Guidance for staff returning to work on campus

Introduction

As we move into a new academic year, this one is certain to start in the way that no other will have before. These are challenging and uncertain times and things are emerging nationally and globally on a daily basis at this time. As such we need to move to a more blended approach in many things that we do and ways we work. We aim to do this together and in collaboration with our staff and students, ensuring we manage everyone’s wellbeing, both mental and physical.

The university is implementing a planned, phased and flexible re-opening of campus as the government eases lockdown restrictions from 1st August 2020. The majority of staff will continue to work at home throughout July and August, however, there is a need to ask certain groups of staff to return to campus from September onwards. The university aims to continue to deliver the best student experience possible by providing a blended learning approach from September 2020, with the resumption of some face to face teaching activities on campus, as part of a new blended delivery of the academic year 2020/21.

This document aims to set out our key principles for staff returning to work on campus. Additional guidance is being developed to support managers in planning for return to campus and addressing any staff concerns.

The ongoing government response to the Covid-19 outbreak is fluid and subject to change and the University’s approach will need to adapt in accordance with any changes to government and public health guidance. Any guidance will be subject to continuous review and amendment. It may be necessary to implement additional or alternative measures in response to changing circumstances as we move through phases of the re-opening.

Principles

  • Return to campus is focused on those roles and activities that need to be performed on campus to meet our academic objectives or to support students who are resident on campus or essential operational requirements (such as security). Working from home, where possible, will remain the default for many of our staff.
  • The health, safety and wellbeing, both physical and mental, of our staff and students is our key priority and will remain at the centre of our planning and decision-making.
  • We will look to support the resumption of academic activities on campus, giving overall priority to teaching, while also addressing non-academic aspects of the student experience.
  • At all times our policies and guidance will meet UK Government, Public Health England and health and safety requirements and guidelines. We recognise that our policies and guidance may need to change as advice from these bodies evolves.
  • We will implement a range of health and safety measures to ensure a safe working environment for everyone on campus. Our approach is underpinned by comprehensive risk assessments, and measures include appropriate social distancing, changes to the working environment and physical use of space, provision of appropriate PPE and hygiene and hand washing facilities, additional cleaning, changes to working practices, adequate ventilation and guidance information for staff working on campus.
  • We will take account of the needs of staff that are vulnerable, or who may live with someone who is vulnerable, and have increased risks associated with Covid-19, providing support and flexibilities where necessary.
  • We will do our best to come up with a workable solution balancing the needs of the University and your job role and the caring responsibilities you have at this time.
  • We will ensure comprehensive equality analysis throughout our approach to re-opening and returning to campus.
  • We will work constructively with our trade union colleagues throughout our phased approach to re-opening campus.

Staff returning to campus

As more staff start to return to campus, during the phased return the University will continue to review which roles are identified as essential – by which we mean, cannot be performed off campus but must be performed. Wherever possible these roles will be filled by staff who are happy to come or to return to campus for part, or, all of their role. However, there may be occasions where it is necessary to ask a member of staff to return to campus and in this will be subject to consideration of any individual circumstances and level of risk. Any requests to return to work on campus will be in line with government guidance.

We understand that some staff may be concerned about returning. There may be particular concerns around the use of public transport, and we will look to provide flexibility wherever possible and practical to limit the need for staff to travel at peak times. Staff should also be assured that any areas of campus that are or already have been re-opened, will have done so with robust health and safety measures implemented to ensure a safe and secure working environment.

Where staff have individual circumstances that make their return to work more difficult or limit their availability to return, these should be discussed with their line manager. Examples may include:

  • Concerns over health due to being clinically vulnerable, pregnant or other high-risk factors.
  • Difficulties attending campus due to childcare or other caring responsibilities.
  • Difficulties with any changes in working arrangements on campus due to a disability.

Guidance is being developed for managers to help plan for staff returning to campus and support them in addressing any individual concerns. We will look to support staff and address staff concerns.

Essential roles

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 year 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.

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. 

Raising concerns

In the period from August to September, staff and managers are expected to discuss and agree any mitigations or adaptations required to address the specific risk factors that may affect individuals. Where a member of staff feels they have discussed these mitigations and adaptations with their line manager already and are being requested to return to campus without these in place, they should raise this with the next tier of management, in the first instance. Staff are also welcome to raise concerns with their HR and/or Trade Union representative.

Accessing campus

While we are gradually re-opening the campus, staff access to buildings and returns to work on campus remain limited and are restricted to those who need to do so for essential work reasons. Throughout July and August staff can only return to campus if authorised to do so by their line manager and on completion of the voluntary return to campus form (unless they are fulfilling an essential role and have already agreed to be on campus).

Not all staff will return to 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 the delivery of the academic programme as safe as possible, for staff and students. 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.

Staff with specific risk factors

Staff who do have concerns about returning to campus linked to health issues, or increased risk of contracting Covid-19 are encouraged to talk to their line managers about their concerns. As an organisation, we are open to discussing phased returns to allow individuals to feel assured that they are safe and protection measures are in place.

Staff who are at high risk of contracting and becoming seriously ill from Covid-19 will not be expected to come back to campus in September. If you are concerned that you are at a greater risk of suffering more serious symptoms in the event that you contract Covid-19, you might find it helpful to use a “calculator” as a self-assessment tool.

We are currently testing a self-assessment tool, which is found to be suitable will be communicated to all staff in the next few weeks for use. The University does not guarantee  the accuracy of this calculator. Please note, this is not a medical diagnostic tool; it is only indicative of statistical averages: the resulting score does not mean that you will or will not suffer more serious symptoms if you contract Covid-19. The calculator has utility in that it may be used by you as a prompt to engage in a discussion with your Line Manager about any concerns that you might have about returning to work on campus. Your Line Manager will be able to explain the Health & Safety measures that the University has put into place and decide with you whether these are sufficient to meet your needs or if further mitigation is required.

This tool is for guidance only and to help inform the conversation between a member of staff and their line manager. We would encourage staff to have a conversation with their line manager about any concerns they have about return to campus even before getting access to the self-assessment tool.

Some staff will prefer not to share their self-assessment with their manager, in which case the HR Representative 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.

Staff who are in higher risk categories wanting to return at this time will need to discuss the measures needed in place to reduce risks. It is essential line managers are aware of staff in higher risk groups that plan to return to campus, in order for us to take whatever mitigating measures we can.

Agreed working arrangements will be reviewed by the end of November with the line managers and HR representative to check the arrangements are still applicable and discuss a future plan of return.

Staff with caring responsibilities

Staff with concerns about childcare or caring responsibilities which are prohibiting return to campus are requested to speak to their line manager or HR representative as soon as possible. We will do our best to come up with a workable solution balancing the needs of the University and your job role and the caring responsibilities you have at this time. Agreed 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 requirements of the individual’s role.

Health and safety

Appropriate risk assessments have been carried out on all campus space that is re-opening, with necessary mitigations and health and safety measures put in place to ensure a safe working environment in line with government guidance.

Staff and manager responsibilities

Managers have a responsibility to:

  • conduct individual conversations with staff who may be required to return to campus.
  • determine the operational needs for working on campus and which roles may need to return to campus and when.
  • ensure a fair and equitable approach to return to campus for their teams as much as possible.
  • ensure that staff who are being asked to return work on campus have received and read this information and any updates issued from time to time.
  • ensure that these health and safety measures and protocols are complied with and enforced, making swift interventions to tackle any breaches.
  • set clear and achievable work objectives, particularly where work requirements may be different from before the lockdown.

Staff have a responsibility to:

  • work with their line manager to ensure any concerns about return to campus are raised and discussed.
  • fully familiarise themselves with this information before they return to work on campus and to attend return to work briefings as required.
  • comply with all health and safety measures and protocols in place while working on campus.
  • report breaches by other members of staff swiftly to their line managers or other appropriate person.

Reporting symptoms and self-isolation

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.

Additional Safety Guidance

Additional guidance on Covid-19 and associated controls can be found on the Health & Safety Covid-19 resources page.

Local lockdowns

Where a member of staff is impacted by a localised temporary enforcement of lockdown restrictions, they should discuss with their line manager as soon as possible. Staff under local lockdown arrangements will not be required to work on campus and should work from home, where possible.