Guidance on home/remote working for staff during the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic
Updated on 21 July 2020
Information relating to health and safety, data security, absences, and annual leave to help staff work safely and effectively
Due to the coronavirus reaching pandemic status, the University is in an unprecedented situation with the majority of staff being asked to work from home. We are very grateful for the speed that everyone has transitioned to different ways of working and the University will help and support you with these new arrangements wherever possible.
Some of you will be working from home for the first time. We realise this will be a very different experience for you and one that some may find challenging. Even for those accustomed to it, working from home can feel unstructured and isolating.
Our priority is your health and wellbeing. Managers will be asked to maintain regular and clear communication with you over this period, encouraging team-working with your colleagues, ensuring your health and wellbeing, and generally supporting you as best they can.
We recognise there are particular challenges for many of you, particularly with the closure of schools and other services. Many of you will have caring responsibilities for children or other dependents. For many parents, it will be a matter of splitting work time and care duties every day. For those with sole responsibility for children or other dependents, we recognise there is a particular difficulty. All we can ask is that you determine what is possible in terms of both work and care responsibilities, and let us know what you can or cannot do.
Staff will continue to be paid.
The University community is one that has proved to be strong. By working together, and helping each other, we can make things easier for everyone in these exceptional times. We ask for your help in this, in keeping our essential services running and continuing to support our students.
Health and safety
There will be some practical matters to consider as people get set up to work from home. Our recommendation is you try to establish an ad hoc, bespoke space exclusively for work in your home setting, and that this is risk assessed by the individual to ensure that this is as hazard-free as reasonably practicable. We recognise again this might not be possible for everyone.
Please look after your health and wellbeing, and that of others. This includes small things like checking your posture when working on laptops/computers but also taking regular breaks away from those screens.
Establishing some structure to your working day, including marking out breaks, can be helpful.
The University does have a Health and Safety policy relating to working from home, including the reporting of accidents and also the guidelines relating to the use of visual display equipment.
These are all available from the Safety Services web pages
Secure University systems and devices should be used when working at home. All personal and sensitive information should be held securely and the risk of any potential breach of confidentiality reduced to a minimum given the University’s legal responsibilities under GDPR.
If there are others in the home, appropriate measures will need to be put into place to prevent them from accessing the computer or laptop. No hard copy paperwork of a sensitive or confidential nature should be taken home or printed from home and any data incidents should be reported quickly.
More information is available on the Data protection pages
Managing and recording of absences
It is important that any staff absences are recorded accurately over the coming weeks and months to ensure that appropriate advice and support can be provided to staff.
Information about coronavirus symptoms and guidance is provided on the NHS Inform website and what action to take if these symptoms are exhibited.
If you are unable to work due to any health-related reasons, including coronavirus, this needs to be reported.
If you have had to self-isolate (with coronavirus symptoms) or have become unwell due to coronavirus, the absence will be recorded as sickness absence and you will receive sick pay. We are required by Government to report on coronavirus related absences and it is therefore essential that this information is gathered and reported.
You should contact your line manager (or Nominated person) in accordance with the Sickness Absence Management Policy if you are unwell, or if any circumstances related to your sickness absence changes. This is so the reason for the absence can be recorded (or amended) and notified to Payroll. The start date and the end date for the absence should be provided. The reason will be either one of the normal absence reasons (and this should be stated) or coronavirus related. The Sickness Absence form will be available as an electronic form and should be sent directly to Payroll.
A Medical Certificate will still be required for any period of sickness absence over seven days, however, it is recognised that this may not be available immediately. It should still be obtained as soon as reasonably practicable.
Coronavirus related absence – a member of staff well and working from home
If you live with others, who have coronavirus symptoms, but you are well and do not have any symptoms and can still work from home, you should continue to self-isolate in accordance with the guidance provided on the NHS Inform website . If you do subsequently become unwell, you will need to contact your line manager (or Nominated person) in accordance with the Sickness Absence Management Policy.
If you are classed as one of the vulnerable groups as identified on the NHS Inform website and working from home, you should continue to self isolate in accordance with the guidance provided on the NHS Inform website If you do subsequently become unwell, you will need to contact your line manager (or Nominated person) in accordance with the Sickness Absence Management Policy.
If you are absent for other reasons e.g. maternity, paternity or due to caring responsibilities, it will be handled under the relevant University Work Life Policy.
It is recognised that most staff are now working from home due to the coronavirus outbreak. However, circumstances can change and it may be the case that at certain points it is not possible to work effectively at home due to the increased responsibility of looking after children and family members. If this becomes the case for you, please discuss the situation with your manager.
Annual leave and using holidays
Due to the current situation, holiday plans will have undoubtedly changed for many staff. However, taking annual leave over the coming weeks and months is important and should still be possible in most areas. Where leave has been booked, the expectation is that it will be taken.
The usual rules for annual leave will apply in that no carry forward of annual leave entitlement into the next annual leave year will be approved. Staff do therefore need to spread their holidays throughout the year, including during this working from home period. Annual leave is still required to be requested and approved by your line manager.
The exception to this is where there is a requirement to maintain a key service or activity. In these circumstances, we may have to ask you not to take annual leave or to be flexible about when you take it. We will avoid this wherever possible.
Tax Relief for Working from Home
If you are required to work from home, you may be able to claim tax relief of up to £6/week or £26/month (£4/week or £18/month before 6 April 2020). This can be done either on your self-assessment tax return to the HMRC or on a separate P87 form if you do not complete a self-assessment tax return. The University cannot make this claim on your behalf. The tax relief is intended to cover the reasonable additional household expenses incurred when working from home.
If you decide to make a claim, it is recommended that you submit a claim when you know how long you have been required to work from home so you can make your claim all at once. If agreed by HMRC, the likely outcome is that your tax code would be adjusted rather than you receiving a lump sum refund.
It is important to note that tax relief can only be claimed when you have been required by your employer to work from home (as is the case currently whilst the University is closed due to Covid-19 situation). You can’t claim tax relief if you are working from home voluntarily or by choice, for example where working from home has been agreed for work/life balance reasons
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