Advice for staff

Get answers to questions for all members of Sussex staff during the Coronavirus pandemic.

FAQs for all staff

What is the latest guidance on COVID 19?

On the 4th January a full lockdown was announced, in response to emerging evidence on the transmission rates of a new variant of the COVID-19 virus. Our guidance is now that that staff should work from home unless they are in a role that must be delivered either entirely or in part on campus. More detailed guidance on the latest position can be found at https://www.sussex.ac.uk/staff/coronavirus/index

The Government have advised that everyone is to work from home ‘where possible.’ Is the University open?

The campus remains open, but only for essential staff whose roles can only be performed there, and for students who are resident on campus. For the avoidance of doubt, no member of staff should be spending any time on campus, unless they are delivering essential services to our students on campus or have secured exceptional approval from their Head of School or Divisional Director for reasons related to personal circumstances. 

Working on campus and remotely

What is an “essential role”?

An essential role is one where the role needs to be carried out, either in full or in part, on campus. This will be because the service involved can only be delivered on campus, for example student and staff services such as welfare support, cleaning, catering or maintenance. Heads and Directors are working with staff to identify essential roles in each school and division.

There may also be examples of essential roles that over time will change in status, so for example a role may be essential now but will not be required on campus for the whole of the lockdown period ahead of us or vice versa.

There are many roles that are 'organisationally essential', i.e. they are essential for the functioning of the university in the coming term. However for the purposes of this guidance we define essential roles as ones that are campus-tied and therefore need to be performed in part or in whole on campus.

What if I am not an essential worker but am unable to work from home and wish to work on campus?

If you are not an essential worker whose role requires you to work on campus either part or full time, but your circumstances are such that you are unable to work from home (e.g. health, wellbeing or working environment) please talk to your line manager about the possibility of working on campus. Your manager will wish to check the occupation level in the workplace in question to make sure that you can be accommodated safely and will remind you of the safety requirements in place. In many cases, managers should be able to arrange for you to have a working space on campus.

I need a critical worker letter that will evidence my need to travel to and from work and/or for schooling purposes for my child/children. How do I do this?

The latest Department for Education guidance is that, in principle, HE staff can be classified as critical workers and are therefore entitled to request schooling for their children. The Government has provided the following definitions of critical worker status, but has also asked critical workers to keep children at home where possible and request school places only where necessary.  If you need a critical worker letter to demonstrate your eligibility, please download a critical worker letter [DOC 74.50KB].

Proof of critical worker status will not guarantee access to schooling: access is at the discretion of a school and is likely to be influenced by staffing levels and therefore places available. Travelling to work or access to an education setting counts as a reasonable excuse for travel, notwithstanding wider travel restrictions in place.

Please read the criteria below and consider:

  1. Whether you meet any of the critical worker criteria set out below
  2. If you feel you meet criterion 2, then the implication is that you need to do this on campus in order to be defined as a critical worker
  3. Criteria 1, 3 and 4 do not specify whether you should be on campus or working remotely in order to be defined as a critical worker

1. Staff or research students responsible for research and other activities to mitigate the effects of COVID-19 and for other essential research and supporting activity necessary to meet regulatory, legal, health and safety or other on-going requirements. This would include long-running research which cannot tolerate a break, staff or others looking after living resources (e.g. animals, plants or bacterial cultures) or hazardous materials; or those that are essential for the maintenance of equipment and facilities.

2. Academic and teaching staff, to deliver face to face teaching to those students that are permitted to receive teaching on campus, or to support those students who are continuing their placements in person and cannot be supported remotely, as well as those developing or delivering resources for remote learning including where these need to be created or updated using facilities only available on the provider’s premises.

3. Staff responsible for providing services for students who need to remain in student accommodation or in facilities which remain open for students or essential research, including catering staff, cleaners, wardens, mental health support, IT and security staff.

4. Staff critical to the safety and security of the university estate and other business critical operations.

Further information is available on which children should attend school on the government's website.

Furlough

Can I be furloughed under the Government’s Job Retention Scheme?

As we live through this third lockdown, we know that many of our staff are trying to cope with work and caring responsibilities. Others are finding that their work cannot be done remotely either in part or in its entirety. Clinically vulnerable staff who are advised to work from home may be unable to do so because of the nature of their work.

Although the University will not be claiming from the Government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) at this time to cover the costs of furloughing these and other staff, we are committed to these things:

  • Managers will talk to staff about what they can do in terms of work at this time and will agree a pattern of work with their people
  • We will continue to pay our contracted staff at their current salary, even if the pattern of work agreed is less than the usual agreed hours
  • In effect the University is covering the costs of furloughing staff itself, in many cases as if they were being furloughed part-time
  • We already have in place a flexible working policy which allows staff to ask for reduced hours, compressed hours and unpaid leave to suit a variety of circumstances
  • We are about to introduce an annual leave purchase scheme so that staff can “buy” additional leave to use in a way that works for them
  • In committing to cover the costs of salaries for our staff in this way we are ensuring that everyone can keep in touch with their teams (furloughed workers are not permitted to undertake anything that can be defined as work). In this way we are reducing the likelihood of isolation and the challenges of re-entering a team after a period of distance

Our belief is that, having just paid out an award to all those on Grade 8 and below in our DPR scheme, we cannot justify to HMRC the claiming of additional funding to cover the costs of furloughing staff.

If you are struggling to work in any way, please speak to your line manager. Managers are asked to work with all their staff, listening to the challenges faced, considering with you what might be feasible with regard to working flexibly (e.g. compressed hours, different hours of work, reduced hours, variable patterns of working) and will agree a work plan with you. We know that some staff may not be able to undertake a full complement of working hours and managers are asked to support this where appropriate.

Managers will discuss and agree what needs to be prioritised across the whole team or group and will agree workloads and patterns of work with all team members. These may change as personal and national circumstances change. Conversations between managers and staff should continue so that we continue to flex our approaches, support the needs of our staff and do the best we can for our students.

Please read our principles for supporting staff through lockdown.

How do I find out about the safety arrangements for working on campus?

The Health & Safety team have produced guidelines for anyone who will be working on campus, along with the latest information on risk assessments, contact details and information safety guidance for staff who are working on campus.

Can I see the risk assessment?

Please see the latest information on the safe operating of campus.

Are parking charges still in operation on campus during the current lockdown?

Estates have confirmed that parking charges have been suspended for January and February 2021. 

Your health and concerns

What is the government’s guidance on protecting people more at risk from coronavirus? 

There is current guidance for protecting people who are more at risk from coronavirus.  

There is guidance for staff who are clinically extremely vulnerable and who are advised to work from home. 

All staff who are in campus-tied roles which require them to work on campus should continue to follow the University’s safety guidance in order to minimise their contact with others. This is particularly important at present when a more easily transmitted variant of the virus is at large.

The University has developed a self-assessment tool, available to staff and students which is designed specifically to help people identify their clinical vulnerability to Covid-19.   

What should I do if I feel unwell?

Any staff experiencing symptoms associated with Covid-19 must stay at home or leave campus immediately if they are on site. They should inform their line manager either by email or phone. They should also complete the Covid-19 symptoms or self isolation reporting form. Staff should follow the current guidance on testing and isolation. https://www.sussex.ac.uk/staff/2021/health-advice

Staff who are self-isolating, due to being diagnosed with Covid-19, developing symptoms of Covid-19, living with someone who has symptoms or has been diagnosed with Covid-19 or being contacted by NHS Test and Trace, must not attend campus. Staff should report their self-isolation to the university by contacting their line manager immediately. They must also inform the Health & Safety Team by completing the Covid-19 symptoms or self isolation reporting form.

Staff in essential roles should only return to campus after this period of self-isolation ends or they have been tested and have a negative result and

  • They are well / have no symptoms
  • No one in their household has symptoms or has tested positive for Covid-19
  • They have not been instructed by Test and Trace to isolate
  • Travelled to the UK from a non-exempt country (if relevant)

I am clinically vulnerable, do I still have to come back onto campus, if I am deemed an “essential worker”?

Staff who have long term and serious underlying health conditions are not expected to work on campus at this time if they are in essential roles. Government guidance is that they should not. We recognise that some staff in extremely high risk groups may wish to work on campus for other reasons such as wellbeing or work environment.

In this instance, the situation should be discussed with the relevant line manager who may agree a return in exceptional circumstances.

I am an essential worker and still concerned about working on campus, who do I raise this with?

You should raise any concerns you have with your line manager and you can request such a meeting with your line manager.

We would prefer to find solutions for all staff who are needed to work on campus over the coming weeks, recognising for some that this may be further down the line than others.

I am an essential worker and have long term or significant health reasons for not wanting to work on campus at this time, but I do not want to share my self-assessment with my line manager, what can I do?

Some staff will prefer not to share their self-assessment with their manager, in which case, your line manager will need to consult with HR who will arrange for an Occupational Health assessment that will allow an objective professional review of the risks.

This review will advise on the implications of a return and any adjustments that will create a safe environment, suited to the individual’s circumstances. In many cases, we will be able to adjust for and provide a safe working environment that follows UK government guidelines.

I am an essential worker with concerns about working on campus, but I do not feel that my line manager has been willing to listen to these and take them seriously, what do I do?

If you feel that after speaking to your line manager your concerns have not been taken seriously then you are encouraged to speak to the next level of line management and explain your concerns to them. If you feel unable to approach the next level of line manager for any reason then you can also speak to your HR Business Partner. They will not be able to override the decision of your line manager but they will be able to review the situation from both sides and advise on a suitable way forward. This would be done with you and the line manager.

You may also choose to talk to your Trade Union.

If an individual is off sick for more than seven calendar days as a result of the Coronavirus, will the University require a GP certificate or will a self-certificate for 10 days be acceptable?

The NHS has asked that people with Coronavirus stay away from NHS facilities. Therefore, if an individual has the symptoms of Coronavirus (loss of smell, a persistent cough or fever), and is off sick, we will accept self-certification for absence relating to Coronavirus for a period of up to 10 days. However, normal certification arrangements will remain in place for all other absences.

What are my obligations if I am unwell (COVID or otherwise) now that we are currently working from home?

If you are unwell (with COVID or otherwise) and you would usually take sick leave, you should report your illness to your manager as agreed. You are not expected to work at home while you are ill.

How do I best look after my own physical and mental well-being during this period?

To be able to help others, we need to make sure that we are looking after ourselves as well. Everybody will face different challenges at different times and it is important that everybody focuses on their mental health and wellbeing in addition to their physical wellbeing. Please remember to take breaks.

If you are struggling to cope at any point, please talk to your line manager to let them know so they can help you. If you do not feel able to talk to your line manager please speak to a colleague or Human Resources, or use the support services provided by the University.

The University has an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) called Care First which is a free, objective, professional information and advice service that gives members of staff access to self-help and one to one guidance, including counselling, on a range of issues. These include family, financial and relationship support.

The University also has staff networks (LGBT+, BAME, Trans/non-binary and disability) that can provide helpful support and we have some wellbeing resources to help you.

Self-isolation

When do I need to self-isolate?

Please see current NHS guidance on when and how long to self-isolate The criteria for self-isolation during the Covid pandemic may change. Our expectations are that all staff follow the latest NHS guidance, including when you can return to work.

You will have to self-isolate if you:

  • Have symptoms and are waiting for a test result
  • Have a positive test result
  • Are living in a household where others have positive test results or are waiting for a test result
  • Have returned from travel to a non-exempt destination
  • Have been contacted by NHS Track and Trace and told to self-isolate

How do I report that I need to self-isolate?

Report the fact that you are self-isolating to your line manager as soon as possible, including the start date of your isolation. Complete the online reporting form.

Please keep in touch with your manager and your team to let them know how you are, so that they can be prepared to offer any support needed.

If I remain well while I self-isolate, can I work remotely?

As long as you remain well during your self-isolation, you can continue to work remotely, if there is work available for you to do.

What happens if I am well and there is no work available for me to do while I am self-isolating?

If you remain well during your self isolation and there is little or no suitable remote work that can be allocated to you, then you will still be paid. Managers should make every effort to find at least some suitable work that can be done remotely. In this situation, you will be granted Isolation Special Leave with pay for the duration of the quarantine period. If you go on to develop symptoms and become unwell, then the Isolation Special Leave with pay will switch to sick leave.

What if I am ill during self-isolation?

You should not work if you are ill. Please report your illness to your line manager so that they are aware of your situation and can offer support if needed. If you have not already done so, please complete the reporting form if you are able to. 

If I have to self-isolate, will there be any help available to me?

We hope that, if you have to self-isolate, you remain well and that you have family and friends to support you who also remain well. Some of us may live alone, with vulnerable others or in an isolated area and would struggle to manage if we have to self-isolate for these or other reasons.

Most of us will have the basics in place such as online shopping and banking, but as we approach winter, it’s worth checking that you can do all the usual routine activities online that allow you to function at home. How would you cope if you couldn’t get an online shopping delivery slot for example? Are you in a support network that means you could help others out by shopping for them or picking up “click and collect” shopping and would others help you if necessary? Do you live in the same neighbourhood as colleagues and are you willing to help each other out? Could you arrange support networks within your School or Division?

Staff who may need to have prescriptions delivered can find out how to do so here https://www.nhs.uk/using-the-nhs/nhs-services/pharmacies/how-to-order-repeat-prescriptions-online/

For some of us, self-isolation may impact our mental health and wellbeing adversely. Don’t forget that the University has Care First, an employee assistance programme that gives you access to a range of helpful one to one support and self-help advice. 

Check your local council for support available to those who have a Covid diagnosis or need to self-isolate.

If you become ill, then please follow the guidance on the NHS website

Please don’t struggle if you are in difficulty. Contact your line manager or a colleague and ask for help. If you can’t reach your manager or a colleague, please contact your HR Business Partner who will connect you with a colleague in your School or Division who can help.

Caring responsibilities and children

I have caring responsibility for my children or relative, what do I need to do?

If you have concerns about childcare or caring for relatives and this is prohibiting you from undertaking your work, then you need to speak to your line manager as soon as possible.

Managers are asked to work with all their staff, listening to the challenges faced, considering with you what might be feasible with regard to working flexibly (e.g. compressed hours, different hours of work, reduced hours, variable patterns of working) and will agree a work plan with you. We know that some staff may not be able to undertake a full complement of working hours and managers are asked to support this where appropriate.

We will do our best to work with you around the needs of the University and your job role and the caring responsibilities you have at this time to come up with a workable solution. These types of flexible working arrangements should be reviewed regularly to ensure they are still working for both the member staff and the needs of the individual’s role requirements.

Your manager has the authority during this lockdown period to allow you to work different hours, more flexibly and in some cases to work less hours than normally required, without detriment to your pay.

What is the position regarding school closures and children?

Please refer to the Government guidance.

Please also see the FAQ above on critical worker status and access to schooling for children

Flexible working

It would really help if I could reduce my hours in order to work around my childcare/caring responsibilities, is this ok?

Yes it is ok to request a change in your hours for a temporary period to get through the challenging balance of work and home life. If you opt to reduce your hours then this would be agreed for a fixed period of time and will be reviewed to ensure it is still working for both sides.

There may be other alternatives to reducing your hours, depending on your role, such as a change in your working hours to fit around your caring responsibilities, but if a reduction in hours would help then you are entitled to make this request.

Visa and immigration

I am an employee of the University and work here on a visa/work permit. What is the latest guidance on visa applications and extensions associated with COVID-19?

General guidance on Visa and Certificates of Sponsorships (CoS).

The Home Office has published the latest guidance on GOV.UK for all workers affected by restrictions associated with coronavirus (COVID-19).

Full details are available at: Coronavirus (COVID-19): advice for UK visa applicants and temporary UK residents

As a member of staff, who should I contact about visa and immigration concerns?

If you are a member of staff and you have visa or immigration concerns, please contact our UKVI team at: InternationalHR@sussex.ac.uk

Annual leave

If I have pre-booked annual leave, will I still be able to take it whilst the University has suspended all but essential services on campus?

Yes, you will be able to take annual leave and you should book your leave as you would usually.

I had leave booked, but my holiday has been cancelled; can I cancel my annual leave?

You should discuss this with your line manager as it will be a decision for them based on local business need. Annual leave will need to be co-ordinated within teams to ensure there is adequate cover.

Working from home

If I am being told to work from home, will I be supplied with the appropriate equipment?

The University has made a significant volume of equipment available to staff. If you haven't already done so, it is important you identify what you think you need to your line manager as soon as possible. IT are giving regular updates and posting information on the ITS webpages.  

How will the University ensure I have a safe environment working from home?

Please refer to the Health and Safety webpages.  

Further support, guidance and resources can be found for DSE workstation assessments and on the wellbeing pages.

We do not want to put any of our staff at risk, so please have discussions with your line manager about working from home, what equipment you require and taking care of your wellbeing, e.g. taking breaks.

Do I need to keep in contact with anyone?

Line managers are being asked to ensure they keep in touch regularly to check that people are well and able to work. 

Please remember to let your line manager know if you are diagnosed with Coronavirus or show symptoms, so that we can all take care of one another.

If your circumstances change significantly, please speak with your line manager.

I am due to start a new job with the University in the coming weeks. Will I be able to?

We aim to honour existing job offers. Please contact the person who would be your line manager to discuss both the recruitment process and any possible start date, right-to-work checks and home-working arrangements.

Can I be reimbursed for the costs of working from home, e.g. additional heating costs?

Where you have been asked to work at home (i.e. the University has requested you do so), you may be able to claim tax relief on some of the additional costs you’re incurring.

I am Research member of staff who is unable to continue their research at home, can I come on to campus?

Research staff who need to use laboratory equipment for their work can come on to campus to do this. Please follow the guidance on getting tested before working in research labs on campus. If it is not possible to undertake research remotely then you can continue to do your research on campus. However, agreement of your line manager/HoS, in line with other staff returning to campus, will need to be obtained.

New staff

What is happening about staff recruitment at the University?

Recruitment at the University of Sussex is currently being reviewed. University-funded posts will only be advertised via redeployment and internally in the first instance. In exceptional circumstances, some posts may be authorised to be advertised externally if they are found to be business critical; however, authorisation must be sought first. All externally/grant-funded posts will continue to be advertised as deemed appropriate for the vacancy.

I’m holding or planning to hold interviews for a new member of staff; should I postpone?

Only roles that have been given authorisation can proceed with interviews. If you are unsure whether a role has been authorised, please check with your HR Business Partner. All interviews will need to take place online. 

What guidance is being produced from HR on how to manage inductions for new staff during this period?

New starters should still be able to complete e-learning during this period and this should be accessed in the normal way via Organisational Development. For the induction checklist and other induction resources, please visit the OD section of the University’s website. 

Compassionate & Maternity leave

What are the University’s bereavement/compassionate leave provisions?

In this very sad instance, please speak with your line manager to discuss this situation and talk about what you need. The University provides an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP), called Care First, which offers all staff access to free, objective and professional information and advice on a range of topics such as family, relationships, finances, and includes counselling in support of bereavement.  

The University’s Chaplaincy offers opportunities for one-to-one support to the whole campus community. 

Cruse, the charity that supports those who have been bereaved, offers a wide range of information and self-help materials to help those who are processing loss and those who wish to help someone dealing with loss.

The charity Mind also offers a range of self-help materials on processing bereavement.

I am a member of staff on maternity leave; can I still do Keeping in Touch (KIT) days?

Yes, but please speak with your line manager to investigate if the proposed work to be undertaken can be done at home and/or meetings can be undertaken virtually. If not, the proposed KIT day could be postponed and rescheduled for another day.