Find out the latest guidance and information about the impact of COVID-19 on the University.

COVID-19: ADVICE FOR STaff, STUDENTS AND COMMUNITY
Working for RGU

COVID-19

Working for RGU

How the Coronavirus arrangements will affect how you work as RGU staff.

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When will staff be expected to return to work on campus?

As the country works its way through the Scottish Government’s route map, the numbers of staff returning to campus will increase. This approach is in line with the Government’s published guidance which refers to a blended approach where staff and students will be on campus albeit less frequently and in lower numbers than before the virus. To regulate numbers of people on campus, home working will continue for many staff until Heads of Schools and Departments confirm otherwise.

Staff who are in roles that involve business essential activity have been on campus for a while and others will wish to return to prepare for the start of term. Previously this required Executive approval so that numbers on campus could be controlled however we now have what is defined by the Health & Safety Executive as a ‘COVID secure’ working environment with clear rules for staff to follow to ensure risk is managed.

Prior to returning to campus all staff must have a 1:1 health and safety induction. If this has not happened already then it will be arranged through your line manager and includes both a university level induction and a specific local induction. It will then be for the Head of School or Department to approve any time staff are on campus.

During phase 3, and as we move closer to the start of semester 1, on 28th September, we envisage the numbers of staff working on campus at any one time to increase incrementally, although Heads of School and Department should continue with home working arrangements, where the role allows, while restrictions and social distancing measures remain in place.

The university will have contingency plans in place should the Scottish Government re-impose restrictions at any point in future.

How much notice will I be given that I need to return to campus should it be required?

We understand that many staff will have to make alternative child care arrangements so we will try to ensure you are given as much notice as possible if you are required to return to campus.

How will RGU ensure my health and safety when I am required to attend campus?

The university takes the health and safety of its staff and students very seriously.  The Executive and the Campus Enabling Group, set up to ensure we can return to campus safely, have been constantly monitoring the situation and ensuring any risk to the RGU community is managed.

The university has developed a high-level risk assessment, with input from the trade unions, to consider all of the health and safety issues relating to the return to campus. A copy of the risk assessment, which includes information on the mitigating actions being taken to address the risks can be found on our website.

In addition to this, local risk assessments will have been undertaken, where appropriate, to address any specific risks associated with tasks/activities which take place in your School/Department. Where relevant, a copy of your local risk assessment/s can be obtained from your line manager. Project risk assessments undertaken by staff, students or contractors during 2020/2021 should refer to the high-level risk assessment and any relevant local risk assessments.

Information on how to protect your health and wellbeing will be provided through your re-induction back onto campus and covers areas such as social distancing, use of face coverings and PPE, cleaning, and safe use of university facilities.  Find out more about the university induction. The Health and Safety team and Estates teams will also be available to provide advice and guidance as necessary.

What restrictions will there be on facilities such as catering, staff kitchens and toilets when I return to campus?

Vending machines will be available for drinks and snacks. In the short-term, staff and students spending a long period on campus may wish to bring their own provisions. Limited campus catering will be operational from 28 September.

Kitchens can be used with strict social distancing, hand washing and surface cleaning arrangements in place. This will be for your School or Department to manage so please speak to your line manager if you have any questions.

Some of our toilets are not compatible with social distancing so will become single occupancy spaces. Door locks and / or systems will be in place to manage this.

Do I require to wear a face covering on return to the campus?

In line with Scottish Government advice, you will be required to wear a face covering while moving or standing within any of the university buildings. This includes when using the facilities, accessing printers, retrieving stationary etc. There is no requirement to wear the face covering while outside or seated at a work station however you may wish to do so. When wearing a mask, you should wherever possible maintain social distance and avoid large gatherings.

For comfort, Lecturers have the option of removing their mask when delivering a class as there will be at least two metre’s distance separating the Lecturer from the nearest student. Lecturers also have the option of sitting down if they prefer.

Staff with an underlying health condition that is exacerbated by the face covering are not expected to wear one so it is important that staff don’t challenge colleagues or pass comment. Even innocent comments or questions can be hurtful if taken the wrong way.

If you are unable to wear a face covering for medical reasons then you must make your line manager aware.  We understand the need for confidentiality of health matters but in this case, it may be helpful for you to reassure your colleagues by advising then that you are not required to wear a mask. You need not divulge to others the reasons for this. The campus is COVID-secure however as a precaution you should limit the time you spend in areas with lots of people moving around. This may mean working or leaving the building at different times. You should discuss this with your line manager.

I was shielding or considered clinically vulnerable, will I be expected to return to campus?

As it currently stands, the rules relating to Shielders or for those that were considered clinically vulnerable has been relaxed by the Scottish government. This means some staff who were in this category may be required to return to the campus to discharge their role.

We understand some staff will be anxious about returning so please ensure you speak to your line manager and/or an HR Adviser so that we can do all we can to support and reassure you. The campus has been set up in line with Scottish Government and Health & Safety Executive advice to ensure any risk is managed.

If you do fall into this category your manager will allow you to work from home as much as possible. If you cannot work from home, consideration will be given to whether you can vary your working hours, work from a single office, or undertake alternative duties to enable you to maintain a social distance from others.

In considering these options we will look to offer the safest available on-site role which enables you to maintain a social distance from others.

It is therefore essential that you inform your line manager/HR Adviser if you were a Shielder or fall into a clinically vulnerable category, and provide appropriate medical evidence in support, so that reasonable adjustments can be considered.

If the Government position on shielding changes, and restrictions are re-introduced, then you will not be expected to work on campus. The Scottish Government’s Chief Medical Officer will likely reissue a shielding letter to you, that you would then have to share with the university.

I am currently living with someone who was shielding or is regarded as being clinically vulnerable, will I be expected to return to campus?

The university will follow Scottish Government advice which at present does not state that those in this category should remain at home, while others undertaking the same role return to the workplace. We can however assure staff that they will not be required to return to campus unless it is necessary to fulfil their role.

If you are required to return, the campus meets the definition of a ‘COVID Secure’ workplace as defined by the Health & Safety Executive. Measures are in place to ensure staff and students social distance and particular attention has been paid to maintaining good hand hygiene as people transition round campus.

We understand returning to campus will make some staff anxious and we would urge anyone who falls into this category to discuss their concerns with their line manager as soon as possible. We will of course continue to encourage managers to be flexible wherever possible and explore all the options for those who fall into this category.

What should I do if I have dependants to care for?

This has been a challenge for many staff and we will continue to be as flexible as we can as our core business activity moves back onto campus.

As restrictions have eased, and Schools and Nurseries have re-opened, we expect challenges with childcare will no longer be an issue for the majority of staff. However, where staff do have challenges in relation to dependants, we would encourage you to discuss this with your line manager as soon as possible to see if alternative working arrangements can be put in place on a temporary basis.

A temporary change to working patterns or hours is only likely to be accommodated for a short period of time, with a view to alternative child care arrangements being put in place fairly quickly. We know for example that some ‘before/after school’ care provision is taking longer to get up and running so we recognise that staff may have to leave work earlier to pick children up and finish their working day from home.

When making a request to temporarily change your working arrangements it is important to be clear when you expect the arrangement to end. If you cannot work your contracted hours then you could for example request a temporary reduction in hours, unpaid leave or use some of your holiday entitlement. 

If you are seeking a permanent change to working patterns or hours it would normally require you to make a ‘flexible working request’. The requirement for this will continue, however if you have applied to work flexibly in the last year this will not prevent you from making another request. In all cases, whether the request is for temporary or permanent change, the University has to consider the business need.

What if the Scottish Government position changes and we return to lockdown or earlier phases of the route map?

Since March, when the country went into lockdown, the University has gained extensive experience of operating remotely and was able to do that successfully. We will keep matters under review but the nature of the situation dictates that we all have to be prepared for change at short notice.

If we do move off campus again the rules that were adopted previously will likely be re-instigated although it will depend on Government advice. Those that can work from home would be expected to do so and we would look at redeploying staff that couldn’t to other roles if practical.

What if there is a local lockdown where I live or there is an outbreak at my Children’s School or Nursery resulting in its closure?

You need to follow Scottish Government guidelines. This may mean that you work from home. If this is not possible, then the university will continue to pay you until the local lockdown is lifted. You should provide regular updates to your line manager regarding the status of the lockdown / outbreak so that your manager can plan ahead and keep the situation under review.

What if I am identified via the Government’s ‘Test and Protect’ system as someone who may have come into contact with the virus?

Firstly, we would recommend that all staff download the Scottish Government’s Protect Scotland app from Test and Protect to their phone. Staff should note that not all people who have potentially come into contact with someone with the virus will be contacted via the app and you may be contacted via telephone instead. 

If you are contacted it is important that you follow the Scottish Government’s advice and self-isolate for 14 days. Find out more details on how to self-isolate effectively. The advice is the same as before in that you can work from home if you are fit and well enough to do so. If you cannot work from home, you will be paid as normal and your absence will not be counted as sick leave. If available to you, you should take a screenshot of any notifications or correspondence that you receive from Test & Protect Scotland advising you to self-isolate and send it to your line manager.

It is important that you keep your line manager up to date, in particular if you require to get tested and when you have been notified of the outcome.

What if a member of my household has been identified via the Government’s ‘Test and Protect’ system as someone who may have come into contact with the virus?

In line with Scottish Government advice, if an individual in your household has been contacted via ‘Test and Protect’, you do not need to self-isolate as long as the individual has no symptoms. If the individual in your household develops symptoms then you will need to self-isolate for 14 days. You need to inform your line manager of this as soon as possible. Find out more details on how to self-isolate effectively.

What if I have been abroad on holiday and require to be in quarantine?

Under Government control measures, people arriving in the UK from abroad are required to self-isolate for 14 days. There are some countries that are exempt from this however employees must understand that this list can change at any time. Given the impact extended breaks can have on the workload of others we are encouraging staff to take this into consideration before they book a holiday abroad.

If, on return from a holiday or a non-work-related trip abroad, you require to self-isolate as a result of quarantine measures, you may be expected to take the extended period that you are out of the office as annual leave or unpaid leave as a consequence.

If you were working from home prior to the quarantine period, it is less likely to be an issue as it is likely you can continue to work while self-isolating.

If you cannot work from home, then you will require to extend your annual leave or take unpaid leave to cover the period of self-isolation. If you do not have enough annual leave then the extended absence will be unpaid. We don’t wish to dissuade staff from taking well-earned breaks but it is important you are clear on how we will manage each COVID19 related situation that arises.

Note that this does not apply to staff who are self-isolating as a result of a work-related trip.

What safety measures will be in place on campus?

The health and safety of our community will remain our priority. When people are on campus we want them to feel welcome and as safe as possible at all times. This includes implementation of robust hygiene measures such as providing of hand sanitiser at key locations, enhanced cleaning regimes using cleaning products effective against COVID-19 virus, detailed guidance for students and staff on physical distancing, and measures to ensure that building occupancy levels adhere to national guidance. Staff will also be provided a selection of cleaning materials should they wish to use them to sanitise teaching areas.

Heads of schools or departments, or someone delegated by them, will ensure that room capacity is not exceeded and that the space usage is managed appropriately to maintain social distancing. They will also ensure staff have completed a return to campus induction.

All staff and Postgraduate Research Students must sign-in and out of buildings and adhere to the local protocols that have been put in place for their area. Anyone on campus must comply with social distancing rules, make appropriate use of face-coverings and make regular use of hand-washing or sanitising gels as previously advised. Everyone should view the orientation pack prior to visiting the campus.

Vending machines will be available for drinks and snacks. In the short-term, staff and students spending a long period on campus may wish to bring their own provisions. We will continue to review catering options as we move towards semester 1.

You can find out more about the current changes that have been introduced on campus in the orientation pack.


Home Working

Is there any IT guidance to help staff with home working?

A range of guidance is available to support staff in home working, including accessing outlook, desktop, voicemails and using video conferencing.

The IT Helpdesk is continuing to operate and can be contacted on ITHelpdesk@rgu.ac.uk or 01224 262777.

What mental health and wellbeing resources are available to staff?

During this challenging time, we want to ensure you are supported by the university and your line manager. It is important that we continue to communicate with each other as much as possible even if it’s a five-minute call with your manager or colleague to talk about non-work-related activity.

The university has excellent resources that support staff wellbeing. Lifeworks includes the employee assistance programme which includes a free and confidential telephone counselling and advisory support service which is available to all staff. There is also an on-line chat facility, and self-support resources with programmes on stress, anxiety, coping etc.

The Silvercloud resource is available to staff as well as students and offers Cognitive Behavioural Training Programmes. Each CBT programme, tailored to your specific needs, consists of 7-8 modules that can be completed in your own own time and pace.

The HR Professional Team are also available to support you with fair treatment advice if your concern is work related.

How do I ensure I am safe and comfortable working at home?

Not everyone will have a dedicated ‘home office’ space to work from however we want to make sure that you are as comfortable as possible when working remotely. The university’s occupational health & safety team can provide further information on DSE assessments and the support that is available in that regard. 

We would encourage you to try to replicate your work space set up on campus as much as possible when working from home, but recognise this may be challenging. Discuss your set up with your line manager and colleagues who may have helpful hints and tips. Take regular screen breaks, stretch and move around throughout the day. If you feel uncomfortable let your line manager know and contact the Occupational Health & Safety team.

We have adapted our maternity and nursing mothers risk assessment for home working, so if you are currently in one of these categorises please contact the HR team and they will support you with the completion of this.

Is there information governance guidance for home working?

Data protection and freedom of information legislation still applies when working from home even when using personally owned equipment. Staff should familiarise themselves with the guidance to ensure data is kept secure and ensure that the university remains compliant with data protection and freedom of information legislation.

Will I be able to access my office?

Staff will be able to return to make the necessary preparations for the new academic year with the agreement of their line manager and approval from their head of school or department.

Staff returning will be given a mandatory return to campus induction.


University Business Travel

I am due to visit an affected area for study/business travel e.g. conference or course, what should I do?

In light of the rapidly changing COVID-19 situation and to manage the risk, the university will not approve any business travel out-with the UK until further notice, unless under exceptional circumstances.


Employee Absence

How do I report a sickness absence when working from home?

You should report sickness absence to your line manager on the first day of absence and continue to keep your line manager updated throughout the course of your sickness absence.

If absence is unrelated to COVID-19 and exceeds 7 days then you should provide a ‘fit note’ from your GP if possible. If you are unable to obtain a ‘fit note’ then you should inform your line manager of the reasons why. It may be the case that you can provide medical certification a later date.

If your absence is a result of experiencing COVID-19 symptoms you should notify your line manager on the first day of absence and confirm the date your symptoms first appeared. You do not need to continue contacting your line manager every morning, however your line manager will contact you to check how you are doing.

If you have COVID-19 or have been advised to stay at home, you can get an ‘isolation note’ by visiting NHS 111 online, rather than visiting a doctor. For COVID-19 cases this replaces the usual need to provide a ‘fit note’ after 7 days of sickness absence.

What if I am currently on long-term sick leave?

If you were already absent from work through long-term sickness absence or have been recently signed off with a long-term sickness absence which is unrelated to COVID-19, you should continue to keep your line manager updated on your condition and email or text photos of your fit notes where possible. Late fit notes will not be penalised.

What sick pay will I be entitled to during this time?

Absences related to COVID-19 will be discounted for the purposes of calculating sick pay entitlement. You will be paid in full, regardless of your length of service if absent with COVID-19. This includes if you are self-isolating as a result of being symptomatic or you have been instructed to do so through UK/Scottish Government advice or by a medical professional.

If you are absent due to a non-COVID-19 related reason you will be entitled to your normal sick pay entitlement.

If you are currently signed off by your GP with another condition and are also classed as highly vulnerable (e.g. someone with cancer) and you have been advised to shield for 12 weeks you should notify your line manager as you may be entitled to further sick pay if you are currently on half pay or statutory sick pay.

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