Publication - Advice and guidance

Coronavirus (COVID-19): guidance for funeral directors

Published: 25 Nov 2020
Last updated: 27 Apr 2021 - see all updates

This guidance is for funeral directors to help manage their services during the current pandemic.

22 page PDF

664.4 kB

22 page PDF

664.4 kB

Coronavirus (COVID-19): guidance for funeral directors
Funeral services and supporting the family

22 page PDF

664.4 kB

Funeral services and supporting the family

Supporting the family

Where close contacts of the deceased may have been exposed to COVID-19 infection, they will be required to self-isolate in line with current NHS guidance available on NHS Inform stay at home advice.  Funeral directors should limit their interactions with these individuals and carry out any funeral arrangements preferably by telephone or by other electronic means.

Although not recommended where it may be required to meet to discuss funeral arrangements, funeral directors should ensure that there is a single point of contact with the family and that this person should not have been in close contact with the deceased who was either presumed or confirmed to have COVID-19 or they themselves are awaiting test results, displaying symptoms or are currently self-isolating.  

Guidance on working in other people’s homes is available.  If required or requested, information on bereavement support is available on the website.

Suggestions for supporting families to manage numbers

Funerals are important and unique events, when many family and friends will wish to pay their respects. In some instances families may find it difficult to manage the maximum numbers permitted at the funeral of their loved one and may seek advice on how to do so from their funeral director.

While the examples here are not in any way requirements, the funeral sector has helpfully provided these suggestions as a way of supporting families who are finding it difficult to manage numbers.  For example, families looking for ways of managing who attends a funeral may wish to consider issuing informal invitations (if time allows), or refraining from advertising the date and time of the funeral when posting the death notice. 

Funeral services

Separate guidance has been published on the Scottish Government website setting out current public health measures applicable to funeral services. This includes the restrictions on maximum numbers of attendees for funeral services (physical distancing permitting) and post-funeral gatherings for each level set out in the local protection levels published on 13 April 2021. Children of all ages are counted in the maximum. You can find out the COVID protection level for each local area.  

The maximum attendance limits (with physical distancing) at each of the Protection Levels are:

  • level 4 – funeral services 20; no post-funeral gatherings
  • level 3 – funeral services 50; post-funeral gatherings 50 
  • level 2 – funeral services 50;  post-funeral gatherings 50 
  • level 1 – funeral services 100;  post-funeral gatherings 100 
  • level 0 – funeral services 200;  post-funeral gatherings 200

Burial ground, crematorium or place of worship requirements

It is the responsibility of cremation authorities, burial authorities and places of worship to implement policies regarding the required conduct of visitors for a funeral service in their crematorium, burial ground or place of worship during this pandemic, in line with national restrictions and wider public health requirements. See our burial and cremation authority guidance and the places of worship guidance for further information.

Funeral directors should engage and regularly communicate with their local burial and cremation authorities and places of worship in order to continue to help funeral services be delivered in as safe a way as possible, and to be aware of any specific local action taken so they can advise their clients accordingly.

Delay to a funeral service

Funeral services should not generally be delayed at this time, in the hope of restrictions easing further, allowing more people to attend. If necessary and appropriate, the funeral services guidance linked to above can be referenced, in order to assist sensitive conversations with bereaved families.  

Funeral service transport

Wherever possible, funeral service attendees should travel to the venue in a car by themselves or with people from their household group. If this is not possible and funeral transport e.g. provision of cars or limousines is required or chosen:

  • the number of people in each car should be kept as low as possible
  • there should be good ventilation (keep the windows open, where possible)
  • passengers and drivers (unless the driver is separated by a screen or other mitigation) must wear face coverings [1]
  • if possible, maintain physical distance between passengers, maximising the distance through appropriate seating positions
  • vehicles should be cleaned regularly with standard cleaning products, with particular emphasis on handles and other surfaces that passengers may touch
  • the driver and passengers should wash their hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds before and after the journey or use hand sanitiser. Drivers and passengers should be asked to cover their mouth and nose with disposable tissues if they need to cough or sneeze, or with the crook of their elbow if no tissues are available and
  • they should avoid touching their faces and face coverings and dispose of used tissues in a bin immediately [2]

If public transport is used, clients can be reminded that that wearing a face covering is also mandatory on public transport in Scotland, barring any specific exemption set out in Scottish Government guidance.

[1] Face coverings are now mandatory across many transport options in Scotland. This includes private hire vehicles (e.g. limousines). Exemptions to wearing of a face covering are set out in Scottish Government guidance.

[2] Drawn from PHE, Guidance for care of the deceased with suspected or confirmed coronavirus, subheading ‘transport to and from a funeral’

First published: 25 Nov 2020 Last updated: 27 Apr 2021 -