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What an extended household is and what you can and cannot do when part of an extended household.

First published:
3 July 2020
Last updated:

What is an extended household?

From 6 July, two households will be able to join together to form an extended household. This means all the people living in these two separate households will become part of one extended household.

They will enjoy the same legal freedoms people living in individual households currently have – such as being able to meet indoors, have physical contact and stay in each other’s homes.

What is the purpose of having an extended household?

The idea is to allow families or close friends who have been separated over these last few months to reconnect with each other and enjoy each other’s close company once again.

These extended household arrangements also support caring arrangements. In particular, they may help working parents with informal childcare over the summer months, as more businesses reopen their doors and return to formalised working arrangements and they may help people with other caring responsibilities.

Is there a limit on the number of people who can be in an extended household?

No. There is no limit on the number of people who can be in an extended household, providing they all live in the two households, which are being joined together.

Only two households are able to join together to form an extended household and only one extended household can be formed.

These limits on the number of households will help to prevent the virus spreading.

How do I choose which other household to pair with?

Choosing which household to go into an extended household with is an important decision, and for many people this may be a difficult one.

There is no right or wrong way to decide. However, in other countries where this approach has been followed, people have found it helpful to:

  • Think about who is in the most need of support, rather than just trying to decide whose company they have most missed.
  • Think about the risks – people who are shielding can form an extended household, but this will increase their risk of being exposed to coronavirus.
  • Think about the consequences – if anyone in the extended household develops symptoms of coronavirus, everyone will be asked to self-isolate at least until the outcome of a test is known. For some people this will have a greater consequence than for others, and needs to be thought about carefully.

What happens if I can’t agree with the people I live with about who we should pair up with?

Everyone living in the two households which form the extended household must belong to the same extended household. All the adults in both households must therefore agree to the decision to create the extended household for it to go ahead.

Can I change who I am in an extended household with?

No. Once you have agreed and joined an extended household with another household, you cannot switch to pair up with someone else instead. This is to reduce the risk of spreading coronavirus.  You cannot substitute members of the household either.

Can I go into an extended household with a household in England?

Yes, but the arrangements will need to comply with the rules in both countries. Read the rules that apply in England.

I live in a house of mixed occupancy – does everyone in the house need to agree to be part of the same extended household?

No, in circumstances like this you each form separate households. However where people have some private space but share facilities, such as bathrooms, living rooms or kitchens, coronavirus could spread throughout the house.

So you should be aware that if you all form extended households you are putting yourselves (and others) at increased risk. Our advice is that you should think very carefully about forming an extended household.

I share custody of a child – can they be treated as part of both parents’ extended households?

Yes – if a child has two homes and divides time between them, they can be part of both extended households. However, if you have access rights but do not share custody, while your child can still visit you, they should not be treated as part of your extended household.

Can members of one extended household meet members of more than one other extended household outdoors, as long as they are separate meetings?

Yes. But you can only meet members of one extended household at a time and this must be outdoors. Social distancing practices should also be followed.

How many people am I allowed to see at any one time?

As long as only two extended households are meeting, there is no restriction on the number of people who can meet outdoors at any one time. Gathering with members of more than one other extended household at the same time, however, is still not allowed under the coronavirus regulations.

Can friends or family from another extended household come into my home?

Not generally, no, unless they are passing through to reach an outdoor area, or they have another legitimate purpose for being there such as providing care.

I am not part of an extended household with someone but I think they still need my care or support – can I visit them?

You are allowed to provide care for or to help someone who needs it, such as an older person, a child or a vulnerable adult, even if they are not part of your extended household. This includes being indoors with them. But you should consider whether there are alternative sources of support available. You can also visit someone on compassionate grounds if necessary.

In considering whether there is a need to visit someone outside your extended household, especially indoors, you should remember that there is a responsibility on all of us to recognise the risks that the virus presents to ourselves, our families and friends and our wider communities.

People will need to make judgements for themselves as to what is reasonable, in line with that overarching principle. Keep in mind that the purpose of the continuing restrictions is to prevent the spreading of the virus, including to those we care about.

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