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Covid-19 - Information and Support for Staff, and HR Policies and Procedures

Information and Support during Covid-19

All information and support relating to the coronavirus outbreak can now be found on the Staff Support page, including advice on working from home, health and wellbeing, furloughing, recording sickness absence and annual leave. 

 

HR Policies and Procedures 

 

General Principles

It is recognised that COVID-19 has had a significant impact on the University’s normal way of working. With the campus still currently in lock down and the majority of staff still working from home, there has had to be adaptations to the operation of some of the University’s HR policies and procedures with managers and staff having to engage with these processes in a different way.

These have included:

  • Recruitment with Appointment Committees and Recruitment panels being conducted through MS Teams 
  • Onboarding with new starts being inducted virtually through MS Teams 
  • Annual Review with Promotion Committees to consider the promotion of  Academic and Research staff being conducted through MS Teams 
  • OSaRs with OSaR conversations taking place through MS Teams 
  • Grievance and Disciplinary Procedures with investigations, hearings and appeals being conducted through MS Teams and/or by written submissions 
  • Dignity at Work and Study complaints with investigations and appeals being conducted through MS Teams and/or by written submissions 
  • Sickness Absence Management with review meetings being conducted through MS teams. 

While working remotely and adhering to government guidance and social distancing rules may have affected the way some HR policies and procedures have had to be implemented, there is still an expectation that all reasonable steps are taken to engage with these processes. The principles and purpose of these policies and procedures remain unchanged and they continue to provide a consistent and transparent approach for staff and managers on a range of employment issues, helping to ensure that matters being considered are considered fairly and in accordance with the University’s core values and in support of key strategic objectives.

COVID-19: Temporary Changes to HR Policies and Procedures

As part of the University’s response to Covid-19, it is appropriate to review our HR policies and procedures and consider some temporary changes to certain policies to support our staff and to reflect the current circumstances over this period.

This review also supports the work of the Business Recovery Group and the plans that are being developed to return staff safely to campus in a co-ordinated and managed way when it is safe to do so.  

In reviewing our HR policies and procedures, it has been established that many of our policies do provide flexibility however it is recognised that further guidance and points of clarification would be helpful to reflect the current situation. For other policies, a more fundamental review of the policy or new guidance may be required.

An initial list of HR policies and procedures is detailed below. The policies have been categorised as those (A) requiring minor change/additional guidance or (B) new guidelines or requiring a more in-depth review.

Additional policies and procedures may be added to this list following discussion at the Covid-19 On Campuses Staff Sub-Group and in consultation with the Campus unions.

PROPOSED CHANGES 

(A) Temporary changes to our current policies and procedures include:

What is our normal policy?What is changing temporarily?
Sickness Absence

What is our normal policy?

Under the university’s sickness absence policy if you fall ill and cannot attend work, you would be required to:

notify your Nominated Person by telephone as early as possible on the first day of absence (normally within one hour of notional starting time); and

What is changing temporarily?

You should still notify your Nominated person to let them know that you are unable to attend work and the reason is either Covid-related or another absence reason.

If it is Covid-related, you must not attend work and you must follow the Government's self-isolation guidance if you or anyone you live with develops:

  • a continuous cough
  • a fever/high temperature (37.8C or greater)
  • loss of, or change in, sense of smell or taste (anosmia)

 

There is a tool at NHSinform for you to carry out a check if you think you have symptoms.

 

If you live alone, you should self-isolate for seven days from when symptoms, however mild, start.

If you live with others, a minimum 14-day household self-isolation period begins from the first appearance of symptoms. The first individual with symptoms can return to their normal routine if their symptoms clear after seven days and there is specific advice on what to do if anyone else within the household subsequently displays symptoms.

See the latest guidance if that happens.

You may also be self-isolating in some circumstances in which you have no symptoms, including if you:

  • have been in contact with a confirmed coronavirus carrier; or
  • recently travelled overseas; or
  • are in a vulnerable group (ie aged 70 or over, have an underlying health condition, or are pregnant);
  • you have been asked to self-isolate under the Scottish Government’s Test and Protect measures

You do not have to get medical advice from NHS Inform to self-isolate. However, if your symptoms worsen during self-isolation or are no better after seven days, you should contact NHSinform .

If you have no internet access, you should call NHS 111. Please dial 999 only if you have a medical emergency.

 

Sickness Absence: Medical evidence

What is our normal policy?

  • Provide medical evidence (typically, a Fit note from your doctor) for sickness of more than seven calendar days' absence.

What is changing temporarily?

For Covid-related symptoms, you will not need to provide a Fit note, instead the medical evidence will be a:

  • A self-isolation note;

If you are self-isolating for more than seven days' absence, we ask that you provide us with an "isolation note" from NHS 111, which you can obtain by completing a simple questionnaire at 111.nhs.uk/isolation-note

  • A self-shielding letter;

If you have been advised that you need to ‘self -shield’, you will have a letter from the NHS advising you to "self-shield" because a serious underlying health condition means that you are at high risk– see the government guidelines  for more details.

 

  • Test and trace notification;
If you have Covid-19 related symptoms or have been in contact with someone who has Covid-19 related symptoms you will have to self-isolate under the Scottish Government’s Test and Protect measures and you will have some notification relating to this that you will be able to provide.
Sickness Absence: Acceptable levels of absence

What is our normal policy?

Under the sickness absence policy we would normally invoke a formal review of your absence levels when the absence:

  • lasts for a consecutive period of more than 4 weeks ; or
  • exceeds a total of 20 days in any twelve month period; or
  • exceeds 4 separate occasions in any six month period; or

falls regularly on specific days e.g. a Friday and/or Monday

 What is changing temporarily?

If you are in self-isolation because:

  • you or anyone you are living with displays symptoms;
  • have been given medical advice to self-isolate (for example from NHS 111); or
  • we ask you to self-isolate

The sickness absence will still need to be notified and recorded but we will not take this absence into account when determining whether or not to invoke a formal review of your absence levels under our absence management procedure. 

Sickness Absence: Sick pay

What is our normal policy? 

Under the sickness absence policy your sick pay entitlement in any 12-month period will be based on your continuous service date and will include a period of full pay followed by a period of half pay (as detailed in your contract of employment). 

 What is changing temporarily?

You will continue to be paid your sick pay entitlement as provided in your contract of employment if: 

  • we have asked you to stay away from the workplace and self-isolate; 
  • you are self-isolating because you have symptoms; or 
  • you are self-isolating in response to medical advice from NHS 111, your doctor, or a local health protection team
  • you have provided the medical evidence that relates to this period of absence i.e. a copy of the self-isolation note or shielding letter. 

 

Flexible working

What is our normal policy?

Under our Flexible Working Policy you can normally agree informally with your line manager to one-off or short-term changes to your working patterns or periods of homeworking.

However, if you wish to change your working patterns or work from home for an extended period, a formal request for flexible working would normally be made following the procedure set out in our Flexible Working Policy

What is changing temporarily?

The Government's advice is to "work at home unless your work absolutely cannot be done from home". As long as the University's operational needs continue to be met, you will be able to:

  • adapt your working patterns, for example to allow you to travel on public transport at less crowded times, work flexible hours if you are balancing working from home with caring responsibilities; or
  • work from home if your role allows for this, for an extended period without having to follow our formal procedure. Instead you can agree informally with your line manager to these changes.

You should speak to your line manager, if you wish to take advantage of these options, or any other flexible working options that may help you at this time. However, the decision as to whether or not to agree to your request for flexible working remains with your line manager.

Once agreed, the temporary flexible working arrangement will continue until further notice. If circumstances change, your manager will discuss with you any adaptations to, or the withdrawal of, the flexible working arrangement, with the final decision remaining with your manager.
Carers Leave

What is our normal policy?

To be eligible for flexible working for caring reasons, staff must have been continuously employed by the University for 26 weeks.

See Carers Leave Policy

Parents and others who combine work with caring for dependents have the right to be considered for flexible working and are entitled to time off for dependants to deal with unforeseen circumstances.  There are a number of University policies which carers may find of particular relevance: 

  • Time off for dependants
  • Time off is normally limited up to three days without loss of pay and may be granted at the discretion of Discipline Lead/Deans/Directors.  Subsequent days, paid or unpaid, may be granted, depending on the circumstances.  
  • Unpaid parental leave
    • Staff are eligible after 12 months service; max 4 weeks leave in any annual leave year.

 

What is changing temporarily?

All staff over this period will eligible to be considered for flexible working due to caring responsibilities irrespective of length of service.

During this period and while you are working from home, if you have additional caring responsibilities due to for example school closures or looking after a dependant or family member who is unwell, you should discuss this with your line manager and agree what work you can reasonably do given your particular circumstances. The temporary changes to the Flexible working policy above will apply and should be referred to;

If you are unable to work due to your caring responsibilities as a result of the Covid situation, you should discuss with your line manager. There are a range of University policies that carers can access and if flexible working is not possible.

  • Time off for dependants
  • Time off is normally limited up to three days without loss of pay and may be granted at the discretion of Discipline Leads/Deans/Directors.  Subsequent days, paid or unpaid, may be granted, depending on the circumstances. 

 

  • Unpaid parental leave
  • all staff with children under the age of 18 are eligible for unpaid parental leave due to caring responsibilities and over this period all staff will be eligible  irrespective of length of service and the 4 week maximum entitlement will not apply in current leave year (up until 31 Dec 2020) 
Requirement to work remotely

What is our normal policy?

Except by prior agreement with us, we do not normally require you to work remotely for an extended period.

There is normally no expectation that:

  • if you use a laptop, you always take it home with you after work each day; or
  • if you use a desktop, you access your emails remotely while away from the workplace.  
What is changing temporarily?

Given the current global health situation, you should be working remotely unless your work absolutely cannot be done from home. 

You should contact UoD-IT at help4u@dundee.ac.uk if you have any queries about IT equipment for working remotely. 

Travel: Work-related travel

What is our normal policy?

Under normal policy, you may be regularly travelling in the UK and abroad for work and for some roles this is an important requirement of the role.

The University will not however authorise any travel to countries or regions where the Foreign and Commonwealth Office advises against all travel. Where the advice is against all but essential travel, the University (in this case the University Executive Group) would need to consider the risk involved versus the merits of visit.

 

What is changing temporarily?

Government advice should be followed in respect of countries and territories that still pose a risk for British travellers. The guidance provides information on countries which are exempt from this advice and where non-essential travel will be permitted. Any travel to countries or regions where the Foreign and Commonwealth Office advises against travel will not be authorised. 

https://www.gov.uk/guidance/travel-advice-novel-coronavirus

https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice

 

 

Travel: Non-work-related travel

What is our normal policy?

We do not normally have any rules around staff travelling outside work.

 

What is changing temporarily?

Government advice should be followed in respect of travel to countries and territories that still pose a risk for British travellers. The government guidance provides information on countries which are now considered exempt from this advice and where non-essential travel will be permitted. 

If you are planning to go abroad, you should discuss this with your line manager before booking. While your annual leave request will be considered you do not need to understand the consequences of travelling to a country that the government advises against and where there would be a requirement to self-isolate/quarantine on your return. 

If you have taken a decision to travel abroad and disregard the current government advice, and you are not able to work from home, the required period of quarantine will need to be taken as annual leave or unpaid leave. On your return, your first step should be to visit the NHS inform website https://www.nhsinform.scot. You should do this even if you do not have any symptoms. 

 

Recruitment: New staff joining University from out-with UK

What is our normal policy?

The University currently has no requirements beyond standard pre-employment checks and confirmation that UKVI requirements have been met.

What is changing temporarily?

There are now specific requirements in place for individuals entering the UK (Scotland guidelines still tbc) and a period of self-isolation/quarantine will need to be factored in to start dates for new appointees joining from outwith the UK.

https://www.gov.uk/uk-border-control
Compassionate Leave - Bereavement

The University Bereavement policy grants a period of paid leave on the death of close relatives or dependants

 

The duration of paid leave will take account of the member of staff’s relationship with the deceased, any domestic responsibilities that may have to undertaken and any travel arrangements, but will not normally extend beyond 5 days

It is recognised that alternative arrangements may have to be over this period if there has been a death of a close relative, with funeral services severely restricted due to social distancing rules.

The current Bereavement policy does provide flexibility to managers when approving compassionate leave. In these unusual circumstances and to recognise that a funeral service /celebration of life service may take place at a later date to which other family members and friends can attend, there will be a greater flexibility and understanding to facilitate these arrangements.
Compassionate Leave: Special Circumstances

Not applicable  (no Compassionate Leave – Special Circumstances policy)

Due to COVID -19, an additional policy has been introduced to recognise the impact that Covid-19 may have had on some staff and that there may be a requirement to grant an additional period of paid leave to deal with a serious situation.  This will not normally extend beyond 5 days
Avoidance of Redundancy

The University’s Avoidance of Redundancy Policy outlines the steps that the University will take to avoid potential redundancies and the measures that will considered in consultation with the campus unions.

 

 The University is taking advantage of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (JRS) as a redundancy avoidance measure.

Use of the JRS and a decision to furlough roles has been taken as a short term measure to deal with the immediate operational and financial challenges that the University is experiencing.

If there is a need to make posts redundant in the future, decisions will be made on the future need of the University and not whether a role has been furloughed or not.

The University and the campus unions have a collective agreement on the use of the JRS.

(B) New guidance or more in-depth review of current policies and procedures may be required:

  • Social Distancing:    Guidance about how to work when on campus.  To cover meetings /  working in offices / organising teaching etc (ref H&S Policy )

 

  • Test and Protect: Policy and checklist for managers.  To cover if staff member at work- getting home/arranging deep clean of work space/ identification of contacts 

https://www.gov.scot/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-test-and-protect-advice-for-employers/

 

  • Working from home 

https://www.dundee.ac.uk/hr/policiesprocedures/worklife/flexibleworking/

https://www.dundee.ac.uk/safety/covid19/

 

  • Review and develop more detailed policy to reflect different aspects of working from home when back to ‘normal’ working

 

 

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