Frequently asked questions
Please find below a range of frequently asked questions for funeral firms about operating during the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak. If you have a question that is not answered here, please email email@example.com.
The Coronavirus Act 2020 which received Royal Assent on Wednesday 25 March 2020 has made changes to the regulation of cremations. Click here for Ministry of Justice guidance.
On 19 April, a change was announced to Cremation Medical Certificate (form 4). It was updated to provide for a medical practitioner completing the form on their computer or other device to embed an electronic signature. This will enable the form to be sent via another person’s email account, such as a medical administrator, without the form having to be first printed and signed.
You can find the form by clicking here.
You may wish to pass this information to medical practitioners who may be requested to complete a cremation medical certificate.
The NAFD does not recommend that members undertake, or assist in, the activity of death verification at this time (either on their own or through a video call to a GP) and the Government has made it clear that funeral directors should not feel under pressure to do so. NAFD members are also advised that verifying death is not supported as a recognised activity under the NAFD membership Professional Indemnity cover.
If you decide to undertake this activity, you should check whether it is acceptable to your Employers and Public Liability insurers and seek relevant Professional Indemnity insurance that will protect you for this activity. Please be aware it is unlikely to be construed as a normal activity of your business as a funeral director and may not therefore be covered by your insurance arrangements.
The government has categorised all those responsible for ‘management of the deceased’ as key workers. This is deliberately broad term to ensure employees of funeral homes, cemeteries, crematoria and other key firms can seek support with childcare as needed.
Funeral firms should follow the specific guidance for their part of the UK:
- England and Wales: Click here to visit the PHE guidance for care of the deceased (last updated 12 May 2020).
- Scotland: click here for links to guidance issued by the Scottish Government (last updated 13 May 2020).
- Northern Ireland: interim guidance has been issued by Department of Health – Northern Ireland, click here to download a copy.
The most recent Public Health England guidance indicates that, while body bags are not necessary when collecting someone known or suspected to have died from COVID-19 for infection control purposes, their use could be of practical importance for funeral directors when collecting the body of a deceased person from the place where they have died in the community.
We are advised by the Cabinet Office that funeral service employees are on the list of frontline workers that will be tested.
On 6 March, the Department for Health and Social Care and the Cabinet Office, confirmed that funeral directors will shortly be able to access the stocks of PPE through their local resilience forum.
Click here to find details of your local resilience forum.
The guidelines for funerals are designed to minimise the risk of transmission between mourners and to key workers (including funeral, cemetery and crematorium staff) so apply equally to all funeral services.
In line with Government guidance, funeral services should only be attended by:
- members of the person’s household
- close family members
- if the deceased has neither household or family members in attendance, then it is possible for a modest number of friends to attend
This remains unchanged following publication of the Government's COVID-19 recovery strategy on 11 May 2020.
No specific number has been set by the Government (other than in Northern Ireland, where the Department for Justice has recommended 10) but venue managers may set maximum numbers based upon the ability of each mourners to observe social distancing guidelines.
Government guidance also makes it clear that close families who are in high-risk categories or are self-isolating should be enabled to attend.
We have created a Frequently Asked Questions covering a wide range of questions about funerals during COVID-19, please click here to visit the FAQ page.
In line with Public Health England guidance, published on 31 March 2020, families are urged not to seek to delay the funeral.
It is not clear when it will be possible to lift the restrictions and some aspects of them may remain in force for many months. The law allows for the restrictions to last for up to two years. It is also possible that restrictions may be tightened further and funerals may take place with no mourners permitted to attend.
For all of these reasons, and to ensure organisations managing funerals are able to cope with the increased number of deaths, families are advised to work with funeral directors to arrange a small, immediate family funeral service now and a larger memorial service or celebration of life at a later date.
If the hospital does not remove the pacemaker prior to the funeral director taking the deceased person into their care, Public Health England guidance confirms that embalmers may undertake this procedure using the appropriate PPE. The British Institute of Embalmers has issued specific guidance on this process to its members and the Department of Health and Social Care has confirmed that funeral directors will be able to access PPE supplies through their local resilience forum. You can find your local forum by clicking here. However, we are aware that some funeral directors’ own policy is not to embalm or remove pacemakers from confirmed or suspected COVID-19 cases.
The National Association has discussed this issue with the Department for Health and Social Care and has expressed concerns, on behalf of member firms, that many employees who are going out to collect deceased people are not medically trained or experienced in verifying that death has occurred and it is therefore not appropriate for them to undertake this role. The DHSE fully understands these concerns and we have agreed to jointly keep this under review as the situation develops.
On 17 April, the government published new guidance for councils which outlines contingency measures as set out in Schedule 28 of the Coronavirus Act.
These powers allow councils to issue direction if required on whether to bury or cremate someone (wishes of deceased to be taken into account as far as possible), to direct crematoria to operate longer hours and to direct funeral directors to have shorter services.
The government has always been clear that these will only be triggered in exceptional circumstances if there is a public health risk, and do not anticipate that giving councils such powers will be necessary. They can only be triggered if the Secretary of State deems that such action is necessary.
While every indication suggests these are powers that will never be used, it is important to know that they are there and what the implications might be.
The Secretary of State or Minister for the Cabinet Office will only designate a local authority where they consider that as a result of Coronavirus there is, or is likely to be, insufficient capacity in that authority’s area to transport, store or dispose of deceased bodies or human remains.
Any decision to switch on the new local authority powers will be based on a number of factors, including whether funeral directors comply with Local Resilience Forum/local authority requests to take appropriate action within their area that assists capacity. The Act already gives LRFs this power. At the moment they’re asking nicely and funeral directors are advised to comply as best they can.
It is therefore important that funeral directors seek to cooperate with LRFs and do all they can to provide information when asked.
You should only make a report under RIDDOR (The Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 2013) when:
- an unintended incident at work has led to someone’s possible or actual exposure to coronavirus. This must be reported as a dangerous occurrence.
- a worker has been diagnosed as having COVID 19 and there is reasonable evidence that it was caused by exposure at work. This must be reported as a case of disease.
- a worker dies as a result of occupational exposure to Coronavirus.
FInd out more from the Health and Safety Executive here.
The Deceased Management Advisory Group (DMAG), which the NAFD is part of, has received a number of reports concerning body bags, PVC and placing of items in coffins.
DMAG strongly urges funeral directors to follow government advice to use a single body bag, made from materials which do not include PVC, and ensure plastic or other items are not placed in the body bag or coffin.
Read the full guidance here.
The National Association of Funeral Directors is today (20 May 2020) urging the Government to…
Following consultation with the NAFD and others, Public Health England has published an update to…
Given the continued importance of social distancing and the significant risk of a second peak…