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.

Latest guidance

WHAT ARE THE NEW ARRANGEMENTS FOR HOME WORKING / CAMPUS WORKING FOLLOWING THE INTRODUCTION OF TIGHTER RESTRICTIONS ON 4 JANUARY?

The Scottish Government has confirmed that mainland Scotland will remain under ‘protection level’ 4 restrictions until at least the start of March.

As a result, home working will continue for the vast majority of staff until 1 March, with tighter controls than there was before the festive break for staff on campus.

As was the case last term, staff undertaking a small number of business-critical roles that support the delivery of necessary functions and activity such as ‘in-person teaching’ are the only staff that will be permitted on campus until further notice. This will be tightly controlled and will be in line with the guidance issued by the Scottish Government on 8 January.  

The Government guidance essentially breaks down the return of students into three phases. Phase 1, which commenced on 5 January, allows the campus to be open for “exceptional returners”, including those whose attendance is critical and time-sensitive to a course or assessment that cannot be delivered remotely or be postponed. There is also provision for essential placements, student well-being and those students that were in student accommodation over the festive break. As a result, there is a limited number of staff that will require to be present on campus.

Following the latest Scottish government announcement and due to the current situation with COVID-19, the majority of our teaching will be delivered online until the end of Term 2.

Please liaise with your Head of School if you have any questions about your own teaching in the immediate period.

Most buildings on campus are now closed and staff who are required to be on campus will require pre-approval from the appropriate member of Executive. Staff who are unable to work from home will continue to be paid in full.

Will staff who need to perform business-critical tasks on campus have access to testing?

In support of the city’s response to managing the pandemic, the University of Aberdeen, in partnership with NHS Grampian, has extended its existing testing facility to enable testing of key workers, which includes RGU staff who are working on-campus or at RGU-owned accommodation sites.

Those staff whose work has been deemed as critical and cannot be done from home are encouraged to use the facility at the Butchart Centre on University Road. Staff who wish to take a test will be allowed time away from work to do so, but please discuss this with your line manager in advance. 

Testing is voluntary and available on a repeat basis (weekly or twice weekly if preferred) and must be booked in advance. The lateral flow tests are self-administered by taking a swab sample from the back of the throat and nose. The process takes minutes and results will be sent by the NHS via text or email, normally within 90 minutes.

Anyone testing positive with a lateral flow test should self-isolate and will be asked to have their result confirmed using a PCR test. We would request that you inform your line manager as soon as possible if you receive a positive test.

The testing is only for people who do not have COVID-19 symptoms. If you are displaying symptoms or think you might have COVID-19, please seek a test via NHS Test and Protect.

For more information on community testing, please visit the NHS Grampian website.

WHAT IF I NEED TO ACCESS THE CAMPUS?

Due to the latest Protection Level 4 restrictions, the University will now revert to a business-critical campus access system, similar to what was in operation during the initial lockdown which commenced in March last year.

Access will be restricted for business-critical activities and subject to final approval by the appropriate member of Executive. If access is required, a request must be submitted to your Head of School or Department. All requests for access will be considered on a case by case basis and any approval given previously will not guarantee repeat access.

Prior to coming on campus, Building Access will provide you with a letter which confirms you require to be on campus to undertake your role. This can be used to provide proof of status if required. Once access has been granted, details of staff will be recorded at the main reception during entry and exit in accordance with Fire Safety and First Aid requirements.

Please note that during this time there will be very limited facilities on site, some buildings will be closed and catering will only be available via vending machines until confirmed otherwise.

We will be continually reviewing our campus access position in line with Scottish Government guidance.

WHAT SHOULD I DO IF I HAVE DEPENDANTS TO CARE FOR?

Following the announcement of school and nursery closures, we understand many staff will face challenges when it comes to caring for dependents. This applies to all staff with caring responsibilities, regardless of where they are undertaking their duties.

We had experience of this during the previous period of lockdown and we are adopting the same approach as before. The first thing you are encouraged to do is to speak with your line manager about how you intend to work during this period. During the previous lockdown there were staff who worked some of their hours in the evening so that they could ‘home school’ in the morning and others who worked longer hours at the start of the week so that they had more time or a day later in the week.

These examples of flexible working will not suit everyone’s circumstances however you can be assured that your line manager will be as flexible as possible and open to any suggestions. If you are unable to fulfil your role then it is important that you explain this to your line manager so that all the options can be fully explored. We understand this is a difficult time and your contribution to keeping the university functioning as close to normal as possible is very much appreciated.

We have to plan for the lockdown being in place beyond 1 February and would encourage you to regularly discuss your work/life balance with your line manager to ensure it is manageable and you receive the necessary support.

WHAT IF I AM SCHEDULED TO TEACH OR REQUIRE TO BE ON CAMPUS BUT HAVE DEPENDENTS AT HOME TO CARE FOR?

Unlike the first few months of the first lockdown there may be times when you are required to be on campus to perform a specific task/role. If you are unable to attend campus because you need to stay at home to care for dependants then this must be raised with your line manager as soon as possible. Your manager will be understanding of your situation but we need to ensure we continue to meet the demands of the business and can only do that efficiently if we are given early warning of an issue to be resolved. Where it is not possible to move the work online, the on-campus work will likely be re-allocated to one of your colleagues and, in its place, you may be expected to pick up a different piece of work that you can complete at home. We are emphasising the importance of a team approach and that we support our colleagues in any way we that we can so that minimise any impact this situation may have. 

DURING THE PREVIOUS LOCKDOWN I WAS CATEGORISED AS SHIELDING, WILL I BE EXPECTED TO RETURN TO CAMPUS?

The vast majority of staff who are ‘shielders’ will be working from home but if your role has been identified as being business critical then as a shielder you will not require to work on campus.   If you are on the Scottish Government’s shielding list you will receive a letter from the Chief Medical Officer which you should share with your line manager as soon as possible.  If the letter is delayed then you should share the letter you received last year.  Most of us don’t have access to scanners at home so take a photograph of the front page with your phone, redact any confidential information you do not wish to share and send it to your line manager. If your role cannot be undertaken from home you may be asked to support some other work activity. You will continue to be paid in full for the duration of the lockdown.  If you require any additional support please contact the appropriate member of the HR team.

ALTHOUGH NOT ON THE SHIELDING LIST I AM CONSIDERED CLINICALLY VULNERABLE, WILL I BE EXPECTED TO RETURN TO CAMPUS?

Given the reduced activity on campus we do not expect this situation to arise often. However, if we do, the university will adopt the same approach as before and deal with clinically vulnerable staff on a case by case basis. Upon raising it with your line manager, an HR Adviser will become involved, and there will be a remote Occupational Health referral where we will ask a qualified medical professional whether it is safe for you to return to the campus and specifically your area of work. This will be done before any work on campus is carried out. We have what is considered to be a ‘COVID secure’ campus and we have to ensure that we are treating all staff fairly and consistently when making decisions regarding who is exempt from being on campus.  Your manager will consider all alternatives, and you can be assured you will only be required to work on campus if it is absolutely essential and in line with Occupational Health advice.

I AM CURRENTLY LIVING WITH SOMEONE WHO IS SHIELDING OR IS REGARDED AS BEING CLINICALLY VULNERABLE, WILL I BE EXPECTED TO RETURN TO CAMPUS?

The university will follow Scottish Government advice for those who are shielding or regarded as being clinically vulnerable. As it stands there are no specific exemptions for staff who are living with someone who falls into these categories however we will continue to monitor the situation and provide further information and guidance as it becomes available.  We understand that you will be anxious about this and you can be assured that all the alternatives to you working on campus will be considered. The campus is COVID-secure and there will be very few people on site however as a precaution you should limit the time you spend in areas where there may be people regularly moving around. This may mean working or leaving the building at different times for example. You should discuss this with your line manager.

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 members of the University Management Group are 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. 

The Health and Safety team and Estates teams will also be available to provide advice and guidance as necessary.

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.


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.


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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