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Frequently asked questions


Last updated: 3 April 2020

COVID-19 is a new illness that can affect your lungs and airways. It is caused by a virus called coronavirus.

This webpage provides information relevant to colleagues at the University. We are working hard to keep it up to date, but you can find the latest advice on the UK government’s Coronavirus (COVID-19): what you need to do website.

It is important the all colleagues follow the current government advice to:

  • only go outside for food, health reasons or work (where this absolutely cannot be done from home)
  • stay 2 metres (6ft) away from other people
  • wash your hands as soon as you get home

For more information read the Full guidance on staying at home and away from others.  

A Major Incident Team at the University is directing our response to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. It has been communicating regularly with colleagues and students providing advice on what they should do in the current situation.

You will have been receiving emails from the Major Incident Team, but please email us at if the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) below do not answer any questions you may have.

If you haven’t already done so, please take a moment to read Vice-Chancellor Professor Robert Van de Noort’s thank you message to all colleagues

In terms of information for students, we are regularly updating our Essentials webpages, which includes advice about what they need to do if they return home or need to self-isolate. We have also saved copies of all emails sent to students which you can also access.

Frequently asked Questions

What is the current advice to colleagues working at the University?

Following government advice on social distancing, arrangements have been made across the University for colleagues to work from home where possible.

Whether you are working from home or are providing support on the campus, please follow the current government advice to:

  • only go outside for food, health reasons or work (where this absolutely cannot be done from home)
  • stay 2 metres (6ft) away from other people
  • wash your hands as soon as you get home

We understand that working from home may be a relatively newer experience for many colleagues. It comes at a time when you will have caring responsibilities as well as other family members working from home. We recognise that your work patterns may change from day to day and it requires flexibility and support of the team you are a part of.

Our advice is that you speak with your line manager and discuss what is feasible in a particular circumstance. Working from home will, hopefully, provide you with greater flexibility around how and when you work, in order to better manage your caring responsibilities.  Please keep in regular contact with your line manager to agree necessary arrangements. 


Is there something I can do to prevent the infection from spreading?

Along with the UK government’s Coronavirus (COVID-19): what you need to do, the current National Health Service (NHS) advice is to:

  • wash your hands with soap and water often – do this for at least 20 seconds
  • use hand sanitiser gel if soap and water are not available
  • wash your hands as soon as you get back home
  • cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when you cough or sneeze
  • put used tissues in the bin immediately and wash your hands afterwards


What should I do if I have symptoms of COVID-19?

The National Health Service (NHS) advice is that you do not leave home if you have either:

  • a high temperature – this means you feel hot to touch on your chest or back (you do not need to measure your temperature)
  • a new, continuous cough – this means coughing a lot for more than an hour, or 3 or more coughing episodes in 24 hours (if you usually have a cough, it may be worse than usual)

To protect others, do not go to places like a GP surgery, pharmacy or hospital.


What should I do if I am in one of the ‘high risk’ groups?

The NHS has produced some advice for people at high risk from Coronavirus (COVID-19). We advise that you must consider your own situation and make decisions which are right for you and your family.  If you are in one of the ‘high risk’ groups, you may still be able to work from home so please discuss this with your line manager.  If you are unable to work from home due to your circumstances or the nature of your role, then also discuss with your manager and maintain regular contact with them.


How can I report sickness?

If you are not able to attend work / work at all because you are sick (with the coronavirus or otherwise), you will need to complete a ‘USP1 Form’ to confirm the period you unable to work, in line with the sickness reporting procedure. If you have symptoms of Coronavirus (COVID-19), you can get an isolation note from NHS 111 online. If you live with someone that has Coronavirus (COVID-19) symptoms, can get a note from the NHS website to confirm the length of time that you will be unable to work. The USP1 form and any formal notes should be emailed to so that they update their systems.  


Will I be paid I have to self-isolate? 

If the new self-isolation requirements apply to you, then please communicate this to your line manager as soon as possible. Please continue to keep your line manager informed of the situation. If you are sufficiently well and it is possible to work from home, then you should do so and keep in regular contact with your line manager. If, due to your situation or the nature of your role, it is not possible to work from home then you must talk to your line manager.  The Government has introduced a new 'Self Isolation Note' which you can obtain online and will save you from having to contact your GP for a medical certificate. 

You can continue to self-certificate for 7 days but if you have to self-isolate for 14 days and are unable to work then please obtain a self-isolation certificate.  In these circumstances, you will be paid as normal, but please keep in regular contact with your line manager.  


What should I do if someone in my team is showing symptoms or is unwell?

If a team member is showing symptoms of COVID-19 or is unwell, they should follow the NHS advice.  If the team member is unwell, they must report that they are absent from work and as their manager, you should stay in regular contact with them. If the team-member is well enough and can work from home, discuss how you can support this. If they are unable to work, please assure them that the University is keen to support them in this situation and that they will be paid as normal. HR Partners and Advisers can provide managers with further guidance as needed. 


What do I do if someone I manage tells me they have had a positive diagnosis of COVID-19?

Most people will not know if they have had COVID-19, they may or may not feel unwell and should have already told you that they are self-isolating if they have had symptoms. If they do not show symptoms or recover without additional intervention they will not have been tested.  If you are advised that a member of your team has been tested, please ensure that your Heads of School / Function is made aware and that your HR Partner or Adviser is also informed.  The University will want to support colleagues and their team members and if we are aware that there has been a positive diagnosis, we are better able to offer support.   You can also seek advice and support from your HR Partner/Adviser but should manage their absence and support as you would in other circumstances.


What will I need to work from home?

We are encouraging colleagues to work from home where possible. 

Our Digital Technology Team has prepared this online guidance to help you prepare yourself for working remotely. As a minimum, you will need:

  • a Windows 10 or Mac OSX10.2 laptop/desktop
  • software applications you need, like Microsoft Office
  • broadband internet connection
  • University’s VPN (Virtual Private Network) app installed on laptop/desktop
  • Multi-factor authentication set up and Microsoft Authenticator app on your smartphone.
  • Microsoft Teams to exchange messages/talk to University colleagues

Please make sure that any home working arrangement has been discussed and agreed with your line manager.

As this may be an extended period of working remotely, you may need to use University equipment to make working from home easier. This could include equipment such as laptops and monitors. It is possible that some of you may have already taken such equipment home, so we request that you notify your line manager. If you haven't taken the equipment, you could do so with approval of your Head of School or Function. Your School or Function may have implemented an item log to ease the eventual transition back into the office.  


Where can I find more information on delivering teaching remotely?

For colleagues involved in teaching, a new section on delivering teaching and learning remotely has been created on the Blackboard ‘Help for Staff’ website. This includes advice on making recordings (Screencasting) and using Blackboard Collaborate.


Can I use a Linux desktop to work remotely?

Yes, you can. More information is available on the online guidance webpage.


Can I use my own laptop/desktop to log on remotely?

Yes, you can. You will need the need the relevant software applications, install the University’s VPN app on your laptop/desktop and set up multi-factor authentication to allow you to work remotely.


If I am working remotely, do I need to be connected throughout to the VPN?

A VPN is used to access specific systems when working remotely. You do not need the VPN for services like your Email, Calendar, Teams and OneDrive.

VPN is only required to access services such as:

  • Collaborative shares (T Drive)
  • Home drives (please consider using OneDrive, if you can)
  • Business systems administration
  • Access to UoR Research Systems
  • Remote desktop access

More information is available on the online guidance webpage.


What else should I be mindful of while working remotely?

Our Health & Safety colleagues recommend that your home workstation is set up the same way as your office workstation is, as far as reasonably practical. A helpful guide to setting up your home computer is available to download (Word, 37KB). They have also put together a handy guide on using regular household things to set up a workstation at home.


If I take a UoR electronic portable device (i.e. Laptop, screen etc.) home will it be covered by insurance? 

Yes, the University insurance covers laptops that are removed from campus’s whilst at home and also whilst travelling. Other equipment will also be covered for items that are temporarily removed from site.

Before removing any equipment from campus the approval of the Head of School or Function should be sought and it should be recorded within the school or function that you have taken an item. This item when appropriate should be returned and checked off from the list.


Will my personal home insurance cover me for working from home?


According to the Association of British Insurers (ABI), if you are an office-based worker and need to work from home because of government advice or because you need to self-isolate, your home insurance cover will not be affected. More information on is available on the ABI’s COVID-19: what you need to know webpage


 Can I access buildings on our campus as usual?

Following government restrictions on non-essential travel, all buildings on our campuses are now fully secured and can only be accessed by those authorised by their School or Function. 

Authorised colleagues will have received an email and formal letter – both of which can be used to confirm that travel is essential if questioned. Please make sure you carry your Campus Card with you to access the building you are authorised for.

For those who do need to be on site, please let Security know when you arrive and leave by emailing If you notice any urgent building problems, you can contact extension 7000 as usual.




What services are open on campus at this time?

For the safety and wellbeing of our whole community, the following services will be changing:

  • The IT Service Desk is operating as normal, though you are encouraged to log any non-urgent issues at IT Self Service portal.
  • A take-away food service will be available for students who have meal plans and others remaining on campus at Park Eat (including Park Market) on Whiteknights campus from 8am to 8pm Monday to Sunday, including the vacation period.
  • The Co-Op remains open from 07:00-18:00 with restrictions on queueing and numbers allowed in at one time. Please respect these measures when shopping there.
  • All other University restaurants, bars and cafés (including the Library café) are closed until government advice changes.
  • The Library building and Study at URS are closed, but online services are available to colleagues and students.  You can contact the Library team at
  • The SportsPark is closed and you can find more information on their website.
  • Reading Buses have stopped running the Claret 21a, but the 21 service is continuing and will stop on campus. All bus services around Reading are now running to Saturday services Monday-Saturday (normal Sunday service on Sundays) with the evening services limited to the Monday-Thursday times.

Train companies are also running a reduced service. If you need to travel, please make sure you check times and services ahead of your journey.  

RUSU have also confirmed changes to their services and facilities, with further information on their website.  


What about post on campus?

Postal services are running, but on a limited basis. Please read this staff portal story for full details. 


Can I make changes to my childcare vouchers while the schools are closed?

Yes you can. Our childcare vouchers are provided by Computershare Voucher Services. If you are signed up to the scheme and manage your account online, you can manage your childcare voucher account on-line at, or e-mail You can reduce or stop your childcare voucher payments.  The minimum value you can reduce your payments to is £10 per month.  If you wish to stop your payments, you must restart and receive a voucher within 12 months to maintain your eligibility.  Any changes to your childcare vouchers should be made on-line by the end of each month and will take effect the following month.  In exceptional circumstances, please e-mail For further FAQs relating to childcare vouchers, please follow the link to the HR Childcare+ webpage.


Is there any advice for children/young people with worries about Coronavirus (COVID-19)?

It is understandable that some children and young people feel anxious and worried about what is going on. This is a normal response to a situation many may not have experienced before. Emerging Minds, a research network that our University is part of, has put together a helpful guide for parents and carers on Supporting children and young people with worries about Coronavirus (COVID-19). The guide pulls together some of the existing advice and weblinks that colleagues may find useful.


Can I cancel my annual leave as I can no longer go on holiday?

You may be able to cancel your annual leave; you should discuss this with your Line Manager and cancel your leave using Employee Self-Service (ESS).  However please note that normal annual leave carry forward arrangements continue to apply and it will be difficult to manage if everyone in your team delays their leave until later in the year.  Consider whether still taking some of your annual leave would be helpful to you and your family during the next few months.  Book annual leave through ESS as previously.


Will exams or assessments be affected?

There will be no in-person exams held on campus during the summer term. The vast majority of these exams will still take place but as ‘take home exams' - which will be made available electronically and submitted online - or another form of assessment. 

We already have experience of running take home exams that we are drawing on, but as we were due to hold more than 1,000 exams, we need to work through what the exact solution will be for every examination. Schools are providing students with details of what will happen with individual modules. 

A very small number of exams that are required by professional accrediting bodies (around 20 - affecting a handful of modules) will need to be delayed until it is possible to hold them in person or another solution is identified. Those affected will be contacted separately as soon as possible. 


Are there any changes to the Extenuating Circumstances process?

In these unprecedented circumstances we are replacing the normal Extenuating Circumstances process with a new more flexible process whereby any student can request an extension for coursework or defer summer examinations. We are currently building this new process and will make it available as soon as possible. In the meantime we ask for your patience and support. Information on the new process will be emailed to all students and will be published on the Covid19 Essentials website as soon as possible.


What about the summer graduation ceremony?

We have taken the very difficult decision to cancel our summer graduation ceremony. This is a celebratory event of huge important to our community, and it is a decision we make with a heavy heart. However, we feel it is better to make this decision now and provide those affected with certainty, particularly given the travel and other decisions that those attending need to make. 

For those expecting to graduate in the summer, we will still provide your exam results and degree classification in a timely way, enabling you to make decisions about your future. We will offer the opportunity to attend ceremonies to celebrate in person with family and friends later in the year. The Graduation Office will be in contact shortly with all those affected to explain the options available. 


Is there any advice if I cannot leave the UK because of travel restrictions or self-isolation related to coronavirus (COVID-19), and my UK visa or leave to remain has or is about to expire?

The UK Home Office has published detailed guidance on the support available if you are facing uncertainty about the expiry date of your current visa or leave to remain in the United Kingdom. Subject to this guidance, most people in the UK whose immigration status is affected by the coronavirus outbreak can get an automatic extension of their visa until 31 May 2020. However, they must update their record by contacting the Home Office.

Please read the guidance to find out how to contact the Home Office’s dedicated Coronavirus Immigration Team and the information you need to provide to update your visa record. Current students who receive an extension in this way must then provide a copy of the visa extension confirmation to

If you are affected by this and have any further questions or need immigration support, please contact the International Student Advisory team at


Can I travel for University activity?

As countries respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, including travel and border restrictions, the FCO advises British nationals against all but essential international travel. Any country or area may restrict travel without notice.

You can see the updated travel advice on the Foreign & Commonwealth Office website.

The Major Incident Team has also decided that no new overseas travel should be booked until further notice. This reflects the increasing travel disruption worldwide, and the number of institutions cancelling events and scaling back their activities.

If you have travel booked for any time up to the end of April, this should be cancelled. Please complete the Notice to Cancel Form available on the Insurance website as soon as possible. The Insurance team will cancel on your behalf so they can liaise with our travel insurance providers.

If you have travel booked from May onwards, please contact the Insurance team for help and advice.


What should I do if I have personal plans to travel overseas?

As countries respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, including travel and border restrictions, the FCO advises British nationals against all but essential international travel. Any country or area may restrict travel without notice.

You can see the updated travel advice on the Foreign & Commonwealth Office website.

If you have plans to travel in the coming months, please check the Foreign & Commonwealth Office as well as signing up for their email alerts for your destination to ensure you stay up-to-date with the latest advice.


Where can I find further advice if I'm worried?

We understand many of our community may be worried for family and friends in the region. Please remember our Employee Assistance Programme is here to offer support, including by phone and email.

If there are any further developments we will keep you updated on the Staff Portal so please check here for the latest information.

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