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COVID-19 FAQ: Guidance for Managers

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Questions

What should I do if a member of my team reports a positive COVID-19 test result to me?

1. If someone reports a positive COVID-19 result to you, please advise them to:

  • follow all government advice to self-isolate (stay at home)
  • follow all instructions from the NHS and engage with the Test and Trace system (including advising Test and Trace that they are connected to the University)
  • not return to work on campus until they have completed the self-isolation period.

If unwell and unable to work, then the staff member should use the USP1 form to report absence following our normal processes.

2. As a line manager, you should promptly inform your Head of School or Function and complete the online reporting form.

Even if your staff member has not been to campus, you should still use the reporting form to notify a positive case.

Providing as much information as possible at an early stage will help the University to respond quickly and protect our community. It will also enable us to liaise with external bodies such as Public Health England and local authorities to ensure that actions are effective and proportionate.

3. Please also contact Cleaning Services where someone has been on campus so that decisions can be taken as to whether their work-space can be closed off for a period of 72 hours before cleaning can take place. 

Wider communication of a positive test within your team should not be done at this stage. Our University COVID-19 Case Management Team will contact directly from within our University community who is identified as having been in close contact with the affected person.

What should I do if a member of my team reports that they have symptoms of COVID-19?

1. If someone in your team contacts you about showing symptoms or self-isolating, please advise them to:

  • follow all government advice to self-isolate (stay at home)
  • follow all instructions from the NHS and engage with the Test and Trace system (including advising Test and Trace that they are connected to the University)
  • not return to work on campus until they have completed the self-isolation period.

2. You should inform your Head of School or Function and complete a the online reporting form that records that the staff member is showing symptoms and if they are seeking or struggling to obtain a test.

What is the current approach for meetings on campus or online?

All formal meetings should continue to take place online in the first instance. We are finalising updated guidance on in-person meetings, which will be shared soon. In the meantime, small in-person meetings can take place subject to a dynamic risk assessment (checking room capacity, opening windows, ensuring participants can be at an appropriate 2m distance). Please be sensitive to the concerns of others about meeting in person and continue to meet digitally where appropriate.

For guidance on conducting online meetings, view the Guidance for Virtual Meetings document (PDF).

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How should I respond where a member of staff raises concerns about undertaking particular activities due to their own vulnerability or risk of transmission to vulnerable family members?

If a colleague has very specific needs such as a disability (which may involve underlying health conditions or access issues), or may consider themselves to be vulnerable, consideration should be given to any additional risk factors that may need to be taken into account and mitigated. This may require an individual risk assessment which can be done with the support of HR and Occupational Health.

Line managers should listen to any concerns raised and in consultation with the individual, and with advice from their HR Partner/HR Advisor, undertake a short assessment of the potential risks for particular colleagues using the tools below:

Risk Assessment Tool - 1 (For staff who identify they may be vulnerable due to their own underlying health conditions or where they have particular protected characteristics which may mean they are more vulnerable, for example ethnicity, age, gender).

This has been modified by Occupational Health Services from existing tools that are in circulation in the wider UK Occupational Health Professional community. A colour-coded version of this table is available to download (Word, 16 KB).

Description

Level of risk

Risk Mitigation that the employer is advised to put in place.

Those under 70, who may have

Underlying health conditions but do not have conditions defined in the government guidance that would make them more vulnerable if they were to contract COVID-19

 

Standard (GREEN)

 

 

 

Social distancing and hygiene measures should be applied

 

Workplace controls as decided following risk assessment

 

Occupational Health Referral not required

 

 

 

Those considered to be more vulnerable to serious illness if were to get COVID-19.

 

May be over 70 or those under 70 who may have underlying health conditions that would make them more vulnerable to becoming unwell.

 

Those who may be concerned about a family member's health and feel returning to work could put them at risk.

Increased risk (YELLOW)

 

 

Social Distancing and hygiene measures will need to be applied

 

Discuss any concerns with the individual and review any other measures that may need to be considered consider using risk assessment tool 2 (see below)

 

If concerned consider making an Occupational Health referral so risk factors can be considered

 

Those who are viewed to be vulnerable to risk of becoming very unwell if they were to get COVID-19. They are likely to seriously affected by one if the conditions that the Government has advised makes a person more vulnerable.(including pregnancy)

 

High risk (AMBER)

 

 

 

Social Distancing will need to be applied

 

Review any other measures that may need to be considered and carry out individual risk assessment

 

Referral to Occupational Health is recommended as other risk factors can be considered including ethnicity, age and gender.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Those who are viewed to be extremely vulnerable to the risk of becoming very unwell if they were to get COVID-19.

They are likely to have been advised to shield and may have received a letter or been speaking to their Consultant/GP

 

 

 

 

Very high risk

 

 

 

 

Individual who has been shielding at home and will need to continue to exercise caution as they remain vulnerable.

Referral to Occupational Health is recommended as other risk factors can be considered including ethnicity, age and gender


Risk Assessment - Tool 2 (Where staff have been identified as having an increased risk - YELLOW - via Risk Assessment Tool 1)

This tool helps you to evaluate the residual risk of COVID-19 transmission through work activities.

This has been modified by Occupational Health Services from existing tools that are in circulation in the wider UK Occupational Health Professional community. A Word version of this table is available to download (Word, 16 KB).

Framework for workplace COVID-19 risk

Based on risk after control measures are implemented (Please also refer to the document COVID19 Risk Reduction measures ("social distancing") produced by Health and Safety Services)

Risk ID

 

1

Risk factors

 

Is the role or work activity public /student facing?

 

Low 

Standard

Medium

High

 

 

 

 

2

Ability to maintain social distancing at work >2m

 

 

 

 

 

3

Consider the number of different people sharing the workplace

 

 

 

 

4

Mode of travel to and from work

 

 

 

 

 

5

 

Workplace entry and exit

routes

 

 

 

 

6

 

Availability and use of PPE

 

 

 

 

7

Ability to maintain hand hygiene

 

 

 

 

8

Workplace environment cleanliness control

 

 

 

 

9

Ability to avoid symptomatic people

 

 

 

 


If you have team members on furlough leave and you do not have enough work for everyone to go back full-time immediately, you may want to consider enabling staff who are vulnerable to be the last team members to return to work. 

Another option you can consider is to identify work that can be done remotely to enable them to remain working remotely rather than coming back onto site at the University. If this is outside of the work they could usually be asked to undertake, you should seek their agreement to this change.

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Where can I find the COVID induction modules and guidance for working on campus?

While the University has put in place lots of safety measures, we all have a responsibility to help keep our whole community safe. Before working on campus, please complete two short induction modules in UoRLearn so that you understand what you need to do:

  • Generic COVID Induction Module 1- Health and Workplace Expectations. This covers our expectations of colleagues, when not to return to campus, NHS Test & Trace Service, wellbeing support, controlling workplace transmission, face coverings, and travel to and from work.
  • Generic COVID Induction Module 2- Buildings and Workspaces. This covers COVID-19 secure measures, common area plans, external areas, cleaning, emergency arrangements, and using workplace facilities.
  • Colleagues involved in face-to-face teaching will also need complete theGeneric COVID Induction Module 3. This covers key information and documents, teaching activity, face coverings, responsibilities "before, during, and at the end of a teaching session", student information/expectations, and fire safety.

You will also be invited to take part in a local induction outlining the safety measures that have been tailored to your individual School or Function. Details will be shared by your Head of School/Function, or your local Health & Safety Co-ordinator.

Key things to read

As well as the induction modules mentioned above, you should also review the following guidance before you return:

  • Corporate-level risk assessment(PDF): setting out the main steps being taken to minimise risks of COVID-19 on campus and who is responsible for managing these, to be supplemented by local risk assessments for specific activities.
  • Safety Note 76 Risk reduction measures(PDF): download the latest campus social distancing guidance.
  • COVID-19 FAQS: browse any topics relevant to you and your role (we are updating these frequently).

If you have any queries, please speak to your line manager in the first instance.

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What do I need to consider to support my team in returning to campus?

Further guidance for managers was circulated to the Leadership Group in June 2021. Please refer to this guidance before making decisions about colleagues returning to work on campus.

There are a number of considerations to make when returning teams to campus, some much like when a colleague returns from a period of family leave or long-term sickness absence and others more complex and large scale.  The following questions/statements may not be relevant to all but may prompt discussion and/or assist in determining what support colleagues may require, if at all.

  • - How many of my team can be in the workspace at one time?
  • - Can social distancing be maintained? Is there adequate ventilation?
  • - Did anybody cancel their car park pass? They will need to reinstate this before they return to campus.
  • - Would they like to meet on campus ahead of a return to see the COVID-safe measures put in place?
  • - Has the member of staff been furloughed? Perhaps treat this as a reintroduction to work as well as a reintroduction to campus.
  • - When are people expected to return to campus?
  • - Explain that this is a phased/transition period of return and it won't be all back at once.
  • - Initiate a rota - involve the team and be clear on what the expectation to be on campus actually is.

It is important to ensure relevant colleagues (Heads of School or Function/ Health and Safety etc) are involved in the decision to return teams to campus and this must adhere to the guidance outlined by the government and the Major Recovery Team (MRT).  Line Managers should not agree to a return without the appropriate approval.

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What to do if an individual has concerns about returning to campus due to be vulnerable or identified as being at increased risk.

You may find the following risk assessment tools helpful if you have concerns about working based on your circumstances:

Risk Assessment Tool 1 (for those who identify they may be vulnerable due to an underlying health conditions or protected characteristic, for example ethnicity, age, gender). Download (Word, 16 KB)

Risk Assessment Tool 2 (Where staff have been identified as having an increased risk via Risk Assessment Tool 1). This tool helps you to evaluate the residual risk of COVID-19 transmission through work activities. Download (Word, 16 KB).

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How can I support an employee whose children are not in school and/or their normal childcare arrangements are not available?   

We recognise that the COVID-19 situation continues to provide challenges for some parents. 

You should continue to support colleagues as much as possible during these exceptional times, accepting that there will need for flexibility in how a role is performed and that it may not be possible for some colleagues to work to full capacity.

However, if colleagues cannot work at all because they are caring for children they can use annual leave or request some temporary flexibility in their working hours or time. They can also request statutory Parental Leave (to care for a child under 18 years old) if they need more time than annual leave would allow.  

Managers can explore with colleagues other options such as:

  • Are they sharing the day-today childcare with another parent or person they are living with and could the working hours be worked around each other's commitments?
  • Can your team member adjust their working hours to different days of the week? Including possibly some time at the weekend or in the evenings (where this does not impact others or the delivery of the service) instead of during the week if another person is able to look after their children at the weekend?
  • Could they consider temporarily reducing their hours of work to better balance work and looking after their children?

Please seek advice from your HR Advisor or HR Partner.

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My team member says they can't work on campus because they travel to work on public transport. What can I do? 

You should check with your team member about the other options for travel to campus and what may be preventing them from using other forms of transport. Also explore a mix of working from home and on campus if that is feasible for their role and reduces the need for travel.  Discuss with them whether there are any factors which increase their risk (e.g. ethnicity).  You could also discuss a change to working days/hours, for instance to travel at quieter times of the day. If it needs to be a temporary change, regularly review the arrangement as the public transport provision may change frequently too.

However, if it is necessary for your team member to work on campus and there are no adjustments which have been identified via Occupational Health, then they will need to return to campus when required.

Colleagues should be advised to take into account government guidance when travelling on public transport, such as using a face covering and distancing as far as they are able to.

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One of my team members does not have any health or other vulnerabilities but is reluctant to work on campus. How should I manage this?

It is important to understand their anxieties and concerns, but this must also be reconciled with legitimate operational requirements. If it is possible for them to continue to work from home at the moment then they could do so.

If they are required to work on campus then providing reassurance about the arrangements on campus will be key. Talk to your team member to try to understand the circumstances and their concerns. It may be that they are not fully aware of the measures that have been put in place on campus, or in their workspace to accommodate social distancing. Once you have explained what is in place, they may feel more comfortable about working on campus.

Employers cannot force employees to work if it is unsafe, but if their work requires them to return to campus and you can show that all reasonable arrangements have been put in place and the work cannot be done from home, the employee cannot unreasonably refuse. So you will need to be clear about the specific arrangements and that you will expect them to return and when. If further advice is needed, please speak to your HR Partner.

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What measures will be taken if an employee does not follow social distancing measures or other safety requirements?

All colleagues have a responsibility for their own and others welfare to follow the national guidance on social distancing.  We have produced a Code of Conduct (Word, 795 KB) which applies to all staff and sets out the standards of behaviour and respect we expect of all colleagues. 

If concerns have been raised to you, then it is important to speak to the relevant staff in the first instance.  Have a conversation to check they understand the social distancing requirements and how this is applied in the University and local setting.

If you have not already done so, run through the measures that have been set up to maintain social distancing in the workspace and building they are working in. Check if there are any areas they are not sure about. Discuss any concerns they have about the social distancing or other issues that may have affected their understanding of the new ways of working.

If a colleague is wilfully disregarding the social distancing or other safety guidance and in doing so, may be putting other colleagues or students at risk, then formal disciplinary action may be appropriate. Please contact your HR Advisor or HR Partner for advice as required.

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What should I do if I notice that a member of my team is displaying what might be COVID-19 symptoms?

You should take steps to ensure staff are adhering to the advice outlined in the current government guidelines.

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How do I manage a team that is split between home and campus?

You may have teams which are split between working on and off site. It is important that colleagues across the team continue to feel connected with each other and with the work of your School / Function. Think about how important it is for anyone in the team to maintain traditional ‘office hours' and try to develop a culture where the working hours of those working from home are easily understood by their manager and colleagues.

Continue as far as possible to use Teams for meetings to include those continuing to work remotely, and to assist with ongoing social distancing for those on campus.

Additional information is available to support managers to manage staff remotely - please see "Leading a Remote team" online course available via UoRLearn.

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What approach can I take to ask employees to work at a different desk or office on campus?

For safety and social distancing reasons, there will need to be some reasonable changes to the workplace. This may mean that colleagues need to work at a different desk, in a different building or on a different campus from normal. Staff should be made aware of any changes to their work location on campus prior to their return to work and provided with any relevant information relating to the change.  It is reasonable for colleagues to be asked to work at a different campus at this time but allow colleagues a chance to discuss any queries they may have.

If employees have reasonable objections to the workspace allocated on return, managers can try to accommodate other reasonable suggestions. It may not be possible to accommodate all requests if buildings remain closed or do not enable social distancing, or where the location of the individual will result in them being unable to deliver the requirements of the role. If you have any ongoing issues or concerns please seek advice from your HR Advisor or HR Partner.

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What things need to be considered to help employees adjust to working in a shared environment with their colleagues? 

Working in what may feel like a very different environment will require a level of adjustment and this will impact people in different ways. The first thing to remember is to be considerate to each other and understand that everyone will have varying concerns that may or may not be shared by others. Colleagues must understand that some people will want to work in ways that may seem new and different to others and that in these circumstances these new ways of working may be wholly reasonable. 

All colleagues should be reminded of the need to abide by the social distancing guidance and any local health and safety guidance for their place of work.

When using desks and equipment, where possible, colleagues should use only their own workstation and equipment. If employees need to use other workspaces, where possible they should take with them their own keyboard, mouse, telephone/headset and other portable equipment including pens and other stationery. Where this is not possible then equipment must be thoroughly wiped down before use and all health and safety guidelines must be adhered to. 

All colleagues must ensure that they take care in personal hygiene and wash hands regularly and thoroughly.

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How should I respond if an employee requests facilities or equipment to work from home? 

Where possible, colleagues who are working from home for short periods should continue to adapt to the circumstances and use the equipment available to them. There is considerable guidance available on workstation set up and taking breaks. The Campus Services Request form should be completed as any part of a request (University log in required).

In some circumstances we recognise that there may be health conditions or other reasons why the home workstation is not suitable for extended working from home. In these circumstances it may be helpful to refer your team member to Occupational Health who may be able to make other recommendations. If necessary it may mean that some colleagues will need to return sooner to the campus workspace or to have equipment made available to them at home, but the Occupational Health referral will help to determine this. 

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How do I manage people when I am asking them to do something different and they are unwilling? 

It is not unreasonable to ask colleagues to do different duties as long as these are within the scope of their job and their skills and abilities. Currently, in particular, we may require people to focus on different aspects of their role or to take on additional or different tasks; these should all be reasonable requests.

You may find it helpful to take colleagues through why you have asked them to do something different, understanding the reason for a request is usually the best way for people to feel better about being asked. If you have ongoing concerns please contact your HR Advisor or HR Partner for advice as required.

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What happens if an employee has difficulty with suggested arrangements to cover the social distancing requirements, such as staggered start and finish hours?  

Arrange to speak to them to better understand what the issues are and consider what different options may be available that work for both parties. It may be that suggestions impact on them in ways you have not considered and some other options may work better for them, including taking paid annual leave, unpaid parental leave, unpaid leave, or different flexible working arrangements such as a temporary reduction in hours of work. 

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What do I need to consider in terms of supporting a pregnant colleague?

Please encourage pregnant colleagues to review and follow the latest government advice, and further information published by the NHS.

The NHS have also published specific advice about the COVID-19 vaccine for people who are pregnant.

Where a member of staff has disclosed they are pregnant, you should undertake a New and Expectant Mothers Risk Assessment. 

If you have questions or need further advice, please contact your HR Business Partner.

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What about staff who need to travel to or visit external partners or other Institutions or organisations? 

Where possible, colleagues are reminded to continue to work remotely and conduct meetings using Teams. If travel to other sites or organisations is required, including travel to a partner office within the UK or abroad, , this should be covered by a risk assessment and it may be helpful to understand what measures have been taken by the external company.  

There are full details available on the COVID-19 FAQs under Travel and Insurance.  Check with the employee that they understand the risk assessment and are comfortable with the arrangements provided to carry out their visit.  

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What other support is available to colleagues with, for example, financial concerns?  

You can encourage them to contact the Employee Assistance Programme - which is an independent, free, confidential support and counselling service which is run by CIC and is called Confidential Care.  Confidential Care gives employees a place to turn to for support any time of day or night, 365 days a year. Support is available for whatever issues employees might be facing including financial problems, work stress, depression, marriage and relationship issues, legal concerns, coping with change, parenting issues, health issues and much more.

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Useful further information:

Safety Notice No 76 - COVID19 Risk Reduction Measures (Social Distancing")

Managing Stress and Anxiety - returning to work after lockdown

Returning to work may feel like a source of stress for some individuals and having a discussion about the 6 key areas of work design that are known stressors can be helpful and using the Talking Tool Kit.

Causes of concern:

Addressing work stressors

 

Excessive demands

Discuss the issues they have and agree any changes that are feasible

Low control

Outline any area of flexibility

Poor relationships

Have 1 to 1's and catch ups with team

Poor support

Remind them of wellbeing resources

Unsure of role

Be clear about expectations for their role and work responsibilities

Poor change management

Talk through what may be different in their role as a result changing work processes or procedures


Employees may also wish to access the Employee Assistance Programme for further information and support.  This is a free and confidential service offering telephone and online information and support.

Social anxiety after lockdown

Returning to work during Covid-19

UoRLearn - online courses available for all staff to help with skills development such as workload management and organisation skills

UoRLearn- Quick reference guide for line managers

Mentoring and Coaching support for line managers - we recognise that as a line manager, supporting staff through this difficult time and reintegrating staff back into the workplace is challenging. Mentoring and coaching is available for line managers if this may be useful support for you during this time. Please contact peopledevelopment@reading.ac.uk for more details so you can decide if this may be useful development support for you at this time.

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