HR policies and procedures

How do I find out about the safety arrangements for a possible return to work on campus?
The Health & Safety team have produced guidelines for anyone who will be returning to work on campus, along with the latest information on risk assessments, contact details and information on an induction for everyone who returns.

In addition you can read the return to campus guidance and the mangers and leaders toolkit.

During the return to campus 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 could be because it involves direct face to face contact with students or other members of staff who are also back on campus. It may also be because the service they are involved in delivering can only be delivered on campus, for example the Library service, student and staff services such as cleaning, catering or maintenance.

There may also be examples of roles that are required on campus for the new academic year (or in preparation for the new academic year) where face to face delivery will be expected by our students. There may also be examples of essential roles that over time will change in status, so for example a role may be essential prior to the new academic in preparation for the students’ return, but thereafter may not be essential 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 document we are referring to essential roles as ones that are campus-tied and therefore need to be performed in part or in whole on campus.

Most members of staff in essential roles will be required to return to campus by 21 September for the start of the term.

Essential roles include support services aimed at welcoming students onto campus and guiding them through their first few weeks on campus, student welfare services, guidance and advice. For academic staff examples include face to face teaching, laboratory work and student assessment which needs to take place on campus. Not providing face to face teaching would be detrimental to the student experience and potentially make us non-compliant with CMA requirements. 

Your health and concerns

What should I do if I feel unwell?

Any staff or student experiencing symptoms associated with Covid-19 must leave work immediately and inform their line manager either by email or phone. They should also complete the Covid-19 symptoms or self isolation reporting form

Staff or students who are self-isolating, due to being diagnosed with Covid-19, developing symptoms of Covid-19, living with someone who 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 should only return to campus after this period of self-isolation ends or they have been tested for Covid-19 and the test is negative.

How can we manage staff interactions on campus? 

To ensure we are meeting the SAGE and DfE guidelines, we will be introducing measures in relation to staff interactions on campus to manage and mitigate risks in relation to the potential spread of Covid-19.
 
Our phased return to campus means we are more able to limit staff interactions, by having those who are not in essential roles, not returning to campus before January 2021.
 
Managing the number of times staff come into contact with each other on campus will allow us to reduce the potential size of outbreaks and support easier detection of linked cases and, if necessary, enable more targeted closure or quarantine.
 
It will make it easier to identify and limit those who need to take action in the event of a case or outbreak.
 
Where possible we aim to reduce the number of face-to-face interactions for staff working on campus.  This might include:

  • Only having face to face meetings with small sub groups in Schools/Divisions.
  • Only having face to face meetings where necessary and using online tools to reduce the need for face to face interactions.
  • Managing larger meetings (more than six people) via Zoom or Teams.
  • Team A/B working methods where possible – you should speak to your Head of School or Divisional Director about how to manage this.
What if I feel unable to return to campus for personal reasons?

We understand that some staff will feel uncomfortable with the idea of coming back onto campus. Throughout August you are invited to visit campus with prior permission from your HoS or Director, to see for yourself the provisions that have been made to make the campus as safe as possible for students and staff returning.

Please discuss any concerns about a return to campus with your line manager.

Can I see the risk assessment?

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

I am clinically vulnerable, do I still have to come back onto campus?

The Government has said that as part of the return to workplaces across the UK there are no longer shielding measures in place and these ended on the  1 August. However, we recognise that some staff, who have long term and serious underlying health conditions will have concerns about returning to any areas that expose them to more risk of contracting Covid-19. 

For this reason we are ensuring we have strict measures in place to protect all staff and students, including the wearing of face coverings in lecture rooms, small group teaching sessions and communal areas where it is not possible to keep 2m apart.

Please check latest guidance from the Safety Office on protecting yourself and others from Coronavirus.

Some staff in extremely high risk groups are not expected to return to campus at this time, but are welcome to do so if they feel safe and would like to do parts of their role on campus. All returns to campus must be discussed and agreed with the relevant line manager.

I have read all of the things that are being put into place and I am still concerned, who do I raise this with?

All line managers should be having conversations with their staff about returning to campus, when this might be and how the individual feels about it. 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 to return to campus over the coming months, recognising for some that may be further down the line than others.

Can I delay my return to campus if I do have concerns?

We would prefer for staff to come back onto campus to help us provide the best student experience possible, in very unusual circumstances. However, in line with Public Heath England guidelines we recognise that there may be reasons for your return to be delayed.

This may be due to underlying health conditions, you live with someone with a chronic health condition or childcare issues.

If you are concerned about returning to campus then you need to raise this with your line manager, giving as much detail as possible about your concerns. This will enable you and your manager to explore support available and possible solutions to facilitate your return. If you do not feel comfortable discussing your concerns with your line manager 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 representative. 

If you a member of a Trade Union, you may wish to contact your union.

Am I required to return to campus?

Not all staff are needed on campus from September, in fact many staff will still be working from home until January 2021 in order for us to focus on making the areas of campus we need to use for students as safe as possible. Having fewer members of staff on campus will allow us to keep social distancing measures in place across the public areas of campus. Focusing on returning essential roles also helps those staff supporting the return to campus to concentrate their efforts where they are most needed at this time.

As part of Stage 2, members of staff who are in essential roles are asked to return to campus from September, where they feel comfortable to do so taking into consideration risk factors and personal caring responsibilities.

Staff who have high risk factors, or a number of risk factors, increasing their overall risk are not required to come back to campus in September, but are invited to return to campus if they feel safe to do so.

Staff in these groups are required to communicate that they will not be able to return to campus, to their line manager. They are also asked to give as much information as they feel comfortable to give about their reasons for not returning at this time and an indication of when they think they might be able to return to campus.

This will then be reviewed by the end of November with their line manager and HR representative to discuss a plan of return.

I have long term or significant health reasons for not wanting to return to 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 most cases, we will be able to adjust for and provide a safe working environment that follows UK government guidelines.

I have concerns about returning to 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 representative. 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 14 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 (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 14 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.

Can I get a flu jab on campus this year?

As a priority, all staff returning to campus who are eligible for a free vaccination are encouraged to book and receive their vaccination in order to reduce the risks for them and for our whole community associated with the impact of seasonal flu. Our campus Pharmacy has some flu vaccinations available from the beginning of the academic year. Of course, staff may prefer to have a vaccination from their GP and it may be easier to do so.

Those of us who are not eligible at the moment for a free flu vaccination, may wish to book and pay for a vaccination from a pharmacy or another provider. Many supermarket pharmacies now offer flu vaccinations. You can read current information on flu vaccinations and eligibility for free vaccinations

If you wish or need to have a vaccination, the University actively encourages you to take the time required to do this.

Self-isolation

When do I need to self-isolate?

The current NHS guidance on when and how long to self-isolate can be can be found at: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/self-isolation-and-treatment/when-to-self-isolate-and-what-to-do/  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 http://www.sussex.ac.uk/hso/specialist/covid19symptoms

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 quarantine 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. The Special Isolation Leave arrangement will be reviewed by the University at the end of December 2020.

The exception to this will be if you self-isolate following a return from a non-exempt destination after a holiday. In this circumstance, please see our FAQ on self-isolation under the heading Annual leave.

What if my holiday destination becomes non-exempt while I am on holiday and I have to unexpectedly self-isolate on my return?

If government guidance changed while you were abroad and you therefore had no reasonable expectation of having to self-isolate, then as long as you remain well, you can either work remotely or take Special Isolation Leave if there is no work available to you. If you become ill, you should follow the Covid sickness reporting procedure

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.

A member of my team is self-isolating and is unwell. I am worried that they are struggling to manage. What should I do?

In preparation for this possibility, it may be useful to encourage your staff to agree local support networks so that they can help each other out if need be and to encourage individuals to plan ahead and make sure they can undertake routine activities online if they need to.

If you are worried that someone may be struggling and if the member of staff is well enough to talk, ask them what would help them. Can a colleague shop for them or collect prescriptions? If you are concerned about their mental or physical health and they appear to have little or no support, contact your HR Business Partner for advice.

A member of my team is self-isolating, but can’t work from home. What should I do?

If a member of your team is required to self-isolate, either because they have returned from a non-exempt country or they have been contacted by NHS Test and Trace, and they are unable to work from home they will be granted Special Leave with pay for the duration of 14-day quarantine period.

This period of 14 days for the purpose of self-isolation will not be recorded as sick leave.  If they go on to develop symptoms of Covid 19 or develop any other sickness, then the Special Leave with pay will cease and the absence should then be recorded as sick leave, in accordance with the Sickness Absence procedure.

Please note that the 14-day quarantine period is calendar days and not working days. Also, the period of 14 days is the maximum amount of Special Leave that can be applied.

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 should only return to campus after this period of self-isolation ends or they have been tested for Covid-19 and the test is negative.

This arrangement will be reviewed before the end of December 2020.

Caring responsibilities and children

I have caring responsibility for my children or relative, do I have to return to campus?

The Government has said that shielding stops from 1 August and all children, even those who were previously shielding must return to school at the start of the new school year.  If you have concerns about childcare or caring for relatives and this is prohibiting you from returning to work then you need to speak to your line manager as soon as possible. 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 will be reviewed by the end of November to ensure they are still working for both the member of staff and the needs of the individual’s role requirements.

What is the position regarding school closures and children?

Plans are in hand for children to return to school from September 2020. Please refer to the Government guidance on schools and nurseries. 

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 changeling 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

Annual leave

I wish to go abroad for personal / recreational reasons and the current government guidance requires me to self-isolate for 14 days when I return.  What will this mean for my work at the University?

It is likely that many staff who have booked holidays abroad will have had these cancelled, but if you are planning to take leave outside of the UK then please contact your manager in advance to agree the arrangements to accommodate current requirements for self-isolation on your return. If you have been granted annual leave for your trip and will be able to work from home, then there may be no implications for your work.  You will simply continue to work from home but your manager will be aware that you will be unable to attend your place of work during this period. 

If you have on-site teaching or other 'in person’ requirements during the self-isolation period then you will need to speak with your manager so they can see if it’s possible to cover these commitments in another way.

You will be required at all times to act in accordance with the latest government guidance on re-entering the country. https://www.gov.uk/uk-border-control.

If you are unable to carry out your normal work from home, and you cannot be allocated alternative work that you can carry out from home, you should discuss the impact of this with your line manager before you book your annual leave and travel abroad.  The alternative options that might be available to you regarding the 14 day self-isolation period include:

  • If you have sufficient annual leave, you may apply for a long enough period of leave to cover both your trip and the required period of self-isolation on your return (exceptionally you may be able to make a local arrangement to bring forward some of your 2021 leave allowance to cover this period)
  • If you do not have sufficient annual leave, you may apply for annual leave for your trip and additionally for a period of unpaid leave to cover your self-isolation on your return.
  • It may alternatively be possible for you to make up the time required during the three months following your return to work and where practical and possible, your manager should support this.

Should you develop symptoms of COVID-19 at any point, you must follow the relevant Government guidance with regards to getting tested.  Any period when you are unwell should be registered as sickness absence. You should alert your line manager if you develop Covid symptoms, if your test is positive and if you become unwell.

Government guidance continues to evolve and may override University guidance at any time.

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.

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.

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

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.

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. 

Furlough

Does the Government Job Retention (or furlough) Scheme in respect of pay apply to me?

In light of the Government’s continuing announcements on the scheme, the University has contacted staff eligible for furlough and will continue to monitor the options open to us. Find out more about the furlough scheme.

Compassionate 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.