FHT Statement on coronavirus (COVID-19)

First published: 18 March 2020

Last updated: 4 March 2021 and 5 March 2021

This statement has recently been updated. The areas highlighted indicate which sections have been added to or significantly modified since 1 March 2021.

PLEASE ALSO SEE OUR PREPARING TO RETURN TO PRACTICE GUIDELINES FOR MORE INFORMATION.

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 daily 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. There are currently restrictions in place - can I still treat clients?

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 need to follow the government’s Guidance for keeping workers and clients safe in close contact services.

On 22 February 2021, the Prime Minister announced the government’s roadmap for easing COVID-19 restrictions in England. It involves four distinct steps, which will rely on four ‘tests’ being met between each step, with close contact (personal) services due to reopen as part of  Step 2. If all goes to plan, this would mean that our members in England will be able to reopen for business on 12 April. Please note that we are already in conversation with the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) to clarify some of the finer details and as soon as we are in a position to offer our members more substantial information, we will be in touch.

In the meantime, unless we are advised differently or England has reached Step 2 in the roadmap, the current guidance remains the same: that close contact services should only be provided to support clients who have a genuine health condition/medical need that requires urgent treatment and cannot be deferred. For more information, please see the government's guidance on closing certain businesses and venues in England and the email we sent to members on 7 January.

Please note that on the 1 March, the FHT received confirmation from the government that training in personal care serives in private schools and colleges of further education can resume from 8 March, providing that all necessary government guidelines are adhered to, including guidance produced by the Department of Education.

In Wales, businesses providing close contact services - including complementary, sports and beauty therapy – must follow the government's Close contact services businesses: coronavirus workplace guidance.

Level 4 restrictions have been in force in Wales since Sunday 20 December 2020. This means that close contact services are currently closed, however the following exceptions have been outlined on the Welsh government's website: "Treatments or services which are providing medical treatments for illness or injury. These would include therapists who are working alongside or in conjunction with a statutory regulated health professional - for example, a sports therapist based in a clinic owned by an osteopath, or working alongside doctors or nurses in a hospital or hospice to help support patients receiving medical treatment. Services that provide non-cosmetic laser / IPL medical treatment for illness or injury would also be permitted." 

We contacted the Welsh government for clarification as to whether the services outlined above could be provided in the client’s home or from a treatment room in the therapist’s home, providing the therapist receives a referral from a statutory regulated health professional. The Welsh government advised the FHT that therapy services should “take place in a secure, dedicated environment, where this is possible. If this is not possible, providing the therapist has received a referral from a statutory regulated health professional, for a medical/clinical reason which cannot be safely deferred until after alert Level 4 restrictions are lifted, work carried out in people’s homes can continue. This has to be managed in a safe way and both the worker and household members must be well and have no symptoms of coronavirus. Physical distancing will need to be observed whenever possible. However, we recommend that people consider whether the work can be safely deferred until after alert Level 4 restrictions are lifted. Like other businesses, people working in someone else’s home must take all reasonable measures to ensure they mitigate the risk of coronavirus spreading when working in other people’s households. Please see the guidance on reasonable measures and on working in other people’s homes for more information. It is also recommended that no work should be carried out in any household where someone is isolating.”

In a press release published by the Welsh government on 19 February, it states that "the next three-week review of the regulations will consider the restrictions around non-essential retail and close contact services". As soon as we have more information, we will of course update our members Wales.

[Updated 5 March 2021]
In terms of treatment restrictions in Wales, please note that the government still 'strongly advises' therapists not to provide ‘high risk’ treatments (on or directly in front of the client's eyes, nose and mouth), and should only contemplate carrying out such treatments if "you are wearing the right grade PPE - a Fluid Resistant Surgical Face Mask (FRSM) plus eye protection (goggles or full face visor) and disposable gloves and apron and you have been trained in the use of PPE including how to put it on and take it off". If providing Indian head massage, thermal auricular therapy or earlobe piercing in Wales, these can only be completed if the therapist works “side by side or from the back of the head and avoids prolonged periods of activity in the high-risk zone (the area directly in front of a client’s eyes, nose and mouth) for the majority of the time that it takes to complete the treatments”. Saunas and steamrooms should also remain closed. For more information, including PPE requirements, please see sections 3.1 - 3.5 of the government's Close contact services businesses: coronavirus workplace guidance.

In Scotland, therapists must follow the government's guidance for close contact services.

With the exception of some of the islands, the majority of Scotland is now in Protection Level 4, also referred to as ‘stay at home’. In Protection Level 4, all close contact services (static or mobile) must close, with very limited exceptions. To learn more, please read the email we sent to members on 21 January 2021.

A number of the island areas will remain in Protection Level 3, which the government will continue to review. In a Protection Level 3 area, close contact services from fixed premises are permitted, but not mobile therapy services. Find out which Protection Level applies in your area.  

On 23 February, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced that Scotland will return to a levels system of restrictions from the last week of April, with all of Scotland moving to at least level 3, “with some possible adjustments”. More detail about the order in which parts of the economy will reopen will be published mid-March. For more information, please see this news article published on the Scottish government’s website.

In terms of treatment restrictions in Scotland, any treatment that involves working in the high risk zone (in front of the face) can only be carried out if the service provider can do this from “the side of the face or behind the head”. For more information and guidance developed specifically for those offering close contact services in Scotland, please view this webpage on the Scottish government website. You can also read some FAQs about close contact services in Scotland here.

The government has also published some extra guidance for those providing mobile close contact services and a 'close contact services checklist' (see the dropdown tab for 'Supporting files' on their close contact services information page).

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."

At a press conference on 18 February, First Minister Arelene Foster announced that national restrictions will remain in place until at least April and that a framework for exiting the lockdown will be published on 1 March. (For more information, please see this news item.)

According to information currently available on the NI Direct website, while these restrictions in Northern Ireland are in place, “close contact services, such as hairdressers, beauticians, make-up and nails, tattoo and piercing parlours, tanning shops, massage, electrolysis, well-being and holistic treatments […] are not permitted to operate. […] This also applies to those who provide mobile close contact services from their homes and in other people’s homes, those in retail environments, as well as those studying hair and beauty in vocational training environments. Exemptions apply for film and TV production; for services ancillary to medical, health and social care services; and sports massage and therapeutic services for elite athletes.”

We contacted the Department of the Economy in Northern Ireland for clarification regarding “services ancillary to medical, health and social care services”, and whether this might apply to close contact services offered by our members in certain circumstances. We were advised that “if the service is provided under the auspices of a GP or Health Trust procured package, then your members should be able to continue providing this service to clients, either in their own establishment or in the client’s domestic setting, subject to following the close contact services guidance/ PPE  requirements.” It is therefore FHT's understanding that members In Northern Ireland can continue to provide therapy services:

  • in a hospital or hospice, where the member works alongside statutory regulated health professionals, such as doctors and nurses, to help deliver the patient's overall care plan.
     
  • in a private setting, for example, a clinic, the client's home or the therapist's home, where the member has received a referral from a statutory regulated health professional, such as a doctor or physiotherapist. 
     
  • Sports massage therapy is also still permitted, if provided to an elite athlete, in any context ('elite athlete', as defined in the Health Protection (Coronavirus, International Travel) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2020).

For more information, please refer to The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (No. 2) (Amendment No. 24) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2020 and the NI Direct website.

Please be assured that where there are restrictions in place that require the closure of certain close contact services in different regions and countries, the FHT is working with the government to establish if there are specific services that members can continue to offer during those restrictions, and to ensure that ALL of our members can resume work as soon as possible. As and when we have any updates, we will of course let our members know.

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

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

When looking at restrictions that apply in the area where you work, and particularly if your country has different restrictions in place for different regions, 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 (for example, this may apply in areas of England that have a ‘very high’/tier 3 alert level in place).
  • If shielding is being reintroduced in certain areas (the FHT strongly advises against treating clients who are shielding - see section 9 of FHT's preparing to return to practice guidelines)

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.

[Updated 4 March 2021]

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 COVID-19. These include:

A fourth and fifth Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) grant (UK)

The fourth SEISS grant will cover the period February to April 2021and will be worth 80% of three months’ average trading profits, paid out in a single instalment and capped at £7,500. The fourth grant can be claimed from late April and to be eligible, you must have filed a 2019-2020 Self Assessment tax return. All other eligibility criteria will remain the same as for the third SEISS grant. If you are eligible for the fourth grant, HMRC will contact you in mid-April to give you a date that you can make your claim from.

The fifth and final SEISS grant, covering May to September 2021, can then 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.

More information about the fourth and fifth SEISS grants will be published on the government website in due course.

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). The government will also be providing local authorities in England with an additional £425 million of discretionary business grant funding for those not eligible for a Restart Grant. More information will be available on the government website in due course.

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, VAT deferral and will be made available on the government website soon.

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. This includes information about the new Mobile and Home-Based Close Contact Services Fund, which opened for applications on 15 February 2021. Eligible applicants will receive a one-off payment of £4,000, but there is only a four-week window in which to apply. As the government expects a large number of applications for this fund, please note that they will be assessing these strictly in the order in which they are received.

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 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./li>

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 is also a matter we continue to raise when attending government meetings.

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 the government announces that I can re-open my business, what things do I need to consider?

To help members, the FHT has put together some Preparing to return to practice guidelines, outlining a number of areas that will need consideration. However, if your country’s government or local authority has issued guidance or advice on how to return to work safely, please follow this, as it obviously takes precedence over the FHT’s guidance. Click the following links to find the government guidance for providing close contact services in: England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. As the guidance for each country is subject to change, please ensure you keep an eye on these for any updates that will affect your practice. 

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

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 Guidance for keeping workers and clients safe in close contact services advises that practitioners are to wear a clear visor or goggles, in addition to a Type II face mask, to keep their clients safe.

On 18 September, they updated their guidance on what type of goggles could be worn. The guidance now states:

" To be worn in place of a clear visor, goggles must be close fitting with no obvious openings or vents that would otherwise allow droplets to enter the eyes. Reusable eye protection should be cleaned according to the manufacturer’s instructions.”

"A Type II face mask should be worn with the visor/goggles. Type II face masks are not PPE but will reduce potential transmission to others when used correctly." (See Section 6)

If wearing a face visor, please note that both disposable and re-usable visors are available. A re-usable visor must be cleaned and disinfected between each client using normal cleaning products.

Type II face masks are medical face masks and available in two types: splash resistant (Type IIR, typically used in clinical settings) and non-splash resistant (Type II).

To mitigate the risk of infection, it also states: "Unless crucial for the treatment, avoid skin to skin contact and use gloves where possible.” This guidance is open to interpretation and uses the phrases “unless crucial” and “where possible”. If you believe it is not possible to perform a particular treatment with gloves on, or that skin to skin contact is crucial for that treatment, 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 Scotland, the government’s recently updated 'Close contact services checklist' (available as a Word document under 'Supporting files' on the government website) states: "Face coverings are mandatory and staff must wear a face covering. Staff may also wear a face shield if desired, although this must be worn in addition to, and not in place of, a face covering. Current professional advice is that, for safety reasons, close contact services should not be performed where face-coverings cannot be worn."

In Wales, the government guidance indicates that PPE requirements vary according to the type of close contact services/treatments being given, but from 17 August, therapists are required to wear – as a minimum - a Type II face mask and visor (additional PPE is required if carrying out ‘high risk’ treatments, on or in front of the face). For more information, please see the government's Close contact services businesses: coronavirus workplace guidance.

In Northern Ireland, the government guidance requires those offering close contact serivces to wear a clear visor or goggles, in addition to a Type II face mask. If wearing in place of a visor, goggles "must be close fitting with no obvious openings or vents that would otherwise allow droplets to enter the eyes". 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 from 8 August, face coverings are mandatory in nail, beauty and hair salons, as well as for massage services, and “should not be removed unless essential for a particular treatment – for example, for a treatment on the face area covered by the mask” (please note that treatments on or in front of the face can resume in England from 15 August).

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. Please refer to their 'Close contact services checklist' (available as a Word document under 'Supporting files' on the government website).

In Wales, clients are required to wear a face covering. Please refer to section 3.3 of the government guidance for more information.

In Northern Ireland, where close contact services are provided by ‘appointment only’ (as opposed to ‘walk in’ appointments), clients are not required to wear face coverings. 

However, it is always important to take into account the client’s wishes, and to allow them the option to wear a face mask or covering if that would make them feel more comfortable.

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 "There are currently restrictions in place - can I still treat clients?” 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 the client or you are part of a household or support bubble that includes someone who is shielding, or 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 self-isolate, as this very much depends on infection rates in that country. Please see the following weblink for more information: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/coronavirus-covid-19-travel-corridors

Please also note that on 31 July, the government announced that health and care workers returning to England from high risk countries are to self-isolate for 14 days. For more information, please see visit this link.

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.

The government advises that “While it is not necessary to seek consent from each individual […] you should make customers aware that their contact information may be shared with NHS Test and Trace.” You do not have to inform every customer individually - for example, you might wish to display a notice at your premises or include information on your website, explaining under what circumstances you might need to share their data with NHS Test and Trace, for example, if you develop symptoms and test positive for COVID-19. (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?

This depends on the country where you are working.

In England, to assist NHS Test and Trace in England, it is a legal requirement for you to:

  • Log the name and telephone number of all clients and visitors to your business (expect those solely delivering/collecting goods). You must also have a record of the date, time and length of their visit, and if you have staff, who carried out the treatment.
  • Log the name, telephone number and date/times worked by any staff.
  • Store all of the above information for a minimum of 21 days.

From Thursday 24 September, it is also a legal requirement for all therapists in England - including mobile therapists - to provide access to an official NHS QR code poster, so that clients and visitors have the option to scan this, if they are using the NHS COVID-19 app

If you are a mobile therapist, when you register for an NHS QR code poster, enter your business address (or home address, if this is where your business is registered) and then simply carry the poster with you and make it available to your clients at the beginning of the appointment. You can use a printed poster or present the code to them on a mobile device, such as a tablet - whatever works best for you.

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

In Wales, to assist NHS Wales Test, Trace, Protect, it is a legal requirement for you to:

  • Log the name and telephone number of all clients and visitors to your business (expect those solely delivering/collecting goods). You must also have a record of the date, time and length of their visit, and if you employ staff, who carried out the treatment.
  • Log the name, telephone number and date/times worked by any staff you employ.
  • Store all of the above information for a minimum of 21 days.

From Thursday 24 September, it is also a legal requirement for all therapists in Wales - including mobile therapists - to provide access to an official NHS QR code poster, so that clients and visitors have the option to scan this, if they are using the NHS COVID-19 app

If you are a mobile therapist, when you register for an NHS QR code poster, enter your business address (or home address, if this is where your business is registered) and then simply carry the poster with you and make it available to your clients at the beginning of the appointment. You can use a printed poster or present the code to them on a mobile device, such as a tablet - whatever works best for you.

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

In Scotland, to assist Test and Protect, you are required to:

  • Log the name and telephone number of all clients and visitors to your business (expect those solely delivering/collecting goods). You must also have a record of the date, time and length of their visit, and if you employ staff, who carried out the treatment.
  • Log the name, telephone number and date/times worked by any staff and volunteers who work for you.

In terms of apps, smartphone users in Scotland are being encouraged to use NHS Scotland’s Protect Scotland contact tracing app, to help suppress the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19). Use of this app is voluntary.

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 Section 6 of the government guidance for close contact services in England, which covers complementary, beauty and sports therapies, it states:

“In instances where you are contacted via the NHS Test and Trace service, having been in contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19, you will still need to self- isolate even if you are wearing a visor/goggles and Type II face mask at work. This is because the risk of transmission cannot be ruled out, even if wearing a visor/goggles and mask reduces that risk.”

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 are required to stay at home and self-isolate. Local authorities will be putting arrangements in place to make these payments, with further details to be made available shortly. You will be eligible if you live in England and meet all the following criteria:

  • you have been asked to self-isolate by NHS Test and Trace
  • you are employed or self-employed
  • you cannot work from home and will lose income as a result
  • you are claiming at least one of the following benefits: Universal Credit, Working Tax Credits, income-related Employment and Support Allowance, income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance, Income Support, Pension Credit or Housing Benefit.

Alternatively, you may be eligible for a grant through the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme if your business has been adversely affected by COVID-19 (which would, we imagine, include needing to self-isolate under the guidance of the Test and Trace service) – please click the link for more information.

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

Government guidance varies from country to country.

In England, the government’s Close contact services guidance (which Northern Ireland is currently following) states: “Salons can provide hot or cold drinks to clients in disposable cups or bottles. Practitioners should encourage clients to only remove their mask to consume the drink. When clients have removed their masks, practitioners should ensure they are socially distanced from the client (2m, or 1m with mitigations).”

In Wales, the government’s Close contact services businesses: coronavirus workplace guidance states: “Do not provide food or drink for clients only water in disposable cups or bottles and not allowing food or drink to be consumed in the salon by clients other than water in disposable cups or bottles. Different procedures might be in place within a destination spa, hospitality, leisure or day spa environment, for the procedures in spas you should refer to separate Welsh Government guidance: https://gov.wales/guidance-holiday-accommodation-businesses-reopening-coronavirus.”

In Scotland, the government’s Checklist for salons and close contact services) states: “Water can be provided on request from clients but otherwise do not offer refreshments.”

In Northern Ireland, the government's Keeping workers and clients safe during COVID-19 in close contact services states that clients should only be allowed 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, and the FHT’s Preparing to return to practice guidelines, 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 Holistics, Gateway 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 recent 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.

Q. Are there any government-backed loans I could benefit from as a small business owner?

The Bounce Back Loan helps small and medium-sized businesses to borrow between £2,000 and up to 25% of their turnover. The maximum loan available is £50,000.

The government guarantees 100% of the loan and there won’t be any fees or interest to pay for the first 12 months. After 12 months the interest rate will be 2.5% a year.

Click here to find out more and apply for a Bounce Back Loan  

Q. Is there any government support for voluntary, community and social enterprise (VCSE) organisations?

The government has pledged £750 million to ensure VCSE can continue their vital work supporting the country during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, including £200 million for the Coronavirus Community Support Fund, along with an additional £150 million from dormant bank and building society accounts.

To find out more, click here

Other organisations that have resources that may help charities during the COVID-19 crisis include: 
 Association of Chairs
• National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO)
• Small Charities Coalition
• Welsh Council for Voluntary Action (WCVA)

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. My clients need my support, now more than ever. How can I take care of them, until I can return to treating them in person?

We understand that you may be feeling sad or frustrated if there are situations where you are not able to physically treat clients.

As such, we’d like to share some recommendations that we hope you will find helpful:

  • First and foremost, take good care of your own health and wellbeing at this challenging time, including your emotional and mental wellbeing. Find some time each day – even if it’s just 10 minutes - to practice mindfulness, yoga, or a short breathing exercise. Or simply do something you enjoy, whether its baking, taking a long warm bath, exercising or reading a book. 
  • If a client tells you that they have symptoms of coronavirus or they have been in contact with someone who has tested positive for coronavirus, please signpost them to reliable information and support (see links below).
  • If you are qualified and insured to practise therapies that can be conducted remotely, such as counselling or other types of talking therapy, you could offer these to your clients as a safer alternative to therapies that involve contact.
  • Stay in touch with your clients, even if you are not seeing them. If they are vulnerable or lonely, they will really value just having a conversation with someone they have come to know and trust.
  • As highlighted further up in this statement, you might be able to offer your clients some tips – over the phone, live video apps or email – about how to stay as healthy as possible while at home. This could include some simple self-help techniques and we will be providing online links and guidance to help you do this over the coming weeks.

Compassion and acts of kindness are key during this challenging time to support those in our local community, and we know this is something our members are perfect at providing, even remotely. Just please remember to be compassionate to yourselves, too.

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