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Sussex plans a phased return to campus

As the UK government continues to ease lockdown restrictions, Professional Services colleagues, working with Schools, are coordinating plans for how students and staff will return to the University of Sussex campus in stages.

The Health and Safety Committee, chaired by Chief Operating Officer Tim Westlake, which has trade union representation, is meeting every two weeks to consider these matters.
Restarting life on campus is not a straightforward process: it is clear that a number of lockdown arrangements may be in place for some time. Social distancing and travel restrictions, in some form or another, will also be in place for several months.
As a result, campus re-opening will take place across three broad stages:

  • Stage 1: focuses on the initial re-opening of campus over the summer, in July and August
  • Stage 2: will run from the start of the 2020/21 academic year in September
  • Stage 3: will begin in January 2021

This phased campus re-opening is informed by medical advice and government guidance, and is prioritised around:

  • ensuring the safety of students, staff and visitors
  • supporting students' education
  • enabling research to continue

Liaison with key partners – including Chartwells, Interserve (via Sussex Estates and Facilities), the Co-op, Balfour Beatty and many more – will be a key consideration at all stages.
Summer Library services
A Click and Collect service for access to printed materials is now operating successfully in the Library. The Library is continuing to offer online access to resources and support.
Starting this week, Library users can now book a study space in the building using the new Click and Study service.
Staff working on campus in July and August
Following the successful re-opening of research laboratories, certain staff have been and will be coming on to campus to carry out essential tasks such as exam boards, preparation of graduation certificates, housing allocation and Clearing activity. Wherever possible, any roles deemed essential to be performed on campus will be filled by members of staff who are happy to volunteer to be on campus.
We are well into the process of opening more buildings to allow staff to work on campus, on a voluntary basis. We are discussing the implications of the plans with campus trade unions.
As has been the case since the start of lockdown, any member of staff who wishes to work on campus during July and August will need to speak to their Head of School or Divisional Director, to ensure that requests align with the respective plans in each area.
Staff should share this information with their line manager and complete a form to confirm that their return is voluntary. If a member of staff feels uncomfortable at any point about being on campus, they can change their mind and revert to working from home. 
In completing the form, staff are asked to read the University’s Offices and Low Hazard spaces document.
Plans for autumn 2020
A great deal of work continues on the practicalities for a wider return to campus from September.
A welcome programme – which will be mainly online – will start for new students after A level results day on 13 August. Preparations are well advanced to make campus ready for the thousands of students who will then arrive on campus during Welcome Weekend (19-20 September).
Over the coming weeks, as the UK stabilises from the Covid-19 pandemic and an increasing number of lockdown restrictions are lifted, we will continue to re-open work and study spaces on campus.
It is important that all staff and students can work, study and live as safely as possible and that we support their health and wellbeing, so we have been working hard to put in place appropriate measures to help keep our community safe.
Decisions currently being considered include whether the use of face coverings should be required in certain rooms and buildings on campus, in addition to those areas, such as shops, where there is a legal requirement to wear them.
This is an evolving situation, and advice will continue to be updated. It is based on the changing government guidance, as well as University considerations, and we are taking staff and student views into account at all stages.
We will soon share more information about plans for the start of term and beyond.
Staff working from September
As we transition from summer arrangements to the autumn term, Heads of Schools and Professional Services Directors will continue to have responsibility for assessing whether there are roles that are essential, meaning they must be performed on campus, as well as for broader staffing levels on campus and for taking decisions about the return of any staff.
In May the University confirmed it will be progressing with a blended learning approach in the autumn term, with a mix of campus-based teaching and remote learning.
We are investigating arrangements for teaching staff who will need to be on campus from September as the new teaching timetable requires; this timetable is currently being finalised and will be available soon.
We are also looking at the requirements for other staff with student-facing roles, and who will need to be on campus.
Where staff have individual circumstances that make their return to working on campus more difficult or limit their availability to return, the University will be providing guidance for managers to support them in addressing any individual concerns. Wherever possible the University will look to support staff and address staff concerns.
Some other members of staff will have individual reasons for wishing to work on campus between September and December 2020. These might include, for example:

  • Severe and ongoing internet connection issues that cannot be resolved
  • Health and safety reasons that cannot be resolved through the provision of equipment in the home, possibly due to lack of space or shared environments
  • Adjustments for staff with disabilities that cannot be resolved during home working
  • Mental health, wellbeing and personal safety issues caused by working from home

Staff who will be working on campus in the autumn term, or any other colleagues who are interested, will be invited to a variety of “welcome back” events, so that they can see what safety measures have been put in place and catch up with colleagues. These events are currently being developed and the plan is to have them in place for September.
The current proposal is that anyone whose role does not require them to be on campus between September and December 2020 should be allowed to continue to work from home until January 2021, if they feel able to do so.
Plans for staff working from January 2021 onwards
Looking ahead to 2021, like other employers we are taking the opportunity provided by the Coronavirus pandemic to review how to manage and support people who work from home regularly, and whether and how to increase the range of options for flexible working. 
Over this summer, work is under way with key stakeholders to put in place a longer term, updated policy for flexible/home working from January 2021.
Proposals currently being discussed include the identification of three potential categories for roles: 

  • Staff in roles required 80%-100% of the time on campus, such as those involved in face-to-face teaching or working in public-facing services such as sports facilities and the Library
  • Staff in roles that will permit at least 50% work on campus and up to 50% working from home 
  • Staff roles identified as permanent homeworkers who can spend 80%-100% of their time working from home

These plans are still at the early stages of discussion and, should any changes be approved as part of a new policy, we will share full details with all staff.

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Posted on behalf of: University of Sussex
Last updated: Thursday, 23 July 2020

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