Opening Safely Resources (COVID-19)

Opening Safely - Risk Assessment (template)

Generic Risk Assessment – Example

Poster - Steps to Opening Safely

5 Steps Poster

Check List - Opening Safely

Opening Safely Check List


Information on protecting and supporting the people working in your charity or voluntary organisation, and those who use your services during the coronavirus outbreak.
  1. Preventing the spread of covid-19
  2. Protecting staff, volunteers and visitors
  3. Risk assessment
  4. Helping staff to work safely and mitigate risk
  5. Use of personal protective equipment (PPE)
  6. Employees’ rights and sick leave entitlements
  7. Events, board meetings and AGMs
  8. Supporting staff and volunteers to work from home
  9. Supporting beneficiaries/service users
  10. Supporting members of communities facing discrimination
  11. Webinars on protecting staff, volunteers and beneficiaries

1. Preventing the spread of covid-19

  • Government advice is to stay at home unless it is necessary to go out for specific reasons including work, going to the shops, exercising or spending time outdoors for recreation, or any medical need. This means you should continue to work from home if you can. See our advice on working from home. 
  • If you are going out, you must maintain a two-metre distance from people where possible.
  • People should only be travelling to work where this is clearly essential.
  • Wash your hands often with soap (or soap substitutes) and water for at least 20 seconds or use an alcohol-based hand sanitiser. This is particularly important after taking public transport.
  • Use an alcohol-based hand sanitiser that contains at least 60% alcohol if soap and water are not available.
  • 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.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces in the home and work environment.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Government advice is to reduce social interaction between people. The advice includes the social distancing measures we should all be taking, including working from home where possible.

2. Protecting staff, volunteers and visitors

  • On Monday 11 May the government provided new guidance on working safely during coronavirus. Employers should take all reasonable steps to make sure that employees can continue to work from home. But, if its not possible to work from home, and as the lockdown eases, the government has provided these guidelines for workplaces. 
  • Information: Provide clear information using your charity’s communication channels. Put posters up in your workplace, if it is still required to be open, and email staff with key information.
  • Handwashing facilities: Handwashing facilities should be available and well supplied. More regular handwashing may require more supplies. Provide hand sanitiser, tissues and cleaning products around your buildings for staff and visitors. GOV.UK has published clear and printable instructions on handwashing techniques (PDF, 130KB) which can be displayed around the workplace.
  • Cleaning regimes: Workplaces should be cleaned more frequently, paying close attention to high-contact objects like door handles and keyboards. Handwashing facilities or hand sanitisers should be provided at entry and exit points. 
  • There is government advice on social carehomecare and educational settings you may want to review if they apply to your organisation.
  • Review travel arrangements. The government is strongly advising the avoidance of all non-essential travel on public transportWherever you can, make space for bike storage and for people to shower to help people cycle, walk or run to work. Are there possible alternatives such as video conferencing? Maintain updated and clear advice for staff travelling.
  • Read NCVO guidance to understand how you can volunteer to help and support others during this time.
  • Ensure emergency contact details are up to date.
  • In relation to data protection, Bates Wells have offered advice on what information you can collect, how you can collect it, and how you can use and share it while staying compliant.
  • For specific HR-related coronavirus enquiries, the Croner helpline is now indefinitely free for all voluntary sector organisations.
  • The government has provided a list of eight guides covering a range of types of workplaces including retailfood service and vehicles. Please examine this list to find more detailed guidance relating to the services your charity provides. 
  • The Charity Retail Association has also provided detailed guidance for charity shops on how to reopen. 

3. Risk assessment

  • Before opening, you must conduct a risk assessment and consider the risks that employees face and identify measures to minimise these risks.
  • 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.
  • The Health and Safety Executive have provided interactive tools to support employers conduct a risk assessment.
  • TrustLaw created this legal checklist to help non-profits and social enterprises identify legal needs in the face of the covid-19 crisis. It is not an exhaustive list, and certain questions may not be relevant to all organisations.

4. Helping staff to work safely and mitigate risk

  • Staff must continue to work from home where possible. Think about who is essential to have on-site, such as roles which cannot be performed remotely, and those who cannot work from home due to home circumstances or unavailability of necessary equipment.
  • If some staff are returning to work, you should review layouts and processes to allow people to work further apart.
  • People must maintain two-metre social distancing where possible. This includes entrances and exits, break rooms, canteens, and similar settings.
  • Avoid hot desking. Workstations should be assigned to an individual and not shared. If they need to be shared, they should be shared with the smallest number of people possible and cleaned before the next person uses the station.
  • Where the social distancing guidelines cannot be followed in full, in relation to a particular activity, consider if this activity is necessary. If it is, take all the mitigating actions possible to reduce the risk of transmission between staff.
  • Further risk-mitigating actions could include:
    • increasing the frequency of hand washing and surface cleaning
    • providing hand sanitiser throughout the workplace
    • using screens or barriers to separate people from each other
    • using back-to-back or side-to-side working, rather than face-to-face, where possible
    • reducing the number of people each person has contact with by using fixed teams or partnering, so each person works with a limited number of others
    • staggering arrival and departure times at work to reduce crowding
    • using markings and introducing a one-way flow at entry and exit points
    • reducing maximum occupancy for lifts, providing hand sanitiser for the operation of lifts and encouraging the use of stairs where possible. Make sure that people who need to use lifts can do
    • using remote working tools to reduce the number of visits to the workplace. Where this is not possible, limit the number of visitors at one time, set specific visitor time windows and maintain a record of the visitors.
  • Have clear, consistent and regular communication with employees and service users to improve understanding and monitor any unforeseen impacts of changes to working environments.
  • For staff who continue to work from home it’s important that they are helped to stay connected with the rest of the team and to monitor their wellbeing. For more information of working from home see our section below.

5. Use of personal protective equipment (PPE)

  • The government does not encourage the use of PPE outside of clinical settings except for a small handful of roles such as first responders.
  • But 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.
  • The evidence suggests that wearing a (non clinical) face covering does not protect you, but it may protect others if you are infected but have not developed symptoms.
  • A face covering can be very simple and may be worn in enclosed spaces where social distancing isn’t possible. It needs to cover your mouth and nose. The government has developed guidance on how to make face coverings at home and use them safely.
  • Wearing a face covering is optional and employers should not rely on face coverings as part of their risk management strategy, as the benefits are thought to be small. If you do use one, make sure you wash your hands before and after touching it, and wash or replace it regularly. See the guidance on face coverings for more detail.

6. Employees’ rights and sick leave entitlements

  • People can travel to and from work, but only if they cannot work from home.
  • Staff should stay at home for 14 days if someone in their household has symptoms of covid-19.
  • If other members of the household develop symptoms during the 14 days, then they must not leave the home for seven days from when these symptoms started.
  • Those who display symptoms of covid-19 do not need to call the NHS to go into self-isolation. If these symptoms continue or worsen after seven days, then contact NHS 111 online. Those without access to the internet should call NHS 111.
  • Those in self-isolation should also refer to the government’s stay at home guidance.
  • Employees who are recommended to self-isolate are entitled to sick leave and statutory sick pay.
  • If employees are required to self-isolate due to covid-19 or displaying a high temperature or a new continuous cough then they would qualify for statutory sick pay subject to meeting eligibility requirements.
  • Employees are entitled to time off to care for a dependent. There is no statutory right to pay for this time off, but your organisation may already have a policy on this. You may want to consider revisiting this policy for the covid-19 situation. 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 on employee sick leave and sick pay entitlements can be found on the Acas website.
  • The HR consultancy Croner, an NCVO Trusted Supplier, has compiled answers to frequently asked questions about covid-19, including self-isolation and sick pay. They are now also offering unlimited access to their HR and employment law helpline to all voluntary sector organisations, free of charge.
  • If you are considering making use of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme to ‘furlough’ staff, see our advice on the scheme.

7. Events, board meetings and AGMs

8. Supporting staff and volunteers to work from home

To reduce the risk of spreading covid-19 the government has stated that people must stay at home where possible. These are some areas to consider in supporting staff and volunteers to work from home:

  • Self-care: When working from home it is good to create a space between work and personal time, where possible. This could mean setting your working hours, working in a different room, putting your laptop away. Mind has released guidance on covid-19 and caring for your mental health during self-isolation.
  • Mental health charities Mind, Samaritans, Shout and Hospice UK, with the support of The Royal Foundation, have launched Our Frontlinewhich provides a combination of 1-2-1 support and online resources for NHS staff, frontline carers, emergency services staff and all other key worker groups. 
  • Hardware: Staff will need access to computers and a good internet connection. Are you able to provide them with laptops to bring home? Where possible avoid having staff use personal devices, as this can cause issues in relation to security and data protection.
  • Software: Choose the right tools to suit your teams’ needs. Do you need a shared messaging system or a video conferencing system?
  • Meetings: Can you conduct your meeting via video conferencing or over the phone? Appoint a chair to run the meetings and select the next speaker to ensure you’re not shouting over each other.
  • Processes: Consider your team’s day-to-day processes and what’s essential to continue. What are the normal ways you share information, tasks and feedback? Can these be done when working remotely? Allow for trial-and-error. These processes can change and develop to best suit your team’s needs.
  • Support: Working remotely will bring challenges and cause disruptions to the daily working routine. It’s important that staff feel supported. Be flexible.
  • Civil Society have published an article on remote working and Zurich have also issued guidance on considerations when working from home.
  • There are many resources on offer to support charities working remotely during the covid-19 crisis. The Catalyst is providing digital guidance and support for charities. CAST have issued a guide specifically for remote meetings. Digital Candle is offering a free one hour of digital guidance for charities.

9. Supporting beneficiaries/service users

  • Generally, infections can cause more severe symptoms in 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.
  • Some of your service users or beneficiaries may be more at risk or highly concerned about the virus.
  • This time of uncertainty and self-isolation may be impacting on some of your beneficiaries’ mental health including feelings of loneliness and anxiety.
  • 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 selfrefer for help from NHS volunteers by calling 0808 196 3646. For more information see the NHS volunteers’ responders portal. 
  • NCVO will be working alongside the NHS and the Health and Wellbeing Alliance on how best to support vulnerable service users and people in our communities, and we’ll keep NCVO members updated with the latest information on this.

10. Supporting members of communities facing discrimination

  • Members of some communities are experiencing acts of racism, discrimination and verbal abuse with the outbreak of the virus.
  • Covid-19 does not discriminate and the containment or spread of the virus is not based on ethnicity.
  • These communities must feel supported and know that these acts of discrimination should not be tolerated.
  • Stop Hate UK are providing anyone experiencing or witnessing such discrimination with a confidential 24-hour third-party reporting service.

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