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Supporting staff, volunteers and beneficiaries and keeping safe

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Information on protecting and supporting the people working in your charity or voluntary organisation, and those who use your services during the coronavirus outbreak.

Prevention and social distancing

  • The government has introduced a three-tiered local level alert system with increasing restrictions: medium, high, very high.
  • Restrictions on what you can and cannot do will depend on which local covid alert level you live, work or travel in.
  • Check the local covid alert level of your local area to see which level applies to you.
  • Within each level it is important that you help to mitigate the spread of covid-19 by:
    • working from home where possible
    • limiting the amount of travel; walk or cycle if you can
    • remembering ‘Hands. Face. Space’:
      • Hands: wash your hands regularly and for 20 seconds. 
      • Face: wear a face covering in indoor settings where social distancing may be difficult, and where you will come into contact with people you do not normally meet. 
      • Space: stay two metres apart from people you do not live with where possible, or at least one metre with extra precautions in place (such as wearing a face covering or increasing ventilation indoors). 
  • Within this three-tiered system, there are exceptions where you can meet people outside of your household or in groups larger than six people. These exceptions include:
    • for work or the provision of voluntary or charitable activities
    • providing support to a vulnerable person
    • support groups - formally organised groups to provide mutual aid, therapy or any other form of support.  
  • Read government guidance on local covid alert levels to find out more about other exceptions.
  • Multi-purpose community facilities following covid-secure guidance can host more than 6 people in total. However, people must remain in a group of no greater than six and members of one group cannot socialise with members of another group. If a multi-purpose community facility is based in an area on high or very high alert, then additional restrictions may apply, and the local covid alerts page should be referred to for more details. Read the government guidance on the safe use of multi-purpose community facilities.

Risk assessment

  • Before restarting work, organisations must ensure the safety of their workplace by carrying out a risk assessment in line with HSE guidance.  
  • You must consult with the health and safety representative selected by a recognised trade union or, if there isn’t one, a representative chosen by workers. 
  • Once you have completed your risk assessment you should share the results with your workforce and consider publishing the results on your website. The government has issued a notice for you to display in your workplace to show you’ve followed this guidance. 
  • Use our risk register template to help you identify and manage key risks.  

Returning to work safely

  • Government advice is that people should work from home if they can. See supporting staff and volunteers to work from home.  
  • If your staff can’t work from home, they can only return to work if you make sure your workplace is covid-secure. See the government guidelines for workplaces in England on working safely during coronavirus. 
  • There is specific government advice for businesses and organisations providing home caresupported living services and education and childcare. 
  • If any of your staff or anyone in their household has symptoms of coronavirus, they must not come to work. See Employee rights and sick leave entitlement.  
  • There is specific government advice on social care, education and childcare you may want to review.   
  • From 28 September, businesses and organisations face stricter rules on making their premises covid-secure. 
  • The government’s recovery plan sets out that you should go to work if you cannot work from home and your business has not been required to close by law.  
  • Before returning to work, the government has set out 5 steps that businesses should take to ensure safe working. 
  • In returning to work, the government has provided guidelines for workplaces   
  • There is specific government advice on social careeducation and childcare you may want to review.  
  • In the workplace, where possible, a 2m distance should be kept between peopleThis can be done by putting up signs or using floor tape to remind employees about the social distancing measures. Avoiding shared workstations.  Arrange one-way traffic through the workplace.  
  • Where it is not possible for people to be 2m apart, the government recommends staying at least 1m apart and taking other precautions to mitigate the risk. This can include using screens or barriers to separate people from each other. Staggering arrival and departure times. Reducing the number of people each person has contact with by using ‘fixed terms or partnering..  
  • You should have clear, consistent and regular communication with staff and service users to help them understand these changes and to be aware of any effects on them. 
  • St John’s Ambulance have produced a digital tool to help you find out how you can work safely during covid-19. 
  • Eversheds Sutherland have developed a business restoration planning checklist highlighting key areas to consider in returning to work.  
  • Croner, an NCVO Trusted Supplier, have developed a back to work guide for businesses.  
  • The Charity Retail Association has also provided detailed guidance for charity shops on how to re-open. 

Supporting NHS Test and Trace

  • NHS Test and Trace helps reduce the spread of covid-19 by finding people who have recently been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for the virus 
  • Hospitality, tourism and leisure venues, close contact services and local authority facilities (including community centres, libraries and village halls) must keep records of their staff, customers and visitors for NHS Test and TraceA full list of organisations who must do this can be found in the governments guidance.
  • These venues must:  
      • Ask at least one member of every group of customers or visitors (up to six people) for theicontact details, including:  
      • Name  
      • Phone number, or if this is not available an email or postal address  
      • Date of visit  
      • Arrival time and, if possible, departure time 
      • The name of their assigned staff member, if they have one.   
  • In England, people can also give these details by checking in using an official NHS QR posterHowever, you must have a way for people without a smartphone to give their contact details too. 
  • Each person is responsible for making sure their contact details are correct. 
  • If someone doesn’t want to give their details or gives incorrect informationyou don’t need to refuse them entry unless you are a hospitality venue. However, you should encourage them to give their details and advise them their information will only be used to stop the spread of covid-19. 
  • Read the government’s guidance on which visits are exempt from these rules.  
  • Keep a record of all staff working on their premises each day, their shift times and their contact details. 
  • Keep these records of customers, visitors and staff for 21 daysshare them with NHS Test and Trace if asked, and securely dispose of or delete them after 21 days. 
  • Display an official NHS QR code poster from 24 September 2020, so that customers and visitors can ‘check in’ using this instead of giving their contact details if they choose to. Find out more about NHS QR codes and how to make them on the NHS covid-19 app website 
  • Follow General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) 
  • These rules apply to any business or organisation that provides an on-site service and to any events that take place on its premises. 
  • Failure to follow any of these rules will result in a fixed penalty fine.  

Continuing your operation

Cleaning, handwashing and hygiene procedures

  • Cleaning, handwashing and hygiene procedures are key to reducing the risk of coronavirus in the workplace. HSE have produced guidance on cleaning, hygiene and hand sanitiser. 
  • You should increase the level and frequency of cleaning to ensure that all surfaces and equipment are clean.  Pay close attention to high-contact objects like door handles and keyboards. 
  • Workplaces should use signs and posters to help employees and volunteers practice good hand washing techniques. GOV.UK has published clear and printable instructions on handwashing techniques (PDF, 130KB) which can be displayed around the workplace.    
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in a bin. You can download a ’Catch it, Bin it, Kill it’ poster (PDF, 940KB) for your workplace from the NHS.  

Use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and face coverings

  • The use of PPE is not required outside of clinical settings except for a small handful of roles such as first responders. 
  • If your risk assessment does show that PPE is required, then you must provide this PPE free of charge to staff and volunteers who need it. Any PPE provided must fit properly. HSE has developed guidance on using PPE at work 
  • In England, people are required by law to wear a face covering on public transport and in some indoor settings. Read the government guidance on face coverings.
  • In England, you are required to wear a face covering on public transport.  There are also a number of indoor settings where a face covering is required. Government guidance specifies where
  • The government has advised that you should also wear a face covering in indoor spaces where social distancing will be difficult, and you will come into contact with people you do not normally meet.    
  • Face covering needs to cover your mouth and nose. The government has developed guidance on how to wear a face covering.

Supporting beneficiaries/service users 

  • Some of your service users or beneficiaries may be more at risk or highly concerned about the virus.  
  • People who are clinically extremely vulnerable have been identified as being at the greatest risk of severe illness from covid-19. 
  • People who are clinically vulnerable do not need to shield at the moment. They can go out as much as they like but should keep social interactions low. When out, they should try and maintain a 2m social distance or 1m with other precautions.   
  • The government has developed guidance for those who are who are clinically vulnerable and specific guidance for if there is a local lockdown in your area.
  • If you are supporting people with weakened immune systems, older people, and those with long-term conditions like diabetes, cancer and chronic lung disease see the section on resources from charities for different groups.  
  • This time of uncertainty and self-isolation may be impacting on some of your beneficiaries’ mental health including feelings of loneliness and anxiety. Mind have developed a list of useful contacts to support with mental and physical wellbeing.  
  • Where possible, it is important that your charity provides them with clear and updated information on prevention measures, government action and your charity’s response and explain how this will impact or benefit your beneficiaries. 
  • Charities can encourage people who are self-isolating, and need some help with shopping, a prescription collection or a friendly chat, to self-refer for help from NHS volunteers by calling 0808 196 3646. For more information see the NHS volunteers’ responders portal

Supporting staff and volunteers to work from home  

Employee rights and sick leave entitlement  

  • If staff have symptoms of covid-19, however mild or if they have received a positive covid-19 test result, the clear medical advice is to immediately self-isolate at home for at least 10 days from when the symptoms started. Anyone in their household must self-isolate for 14 days. 
  • Staff should stay at home for 14 days if:
    • someone you live with has symptoms or tested positive
    • someone in your support bubble has symptoms or tested positive
    • you have been told to by NHS ‘test and trace’ service.
  • If staff develop symptoms during this isolation period, they should restart a 10-day isolation period from the day they developed symptoms.
  • See government guidance about households with possible or confirmed coronavirus symptoms
  • Employees who self-isolate are entitled to sick leave and statutory sick pay from the first day they are absent from work if:
    • they have coronavirus
    • they have coronavirus symptoms
    • someone in their household has coronavirus symptoms
    • they have been advised to stay at home by a doctor because of underlying health conditions
    • they have been told to self-isolate by a doctor or NHS 111
    • they've been told to self-isolate by a government 'test and trace' service.
  • Staff are no longer eligible for statutory sick pay on the basis of being advised to shield by the government. See government guidance on shielding and protecting people who are clinically vulnerable.
  • If there is a local or national lockdown, some people may be contacted by a health professional advising them to continue shielding.
  • Additionally, employees who are unable to work because of caring responsibilities are eligible for the furloughing scheme, see the furloughing section for more details.  
  • Working Families has coordinated guidance for working families during covid-19.  
  • Further advice for employers and employees can be found on the Acas website.  
  • Croner, an NCVO trusted supplier, are offering unlimited access to their HR and employment law helpline to all voluntary sector organisations, free of charge.  Call 0844 561 8133.  
  • For the more information on the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, see our advice on the scheme.  

                Annual leave and furlough

                • Employees on furlough continue to build up:
                  • statutory holiday entitlements 
                  • additional holiday provided under their employment contract.
                • While on furlough employees can take holiday without disrupting the terms of their furlough. For example, if an employee is on furlough for four weeks and takes five days holiday during that furlough period, the start and end dates of that furlough period remain the same and will not be extended by five days. 
                • Employees on furlough can request holiday through the usual channels at work. 
                • Workers on furlough must get their usual pay in full, for any holiday they take while on furlough.
                • Standard notice requirements still apply if:
                  • requesting an employee to take holiday
                  • refusing a request for holiday. 
                • If requiring an employee to take holiday during furloughconsider any restrictions the employee is under. For example, social-distancing or self-isolation would prevent them from enjoying leisure time - a fundamental purpose of holiday. 
                • As of 27 March, the law changed regarding carrying over annual leave into the next calendar year.   
                • Employees can now carry annual leave forward into the next two years.  This is the case where the impact of covid-19 meant it was not reasonably practicable’ to take leave in that year. To check what can be considered ‘reasonably practicable,’ refer to the government guidance. 
                • For more information on holiday entitlement and pay during covid-19, refer to the government guidance.

                Supporting members of the community facing discrimination  

                • Members of some communities are experiencing acts of racism, discrimination and verbal abuse with the outbreak of the virus.   
                • The containment or spread of the virus is not based on ethnicity.   
                • These communities must feel supported and organisations need to demonstrate that these acts of discrimination will not be tolerated.   
                • Stop Hate UK are providing anyone experiencing or witnessing such discrimination with a confidential 24-hour third-party reporting service.  

                Taking an inclusive approach to covid-19   

                More information on this can be found in ourblog.  

                Guidance for trustees

                Trustee duties and responsibilities


                • If you are a charitable company or a Charitable Incorporated Organisation (CIO), the Corporate Insolvency and Governance Act 2020 means that you can host your AGM or other members’ meetings (not trustee/director meetings) online, even if this is not authorised by your governing document. 
                • These relaxations now apply till 30 December 2020.
                • You must make sure that the decision to use these provisions is recorded in the minutes and that all other meeting requirements are met. For further information see Bates Wells’ guidance.
                • For other types of meetings or any other type of charity, you should check whether your governing document allows you to hold meetings online or by telephone.
                • If your governing document does not contain a clause allowing remote board meetings, an alternative may be to amend your governing document to allow meetings to be held in this way. 
                • If you need to postpone, adjourn or cancel your AGM or other meetings as a result of covid-19, you need to make sure that you follow any rules in your charity’s governing document that allow for postponement, adjournment or cancellation. 
                • If there are no rules in your governing document, but you decide that this is still the best course of action for your charity, you should record the reasons for this decision to demonstrate good governance. For further information see the Charity Commission guidance.    
                • The Corporate Insolvency and Governance Act 2020 allowed AGMs to be postponed until 30 September 2020. This period has not been extended. 
                • Our webinar on governing during a pandemic explored some of the key things to think about when meeting remotely and the Association of Chairs has developed some tips for board meetings during the crisis

                Webinars on protecting staff, volunteers and beneficiaries

                Governing during a pandemic: What are the key things trustees need to be focused on?

                Assessing health and safety risk in uncertain times

                Board leadership: Supporting your charity though the next phase of the coronavirus pandemic

                Making decisions in tough times

                Building organisational resilience: Things for small charities to consider

                The easing of lockdown: Legal and practical considerations for returning to work

                Easing of lockdown – practical considerations for managing and supporting staff

                How to manage operational change in a time of uncertainty

                Safeguarding through covid-19 and beyond

                Page last edited Oct 22, 2020

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