or linked ceremonial events (such as stone-settings) before or after the funeral are limited to 15 people and must not take place in private homes. Where food or drink is consumed, this should be in the form of a sit-down meal.

Anyone working at a wedding, civil partnership ceremony, reception, wake or funeral is not generally counted as part of the limit. Within these larger gatherings, people do not need to limit their interaction to groups of 6 or their own household, but social distancing should still be followed between people who do not live together or share a support bubble.

People living outside of a high alert level area can travel to this area to attend an event, but they must not meet with another household indoors.

Very High

Funerals must only take place in Covid-19 Secure venues or in public outdoor spaces with up to 30 people in attendance. Wakes or linked ceremonial events before or after the funeral are limited to 15 people and must not take place in private homes. Where food or drink is consumed, this should be in the form of a sit-down meal to ensure people can keep their distance from each other.

Anyone working at a wedding, civil partnership ceremony, wake or funeral is not generally counted as part of the limit. Within these larger gatherings, people do not need to limit their interaction to groups of 6 or their own household, but social distancing should still be followed between people who do not live together or share a support bubble.

People living outside of a Very High alert level area can travel to this area to attend an event, but they must not meet with another household in a private home or garden and we are asking them not to stay overnight.

SAIF members should also be aware that local authorities are able to further enhance these measures with more stringent rules should they deem it necessary. It is essential to remain in close contact with crematoria and cemetery operators to ensure families are advised appropriately of the most up-to-date information.

Scotland

Tougher restrictions introduced in Scotland

Scotland has also strengthened coronavirus restrictions nationwide, including closing bars and pubs in the Central Belt area. However, funerals remain unaffected at this time. According to the Scottish Government, a "funeral service, as well as a funeral reception/wake are exempt from the new restrictions. Funerals can continue to take place with up to 20 people attending, and licensed venues, such as restaurants, are permitted to open and take bookings for the purpose of holding a funeral reception/wake for a maximum of 20 people." SAIF advises members to let your clients know that receptions/wakes can still be booked at a licensed venue, should a venue choose to take bookings.

Wales

National lockdown considered by officials in Wales

Members of the Welsh Government are currently considering additional coronavirus prevention measures, including the option of a national lockdown. SAIF is monitoring the situation and will advise members in Wales of any changes that affect funerals. Announcements from the Welsh Government about local lockdowns and Covid-19 can be found here. Current guidelines relating to funerals in Wales can be found here.

Northern Ireland

New restrictions expected soon in Northern Ireland

Government officials in Northern Ireland are debating possible new measures, with health representatives calling for additional restrictions by no later than this Friday. SAIF is paying close attention to updates and will inform members as soon as we hear anything. Current guidelines affecting funerals in Northern Ireland are available here.

SAIF Update - 2 October

Cabinet Office funerals meeting update

SAIF participated in a funeral sector coronavirus conference call with the Cabinet Office this week, and was informed that there are likely to be changes to the number of people in England who may attend pre and post-funeral events, which are deemed ceremonial or religious, such as scattering of ashes.

Currently, these events are restricted to six people. But with the new regulations that are due to come into force, it will allow 30 mourners to these pre or post ceremonial or religious events. SAIF will be sure to update members as soon as information becomes available.  

We also reported earlier this week about new regulations which provide an exemption to attend funerals for people who have tested positive for coronavirus or who have been required to self isolate by the NHS Test and Trace system. This has caused some concern amongst SAIF members and we are informed that guidance is being drafted which will strongly recommend affected people attend online.

SAIF, via the Deceased Management Advisory Group (DMAG), requested the Government to reconsider the regulations in order to ensure the safety of bereaved people and funeral director staff.

Separately, SAIF is aware that some local authorities are defying the regulations and refusing to allow people who have tested positive for Covid-19 or who are self isolating to access crematoria or cemeteries. We strongly advise you to maintain close communication with your local crematoria and cemetery operators to avoid any potential conflicts with families on this matter.

With regard to face coverings in transport, the Department for Transport (DfT) has provided SAIF with the following clarification in relation to the use of limousines and funeral vehicles: 

"Passengers are legally required to wear a face covering when travelling in a funeral director vehicle or hearse. They are also strongly recommended for drivers.” 

It is DfT's understanding that a funeral car would count as public transport and therefore passengers or mourners would be required to wear a face covering. Drivers are not required to wear one, however, it is advisable.

Coronavirus tests for funeral directors in England

SAIF has been informed that funeral directors and their employees in England remain listed as essential workers in guidance on coronavirus testing, which can be found here.

This means SAIF members can continue to access testing as a priority through the online portal. However, officials have said that access cannot be guaranteed at this time due to immense demand for tests which is stretching capacity. But they say work is underway to resolve these issues.

Northern Ireland

New restrictions in Derry and Strabane

First Minister Arlene Foster this week announced new restrictions in Derry city and Strabane district which ban indoor gatherings in community halls or similar places. However, funerals are exempted from the measures. Pre-booked funeral teas may also take place in hotels, whilst other hospitality venues are required to only offer outdoor dining, takeaways and delivery services. Further details about the measures can be found here.

Competition and Markets Authority (CMA)

SAIF responds to CMA Provisional Decision Report

The SAIF Taskgroup charged with managing the response to the CMA's Provisional Decision Report yesterday submitted its very strong reply with the assistance of a leading competition law firm. We are confident that we have defended the independent sector to the best of our abilities.

For the next stage, the Taskgroup will participate in a virtual hearing with the CMA and this will take place on Thursday 8 October. Thereafter, we await the CMA’s Final Decision Report.

We are extremely grateful to all SAIF members who wrote to the CMA in defence of the independent funeral director. We were pleased to see scores of letters to the Authority expressing great concern over its proposed remedies and the risks these present to our sector – and crucially to the families in your care.

We will keep you up-to-date with any developments, and would like to thank you again for your marvellous efforts in writing to the CMA at this critical moment in our profession's history.

ITV Tonight – Funerals: The true cost?

SAIF's reflections on yesterday's documentary

We watched with interest last night at ITV's documentary on the price of funerals. If you didn't manage to see the programme, it can be viewed again here.

Whilst the show didn't teach us anything new, its focus on the pricing strategies of large groups sent a strong message to the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) that a one-size-fits-all model of regulation would be a disaster for independent funeral businesses and bereaved families. SAIF strongly believes that hard-working, independent firms who have striven to offer value and personal service in a market that has been buffeted by the profit motives of large groups should not be unfairly penalised.

The programme also illustrated the importance of shopping around and elevated the need for all funeral directors to put clear and transparent price lists online.

However, one particular area of frustration and disappointment was that the programme could have made it clearer that the price rises implemented by crematoria and cemeteries are out of funeral directors' hands.

SAIF Update – 25 September

Make your funeral home Covid Secure – it's the law

From today (28 September) it will be a legal requirement for all businesses in England to operate in a Covid Secure way. This includes onsite at your premises and when offsite, for example, visiting a residential home to take a deceased person into your care. Please note that businesses which fail to operate in a Covid Secure way, if caught, could face a fine of up to £10,000. Employers must complete a risk assessment in consultation with their employees. The Government has published advice and guidance to help businesses comply with the requirements and this can be found here.

This includes a priority checklist to which you must adhere:

  • Complete a COVID-19 risk assessment. Share it with all your staff. Find out how to do a risk assessment
  • Clean more often. Increase how often you clean surfaces, especially those that are being touched a lot. Ask your staff and your customers to use hand sanitiser and wash their hands frequently
  • Ask your customers to wear face coverings in any indoor space or where required to do so by law. That is especially important if your customers are likely to be around people they do not normally meet. Some exemptions apply. Check when to wear one, exemptions, and how to make your own
  • Make sure everyone is social distancing. Make it easy for everyone to do so by putting up signs or introducing a one way system that your customers can follow
  • Increase ventilation by keeping doors and windows open where possible and running ventilation systems at all times
  • Take part in NHS Test and Trace by keeping a record of all staff and contractors (not customers) for 21 days. This is now enforced in law. Some exemptions apply. Check ‘Maintaining records of staff, customers and visitors to support NHS Test and Trace’ for details
  • Turn people with coronavirus symptoms away. If a staff member (or someone in their household) or a customer has a persistent cough, a high temperature or has lost their sense of taste or smell, they should be isolating. 

Scotland and Wales

Covid secure workplace requirements

Both Scotland and Wales had already required businesses to comply with dedicated coronavirus regulations relating to the workplace and employers are advised to ensure they are up-to-date with the rules which can be found here for Wales and here for Scotland.

Scotland

In Scotland the key coronavirus prevention issues for employees are deemed as follows:
- A full risk assessment should be undertaken in consultation with employees.
- Constructively engage with employees when carrying out a risk assessment.
- Ensure the result of the risk assessment is visible and communicated to employees.
- Ensure that the actions taken as the result of the assessment do not disproportionately impact those with vulnerabilities such as people with disabilities, single parents, younger or older people and consider how to support those with additional needs to comply with physical distancing.
- Mental health of employees should be factored in to the risk assessment with signposting to employer led, government and third sector support made available to staff to manage issues such as confrontation, stress and isolation as needed.

Wales
Amongst the measures in Wales, businesses are required to control coronavirus by:

- Limiting the level of face-to-face interactions
- Using physical barriers
- Increased, environmental cleanliness and providing reminders about their importance
- Washing hands well for 20 seconds with soap and drying thoroughly, or using alcohol based hand gels, before and after close contact
- Minimising loud noises which will require people to shout over them
- Wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) where sector specific guidance says it is necessary
- Recording the provision of lead names and contact details to support Test, Trace and Protect (TTP) and undertaking any necessary TTP actions required by employers
- Ensure that those with COVID-19 type symptoms are not present on the premises.

Northern Ireland Covid Secure workplaces

Guidance for businesses in Northern Ireland can be found here and SAIF members must ensure they are operating in a responsible way which helps prevent the spread of coronavirus.

England and Wales

Displaying a QR code for tracing coronavirus infections

Businesses in England and Wales with a physical location that is open to the public should display a QR code poster for visitors to scan with their smartphones using the NHS Covid-19 app, as part of the NHS's efforts to track the spread of the virus and direct people to self-isolate where required.

Because funeral directors are not specifically listed within the scope of businesses and organisations required to display a QR code, SAIF has requested clarification from the Ministry of Justice as to whether funeral homes must display the QR Code or if it is voluntary. However, it is good community service to do so voluntarily.

Further details can be found here for both England and Wales

England

Public Health England (PHE) issues guidance for wearing face coverings in funeral homes
PHE has provided guidance affecting funeral directors with regard to the wearing of face coverings in business premises. SAIF is advised that in funeral directors' premises, staff need to "wear a face covering at the customer-facing side.

If the back of the house settings are not open to the public or staff are unlikely to be in close contact with members of the public, then they will not be within scope of the face covering regulations but the business should follow the relevant Covid-19 Secure guidance from HSE and other relevant legal obligations."

We are also advised that if a "business has deemed that employees need to wear respiratory protective equipment (RPE) following a health and safety risk assessment then they should continue to do that, and they would be complying with the face covering regulations in this case."

We interpret this to mean that a mortuary staff member would be compliant if they were to enter the public area wearing their usual RPE and would not be required to don an additional face covering or swap the RPE for a face covering.

SAIF Update – 23 September

Changes to coronavirus restrictions affecting the funeral profession

SAIF members will undoubtedly be aware of significant new restrictions announced by Prime Minister Boris Johnson and the leaders of the devolved nations in the past 24 hours.

SAIF has analysed the details of the changes, which are as follows:

England

Whilst the number of people who are permitted to attend a funeral has not been altered (this remains at 30 subject to each venue's social distancing capacity), there are new measures which affect your business, specifically:

A legal requirement to follow Covid Secure workplace requirements  

As of Monday 28 September businesses in England are required by law to operate in a Covid Secure way, converting previous guidance into a legal obligation. Firms who fail to operate in a Covid Secure way may find themselves facing a fine of up to £10,000. SAIF encourages members to be fully up-to-speed on Covid Secure definitions.

Additionally, businesses:
    •    Must not knowingly require or encourage someone who is being required to self-isolate to come to work
    •    Must remind people to wear face coverings where mandated

Face coverings to be worn by staff when in the presence of customers or in public areas of the business

Staff must also wear face coverings when in the presence of customers as of Thursday 24 September, in funeral homes in England.

SAIF is seeking to establish whether face coverings are still required in the event that staff and customers are separated by a dividing screen. We will report back on this and in the interim advise assuming that you do need to wear a face covering regardless of whether there is a screen in place. 

Drivers of private hire vehicles to wear face coverings

As above, SAIF is seeking to establish whether this rule, in force today (23 September), applies to limousines with dividing screens. Again, please assume that face coverings are required.

Homeworking for all those who are able to do so

The Government is now urging employees in England to work from home over the winter if they can and SAIF encourages members to consider homeworking for non-customer facing staff where possible, as limiting human contact will help prevent the spread of the disease.

Homeworking could also be part of a Covid Secure strategy in the event that you are struggling with space due to social distancing requirements.

One approach here could be the introduction of split teams, for example, an A team and a B team, who alternate attendance at the office accordingly to minimise the risk of infection. In the event that the A team is required to self isolate, the B team would still be able to continue working.

Scotland

Ban on mixing with other households

One of the key aspects of First Minister Nicola Sturgeon's announcement was the ban on mixing with other households indoors, in force today (23 September). However, up to six people from two households are allowed to meet in private gardens or outdoor public spaces.

This does not affect SAIF Scotland members attending to removals from domestic settings and members are reminded to adhere to social distancing and infection control measures, informed by a thorough risk assessment of each situation and premises. 

Covid Secure workplaces and homeworking

Prior to yesterday's announcements, Scotland already had in place legislation to enforce workplace compliance on preventing the spread of coronavirus. Details can be found here. Additionally, the Scottish Government favoured homeworking as opposed to a return to offices.  

Face coverings in Scotland

A mandatory requirement to wear face coverings in certain settings by all people – staff and public – was already in effect, including funeral homes and in vehicles. However, there is an exemption for premises where staff and customers separated by dividing screens and we are attempting to find out whether this extends to limousines with acrylic screens. Full details can be found here.

At funeral services, only the person leading the service is allowed to remove their face covering. 

Wales

Face coverings

Many of the changes announced yesterday for England were already in effect in Wales, including the need for both staff and customers to wear face coverings in indoor public areas. Employers are also required to ensure staff wear face coverings in non-public areas where social distancing cannot be maintained. For details click here.

Northern Ireland

Mixing of households

Northern Ireland has banned mixing of households in private dwellings as of 6pm yesterday (22 September), however, funerals are exempt. Outdoors, up to six people from no more than two households are allowed to meet in a private garden but must maintain social distancing (children up to age 12 are not counted in the total). Details can be found here. 

In Northern Ireland there is no upper limit to the amount of people who may attend a funeral in a place of worship or funeral directors' premises, however, numbers are dictated by a venue's ability to host a socially-distanced-compliant gathering.

For funerals conducted at the home of the deceased or a family member, the "service can be attended indoors by up to 10 people from no more than four households, this will include any clergy/officiant conducting the service (it is anticipated that funeral director staff will remain outside during the service).

"Where a single household consists of more than 10 persons, all members of that same household can be present. However, in these circumstances, no other person may enter the home for the service, apart from any clergy/officiant. It is strongly recommended that face coverings are used for all indoor services."

Further details can be found here.

For full details of the national latest requirements and measures affecting funerals, please see the following webpages:

England
Scotland
Wales
Northern Ireland

Local lockdowns

England

There are currently nine areas in England where specific additional restrictions are in place to help prevent the spread of coronavirus. SAIF strongly encourages members to check this webpage regularly to stay abreast of the latest measures in your area.

Affected areas are: Bolton, Greater Manchester, Leicester, Luton, Northampton, North East of England, North West of England, West Midlands, West Yorkshire.

Scotland

There are currently seven areas in Scotland where specific additional restrictions are in place to help prevent the spread of coronavirus. SAIF strongly encourages members to check this webpage regularly to stay abreast of the latest measures in your area.

Affected areas are: East Dunbartonshire, East Renfrewshire, Glasgow City, North Lanarkshire, Renfrewshire, South Lanarkshire, West Dunbartonshire.

Wales

There are currently six areas in Wales where specific additional restrictions are in place to help prevent the spread of coronavirus. SAIF strongly encourages members to check this webpage regularly to stay abreast of the latest measures in your area.

Affected areas are: Bridgend, Caerphilly, Rhondda Cynon Taf, Blaenau Gwent, Merthyr Tydfil, Newport.

Northern Ireland

The new Northern Ireland-wide restrictions announced yesterday are an extension of local interventions introduced earlier this month affecting Ballymena, the Belfast city council area and postcodes BT43, BT28 and BT29.

SAIF Update – 10 August

When and where to use face coverings in England

On Friday we shared news about the requirement from Saturday 8 August for clients to wear face coverings when visiting funeral homes, and mourners when attending funeral services indoors at crematoria and burial chapels, as well as places of worship.

Further details on the new rules can be found on this Government webpage, which advises the public that "you are expected to wear a face covering before entering any of these settings and must keep it on until you leave unless there is a reasonable excuse for removing it."      

SAIF reminds members that funeral staff are NOT legally required to wear a face covering in the presence of clients, although business owners may wish to consider such a policy as part of health and safety obligations. The Government states: "Employees should continue to follow guidance from their employer based on a workplace health and safety assessment. Face coverings are not required by law for employees as employers already have a legal obligation to provide a safe working environment." 

Separately, crematoria staff should be aware of the exemptions which allow mourners to remove face coverings during a funeral service. However, to help avoid potential misunderstandings, you may want to draw clients' attention to the official template badges for people who are exempt from wearing a face covering, which can be viewed here. Clients who are exempt from wearing a face covering can also use a digital badge on their mobile phone stating their exemption. This can be found here. The Government is clear that "those who have an age, health or disability reason for not wearing a face covering should not be routinely asked to give any written evidence of this, this includes exemption cards. No person needs to seek advice or request a letter from a medical professional about their reason for not wearing a face covering."

It is also worth bearing in mind that social distancing rules continue to apply and clients visiting your premises wearing face coverings does not remove the need to keep two metres' distance. Social distancing guidelines can be found here.

Scotland clarifies venues where face coverings are required

As reported on Friday, Scotland has also widened the number of indoor venues where face coverings are mandatory. This now includes crematoria, funeral directors' premises and places of worship. Further details can be found here.

Face coverings in Northern Ireland

From today (Monday 10 August), it will be mandatory to wear face coverings in indoor public spaces. SAIF is trying to clarify whether this covers funeral directors' premises, places of worship and crematoria and burial ground chapels.

Current guidance for Northern Ireland states that "It is not mandatory to wear a face covering in a business that is able to maintain social distancing by using a system of ticketing or appointments. This might include, for example, a cinema, a hairdresser or a solicitor."  Given that this is how many funeral directors operate, we are hopeful that face coverings won't be required. Watch this space.

SAIF Update – 7 August

Guidance for Northern England lockdown updated

The DHSC has updated guidance on the restrictions in place in the north of England affecting Greater Manchester, Lancashire and West Yorkshire. The lockdown rules state that "funerals can still go ahead in these areas, but they must have no more than 30 people, and comply with COVID-19 Secure guidance and venue capacity. People living outside of these areas can travel to these areas to attend a ... funeral, but they should not meet with another household in a private home or garden." 

SAIF interprets this to mean that wakes should not go ahead. Funeral directors offering a limousine service in the local lockdown area should be aware of advice about travelling which says that people "should try not to share a car with those outside your household or social bubble."

SAIF Update – 23 July

Updates to rules surrounding face coverings in various parts of the UK

England

Face coverings in funeral homes

We are glad to advise that funeral directors and their clients are exempt from face coverings inside funeral homes under legislation released for implementation on 24 July 2020. The legislation can be viewed here.

Please bear in mind that the two-metre ruling still applies between staff and clients at the funeral home, and if this is not feasible in your premises, then the one metre plus rule applies, where for safety, a face covering for staff and clients is expected to be worn. Please see this guidance by the NHS for further information.

Full details about face coverings rules for shops and enclosed spaces can be found here.

NHS Test and Trace update:

Public Health England has issued further guidance relating to Test and Trace in England with respect to collecting customer and visitor data. It states that businesses should assist the service by:

  • keeping a temporary record of your customers and visitors for 21 days, in a way that is manageable for your business
  • assisting NHS Test and Trace with requests for that data if needed

The guidance also adds: "Businesses that take bookings, such as restaurants, hotels and hair salons, already have systems for recording their customers and visitors. If you do not already do this, you should do so to help fight the virus."

SAIF interprets this to include systems for the collection of personal data of attendees at funeral services, which should be managed by the applicant (via the crematorium) or chief mourner (via the funeral director). We see it as a crematorium's responsibility to collect the mourners' data, not at the funeral service, but prior to the service.

Wales

Limousines and funerals

SAIF understands the First Minister has indicated that face coverings will be required for public transport. Officials are believed to working on the details of the regulations and guidance which is potentially being prepared for rollout in the coming weeks.

However, the use of limousines for transporting families must follow the two-metre distancing rule, and hygiene measures (hand sanitisers, face coverings etc).

We understand this to mean single households can use limousines and should await further guidance from the Senedd.

Face coverings in funeral homes

We are informed that there isn't a currently a plan to revise guidance to require the use of face coverings in other settings such as retail. But officials have cautioned that this is "a rapidly evolving situation" so we may need to make further adjustments to guidance in the near future. We will be sure to keep you updated.

In some circumstances in Wales where it might be difficult to keep two metres' distance from people outside of your household or household bubble, the Welsh Government's advice is to use a three-layer, non-medical face covering. Further details can be found here.

Clients do not need to wear face coverings when visiting funeral homes, but follow the two-metre social distancing rule.

For Test, Trace, Protect, the lead mourner invites attendees to the funeral service: family, and close friends. The lead mourner holds this information, should the NHS need to trace and isolate.

Chapels, churches and crematoria mourner numbers are determined locally under the two-metre ruling.

SAIF will update members as soon as the Welsh Government provides clarity and further guidance on these matters.

Northern Ireland

Face coverings in funeral homes

In Northern Ireland, face coverings are not compulsory but the Department of Health recommends that they should be worn when visiting a funeral home to view a body or for an indoor funeral service in a church or funeral home.

Limousines and funerals

The Department also recommends against the use of limousines by people not from the same household. Further information about this guidance can be found here.

SAIF recognises that the Northern Ireland Department of Health's advice regarding limousines differs to SAIF's and would urge members to defer to any local official guidance in such circumstances.

Scotland

For information about rules around face coverings in Scotland please email SAIF Scotland's Government Liaison Officer Joseph Murren at govliaise@saifscotland.org.

Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) Funeral Services – release of papers

Today the CMA published the working papers for public scrutiny, including SAIF’s paper which can be viewed here.

The CMA is due to unveil its provisional model of regulation of funeral directors across the UK in the next two weeks. SAIF has been providing members' data to the CMA to show the impact of Covid-19 on funeral firms and asking the Authority to address the seismic impact on the funeral market with restricted and limited funerals. We await its response and will alert you to the outcomes from the CMA’s provisional model of regulation.

The CMA will be consulting funeral directors and holding hearings on this provisional model during the autumn. The Authority's final decision on regulation is due in March 2021.

This is a preview of a feature article.

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