Current UK Government guidance:
Who can volunteer
Anyone can volunteer during the coronavirus pandemic. However, there are restrictions on where and how volunteer roles can be completed.
People must volunteer from home unless it is not reasonably possible to do so.
People who are ‘clinically extremely vulnerable’ (high risk from coronavirus) are advised to only volunteer from home, even if they have had both doses of a vaccine against COVID-19. Please see additional guidance for more information.
Volunteering outside the home
People must volunteer from home unless it is not reasonably possible for them to do so.
People can volunteer outside their home if:
- they are unable to volunteer from home
- they don’t need to self-isolate
- they follow social distancing guidance, or COVID-secure guidance if volunteering in a workplace
This also applies to people who are clinically vulnerable, including those 70 and over.
It should always be a volunteer’s personal choice whether they wish to volunteer, including outside their home. A volunteer should not be compelled to volunteer outside their home by their organisation or group.
Business and venue closures
The government has ordered certain businesses and venues to close or to stop specific activities. This includes some workplaces and activities which involve volunteers. Your organisation or group must close your business or venue to the public or stop certain activities if required to do so under the government’s orders.
Volunteering which cannot be done from home can continue in a closed business or venue while it remains closed to the public.
Closed businesses or venues are also permitted to be used, including by volunteers, for a number of specific purposes only. This includes for the provision of food banks or other support to the homeless or vulnerable.
Volunteering in groups and around others
While volunteering, people can meet in groups of any size from different households, indoors or outdoors. Indoor venues should allow for social distancing to be maintained and have adequate ventilation.
Volunteers can also meet in groups for activities necessary for their volunteering, including recruitment and training. This does not include meeting in person as part of a social activity.
Volunteers who meet in groups or with others from outside their household or support bubble should be especially careful to follow social distancing guidance, or COVID-secure guidelines if volunteering in a workplace, and observe the following key behaviours:
- HANDS – Wash their hands regularly and for 20 seconds.
- FACE – Wear a face covering in indoor settings where social distancing may be difficult, and where they will come into contact with people they do not normally meet.
- SPACE – Stay 2 metres apart from people they do not live with where possible, or 1 metre with extra precautions in place (such as wearing face coverings or increasing ventilation indoors).
If people volunteer at a formal support group, there cannot be more than 15 participants (aged 5 and older) in the group itself. There is no limit on the number of volunteers but lower numbers of people involved will reduce the overall number of social interactions. For example, 5 volunteers could support up to 15 parents and children in a group session, to make a group of 20 in total. Support groups that have to be delivered in person can continue with up to 15 participants where formally organised to provide mutual aid, therapy or any other form of support – but they must take place at a premises other than a private home.
When volunteering in a workplace or where social distancing is difficult, then the workplace must be COVID-secure.
Volunteers should not enter other people’s homes unless it is absolutely necessary. Organisations and groups should ensure their volunteers follow COVID-secure guidelines while they are helping people in their homes.
Your organisation or group should read guidance on how to keep your volunteers and their venue safe.
The government has published a letter providing advice on doorstep political campaigning by volunteers during the national lockdown in England.
Travelling to volunteer or while volunteering
Where they are unable to volunteer from home, people can travel to reach the volunteering location, or while volunteering. This applies in England only. While travelling, they should:
- where possible, stay local – meaning avoiding travelling outside of their village, town or the part of a city where they live, unless absolutely necessary
- walk or cycle if they can – where that is not possible, use public transport or drive
- plan ahead and avoid the busiest routes, as well as busy times
- follow the safer travel guidance.
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 must wear a face covering by law in some public places unless they have a reasonable excuse for not wearing one (for example, if they have an illness, impairment or a disability).
Volunteers in retail, hospitality and leisure settings must also wear a face covering.
Volunteers should also wear a face covering indoors if they will be in:
- an enclosed public space
- a place where they cannot stay 1 metre apart from other people
- a place where they will come into contact with people they do not usually meet
Volunteers eligible for vaccines
Vaccines are currently available to a number of eligible groups, including frontline health and social care workers. Volunteers who qualify by virtue of age or clinical condition will be prioritised along with their local population. Only a very few volunteers working in front line risk settings will be eligible for early vaccination. The NHS will be in touch with people to arrange vaccination appointments when they are eligible.
Coronavirus testing for volunteers
Volunteers in essential worker roles who are showing symptoms of coronavirus are prioritised for coronavirus testing.
Some local authority areas are providing asymptomatic testing to workers and volunteers in certain roles. Volunteers can check if their local authority offers asymptomatic testing
Volunteers who can access schools or educational settings
Volunteers classified as being in critical worker roles are allowed to send their children to school or other educational settings. Where workers or staff roles are listed, this also includes volunteers in the same roles and sectors.
Accommodation for volunteers
Accommodation such as hotels, B&Bs, campsites, holiday lets and guest houses, which are otherwise ordered to close, are permitted to open for people who need to stay for volunteering purposes.
Ensuring volunteers and their workplaces are safe
Organisations and groups have a duty of care to volunteers to ensure as far as reasonably practicable they are not exposed to risks to their health and safety.
Your organisation or group should:
- take steps to ensure your workplace is COVID-secure in line with HSE guidance
- display a notice in your workplace to show you have followed the necessary steps in ensuring it is COVID-secure.
Organisations and groups should assess the risks around volunteering roles and activities and take steps to keep volunteers safe. This should include:
- the physical environment in which the volunteering activity takes place
- the role’s activities and tasks
- the individual needs of the person undertaking the role
Organisations and groups should read guidance on working safely during coronavirus. This guidance relates to several areas of work where volunteers are often involved. The guidance sets out that volunteers should be afforded the same level of protection to their health and safety as others, including workers and clients.
You can also read guidance on:
- reporting a coronavirus outbreak in the workplace
- managing low risk in voluntary organisations
- the safe use of multi-purpose community facilities
- safely managing youth sector activities and spaces
- safely managing activities in the sport and physical activity sector
- the safe use of places of worship
- how ‘informal’ volunteers can help safely
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. Organisations which are employers should read guidance on DBS checks for employers.
You can also read guidance on:
- safeguarding volunteers in volunteer-involving organisations
- safeguarding for volunteer managers
- volunteering safely in response to COVID-19
- how to help safely during the coronavirus pandemic
- 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 or who are ‘furloughed’
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.
Employees who are furloughed through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme can, during the hours they are on furlough, volunteer for another employer or organisation. During the hours they are on furlough, employees are not permitted to volunteer for their own employer or an organisation linked or associated to their employer, where their volunteering either makes money for, or provides services to, their employer or such an organisation. Charity partnerships and branches which do not have connected control with an employer are not classed as linked or associated, so volunteering is permitted. Read guidance on the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.
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.