1. Work requirements
There is no longer a requirement for staff to work from home and staff are expected to return to working on-site. Managers should work with their head of department and departmental administrator/HAF to develop a clear, documented plan for the return to the workplace based on work requirements, equality considerations, and individual circumstances. Managers should take health and safety considerations into account while not making assumptions that are based on people’s characteristics.
2. Equality considerations
In planning for a return to on-site working, departments must make sure that equality issues are taken into account, including arrangements for travel to work.
- Disability: the definition of disability includes mental health and some long-term health conditions. Managers have a legal obligation to protect the health and safety of all staff at work and also to make reasonable adjustments for disabled staff. Some disabled people who were previously considered to be clinically extremely vulnerable and advised to shield may now return to the workplace with all necessary adjustments being in place (see government guidance on protecting people who are clinically extremely vulnerable from COVID-19 ). Departments should ensure that any required COVID-secure measures will be strictly maintained, noting that a small number of disabilities or health conditions may mean that individuals cannot be vaccinated. For some staff, a reasonable adjustment for their disability may be to continue to work remotely. It may also be possible to redeploy some staff to an equivalent role where these concerns can be reduced or removed. Some staff with disabilities and/or long-term health conditions may be able to receive support from schemes such as Access to Work. Line managers should discuss any additional support needs with staff and attempt to find ways to meet their needs, seeking advice as needed from the local HR contact and/or the Staff Disability Advisor.
It would also be good practice to review any existing reasonable adjustments, particularly if staff have been away from on-site working for a prolonged period of time, to ensure that their needs have not changed and are still being met, and to encourage any staff who have not previously declared a disability to do so.
- Pregnancy and maternity: please see the guidance on supporting staff with concerns.
- Other issues: managers should be particularly mindful of any concerns about returning to on-site working which relate to any protected characteristic (age, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, race, religion or belief, sex or sexual orientation). In particular, during the pandemic there has been widespread discussion of the particular impact of COVID-19 on older people, men and the BME population, and staff may have related concerns.
3. Individual circumstances
Some staff members may be unable to return to work on-site in the immediate future. For example:
- If they have been assessed by Occupational Health as being at high risk, and adjustments cannot be made satisfactorily to manage the risks associated with a return to working on site.
- If they have a letter from a GP or medical practitioner stating that they should not return for reasons related to COVID-19.
- If they have tested positive for COVID-19 or have symptoms
Staff in high risk categories
Where staff have concerns about returning to work on-site because they believe they are in a high risk category, or have other concerns, please see the guidance on supporting staff with concerns about on-site working.
Some staff may have concerns about using public transport. The University has a dedicated travel web page and provide regular updates about travelling arrangements for those using public transport as well as car parking.
(see equality considerations above).
NB Information which staff provide about their health and personal circumstances must be treated in confidence and any records stored securely in the departmental HR office (or sent by password protected email to HR staff for secure electronic storage, where physical filing is not used or available) in accordance with GDPR requirements.
In order to maintain safe working practices it may be necessary to consider some changes to working practices as part of a structured risk assessment and risk mitigation process. Risk assessments for the relevant work area must be taken into account.
No one should be asked to return to the workplace, even intermittently, without being offered a conversation with their line manager, well in advance of the return date, at which any concerns can be explored.
It may be agreed that some staff will work only part time on-site and part time at home, if they are able to do some of their work remotely, and have a suitable working environment at home (ie a space which meets DSE guidance and where they can work without distraction, etc.) Any staff who are required by the University to work reduced hours, for operational reasons, should be reassured that they will continue to receive their full normal pay.
Individual contracts may specify normal working hours and place of work; in the current unusual circumstances, line managers may ask staff to work different hours (although not excessive hours) and in a different location for a limited period of time, if there is a properly justified rationale for so doing. Any proposed changes to normal working patterns must be discussed with the member of staff and the rationale fully explained. The staff member should then be informed of the changes in writing and asked to agree to them before they are implemented. A template letter is available at the right hand side of the page. Seek advice from your own manager, local HR contact or departmental administrator/HAF if you are unsure how to respond to staff concerns.
Make sure that staff members are given clear instructions about work patterns, place of work, work tasks and priorities etc.