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Guidance for staff with concerns regarding returning to on-campus working

Concerns about on campus working

As we prepare for a return to campus working, we understand that there may be some colleagues who are more vulnerable than others to the COVID-19 infection and its potential impact.  We also know due to age, underlying health conditions, ethnicity, gender and body mass, that some people are more vulnerable to the infection than others. Your health and wellbeing is our main priority.

We want to ensure we can support you to feel safe when you do physically return to work, and to support this, we are asking all colleagues to complete a COVID-19 age Individual Vulnerability Risk Assessment.  The risk assessment will help to identify a COVID-19 age and where this is identified as High or Very high, you will be able to work with your line manager, and Occupational Health if required, to ensure you have the appropriate support.  The details you record on the online assessment tool will be confidential and there will be no requirement to share these details with your line manager or other colleagues - you will only need to share your COVID-19 age. 

It is very important at this time that you speak to your line manager about any concerns that you have. The University is aware that home and work divisions are not as clear as they were pre-Covid and that there may be issues that you experiencing that you have not had to discuss at work previously. If you feel that you cannot discuss your concerns with your line manager then the Occupational Health team can advise you on a confidential basis.

The University is committed to ensuring that we do everything we can to protect our whole community and we recognise our duty of care to all staff and students regardless of background or ethnicity. We are working on a plan to reopen our campuses safely to all, in accordance with government advice. This will include measures to help protect all staff including allowing staggered start and finish times and the implementation of social distancing measures for those at work.

For pregnant staff, managers will continue to offer maternity risk assessment meetings - using Microsoft Teams is a very effective way - please ensure you carry out a new risk assessment to cover the working from home element and keep this updated regularly. The safety of pregnant staff alongside all other staff will be considered as part of the planning for reopening our campuses and returning to work. This will take account of all government advice.  More advice is available online.

Information and guidance on who is clinically extremely vulnerable and who is at moderate risk can be found on the NHS website. The government have also provided updated information along with the new alert levels for those who have to shield. Firstly, there is general advice for clinically extremely vulnerable people at all local COVID alert levels. Secondly, check the COVID alert level of your local area and follow any of the additional guidance for that alert level. Please discuss your circumstances with your line manager so that support can be put in place for you.

We understand that some staff will not fall under the higher risk categories after completing the COVID-19 Age Individual Vulnerability Risk Assessment but may have a number of different reasons as to why they may be concerned with returning to on-campus working. 

Anxiety

Some staff may be anxious about returning to on-campus working.  It is natural to be experiencing a wide range of emotions at this time and everyone’s experience will be different.  We would strongly advise you to speak to your line manager in the first instance to discuss any concerns that you may have.  It may also help you to talk about any concerns with your partner, friends or colleagues to understand what might help you in this situation. 

If you think that further support would be helpful then there are a number of support services available to you during this period on the University wellbeing webpages.  Support also includes Spectrum Life, which can be used to access 24/7 telephone counselling via our online portal. Details of all the support available including our online cognitive behavioural therapy programme, Silvercloud, can be found on our website. Support is also available from the NHS talking therapy services

You can discuss any concerns that you have with your line manager who might offer support to you with adjustments to your work or make a referral to Occupational Health if further advice is needed. If you are experiencing significant symptoms you should contact your GP for advice and treatment if required.

Caring responsibilities 

We understand that people have caring responsibilities and that this may continue as we look to safely and gradually reopen our campuses. Many are experiencing major disruption to normal patterns of schooling and/or childcare arrangements and this is likely to continue into the autumn term.   At this time, restrictions remain in place and you should not return to campus unless authorised to do so by your line manager.

At such time when you are asked to return to campus, people with caring responsibilities should discuss their circumstances with their line manager and look at any alternative arrangements that could be made. This could include sharing caring responsibilities or where this isn't possible, continued working from home, or possible changes to working patterns to accommodate your caring responsibilities.

If you are not able to do any work, in recognition of these exceptional circumstances, to give you a longer period to make alternative arrangements, the University has extended its paid emergency leave to 10 days (pro-rata for part-time staff). If you use this leave, please keep in touch with your manager and follow the guidance on recording your absence.  Guidance for managers and staff on absence and pay arrangements related to COVID-19 is available online.

Living with people who are clinically extremely vulnerable

If you live with someone who is at a higher risk if they contract Covid-19 and received a "Shielding" letter from the Government earlier this year, you should speak to your manager so that your work arrangements can be assessed and consideration given to developing a plan to reduce your risk of transmission to the lowest level possible. The University will be guided by the latest government Guidance on shielding and protecting people who are clinically extremely vulnerable from COVID-19. Where appropriate, advice can be sought from Occupational Health.

The NHS has issued guidance on How to avoid spreading coronavirus to people you live with for people who have contracted coronavirus and live with someone at higher risk. 

Managers should ensure that they have been informed of their staff's COVID-19 age as soon as possible so that any support or adjustments needed can be put into place before a member of staff returns to on-campus working.  The Personal Risk Assessment process should be followed and Occupational Health contacted if further advice is required.

Managers should establish if the member of staff needs any particular support or assistance, for example, to facilitate working at home, or if they have any wellbeing concerns. Staff working from home should be directed to the DSE and Homeworking pages. Staff working regularly from home must do a formal assessment of DSE so any needs can be identified.

Those staff who have been advised that they are at high risk of developing serious complications if they develop Coronavirus may require additional support. Staff can continue to access the University’s EAP provider, Spectrum Life and managers can continue to make referrals to Occupational Health in the normal way.   

Managers should agree with their team members how they will stay in contact with each other during the isolation period e.g. regular phone, email or text communications. When an employee recovers from any illness, including Coronavirus, and is able to resume working, even where they may be working at home, the manager should arrange a return to work conversation with them.  

Once a staff member returns to work after recovering from COVID, they may experience ongoing fatigue or not return to full health for some time.  Managers should talk to staff about any concerns regarding this during their return to work conversation.

If you are a manager and you become ill, please let your team know so they are aware of who they can liaise within your absence, for example, your line manager or another appropriate member of staff. 

We know this may be an anxious time for many of our staff. Whilst we want to reopen our campuses, we must ensure that this is done safely and that our staff, students and visitors are protected. We are currently developing plans that include a phased return to work and this will be communicated to staff as soon as possible. Please do not return to campus unless you are authorised to do so by your manager.

You can discuss any concerns that you have with your line manager who can support you with adjustments to your work or they can make a referral to Occupational Health if further advice is needed.  If you are experiencing significant symptoms you should contact your GP for advice and treatment if required.

There are also a number of support services available to you during this period including Spectrum Life, which can be used to access 24/7 telephone counselling via our online portal.  Details of all the support available including our online cognitive behavioural therapy programme, Silvercloud, can be found on our website.  Support is also available from the NHS talking therapy services

We know that with the current Coronavirus measures the risk of domestic abuse is increasing.  We have a series of Domestic Abuse Support webpages with guidance for support options including risk assessments, as well as detailing where to access help should you need it. We encourage you to disclose the domestic abuse to your manager or a Domestic Abuse Champion, support and adjustments at work are available. Please be reassured that we will support you throughout this time and help you get the support that you need.

  • Occupational health during COVID lockdown includes specific information and support as well as contact details
  • Go to the University’s staff wellbeing webpages for mental health information, tools and support
  • Staff can continue to access the University’s EAP provider and online counselling through Spectrum Life
  • University COVID webpages have a list of frequently asked questions covering Community, Returning to work, Health, wellbeing and work, Self-isolating and vulnerable groups, Travel and transport, HR and Updates and actions.

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Step 1 Staff and Managers should look at the H&S Intranet on the Covid page where all the information and links to guidance are available. They should ensure they regularly keep up to date with developments.  
Step 2

All staff should read the staff guidance on My safe return to Campus working and complete the COVID-19 Age Individual Vulnerability Risk Assessment.  The Personal Risk Assessment process should then be followed. 

Managers will need to provide support to staff to discuss their concerns, understand their situation and discuss any possible options.

Step 3 Managers should ensure all those working from home are directed to the DSE and Homeworking pages to ensure they are informed of what to do and ways of working at home. Staff working regularly from home must now do a formal assessment of DSE so any needs can be identified. This assessment is accessed from the DSE page on the intranet.   
Step 4

Managers must ensure they prepare the work areas and teams for re-opening by:

  • Reading the managers guidance on how to prepare the workplace for re-opening
  • Read the managers slides on how to complete the risk assessment and contact a Safety Advisor if unsure (safety@exeter.ac.uk )
  • Complete the risk assessment tool for their area, taking into account the people needed to work in the workplace and getting this approved by their line manager
  • Read the product list of COVID supplies and complete the Order Form
  • Read the manager's guide on the Personal Risk Assessment at COVID-19 and my Team - Managers Guidance
  • Consider attending the manager's training on Managers guidance for COVID19 - Skills for Supportive conversations
Step 5 A Staff COVID-19 Induction has been developed in order to ensure all staff are made aware of the workplace changes and expected behaviours. All staff should complete the Return to Campus induction prior to returning to on-campus working.  
Step 6

Managers must ensure that employees are familiar with the process and procedures that have been put into place in the specific buildings that they work in.

A local induction to the workspace setting out the risk assessment and safe ways of working must be carried out between the employee and the manager and the manager must record that this has been carried out. A recording form is available for this.
Step 7  Employees returning to campus are recommended to wear a face-covering inside university buildings.  The University has made face coverings available to all employees and these can be collected on campus.  
Step 8 All staff must be reminded that they should stay at home if they have any COVID 19 symptoms, however mild, and obtain a COVID-19 test.

Date of this version: 5 November 2020