FHT Statement on coronavirus (COVID-19)

First published: 18 March 2020

Last updated: 19 August 2021 

The areas highlighted below indicate which sections have been added to or significantly modified since 10 August, 2021.

Throughout the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, our advice to members has been to adhere to best practice and follow government regulations and guidelines, which continue to evolve on a regular basis. 

As your professional association, we fully appreciate the implications COVID-19 has had on both your clients and your therapy practice, and we will continue to offer our advice and support where we can, based on the latest information and guidance provided by the UK governments, NHS and other authorities. Please revisit this webpage regularly, as we will update it as and when new information and guidance becomes available.

Q. Can I currently treat clients in person and do any government restrictions apply?

This very much depends on the country and area where you are working, which is why we are strongly advising members to follow guidelines and announcements issued by their local government and authorities, which are being updated on a regular basis.

In England, businesses offering close contact services are able to work - please follow the government’s guidance for shops, branches and close contact services, which was last updated on 14 July 2021. (Please note that if you provide treatments in certain settings, such as a leisure centre, hospice or hospital, you will also need to follow government guidance/restrictions for working in that particular context.)

In Wales, therapists must follow the government's Close contact services: potential reasonable measures action card (coronavirus) (published on 13 August 2021). It replaces earlier guidance aimed specifically at close contact service providers and should be read in conjunction with Alert level 0: guidance for employers, businesses and organisations.

In Scotland, therapists must follow the government's Coronavirus (COVID-19): close contact services guidane, which was last updated on 6 August 2021 and should be read in conjuction with the General Safer Workplaces Guidance.

In Northern Ireland, those providing close contact services are to follow the government’s Keeping workers and clients safe during COVID-19 in close contact services. In terms of treatment restrictions, this guidance states, "Close contact services which require workers to be within the ‘highest risk zone’ of clients (defined as the area in front of the face where splashes and droplets from the nose and mouth, that may not be visible, can be present and pose a hazard from the client to the practitioner and vice versa), for the entire duration or the majority of the time the service is being provided, should not be resumed unless mitigating actions can be introduced in line with this guidance to make them safe".

Since 23 April, close contact services have been able to resume in Northern Ireland, including mobile services. Please note that the Keeping workers and clients safe during COVID-19 in close contact services was last updated on 26 July 2021, but there have been minimal changes made since the April version. For more general COVID-19 guidance, please refer to the NI Direct website

Q. Where can I find out more information about restrictions in the area where I work?

Please see the following government webpages, which outline restrictions currently in place in EnglandScotlandWales and Northern Ireland.

When looking at restrictions that apply in the country or region where you work, some key things to look for include:

  • Any indication that close contact services or certain therapies are not permitted until further notice.
  • Whether you can continue to travel outside of your area for work purposes.
  • Whether there are restrictions on visiting certain venues/contexts where you would ordinarily provide treatments, eg. care homes.
  • Whether clients from an area outside of where you work can travel into your area, in case your country’s government is advising against this.

If you typically travel to another country in order to provide treatments, or clients travel to you from another country, please check what restrictions are in place for that country, using the links at the top of this Q&A.

If you need further clarification after reading relevant government guidelines, we will of course help where we can.

Q. Is the government offering any financial support for businesses affected by COVID-19?

In the 2021 Budget, the Chancellor laid out some additional provisions for businesses affected by COVID-19, including a fourth and fifth Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) grant (UK).

The fifth and final SEISS grant, covering May to September 2021, can be claimed for in late July and the amount of grant you receive will be determined by your turnover (if it has fallen by 30% or more, you will continue to receive the full grant, worth 80% of three months’ average trading profits and capped at £7,500 – if it has fallen by less than 30%, you will receive a 30% grant, capped at £2,850). To find out more, click here.

Restart Grants and Discretionary Business Grants (England)

The government will provide ‘Restart Grants’ in England of up to £18,000 per premises for businesses providing personal care services that were impacted by COVID-19 and government restrictions (the amount available will depend on the rateable value of the business premises).

From 1 April, the government will also be providing local authorities in England with a £425 million top-up to the Additional Restrictions Grant funding, for those businesses that are not eligible for a Restart Grant. While local authorities can decide which businesses are eligible to apply, they have been encouraged by Paul Scully MP (Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) and Nigel Huddleston MP (Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport) to consider those sectors whose businesses have been severely impacted by restrictions, which potentially includes mobile and self-employed therapists. For more information, see the government website and contact your local authority

Recovery Loan Scheme (UK)

The Recovery Loan Scheme will allow businesses of any size to access loans and other kinds of finance once the existing COVID-19 loan schemes close. Once received, the finance can be used for any legitimate business purpose, including growth and investment. The scheme launches on 6 April and is open until 31 December, subject to review. Loans will be available through a network of accredited lenders, whose names will be made available via the government website in due course.

Information about other forms of financial support, including the Coronavirus Job Extension Scheme and the VAT deferral new payment scheme – click the relevant links for more information.

For members in England, you can find more information about government financial support available here.

For members in Wales, you can find information about government financial support available here.

For members in Scotland, you can find more information about government financial support available here.

For members in Northern Ireland, you can find information about government financial support available here

Q. Is there a quick and simple way to find out if my therapy business is eligible for financial support from the government?

The government’s website has a quick and simple online support tool to help you find out what financial support is available for you and your business at www.gov.uk/business-coronavirus-support-finder. It is important to note that on the second page, you will be asked, ‘How many employees does your business have?’ If you are self-employed, simply tick the top option (0-249 employees) as you will then be asked if you are self-employed a little bit further into the process. You can also update any of the answers you have already provided, using the handy links at the bottom of the page.

Q. Is the FHT lobbying the government to represent my interests as a professional therapist during COVID-19?

Throughout the pandemic, the FHT has been working hard to ensure our members' interests are being represented, both as an individual organisation and by working collaboratively with other stakeholders. Among other things, we have:

  • Provided feedback and guidance on draft government guidance for close contact services.
  • Provided statistics, information and case studies to different UK governments to highlight the valuable contribution our members make to health and wellbeing and to facilitate their return to work as quickly as possible.  
  • Written letters to various MPs and authorities, calling for urgent action and support for the industry and, in some cases, providing templates that could be used by our members.
  • Supported/launched petitions to represent the interests of our members and the therapy industry.
  • Spoken to Cabinet Officers and Ministers about the important role that professional therapists have to play in supporting those whose health has been adversely affected by the pandemic, which will simultaneously help to take pressure off the NHS.

As a core member of the Integrated Healthcare Collaborative, we have also supported letters sent to Health Ministers across the UK (12 February), asking them to grant dispensation for complementary, traditional and natural healthcare therapists and practitioners to support intensive care staff, and other key NHS frontline workers during current COVID-19 restrictions. This action has come following recent reports of high levels of post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and anxiety in intensive care staff (please click here for more information).

On 14 December, Claudia Beamish MSP sent a letter to Jeane Freeman MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Health and Sport, asking for clarification as to why mobile therapists in Scotland are unable to work in Protection Levels 2 and 3, while mobile hairdressers can continue to do so. Claudia also highlights in her letter the significant contribution that FHT members make to their clients’ health and wellbeing and states that “Continuing to cut off access to complementary and sports therapy treatments that can help to alleviate symptoms seems short sighted.”

On 13 November, the Beauty Industry Group (of which FHT is a member) sent a letter the Prime Minister urging the government to ensure that ALL close contact services across the industry can reopen when national restrictions are lifted in England on 2 December and the country is likely to revert to a 3-tier system. The same letter was also sent to the Rt Hon Alok Sharma MP, Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), the Rt Hon Rishi Sunak MP, Chancellor of the Exchequer, and the Rt Hon Michael Gove MP at the Cabinet Office.

On 12 November, the FHT sent a letter to the First Minister, deputy First Minister and Minister for Health in Northern Ireland, asking for professional therapists to be recognised as essential workers when national restrictions are in place. 

On 9 November, the FHT sent a letter to the Rt Hon Alok Sharma, Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, asking for his support in ensuring that the inappropriate phrase ‘massage parlour’ is no longer used in legislation and Government communications, when referring to professional massage services. This matter has also been raised in various meetings with the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, and we are pleased to report that the phrase is now being increasingly substituted with ‘massage centres’ (search for the word ‘massage’ on this webpage, to see an example).

On 5 November, as a core member of the Integrated Healthcare Collaborative (IHC), we supported a letter to Rt Hon Matt Hancock MP, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, asking for CAM professionals to be recognised as essential workers so that they can continue to work during Tier 3 lockdowns and above. 

Q. When it’s safe for me to return to full practice, should I be wearing PPE/ a face covering?

As government guidelines regarding what type of PPE is considered appropriate may vary from country to country, we strongly advise members to look at sector-specific government guidelines for the country where they work.

For England, the government’s shops, branches and close contact services (Section 7) advises, among other things:

"Where you're already using PPE in your work activity to protect against non-COVID-19 risks, you should keep doing so."

This might include, for example, wearing gloves and a face mask when carrying out treatments such as facial electrolysis, which was standard practice before COVID-19. 

With regards to wearing face coverings from 19 July, the new guidance states (among other things): 

"Face coverings are no longer required by law. However, the government expects and recommends that people continue to wear a face covering in crowded, enclosed spaces.

"In close contact services, having considered the risk of COVID-19, you may decide that in your premises you're going to ask clients or staff to wear a face covering, especially where practitioners are conducting treatments which require them to be in close proximity to a person's face, mouth and nose. 

"When deciding whether you will ask workers or customers to wear a face covering, you would need to consider the reasonable adjustments needed for staff and clients with disabilities. You would also need to consider carefully how this fits with other obligations to workers and customers arising from the law on employment rights, health and safety and equality legislation.

"Some people are not able to wear face coverings, and the reasons for this may not be visible to others. Please be mindful and respectful of such circumstances."

Access to the mouth/nose are and safe use of PPE' section of the government guidance for close contact services. 

In Scotland, it is still mandatory that both therapists and clients wear a face covering, unless either party is exempt. For treatments in the mouth/nose area, the therapist must wear a Fluid Resistant Surgial Face Mask (Type IIR mask) and eye protection (goggles or a full face visor).

In Wales, it is mandatory that both therapists and their clients wear a face covering, unless either party is exempt. Having carried out a risk assessment, the therapist must ensure that the face covering they are wearing is appropriate to the risk, with the Action Card indicating that a 'reasonable measure' that practitioners should consider is the use of face mask and visor or goggles when undertaking treatment.

In Northern Ireland, the government guidance requires those offering close contact services to wear a clear visor or goggles, in addition to a Type II face mask. In terms of gloves, the guidance for Northern Ireland states "Unless crucial for the treatment, change practices to avoid any potential skin to skin contact or use gloves where possible". If you believe skin to skin contact is crucial for the treatment and wearing gloves is not possible, then it is important that you highlight this within your risk assessment, along with what other measures you have put in place to mitigate the risk of cross-infection. For those who are wearing gloves, please be aware that latex or rubber gloves can degrade when working with oil (look for nitrile-based gloves instead, or others that will not degrade if using oil).

For guidelines from the Jersey government, please refer to their Advice for businesses (Wellbeing, cosmetic and beauty services). 

Q. Do my clients need to wear a mask?

In England, the government’s Guidance for keeping workers and clients safe in close contact services states that “face coverings are mandatory for customers visiting: nail, beauty, hair salons and barbers; massage centres; tattoo and piercing parlours. Face coverings should not be removed unless essential for a particular treatment – for example, for a treatment on the face area covered by the face covering. A face visor or shield may be worn in addition to a face covering but not instead of one. This is because face visors or shields do not adequately cover the nose and mouth, and do not filter airborne particles”.

For further clarification, we contacted the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) and were advised that clients will also need to wear a face covering within a private treatment context, where complementary, beauty and sports treatments are given on a one-to-one basis, even if other people are not present.

If clients are unable to wear a face covering, eg. for health reasons or because it restricts their breathing when lying face down, this must be covered in the risk assessment and other mitigations put in place to reduce cross-infection. For guidance on face coverings, including a list of who is exempt from wearing a face covering in England, please click here.

In Scotland, clients are required to wear a face covering but may temporarily remove this to receive a treatment to the mouth/nose area, as long as the practitioner providing the treatment is wearing appropriate protective equipment (a Fluid Resistant Surgical Face Mask [Type IIR mask] and eye protection [goggles or a full face visor]). For more information and guidance, please refer to the government guidance for close contact services (updated on 6 August 2021). 

In Wales, clients are required to wear a face covering. They may remove the face covering temporarily, if this is necessary for the treatment (eg. electrolysis of the upper lip or a facial), however the therapist must consider other reasonable measures to reduce the risk of exposing either party to coronavirus (see the Action Card for examples of reasonable measures).

In Northern Ireland, clients are required to wear face coverings and this should only be removed where this is a requirement of the treatment. They state that “the period without face coverings should be kept to a minimum and careful attention paid to other mitigations such as ventilation. The client should replace their face covering as soon as this part of the treatment is finished”.

Q. Can I work from home and in my client’s home?

This will vary depending on the country/region where you work, and if there are regulations and local or national restrictions in place that affect where you can and cannot work. Please see the Q&A "Can I currently treat clients in person and do any government restrictions apply” towards the top of this webpage for more guidance.

It is also important to bear in mind that even if your country's government indicates you can work in someone else's home, or from your own home, there may be times when it is not advisable - for example, if a member of the client's household has symptoms of COVID-19.

Q. Can I treat a client who has just come back from abroad?

It is best to refer to the government website to see if clients returning from a particular country are required to quarantine, as this very much depends on whether travel between countries is permissible, as well as infection rates in that country. Please see the following weblink for more information: Red, amber and green list rules for entering England - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

Q. Do my clients need to complete a special Test and Trace form?

If you develop symptoms of COVID-19, you must use the NHS Test and Trace service, or your country's equivalent service. In the event that you test positive for COVID-19, NHS Test and Trace will contact you with instructions on how to share details of people you have been in close contact with recently, which will potentially include some of your clients. 

Under GDPR, you are allowed to share the following personal data with NHS Test and Trace, to help minimise the transmission of COVID-19 and support public health and safety:

  • The client's full name
  • A contact phone number for the client
  • The date and time of their treatment, and the length of their appointment.

For more information, see the government’s guidance on maintaining records for to support NHS Test and Trace.

To help members, we have added a simple statement to the bottom of the COVID-19 pre-treatment questions sheet, available as part of Your return to work pack.

Q. Do I need to display a special QR code poster for my clients to scan?

In England, although it is no longer a legal requirement for venues to display/share an NHS QR code poster, this is still encouraged for those providing close contact services. This will support NHS Test and Trace to contact people exposed to COVID-19, so that they can book a test. This will help to stop the spread of the virus, protect society and support businesses to stay open.

For information and advice, please call the NHS QR code helpline on T. 0800 540 4900.

In Wales, close contact service providers must understand the role of the NHS Wales Test, Trace, Protect system has in monitoring and controlling the virus and retain client details to support the NHS Wales Test, Trace, Protect Service.  

In Northern Ireland, therapists are required to hold information about their clients, visitors and staff, for a minimum of 21 days, in order to support Test, Trace and Protect in Northern Ireland. For clients, this would include a name, a contact telephone number, and the date/time of their treatment.

In Northern Ireland, smartphone users are being encouraged to use the StopCOVID NI Proximity App to help stop spread COVID-19. Use of this app is voluntary.

Q. Test and trace have told me to self-isolate after a client tested positive – do I need to, as I was wearing PPE and following government guidance? 

In the government guidance for shops, branches and close contact services in England, which covers complementary, beauty and sports therapies, it states that workers “who have been informed by NHS Test and Trace that they’re a close contact of a person who has had a positive test result for COVID-19 follow the requirement to self-isolate. See the guidance for those who have been in contact with, but do not live with, a person who has tested positive for COVID-19.” The only possible exemption to this would be for anyone who has been working in a context that requires wearing medical grade PPE as worn, for example, in hospitals – please seek further guidance from NHS Test and Trace and/or your local authority if this applies to you.

In Wales, please refer to the Welsh government's guidance on self-isolation.

In Northern Ireland, the government’s Keeping workers and clients safe during COVID-19 in close contact services (updated on 26 July) now includes a flow chart, outlining the course of action required for a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19 – refer to page 33 for more guidance from the Public Health Agency.

In Scotland, the government's Coronavirus (COVID-19): close contact services, updated on 9 August, states: “Everyone must continue to follow Test and Protect rules and guidance which means you must stay at home if you have symptoms or test positive for COVID-19. For information on self-isolation and supporting employees with Covid symptoms please the General Safer Workplaces Guidance. Anyone working in close contact services should not work at all if they have symptoms or are required to self-isolate. Self-employed practitioners should not have clients to their premises/home for services. Individuals who test positive for COVID-19 will still be required to self-isolate for ten days.”

Q. If I have to self-isolate, am I entitled to any government funding?

You may be entitled to a one-off payment of £500 through the Test and Trace Support Payment scheme if you’ve been told to self-isolate by NHS Test and Trace, or you’re the parent or guardian of a child who has been told to self-isolate. For more information, read this government guidance on Claiming financial support under the Test and Trace Support Payment scheme.

Q. Can I provide drinks/refreshments to my clients?

Government guidance varies from country to country.

In England, the government’s guidance for shops, branches and close contact services (updated on 14 July) no longer makes reference to providing refreshments to clients. As such, our recommendation would be to ask the client to bring a bottle of water with them to the appointment.

In Wales, the government’s Action Card makes no reference to providing refreshments to clients. As such, our recommendation would be to ask the client to bring a bottle of water with them to the appointment.

In Scotland, the government's guidance for close contact services (updated 6 August) no longer makes reference to providing refreshments to clients. As such, our recommendation would be to ask the client to bring a bottle of water with them to the appointment.

In Northern Ireland, the government's Keeping workers and clients safe during COVID-19 in close contact services states that clients should not allow “food or drink to be consumed […] by clients other than water in disposable cups or bottles”.

Q. Will my insurance cover me during coronavirus?

The insurance policies available through the FHT (Combined medical malpractice, public and products insurance; Personal accident cover; Business stock and equipment; Salon) do not provide income protection.

When your country’s government indicates that you can return to work, providing you follow guidelines from your country or local authority, your FHT Combined Medical Malpractice, Public and Products Liability insurance with the FHT will cover your work (as per the terms and conditions of the policy).

If you have any further queries regarding your insurance with the FHT, please contact us on info@fht.org.uk. Please could we ask you to be patient at this time, as we are receiving a very high volume of queries.

Q. Is FHT offering any training that covers how to return to work safely?

We're pleased to bring members a selection of online courses from FHT accredited course providers, to refresh and update your infection control knowledge, including: Brighton HolisticsGateway Workshops, and Jennifer Young's FREE FHT-accredited course, Control of Cross Infection in a Post-Covid World. This in-depth course is certified upon completion and comes with a logo to use on your website and other marketing materials. 

Q. With so many training events and conferences cancelled, do I still need to complete my CPD?

Please remember that classroom-based training is not the only way you can gain CPD and with social distancing measures likely to be a requirement for some time, we anticipate a lot more training providers will start offering courses online (however, please also note that not all of these courses will be recognised for membership and insurance – contact FHT at info@fht.org.uk before you pay for any online training).

You can also gain CPD points through other activities you can easily do at home, such as reflective practice, case studies, developing a marketing plan and completing the A&P spirals in International Therapist magazine. For more information please visit fht.org.uk/cpd and read our blog item, Development and learning from home.

As most of our members have online access, we have also collaborated with our accredited course providers and event speakers to put together a ‘Stay at Home' video series, to help you complete CPD, free of charge. You can take a look at the videos currently available at fht.org.uk/stay-at-home-video-series and if you complete the accompanying activity document for each video, you can also gain valuable CPD points. NB: the Stay at Home videos are for CPD purposes only and are not to teach insurable hands-on skills.

This year, we’re also pleased to deliver our annual Training Congress online, with more than 50 seminars to choose from over two days this June – for more information, please visit fht.org.uk/virtualcongress

Q. I was providing a mobile therapy service, but as I’m now supporting my clients remotely, from my own home, can a claim a tax rebate on any of my expenses?

If you are working from home, you may be entitled to claim a tax rebate on certain expenses including a proportion of how much you pay for lighting, heating, insurance, council tax and water rates.

If you work less than 25 hours a month from home, it is likely that you would have to calculate this proportion yourself. However, if you work from home for more than 25 hours a month, you can use HMRC’s simplified expenses system. This will calculate a flat rate for your allowable expenses, based on the number of hours you work from home each month, which could range from £10 up to £26 per month. (This flat rate doesn’t include telephone or internet expenses, but you can claim these by working out the actual costs – for more information see www.gov.uk/expenses-if-youre-self-employed).

Claiming a tax rebate on business expenses can only be done via a self-assessment tax return which, as a self-employed therapist, you would submit each year.

Q. As things are constantly changing, how can I keep up to date?

We will be continually reviewing and updating the content of this webpage, so please keep coming back and checking it on a regular basis. However, as the situation is constantly evolving, we would strongly recommend that you keep an eye on the latest information provided by the government and other authorities:

Q. Do you have any other information I might find helpful?

Alongside this statement, we have published some Preparing to return to practice guidelines as well as a return to work pack, which contains lots of useful resources for our members, including a template email, posters and COVID-19 policy. It is also worth keeping an eye on our blog (fht.org.uk/blog) for useful news items and resources -  here are some items we have published on the blog that you and your clients might find helpful:

Q. If I have other queries, how can I get in touch?

As we are sure you will appreciate, the FHT, its staff and board have also had to follow government guidelines to reduce the risk of spreading coronavirus, which includes working from home. 

Please contact us by email at info@fht.org.uk or call T. 023 8062 4350 (lines are open between 9am-12.30pm and 1.30pm-4.45 pm, Monday to Friday). Please note that we are experiencing an extremely high volume of queries and calls at this time. We will get back to you as soon as possible - thank you for your patience.

On behalf of everyone at the FHT, we wish you continued good health at this challenging time.

The FHT Team