Operating places of worship safely
A checklist of measures to help protect yourself, your staff and your customers during coronavirus
These are the priority actions to help keep your premises safe and legally compliant during coronavirus. It is your responsibility to keep up to date with developments, and you should also read the full version of the guidance regarding places of worship.
The government has published the ‘COVID-19 Response - Spring 2021’ setting out the roadmap out of the current lockdown for England. This explains how restrictions will be eased over time, including restrictions on places of worship and faith activities. Each individual place of worship is advised to review guidance for specific restrictions during these steps.
Steps you must take to protect yourself, your staff, and your customers during coronavirus:
- Complete a COVID-19 risk assessment. It is a legal requirement that you undertake a risk assessment and put in place control measures to reduce the spread of the virus. Share it with all your staff. Find out how to do a risk assessment on the HSE website.
- Places of worship and faith communities should adapt religious services, especially where ceremonies would otherwise have taken place over a number of hours or days, to ensure the safety of those present and minimise spread of infection.
- Make sure everyone is social distancing. Make it easy for everyone to do so by putting up signs, using floor markings or introducing a one-way system that people can follow. There should only be a closer distance when absolutely essential to enable a faith practice to be carried out (for example contact with the faith leader). Time spent in contact should be kept to an absolute minimum.
- Avoid the use of close contact and shared items, such as community objects to handle, touch or kiss etc. Reusable and communal resources such as prayer mats, service sheets should be removed from use, and single use alternatives provided, these should be removed and disposed of by the worshipper.
- Where food or drink are essential to the act of worship, they can be used, however the sharing of food should be avoided. Hospitality spaces within a place of worship, such as cafes, are permitted to open but must be limited to service for consumption off the premises.
- Ensure self-isolation requirements are complied with. It is a criminal offence to allow an employee who you know is required to self-isolate to come to your premises to work. Ensure that all staff know that they must inform you as soon as they know that they are required to self-isolate, including the start and end dates of their self-isolation period. This includes those who have received a positive Covid-19 test result or who have been told to self-isolate by NHS Test and Trace. Failure to do so could result in a fine starting from £1,000.
- Turn people with coronavirus symptoms away. If a staff member (or someone in their household), or a worshipper has a persistent cough, a high temperature or has lost their sense of taste or smell, they should be isolating and must not be allowed to come into work or your place of worship.
- Face coverings are required by law to be worn in places of worship unless someone is exempt. You must also prominently display signs or notices to advise that face coverings must be worn. Some exemptions apply, such as those leading services or events in a place of worship. Those exemptions will also cover the couple being married or joined in a partnership and those officiating at the wedding.
- Take part in NHS Test and Trace by keeping a record of all your customers, visitors, and staff for 21 days.
- Display the official NHS QR code poster. Official NHS QR posters can be generated online.
- Ask every customer or visitor aged 16 and over to check in to your venue or provide their contact details.
- Have a system in place to ensure that you can collect information from your customers and visitors who do not have a smartphone or do not want to use the NHS COVID-19 app. You must keep this data for 21 days and provide it to NHS Test and Trace if it is requested.
- Some exemptions apply. Check ‘Maintaining records of staff, customers and visitors to support NHS Test and Trace’ for details.
- Funerals can go ahead with restrictions - please check guidance on current restrictions.
- Weddings, civil partnership ceremonies, wakes and other commemorative events can go ahead with restrictions - please check guidance on current restrictions.
- Take precautions to stop people arriving at the same time, no matter the size of the building.
- Clean more often. Increase how often you clean surfaces, especially those that are being touched a lot. Sufficient time needs to be allowed for this cleaning to take place, particularly before reopening for the first time or between different types of permitted activities.
- Increase ventilation. Keeping doors and windows open where possible and running ventilation systems at all times. Ventilation systems should be optimised to ensure the maximum fresh air supply is provided to all areas of the premises wherever possible.
- Lower music and other background noise. Where music plays a big part in worship, and recordings are available, we suggest you consider using these as an alternative to live singing or performing. Communal singing should not take place.
- Check the guidance applicable to other activities taking place in the premises, such as formal childcare and education, support groups etc., including the requirement to maintain social distancing between different households.
For the full Government guidance please visit www.gov.uk/
Further guidance: Celebrating religious festivals during coronavirus (COVID-19)