Publication - Advice and guidance

Coronavirus (COVID-19): funeral services in places of worship

Published: 19 Jun 2020

Guidance to help places of worship consider how to safely provide funeral services, as a permitted activity.

Coronavirus (COVID-19): funeral services in places of worship
Purpose of this guidance

Purpose of this guidance

Faith communities should use this guidance as an overarching framework and tailor this guidance as appropriate for the venue and practices being carried out. This should incorporate the requirements, principles and expectations in this guidance, expanding on them where appropriate.

The guidance is not intended to provide a checklist approach. Places of worship should use their judgement to ensure the safety and wellbeing of their staff and communities, based on relevant legislation, guidance and individual circumstances.

Scope of this guidance

This guidance does not extend to burial grounds or crematoriums.

Management of funeral services within these spaces remain the responsibility of the burial or cremation authority.


A funeral service

We understand that across all communities in Scotland what is carried out or involved as part of a funeral service can be very different for each faith or belief community. For the purposes of this guidance a funeral service may be considered to be the primary service members of a faith or belief community attend to mark the passing of someone who has died.

For a number of communities, services of remembrance or saying of prayers continue to be very important following the burial or cremation of a person. For these communities, very careful consideration should be given to how those services can be safely carried out in line with this guidance and wider public health advice.

Place of worship

A ‘place of worship’ means all indoor and confined or enclosed outdoor spaces (including, for example, enclosed courtyards) used for religious ceremonies, collective prayer and worship or similar gatherings by faith organisations. It includes but is not limited to:

  • churches
  • mosques
  • gurdwaras
  • synagogues
  • temples
  • associated buildings run by a faith-based place of worship where regular worship takes place, such as prayer spaces/meeting halls

Person responsible for a place of worship

Those responsible for places of worship are those who oversee its management. This may be a faith leader, lay person or a management body or committee. 

They have discretion over when they consider it safe to open one or more places of worship for the permitted purposes, and these should remain closed if they are not yet able to safely adhere to the requirements of the relevant Regulations and guidelines in this document and other guidance available.

Many places of worship are also workplaces and should therefore be aware of their responsibilities as employers under health and safety law. Places of worship also have a duty of care to volunteers, to ensure that as far as reasonably practicable they are not exposed to risks to their health and safety.