This guidance aims to help organisations and groups understand how to safely and effectively involve volunteers during the pandemic.
Applies to England
This guidance is for people who run volunteer-involving organisations or groups, or manage volunteers. If you are interested in volunteering yourself, or are already volunteering, read guidance on how to volunteer during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
Omicron variant: changes to restrictions
New measures have been put in place as a precaution, because cases of a variant of concern have been found in the UK. There are changes to the rules in England on self-isolation, testing after international travel, and face coverings. From 4am on Tuesday 30 November, customers and staff are legally required to wear face coverings indoors in shops and on public transport services.
This guidance will be updated shortly to include more information on these changes.
COVID-19 will be a feature of our lives for the foreseeable future, so we need to learn to live with it and manage the risk to ourselves and others.
As COVID-19 restrictions are lifted, organisations and groups need to make judgements to manage the risks of coronavirus. While no situation is risk free, there are actions that can be taken to limit transmission of the virus.
Who can volunteer
Anyone can volunteer during the coronavirus pandemic.
Since Step 4 we have seen a gradual return to offices and workplaces. As workers and volunteers return, you should continue to discuss these arrangements with them to ensure they meet both organisational and individual needs. To help workers and volunteers feel safe to return, you should continue to consult them on any measures you have put in place to reduce the risk of COVID-19 spreading.
However, people should not leave home to volunteer if:
- they have COVID-19 symptoms or a positive test
- are told to self-isolate by NHS Test and Trace
The rules on self-isolation have changed. If a volunteer is fully vaccinated or under 18 and 6 months they’re not required to self-isolate if they’ve had close contact with someone with COVID-19. Organisations and volunteers can find more information about self-isolation in the guidance for:
- people who live with someone who has or might have COVID-19
- people who have been in contact with someone with a positive test result for COVID-19 who do not live with that person.
Following expert clinical advice and the successful rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine programme, people previously considered to be clinically extremely vulnerable (CEV) will not be advised to shield again. People who were previously identified as CEV are advised to continue to follow the guidance contained in Coronavirus: how to stay safe and help prevent the spread. Individuals should consider advice from their health professional on whether additional precautions are right for them.
Business and venues
Organisations and groups have a duty to manage risks to those affected by their business or venue(s). This means carrying out a health and safety risk assessment, including the risks relating to COVID-19, and taking reasonable steps to mitigate the risks identified. Working safely guidance sets out a range of mitigations organisations and groups should consider, including:
- cleaning surfaces that people touch regularly
- identifying poorly-ventilated areas in the venue and taking steps to improve air flow
- ensuring that volunteers who are unwell do not attend the workplace
- communicating to volunteers the measures you have put in place
Contact tracing records
Organisations are encouraged to continue displaying QR codes for customers wishing to check in using the NHS COVID-19 app. However, this is no longer a legal requirement.
To support NHS Test and Trace, organisations and groups should keep a record of all volunteers who come onto their premises, including their shift times on a given day and their contact details.
Travelling to volunteer or while volunteering
People wishing to travel into another nation in the UK to volunteer need to check the restrictions of that nation before doing so. Read guidance on coronavirus restrictions in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
People can leave the UK to volunteer but should check:
- guidance on international travel
- if the country you’re going to is accepting travellers and / or volunteers
- if your volunteering role is exempt from current travel restrictions
- the rules you must follow when you return to England
Ensuring volunteers and their workplaces are safe
Organisations and groups have a duty of care to volunteers to ensure that, as far as reasonably practicable, they are not exposed to risks to their health and safety.
Organisations and groups should assess the risks around volunteering roles and activities and take steps to keep volunteers safe. Your organisation or group should:
- take steps to reduce the risk of COVID-19 in line with HSE guidance
- consider how working safely guidance might apply to your organisation
Organisations and groups may want to encourage volunteers to:
- take regular rapid lateral flow tests, even if they do not have COVID-19 symptoms
- get vaccinated
- wash their hands regularly and for 20 seconds
- make sure indoor spaces are well ventilated with fresh air, or meet outdoors where possible
- consider wearing a face covering in enclosed and crowded settings where they come into contact with people they do not normally meet
- be aware that not everyone will want close contact with others
- minimise the number of contacts they have with people from outside of their household
Organisations and groups should read guidance on working safely during coronavirus. This guidance relates to several areas of work where volunteers are often involved. Volunteers should have the same level of protection for their health and safety as others, including workers and clients.
There is also guidance on other settings which may be relevant, such as the safe use of places of worship and public outdoor settings. The Health and Safety Executive has published guidance on managing risk for voluntary organisations.
You can find further guidance that has been prepared in line with guidance published by the government, such as:
- The National Youth Agency’s guidance on safely managing youth sector activities and spaces
- Sport England’s return to play guidance for volunteers
- The Fundraising Regulator’s guidance on supporting safe and responsible fundraising
Your organisation or group should think carefully about how it safeguards its volunteers and everyone who comes into contact with them. Volunteers should be recognised throughout your organisation or group’s safeguarding policies. Safeguarding should also be considered throughout your policies relating to volunteers.
Read information on how DBS guidelines have changed since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.
You can also read guidance on:
- safeguarding volunteers in volunteer-involving organisations
- safeguarding for volunteer managers
- safeguarding children and vulnerable adults during coronavirus
- guidance on handling safeguarding allegations in a charity
If you run a mutual aid group or community group you can read:
Insurance and volunteers
You should carefully consider which type of insurance cover you need to protect your volunteers and your organisation or group. Read NCVO guidance on insurance and volunteers.
Volunteer drivers who are helping those in need during the pandemic do not need to contact their insurer to update their documents or extend their cover. Read guidance on insurance for volunteer drivers from the Association of British Insurers (ABI).
Volunteers who claim benefits
People who receive benefits can volunteer while receiving their benefits, as long as they continue to meet all the conditions of the benefit they get. Read guidance on volunteering and claiming benefits.
The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (‘furlough’) has now closed.
Involving volunteers in mutual aid groups and community support groups
If you run a mutual aid or community support group, or are interested in setting one up, you can read:
- guidance for local mutual aid groups
- planning the coordination of spontaneous volunteers
- safeguarding guidance for mutual aid groups
- safeguarding guidance for informal volunteer-led groups
- advice on what volunteer-led community groups need to consider about data protection
Local information and resources
Organisations and groups can find local information and resources on involving volunteers by contacting their local Volunteer Centre.