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Returning to the Workplace - Where Should Charities Start?

on Friday, 11 September 2020.

As the Government eases workplace restrictions, many charitable organisations will be planning and implementing procedures for staff, volunteers, customers/clients and visitors to return safely to the charity's workplace or main premises.

The amount of information and guidance being published and the speed with which things are changing may leave many charities wondering where to start.

We highlight some key areas for your charity to consider as you plan a return to the workplace.

Health & Safety

Whilst the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak poses new hazards and challenges for everyone, it is worth going back to health and safety basics in order to understand that the overarching duties owed by charitable organisations remain substantially the same.

Particular points to consider:

  • Carry out thorough deep cleans and ensure that all buildings and facilities are safe, especially if they have been left vacant for a long period of time.
  • Review and monitor relevant up to date guidance and ensure that appropriate actions are taken in accordance with that guidance.
  • Review your charity's health and safety policies and procedures in light of the coronavirus outbreak and consider any changes that may need to be made.
  • Provide relevant health and safety training to allow your staff and volunteers to do their jobs effectively and safely. Some roles may require more specific training in addition to understanding the key messages.
  • Carry out a coronavirus risk assessment in relation to the additional risks posed by the coronavirus outbreak and share this with staff, volunteers, beneficiaries and customers/visitors where required.
  • Consult with staff and volunteers (and stakeholders, where appropriate) in order to update and amend your working practices.
  • Review your working environment and practices to ensure that they are as safe as they can be.
  • Provide staff with any equipment, including personal protective equipment or clothing (PPE), necessary for their role, where required.
  • Ensure that your trustees, your staff and volunteers are aware of what to do in the event that they or someone else has coronavirus, or suspected coronavirus symptoms - including those in relation to self-isolation and Track and Trace.

There is lots of guidance out there (some of it conflicting), but we always recommend that you start with the following before considering any relevant sector specific guidance:

Once you have reviewed the more general guidance, you should also consider any sector specific guidance. For example, the Government's suite of 14 separate guides including:

The Government's COVID-19: Guidance for safe use of multi-purpose community facilities guidance also contains some general guidance about the use of community centres, village halls and other multi-use community facilities.

Depending on the sector in which your charity operates, there may also be further detailed guidance produced by specific organisations in partnership with the relevant Government department. For example, see guidance that the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport has contributed to.

Coronavirus charities blogs


In addition to ensuring that you comply with your health and safety obligations, it is important that charities continue to have regard to your overarching safeguarding obligation to take reasonable steps to protect all those who come into contact with your charity from harm.

This includes a charity's staff and volunteers as well as all those it works with.

The Charity Commission has emphasised that "now more than ever it is critical to ensure that charities protect and safeguard their beneficiaries, volunteers and staff".

The Charity Commission expects all trustees to ensure that their charity takes appropriate steps to fulfil this obligation, including ensuring that it:

  • has appropriate policies and procedures in place and these are followed by all trustees, volunteers and beneficiaries
  • undertakes checks to ensure that people are suitable to act in their roles
  • knows how to spot and handle concerns in a full and open manner
  • has a clear system of referring or reporting to relevant organisations as soon as concerns are suspected or identified
  • follows statutory guidance, good practice guidance and legislation relevant to their charity
  • is quick to respond to concerns and carry out appropriate investigations
  • has enough resources, including trained staff/volunteers/trustees for safeguarding and protecting people

Read the full details of the Charity Commission's general safeguarding expectations and its suite of guidance on coronavirus.

Charities will need to ensure that their policies and procedures are reviewed in light of the coronavirus pandemic, and are updated as necessary to ensure they remain fit for purpose and in accordance with the latest guidance. This includes support for mental health challenges and changes to staff codes of conduct and disciplinary procedures where necessary.

You should also ensure that staff and volunteers receive additional training so that they are able to handle safeguarding concerns effectively and in accordance with any new procedures in place.

The National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO) has also issued specific guidance aimed at helping charities to support their staff, volunteers and beneficiaries and keep them safe.

How We Can Help

VWV has prepared many resources and frequently asked questions which are available on our free, Charities OnStream platform to help you understand some of the key issues you may be faced with arising from the coronavirus pandemic.

This includes topics such as:

  • face coverings, personal protective equipment and hygiene measures
  • the main reporting obligations of charities in the event of a case of coronavirus
  • restrictions around the number of people who may attend meetings and events
  • the practicalities of re-opening main premises and/or commercial facilities
  • the kinds of activities organisations can organise and offer

VWV can also provide bespoke advice relating to your coronavirus-related health and safety, safeguarding, employment queries and concerns.

For further information or support please contact Natalie Wargent in our Regulatory Compliance team on 07468 698 955, or your usual contact in the Charity Law team. Alternatively, please complete the form below.

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