Can I advertise in-person sessions to new clients during the COVID-19 outbreak?

Guidance on returning to in-person work and the coronavirus risk assessment required to offer in-person sessions through

Iain avatar
Written by Iain
Updated over a week ago

We are following the BACP, NCS and UKCP guidance about COVID-19 closely. As of 27/7/20, the guidance is as follows:

Advice from the UKCP and the NSC is to continue working remotely where possible, (see info below).

The BACP notes that "the face to face conversational element of therapy, combined with the length of exposure during a typical therapy session, puts you and your clients at particular risk." The BACP recommends you read the government's guidance for employers in full, especially:

  • how will you comply with the social distancing guidelines or considering and setting out the mitigations you will introduce in your risk assessments (p8)

  • if people must work face-to-face for a sustained period with more than a small group of fixed partners, whether the activity can safely go ahead. The closer someone is to the source of the virus, the greater the risk of transmission. Pay particular attention to avoiding contact with surfaces near to the client and thoroughly cleaning those surfaces after each client (p9).

  • see further information from the BACP below and their full Coronavirus guidance page here."

You will need to complete an assessment for your own practice and premises and submit this in the COVID-19 section of your Harley Therapy profile before you can offer in-person sessions to new clients. A risk assessment is a legal requirement.

"With the easing of lockdown restrictions, the government has said people can return to work. Can I now see clients face to face?

Our advice continues to be that wherever possible clients and therapists do not risk theirs’ and others’ health by delivering/receiving therapy face-to-face where other options are available. Therapists must apply their professional judgment and refer to their insurers and, where applicable, their employers".

"The UK Government currently advises that we work from home where possible. The Society's advice to members is to continue to offer services remotely where it is possible to do so.

It is important to remember that COVID-19, although apparently past its current peak of infection rates, is it still a highly transmissible and potentially fatal illness, with no vaccine currently available.

Members may make individual decisions to work face to face if they consider that it is not possible to work remotely with a client. Decisions should take into account:

  • the health risk factors for yourself and your client, especially those connected with age, pre-existing health conditions, and so on.

  • your ability to create and maintain an appropriately socially distanced and hygienic space for face to face client work.

  • the risks to yourself and your client in travelling to and from your clinic space.

  • your ability to understand whether you and your client should instead self-isolate, for example, if either of you or anyone living with you has developed potential symptoms of COVID-19.

  • That you continue to be aware of Government guidelines and are up to date with them.

  • that alternative ways of conducting your client sessions, or postponing their sessions, are not possible or detrimental to your client's wellbeing and welfare.

Taking into account the above, it is your responsibility to make an informed decision regarding face to face practice at this time. The Society recommends raising concerns with your supervisor as well as engaging with your clients as much as possible regarding this issue."

"In England, the recommended social distancing rule was reduced from two metres to a one metre plus rule from 4 July.

This offers some potential for some members and services to resume face to face work. The guidance still states that we should work from home if we can, but if you're considering returning to face to face working, we'll provide information and resources to support you while still being aware of the risks.

You’re legally required to carry out a risk assessment before returning to face to face working. Please refer to the HSE and government guidance as part of your decision-making process, with particular reference to the maintaining social distancing guidelines ("two metres, or one metre with risk mitigation where two metres is not viable…").

Mitigation refers to the use of protective face coverings such as masks or visors when the two-metre distance cannot be maintained rather than full PPE. From 24 July, wearing face coverings in shops and supermarkets will be mandatory in England.

Although this doesn’t extend to the workplace, government guidance highlights that face coverings may be of a marginal benefit in a workplace and can be used as a precautionary measure. You'll find more details in the updated government guidance and please consider this when carrying out risk assessments.

Different parts of the UK are issuing independent guidance on the wearing of face coverings so check what applies in your location:

Risk factors should be considered on a case by case basis. While you might feel ready to return to face to face work, some of your clients may not be.

Before returning to face to face work

If you're thinking about returning to face to face work, you will need to:

  • consider whether the space you plan to work from allows for social distancing of two metres or at least one metre with mitigation – this includes any areas such as entrances, exits, corridors and waiting areas?

  • decide whether you need protective equipment such as masks or visors

  • conduct and publish a risk assessment of your premises and create a procedure checklist to mitigate the risk of contamination before, between and after seeing clients. This is a legal requirement.

  • if you work with others from a shared space, ensure they're also applying appropriate measures and there's no risk that any of these will be compromised

  • if you work from rented premises, check whether your landlord has any risk assessment or sanitisation process you need to follow?

  • check if your indemnity policy covers you for face to face work

  • ensure your supervisor supports your decision

  • check whether you need to make any amendments to your contract with clients and asked them about the possibility of returning to or starting face to face work

Carrying out risk assessments

It is a legal requirement for all businesses to complete a risk assessment before resuming trade. If you have fewer than five workers, or are self-employed, you don’t legally have to produce a written risk assessment. However, this may be a helpful exercise and a useful document to have if asked by insurers or concerned clients.

Wearing face coverings

The government guidance states that where a distance of two metres, or one metre with risk mitigation is not possible, the use of visors is advisable. If a practitioner is wearing a visor, there is deemed to be no additional benefit if the client wears a visor too.

How this works in the therapy room depends on individual circumstances. Even if you can maintain the two metre distance, you and your client are at increased risk due to the face to face position and prolonged exposure of a therapy session, so the guidance may not be as clear cut. We suggest you consider:

  • can you maintain the recommended social distance?

  • if you can maintain social distancing, do you feel the risk to you and your client could be reduced through the use of face coverings?

  • if you can't maintain social distancing, would continuing to work online be the safest option for you and your client?

This may raise questions about possible effect on the therapeutic relationship of wearing a face covering. However, we now encounter people wearing face masks and visors in many day to day interactions which has developed a degree of normality about it."

"If you can't work remotely with clients at any stage of the lockdown, we recommend you consider the following factors on a case by case basis:

  • the client's need and safety

  • your needs and safety

  • the context of the service

  • whether other options are possible and the ethical and practical risks of any decision

  • the known risk factors of age and any pre-existing health conditions for both yourself and your client

  • advice on social distancing and face coverings

  • clients with particular needs who may not be able to engage using online platforms

  • whether your clients could be putting themselves at risk during the journey to and from your premises

We'd encourage you to work through the ethical decision-making process with your supervisor to make a personal decision that takes these factors into account."

How will a return to face to face work affect my insurance cover?

Some insurance companies are not covering policy holders for claims arising from COVID-19. It is best to check with your insurance provider.

When will I be able to offer therapy in-person through the platform?

You will need to complete a risk assessment of your premises (as outlined in the BACP guidance) and upload this to your profile before you can offer in-person sessions to users. This is for the safety of everyone in our community.

Your assessment will be available for current and prospective clients to view for peace of mind.

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