Updated 24 September 2020
There is now a legal requirement to create COVID-secure professional environments. For recommendations and requirements in specific settings please check the government’s workplace settings guidance and the Health and Safety Executive guidance on making your workplace COVID-secure.
If for any reason working remotely with clients or patients is not possible – and that is a conversation you should be having with your supervisor in the first instance – we recommend that you access the resources linked below, where you will find essential information to help you to conduct a rigorous risk assessment. That is because every client/service user and their situation and associated risk factors are unique to them, just as your own are to you. And so is your consulting room and the routes to it. It would not be appropriate, ethical or feasible for UKCP to issue definitive ‘rules’.
Things to consider – and this list is by no means exhaustive – include:
- each client’s needs and safety
- your needs and safety
- the context of the service
- whether other options are possible, and the ethical and practical risks of any decision
- the known risk factors of age and any pre-existing health conditions for both yourself and your client(s)
- clients with particular needs who may not be able to engage using online platforms
- if your client(s) could be putting themselves at risk during the journey to and from your premises
- sharing contact tracing information with the NHS about anyone you have been in contact with.
Now as ever, your supervisor is a vital resource to help you to work through the ethical decision-making process.
In terms of the practicalities, we recommend reviewing the UK government, Keeping workers and clients safe during COVID-19 in close contact services. While it is aimed at businesses, is a useful resource with very specific advice on preparing premises and minimising risks of infection. But it is absolutely essential that you consult with your insurer before embarking on any changes to your practice to establish the nature of your cover should a client or service user make a claim (however low the chances).
Some pertinent considerations include:
- Does the space you plan to work from allow for social distancing of at least 1 metre including entrances, exits, passageways and waiting areas?
- Have you conducted a risk assessment of your premises and created a procedure checklist to mitigate the risk of contamination before, between and after seeing clients?
- If you work with others from a shared space, have you spoken with those who you work alongside to ensure that they are also applying appropriate measures and there is no risk that any of these will be compromised?
- If you work from rented premises have you checked with your landlord as to whether they have any risk assessment, sanitisation process that you need to follow?
- Will your indemnity policy cover you for in-person work?
- Will you need to make any amendments to your contract?
- Have you considered the use of facemasks?
Before embarking on any in-person work it is vital to check whether your insurer will cover you. Speak with your indemnity insurance company to specifically check whether you are covered under your existing policy or whether they are intending to add a clause. If you need to switch to another provider check the following:
- The cancellation policy of your current provider – some insurers will not provide cover for claims made against you for past practice if you do not follow their cancellation procedure.
- Any associated costs with cancelling your policy.
- Whether your potential new insurer covers you for claims against COVID-19 in addition to your general practice needs.
Please note that this guidance does not supersede any legal obligations relating to health and safety and it is important that you continue to comply with your existing obligations including those relating to individuals with protected characteristics.
If you are an employee of a service, please check your employer’s policies. If you are concerned about working safely during the pandemic, the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) has produced a resource for employers and employees outlining your rights and responsibilities.
If believe that you are under pressure to return to in-person work unsafely, please contact our Policy and Advocacy Team via firstname.lastname@example.org.
Keeping workers and clients safe during COVID-19 in close contact services
UK government PDF booklet
A guide to working safely during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak
Health and Safety Executive (HSE) website
Working safely during coronavirus (COVID-19)
UK government advice for England
Coronavirus: guide to making workplaces safer and priority sector list
Advice and guidance in Northern Ireland
Coronavirus – returning to work safely
Scottish government advice for workers and employers
Keep Wales safe at work
Welsh government advice for employers and employees