Code of Practice for funeral directors: Scotland

On 21 June 2019, the Scottish Government published a consultation on a draft statutory code of practice for funeral directors under which funeral directors will be inspected once it comes into force, and will be legally obliged to meet its requirements.

Overview

The consultation seeks views on a Code of Practice (“the Code”) for funeral directors. This will apply to all funeral directors carrying out the activities of a funeral director in Scotland, regardless of where their business is based.  Once in force, all funeral directors will be responsible for implementing the standards it sets out. Inspectors of funeral directors, who will be appointed by Scottish Ministers, will inspect against the Code to ensure compliance with it.

The Code is one component of the inspection framework for funeral directors; the Scottish Government appointed Scotland’s first Inspector of Funeral Directors in April 2017. Scottish Ministers are considering the Inspector’s report and recommendations on the future regulation of funeral directors. The Consultation closes on 20 September 2019.

Legislation

The statutory basis for a code is set out in s.97 Burial and Cremation (Scotland) Act 2016:

97 Funeral director: code of practice
(1) A funeral director must comply with any code of practice issued by the Scottish Ministers about the carrying out of a funeral director’s functions (a “funeral director’s code”).
(2) Before issuing any funeral director’s code, the Scottish Ministers must consult—(a) persons appearing to the Scottish Ministers to be representative of the interests of funeral directors in Scotland, and (b) other persons appearing to the Scottish Ministers to have an interest.
(3) After taking account of any representations received by them by virtue of subsection (2), the Scottish Ministers must lay a draft of the funeral director’s code before the Scottish Parliament.
(4) The Scottish Ministers may not issue a funeral director’s code unless a draft of the code is approved by resolution of the Scottish Parliament.
(5) The Scottish Ministers must publish a funeral director’s code in such manner as they consider appropriate.
(6) The Scottish Ministers must keep under review a funeral director’s code.
(7) In this section, references to a funeral director’s code include references to a funeral director’s code as revised from time to time by the Scottish Ministers.

The provisions of section 97 reflect those of section 64 require the future production of a Code of Practice for a cremation authority. These Codes of Practice The Ministerial Forward to the Consultation states:

“A statutory code of practice is the first step in setting out good standards of practice which funeral directors will be required to comply with. A code generally aims to increase transparency for a client and the public in general, and to set quality standards on the care of the deceased”

“The code of practice will be a key document in the eventual statutory inspection of funeral directors, who will be legally required to meet the standards the code of practice prescribes”.

“The code of practice has been developed with significant input from a range of funeral director businesses and representatives, including trade bodies and other membership organisations, and the Inspector of Funeral Directors, who has been out in the field undertaking voluntary inspections of funeral directors across Scotland since mid-2017”.

The appointment of an independent Inspector of Funeral Directors in April 2017 followed recommendations from Lord Bonomy and Dame Elish Angiolini, following the report of the Infant Cremation Commission and the Report of the National Cremation Investigation; this concerns the policies, practice and legislation associated with the cremation of infants in Scotland, on which we have posted earlier. The role of the inspector is “to consider how regulation might benefit the funeral director industry, together with the more general cross-sector recognition of the importance of introducing, promoting and maintaining standards of practice throughout the funeral industry in Scotland”.

The Inspector will work closely with the Inspector of Crematoria, as well as other inspectors as they are appointed, to ensure that the policies and practices of each part of the funeral industry are interlinked and provide the best possible service for bereaved families. It is likely that the Scottish Government will appoint more Inspectors of Funeral Directors as the workload increases.

Consultation

The Code was developed with input from a funeral director industry working group chaired by the Inspector of Funeral Directors, and including funeral director representatives. Questions within Consultation are directed towards the activities of professionals such as these, although it states: “it is important the people who will be affected by the Code are given the opportunity to comment on all aspects of the content of the Code, so that we can understand the impact it will have on funeral directors and the funeral industry.”

The Minister’s comments include the following warning on its content:

“This consultation paper considers a range of sensitive and emotive subjects. Some of the topics discussed take place at times of great distress and deal with difficult experiences. The language of the consultation paper is necessarily legalistic and technical, and it is necessary to discuss the subject matter in an objective and dispassionate way. This approach is essential to ensuring that a robust Funeral Director: Code of Practice … is developed which sets out appropriate standards that result in the dignified care of the deceased and support for the bereaved persons”.

Draft Code of Practice

The Code of Practice is organised into seven sections:

  1. Engagement of a funeral director and transfer of the deceased.
  2. Care of the deceased and the premises used by the funeral director.
  3. Planning of the funeral service according to the wishes of the deceased and
    bereaved persons.
  4. Delivery of the funeral.
  5. Complaints.
  6. Business continuity and managing risks.
Cite this article as: David Pocklington, "Code of Practice for funeral directors: Scotland" in Law & Religion UK, 8 August 2019, https://lawandreligionuk.com/2019/08/08/code-of-practice-for-funeral-directors-scotland/

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