Symptoms and self-isolation

Public Health England (PHE), NHS 111, a doctor, the Track and Trace service or Government advice says a member of staff should self-isolate.  Should this be recorded as sickness absence?

If they are self-isolating following Government advice and as a result are unable to work, then they are entitled to receive normal pay under their contract and should be recorded as on special leave.

If a person is self-isolating but can still work (ie because their job can be done from home and they are not unwell) then people should be facilitated to work from home. If work cannot be undertaken from home, then it would be recorded as special leave.

A colleague who was at work has been advised to self-isolate and is awaiting test results. What should we do?

Unless you are showing symptoms, there is no need to self-isolate.

People may be advised to self-isolate for the following reasons:

  • have coronavirus symptoms and are awaiting a test result
  • have tested positive for coronavirus
  • are a member of the same household as someone who has symptoms or has tested positive for coronavirus
  • have been in close recent contact with someone who has tested positive and received a notification to self-isolate from NHS test and trace.

Everyone is being reminded to follow Public Health England advice to prevent the spread of infection:

  • wash your hands often - with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitiser that contains at least 60% alcohol if soap and water are not available. This is particularly important after taking public transport
  • avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands
  • avoid close contact with people who are sick
  • if you feel unwell, stay at home, do not attend work or school
  • always carry tissues with you to cover your cough or sneeze, then throw the tissue in a bin. See Catch it, Bin it, Kill it 
  • clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces in the home and work environment
  • if you are worried about your symptoms, please call NHS 111. Do not go directly to your GP or other healthcare environment
  • see further information and the Public Health England Blog
  • if you are showing symptoms, follow PHE guidance

What to do if you have symptoms

  • If you live alone and you have symptoms of coronavirus illness (COVID-19), however mild, stay at home for 10 days from when your symptoms started. (See ending isolation section for more information). If you live with others and you are the first in the household to have symptoms of coronavirus, then you must stay at home for 10 days, but all other household members who remain well must stay at home and not leave the house for 14 days. The 14-day period starts from the day when the first person in the house became ill. See explanatory diagram
  • it is likely that people living within a household will infect each other or be infected already. Staying at home for 14 days will greatly reduce the overall amount of infection the household could pass on to others in the community
  • for anyone in the household who starts displaying symptoms, they need to stay at home for 10 days from when the symptoms appeared, regardless of what day they are on in the original 14-day isolation period. (See ending isolation guidance)
  • if you can, move any vulnerable individuals (such as the elderly and those with underlying health conditions) out of your home, to stay with friends or family for the duration of the home isolation period
  • if you cannot move vulnerable people out of your home, stay away from them as much as possible.

I have been at work in a non-care setting and a colleague/ service user/ pupil that I have interacted with started exhibiting symptoms so is now self-isolating

You should continue to follow the ‘staying safe when working in council buildings’ advice and unless you are suffering symptoms (or you need to self isolate because a member of your household has symptoms)  there is no need to stop working. The premises team can be contacted if further cleaning is required of an area, beyond the current increased cleaning regimes.

What should a manager communicate to staff when a colleague may have potentially contracted or has been diagnosed with COVID-19? 

If you have been informed by a member of staff that they are experiencing the symptoms of COVID-19 or that they have been diagnosed as having the virus you must inform members of your team without naming the individual.

Informing your staff that a team member is unwell gives them an opportunity to remain vigilant of their own health and wellbeing and you are encouraged to remind all staff of what symptoms they should be aware of and the need to not come to work if symptomatic. It is also an opportunity to remind staff of the measures that are in place within your team and workplace to follow social distancing and personal hygiene measures.

We have an obligation to do all we reasonably can to ensure the health and safety of our employees and have a duty of care to our staff. Data protection legislation doesn’t prevent you from informing staff that there are suspected or confirmed COVID 19 cases but do not name the individual and only provide information that is necessary for the safety and health of your staff.  In very small teams the identity of the individual may be implicit, however the Information Commissioners Office (the UK’s independent authority set up to uphold data protection) have provided guidance that Data protection doesn’t prevent you keeping staff informed about cases in the organisation.

What to do if someone develops symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19) on site

If anyone becomes unwell with a new, continuous cough, a high temperature, or a loss of, or change to, their sense of smell or taste in the business or workplace they should be sent home and advised to follow the stay at home guidance.

If they need clinical advice, they should go online to NHS 111 or call 111 if they don’t have internet access. In an emergency, call 999 if they are seriously ill or injured or their life is at risk. Do not visit the GP, pharmacy, urgent care centre or a hospital.

If a member of staff has helped someone who was taken unwell with a new, continuous cough, a high temperature, or a loss of, or change to, their sense of smell or taste, they do not need to go home unless they develop symptoms themselves. They should wash their hands thoroughly for 20 seconds after any contact with someone who is unwell with symptoms consistent with coronavirus infection.

It is not necessary to close the business or workplace or send any staff home, unless government policy changes. Keep monitoring the government response page for the latest details.

I have been working with a colleague/service user/pupil that has exhibited symptoms and I’m worried about the risk to my own health and my family

During these exceptional times it is understandable that we may feel uncomfortable or worried about our own health and the health of the people we care about and may live with. Whilst some staff may be isolating, shielding or working from home, there are frontline staff that are providing essential services that may bring them into contact with other colleagues or members of the public. Your manager should be ensuring there are measures in place to provide you with support and to provide reasonable control measures to minimise the potential risk to your health and safety whilst at work, in line with Public Health guidance.

Wellbeing resources are available on the Council website and these will be regularly updated to provide staff and their families with ongoing support during the pandemic. These include signposting & support from Mind, the NHS and other information to help manage anxiety. This includes suggestions of talking therapy, looking after your body, eating well, staying connected, looking after your sleep, mindfulness and meditation, advice for parents, relationship support, working well from home and financial support.

The NHS also has a resource to outline things we can all do to help take care of our mental health and wellbeing during times of uncertainty.

Do we have to deep clean their workstations and other areas they may have come into contact with?

Public Health England have provided guidance on what cleaning should take place if there has been a suspected or confirmed case: 

  • cleaning an area with normal household disinfectant after someone with suspected coronavirus (COVID-19) has left will reduce the risk of passing the infection on to other people. Particular attention should be paid to frequently touched areas and surfaces, such as bathrooms, grab-rails in corridors and stairwells and door handles
  • wherever possible, wear disposable or washing-up gloves and aprons for cleaning. These should be double-bagged, then stored securely for 72 hours then thrown away in the regular rubbish after cleaning is finished
  • the Premises team has increased the cleaning regimes within Council buildings along the Government guidelines, and staff are reminded always clean your workstation before and after use with the hygiene products available and always observe government health advice
  • wash hands regularly with soap and water for 20 seconds, and after removing gloves, aprons and other protection used while cleaning
  • If there is visible contamination with body fluids, then the need for additional PPE to protect the cleaner’s eyes, mouth and nose might be necessary. The local Public Health England (PHE) Health Protection Team (HPT) can advise on this.

Please view the full guidance for more information.
 

Clinically Vulnerable people

Staff identified as Clinically Vulnerable

Anyone identified below should work from home if at all possible. If it is not possible to facilitate home working for these staff, it may be possible for them to return to work with additional control measures in place which enable a vulnerable person to return safely.  

A risk assessment should be carried out with such staff and a specific Individual Risk Assessment for COVID-19 is available to support this conversation. Download the Individual Risk Assessment form and guidance

You're classed as a vulnerable member of staff if you're:

Staff identifying as extremely clinically vulnerable and subject to shielding

There is a group of people who are defined as being extremely clinically vulnerable who were previously advised by the Government to ‘shield’. The Government has paused this guidance from 1 August 2020.

These staff should still work from home if at all possible. If it is not possible to facilitate home working for these staff, it may be possible for them to return to work with additional control measures in place which enable a person to return safely.

A risk assessment should be carried out with such staff and a specific Individual Risk Assessment for COVID-19 is available to support this conversation.  Please note those staff who are extremely clinically vulnerable will need greater additional controls to be in place, for example the ability to rigidly adhere to social distancing advice. Download the Individual Risk Assessment form and guidance

Clinically extremely vulnerable people may include:

  1. Solid organ transplant recipients.
  2. People with specific cancers: 
    - people with cancer who are undergoing active chemotherapy
    - people with lung cancer who are undergoing radical radiotherapy
    - people with cancers of the blood or bone marrow such as leukaemia, lymphoma or myeloma who are at any stage of treatment
    - people having immunotherapy or other continuing antibody treatments for cancer
    - people having other targeted cancer treatments which can affect the immune system, such as protein kinase inhibitors or PARP inhibitors
    - people who have had bone marrow or stem cell transplants in the last 6 months, or who are still taking immunosuppression drugs
  3. People with severe respiratory conditions including all cystic fibrosis, severe asthma and severe chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
  4. People with rare diseases that significantly increase the risk of infections (such as severe combined immunodeficiency (SCID), homozygous sickle cell).
  5. People on immunosuppression therapies sufficient to significantly increase risk of infection.
  6. Women who are pregnant with significant heart disease, congenital or acquired.
  7. Other people have also been classed as clinically extremely vulnerable, based on clinical judgement and an assessment of their needs. GPs and hospital clinicians have been provided with guidance to support these decisions.

More information about who has been classed as clinically extremely vulnerable is available on the NHS Digital website.

Find guidance on protecting extremely vulnerable people from COVID-19 from Public Health England.

The most recent advice for this group from the Government is:

  • you do not need to follow previous shielding advice
  • you can go to work as long as the workplace is COVID-secure, but should carry on working from home wherever possible
  • clinically extremely vulnerable children should attend education settings in line with the wider guidance on reopening of schools and guidance for full opening: special schools and other specialist settings 
  • you can go outside as much as you like but you should still try to keep your overall social interactions low
  • you can visit businesses, such as supermarkets, pubs and shops, while keeping 2 metres away from others wherever possible or 1 metre, plus other precautions 
  • you should continue to wash your hands carefully and more frequently than usual and that you maintain thorough cleaning of frequently touched areas in your home and/or workspace
  • you will no longer receive free food parcels, medicine deliveries and basic care from the National Shielding Service.

For practical tips on staying safe, see the guidance on how to stay safe outside your home.

You will still be able to get:

  • local volunteer support by contacting your local authority
  • prescriptions, essential items and food you buy delivered by NHS Volunteer Responders 
  • priority slots for supermarket deliveries (if you previously registered for free food parcels).

Staff living with Vulnerable or Extremely Clinically Vulnerable People

Any member of staff living with someone who are in the above categories should work from home if at all possible. If it is not possible to facilitate home working for these staff, it may be possible for these staff to return to work with additional control measures in place which enable a person to return safely.  

A risk assessment should be carried out with such staff and a specific Individual Risk Assessment for COVID-19 is available to support this conversation.  

Please note those staff living with someone who is extremely clinically vulnerable will need greater additional controls to be in place, for example the ability to rigidly adhere to social distancing advice.  

Download the Individual Risk Assessment form and guidance

Hygiene

What should we do where equipment sharing is required (eg telephones)?

There are simple and effective measures you and your colleagues can take to help stop any bugs spreading:

  • If you work in a workstyled office or space where work stations are shared remember to use the disinfectant and wipes provided when you first start at your work station, and when you leave. 
  • keep shared areas, for example kitchen areas and break out spaces clean and tidy. Wash thoroughly any shared plates, cutlery and other utensils. 
  • use the disinfectant sprays where provided in office buildings. 
  • always carry tissues with you and use them to catch your cough or sneeze. Then bin the tissue, and wash your hands, or use a sanitiser gel.
  • wash your hands often with soap and water regularly, especially after using public transport. Use a sanitiser gel that contains at least 60% alcohol if soap and water are not available.
  • avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • avoid close contact with people who are unwell.

A member of my team says that they don’t want to increase the risk of picking up coronavirus, so do not think they should be required to have any contact with other people’s bodily fluids (eg picking up used tissues/ cleaning vomit)

If dealing with bodily fluids is already part of their role (e.g. supporting service users with personal care or undertaking cleaning tasks) staff should continue to follow their teams infection control procedures. Please see our Infection Control Standard, and particularly the section on page 8 relating to ensuring good personal and environmental hygiene. 

Everyone should be reminded to ensure that they maintain good hygiene, including disposing of tissues appropriately.  Gloves should be provided, and you could consider providing personal hand sanitiser gels that contains at least 60% alcohol. If cleaning is not part of a member of staff’s usual role, managers should not be asking them to carry out cleaning in response to the coronavirus.

What is the guidance on home visits and staff working with high risk groups – are there additional precautions for staff working with service users who will be told to self-isolate or who are vulnerable to infection?

Services will need to be risk assessing activities to decide what is reasonably necessary and what mitigations can be put in place.  Arrangements in individual services should be made clear to staff.
 

Homeworking

How should we support our teams in homeworking?

  • Managers should inform with staff whether they are critical workers who have access to Direct Access (i.e. they connect from home through a council laptop) between 9am and 5pm.
  • guidance is available from IT&D on using Microsoft Teams or Skype to attend virtual meetings.
  • guidance is also available on how to download access to emails on personal devices (Outlook Web Access)
  • all staff working from home should complete a HS-F-04-3 Health & Safety Assessment for Working From Home to assist you in identifying any issues that might affect your safety or health whilst working.
  • if you are new to home working or have not refreshed training in the last three years you should complete the DSE e-learning. The training provides information and guidance to staff on how to set up their workstation and chair correctly to enable them to work safely. You can access this training via the Learning Gateway.
  • anyone working from home should remember the need for confidentiality, and apply appropriate safeguards (e.g. taking telephone calls in a private room, not using names and making the caller aware that you are not in a confidential environment).

What should we do for staff who need particular equipment at home for DSE purposes?

Some staff may need particular equipment to support them in working from home, e.g. a monitor, keyboard, mouse or chair.  Managers should consider all requests reasonably and ensure staff have the equipment they need for working from home.  Further guidance on taking equipment home and assistance can be found on the Wave.

How can we support employee wellbeing when they are working from home?

Managers should agree methods to ensure that regular communication is maintained through this period.

Employees should ensure that they are taking steps to look after their wellbeing during their period of working from home. This includes: 

  • maintaining regular contact with their manager and colleagues 
  • taking regular breaks 
  • avoiding being ‘always on’ by ensuring that they identify non-working time 
  • contacting the employee assistance programme if they need support, for example, in relation to heightened feelings of anxiety 
  • being aware of the things that can cause them poor wellbeing and the activities and resources that can help to address this.

Please visit the new Wellbeing Zone for all staff – it is full of information and advice on how to make your wellbeing a priority during the Coronavirus outbreak.

Can staff claim expenses for working from home?

The council does not make payments for homeworking. However, an employee may be able to claim tax relief directly from HMRC.

From 6 April 2020, employees can claim tax relief on a flat rate of £6 per week (or £26 per month for monthly paid employees), in relation to the additional expenses incurred when working from home without having to justify that figure. You must have also paid tax in the year to qualify and you’ll get tax relief based on the rate at which you pay tax. For example, if you pay 20% basic rate of tax and claim tax relief on £6 a week, you would get £1.20 per week in tax relief (20% of £6).

You also qualify even if you work at home part time.

Employees with provable higher costs can claim more if they have evidence of the actual costs incurred.

To see if you are eligible, visit the gov.uk website.

Using the Government website

The website will ask the following questions:

  • Are you only claiming tax relief on your expenses for working from home?
  • Do you complete self-assessment returns – YES/NO
  • Has your employer paid your expenses working from home? YES/NO
  • Did you start working from home because of coronavirus (COVID-19) – YES

It will then confirm “You can claim tax relief for your work-related expenses online”

If you are eligible to claim, you will need a Government Gateway user ID and password. You can create a user ID if you do not already have one. Creating a Government Gateway ID usually takes about 10 minutes. It works best if you have:

  • your National Insurance number
  • AND a recent payslip or P60 or a valid UK passport

When you are signed in it will come up a prompt to check your eligibility to claim which you will need to accept before being allowed to continue.

You will first be asked when you started working from home.  You will be allowed to apply for tax relief in the current tax year 2020/21 even if you do not know how much longer you will be working from home.

This is because tax relief will be applied for the whole of the tax year, even if you go back to the workplace before April 2021.  At the end of the tax year the relief will stop and if you are required to work from home after 5 April 2021, you will need to claim again.

Office equipment

If staff need particular equipment or office supplies to support them in working safely from home they should speak to their managers in the first instance who should consider all requests reasonably and ensure staff have what they need for working from home.

For more information about accessing equipment to support staff working from home, please refer to guidance on using DSE equipment

Maintaining and cleaning work equipment whilst working at home

Following the national response to the COVID-19 pandemic, where possible staff have been enabled to work from home and in some cases provided with loan equipment together with guidance on how to safely set up their workstations.  The Health & Safety Executive have also issued information on working from home  to support staff that may be temporarily working from home and includes helpful videos guides and checklists.  

Home working for those who can is likely to continue for some time and it remains important that work equipment is maintained in a safe condition for use.  Working away from our normal work base means many of us will not have regular access to some resources which are immediately available to us in our usual workplaces.  This guide provides practical information to support staff in ensuring equipment remains safe whilst at home.  

Reporting Faulty Equipment and Maintenance

Reporting of faults and maintenance requests for loaned work equipment should be routed through the normal channels.   A number of staff across the council are supporting front line services therefore, responses are likely to be longer than during normal operating conditions. 

  • IT&D Equipment issues: should be reported online through MyServiceHub  or Tel: 01273 292001
  • Faulty work equipment which has been borrowed: in the first instance discuss this with your line manager to decide the appropriate course of action.

Cleaning of work equipment being used at home

Enabling staff to work at home were this is possible is one of the ways the council is ensuring staff are protected during the COVID-19 pandemic. When using work equipment at home it can be included in your usual household cleaning regimes when needed. Whilst there are no specific frequencies of how often you need to clean the equipment, you should consider your own personal circumstances and who else has access to it. For instance, staff who are using shared equipment at home such as a family computer or laptop should consider cleaning the equipment more frequently than if the equipment is solely for their use (e.g. a council laptop) that is kept separate from other household members.  

It’s important we all continue to follow Public Health advice:

  • regularly wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds
  • maintain social distance by staying at least 2 meters apart from others
  • pay particular attention when cleaning homes to: shared spaces, regularly touched surfaces and handrails
  • using soap and water and regular household detergents will be appropriate to clean the hard surfaces for most work equipment and furniture such as desks and chairs (always follow the manufacturers instructions on cleaning products)
  • soap is effective because of how it interacts with viruses.  It contains fat-like substances so when it interacts with viruses, the fat-like substances compete with the viral lipids and cause the virus to break down.  
  • when cleaning electrical items like keyboards, mice, PC speakers, or webcams, ensure they are switched off and completely disconnected from the power supply.  If you are able to hold the keyboard or laptop upside down and gently shake to remove any debris.  Apply a small amount of soap (liquid or bar soap is sufficient) to a lightly dampened cloth, squeeze it out until it is almost dry and applying light pressure gently wipe contact surfaces. Ensure no water penetrates the electrical points.
  • wipe again with a lightly dampened cloth to remove any soap residue then dry lightly with a clean cloth (*Never apply water directly to electrical equipment or electrical outlets*).

IT&D advice on cleaning IT equipment screens

Monitors, laptop and mobile phone screens can also be cleaned either by:

  • gently wiping the exterior surfaces using a 70/80% isopropyl alcohol wipe or Clorox Disinfecting Wipes if available, or
  • moisten a lint-free cloth (the kind you might use to clean a pair of glasses) add some liquid or bar soap, squeeze it out until it is almost dry and applying light pressure carefully give the screen/device/phone case a wipe down. 

And what not to do:

  • do not spray cleaner directly onto your device.  Instead, spray or dab soap onto a microfiber cloth, then from there gently wipe it onto your device in small circular motions or from one end to the other. 
  • do not use any abrasive materials to clean your device. The coating of the glass surfaces is designed to repel oil. This will diminish over time with normal use, but rubbing the screen with an abrasive material will further diminish its effect and may scratch the glass.
  • do not drench your cloth in a cleaning solution, just dampen it and squeeze it out until it is almost dry
  • do not use bleach, window cleaners, household cleaners, aerosol sprays, solvents, ammonia or abrasives – liquid or bar soap is sufficient and an effective way of breaking down the virus.
  • avoid getting moisture in any openings. 
  • do not submerge your device in cleaning agents.

The above measures are for households where nobody has Covid-19 symptoms nor deemed to be self-isolating.  Where this is the case reference should be made to the general government guidance on self-isolation or, where there is evidence that an area may have been contaminated by a symptomatic person, follow the guidance for the decontamination of non-care settings

In general, those working from and staying at home with council issued equipment and devices which are solely for their personal use, have access to handwashing facilities, can maintain social distancing from non-household members and are able to control household hygiene within their living environment will not require PPE.  

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) including antibacterial surface wipes and hand sanitiser is being prioritised and distributed to those most at risk (ie staff working with service users,  staff working in shared workspaces and sharing work equipment).  

There may be circumstances where additional reasonable adjustments are required to support staff with cleaning materials, such as those with existing health conditions, those who are isolating or unable to replenish cleaning materials or anyone else who feels they are unable to follow this guidance.  

The measures above are designed to support staff who can to remain working at home acknowledging they will not have access to many of the resources normally be available in the workplace.  We recognise this is a very unsettling time and some people may not feel confident to follow the above guidance and may prefer access to antibacterial wipes. In these cases managers of relevant staff can contact Rima.desai@brighton-hove.gov.uk and the request will be considered for allocation to the PPE distribution team.  

PPE will be prioritised for those working with service users or those cleaning premises which are contaminated with droplets/body fluids that may contain the virus.

Managing staff

Some roles cannot be carried out at home but an employee is worried about the risk of being at work

The council is committed to protecting our staff while also providing essential services to the people who live and work in the city. The Government’s advice is very clear that people in certain groups are very strongly advised to stay at home for their own protection as they are at greater risk if they were to contract the virus.  Everyone else is advised to stay at home if at all possible.

The council’s position is that it will enable home working wherever it is possible to do so and will not unnecessarily ask people to come into an office/building or work face to face with colleagues or the public.  However many services are critical and must still be maintained which means some staff will be required to continue doing their job.  Wherever possible managers are asked to consider what can be stopped and what arrangements can be made for people to work from home.

If a member of staff cannot carry out their role at home and work in an essential service they will be supported to do so while taking all reasonable efforts to manage the risk of passing on or contracting the virus.  This includes adopting all of the hygiene advice from Public Health England, reducing physical contact as far as possible and other adjustments to service delivery determined by service managers.  

The measures already being taken with most people staying at home will already be reducing the risk of the virus being passed on. Service risk assessments to make the workplace Covid secure should be referred to an and individual risk assessment offered to try and address the individual issues.

If a member of staff still does not wish to attend work, and flexible working options have been explored, annual leave or unpaid leave may be agreed.

Can I be asked to undertake a different role?

Staff can be asked to undertake roles which are different to their usual role so long as they are competent and safe to carry out that work. It is helpful to consider the risks of staff carrying out this different role against the benefits of that role continuing. For example, arranging for a Teaching Assistant to visit SEN pupils in their home would allow the council to continue to deliver its statutory duty and support a vulnerable young person.

Where the role is substantially different to their usual role (i.e. not covered by current risk assessments,) the assessment needs to be reviewed or a new risk assessment developed to highlight ‘new’ hazards and significant risks. Following the assessment managers must:

  • ensure any additional safety and safeguarding measures are followed
  • ensure staff are not asked/ expected to do anything that they are not skilled or trained to do or lack the equipment/ materials etc to do safely

Staff would be insured to undertake any role subject to them having any necessary training and knowledge to carry out the work safely, all necessary equipment including PPE and knowledge. Subject also to any risk assessments where deemed appropriate.

Voluntary Deployment of Staff to Critical Services

Local government is proving how adaptable it can be in the face of the coronavirus pandemic, and we're all united in the response against Covid-19.  To ensure we're pulling together to use our staff and resources in the most effective way possible, we’ve developed a new deployment procedure.

We’re asking for staff who are willing and able to work flexibly to volunteer for deployment to a different service and join the response. 

This does not include those staff who have already been identified as a “key worker” - if you’re unsure of whether or not you’re a key worker, please ask your line manager. Full details and the process can be found on the website.
 

Annual leave

Requests from staff to cancel/postpone leave already agreed

If a member of staff wishes to cancel leave already booked the person should be encouraged to book in new dates and reminded that if they wish to take this leave at a later time in the year, approval of requests will be dependent on service need and the leave being able to be accommodated in accordance with the Annual Leave Policy.

2020/2021 leave year

Staff should continue to be encouraged to plan to use all of their 2020/2021 leave entitlement throughout the leave year including any agreed carry over where possible. Staff and managers should avoid where possible waiting until later in the leave year to use all their leave entitlement even if they are currently not required at work due to restrictions as a result of COVID-19 physical distancing measures or Government advice.  

Managers should monitor the levels of leave being booked to ensure sufficient cover.

Can I still approve annual leave requests?

Yes and staff should be encouraged to continue to use their annual leave throughout the year if possible.

Carrying over of annual leave not used during 2020/2021

The Government has amended working time regulations to allow the carry over of up to four weeks of statutory leave entitlement if people are prevented from taking their full leave entitlement due the impact of COVID-19. This can be carried over for up to two years.

The council recognises that the COVID-19 pandemic has affected the planning of annual leave in a number of ways. Consequently the council is giving managers the discretion to permit the carry over of up to four weeks' annual leave (pro-rata for part timers) where it has not been possible to use it from the 2020/2021 annual leave year and for this carry over to be used within two years, ie by the end of March 2023.

The purpose of annual leave is for employees to be able to rest and ensure their wellbeing so managers should continue to encourage staff to use all of their leave entitlement within the normal leave year where possible. Employees will need a line manager’s agreement as normal to carry over any leave under this provision but requests will not be unreasonably refused.

Staff who need to quarantine for 14 days after travel abroad

Where an employee booked their annual leave before the introduction of quarantine requirements on 8 June 2020, and are unable to re-arrange/cancel it without incurring a financial loss, or where they unwittingly find themselves needing to self-isolate due to regulations in the UK changing while they were out of the country, then they will need to work from home during the quarantine period.

If their job cannot be undertaken from home then they should be granted special leave on full pay.  Special leave granted in accordance with this advice should be recorded on PIER using the specific special leave category related to COVID-19.  Schools should record the absence on their usual monthly returns.

Anyone who arranges to travel abroad in full knowledge of the requirement to self-isolate on their return will need to request that they can work from home during this period. If their role cannot be undertaken from home then they need to request annual leave entitlement to cover the 14-day quarantine period or agree how the time could be made up, eg using flexi or time off in lieu. Unpaid leave may also be requested.

Please note: According to the published Government advice, staff will not be impacted b the quarantine rules if a member of their household needs to quarantine unless they travelled with them or they develop Coronavirus symptoms.

The Government is keeping its position on quarantine rules under review and it is likely to introduce further changes at short notice.  It is important that Line Managers and employees discuss the options for covering the possibility of a quarantine period when the annual leave request is submitted.  Managers should proactively encourage staff to consider their travel plans carefully and ensure all staff are aware of the current Government position regarding the potential quarantine requirements for their holiday destination before booking their holiday.

In areas where there are staff who can only take holidays during certain times, school closure/holiday periods, it is particularly important that they are aware of the quarantine period requirements, prior to booking.  This is because options for working from home are more limited.

Caring responsibilities - including children

Staff who need to be at home to look after a child due to school closures

Every option to explore the possibility of the employee working from home should be considered.  If it is not possible to work from home or arrange any childcare provisions then you will be classed as being on special leave on normal pay.  If you are designated as a critical/key worker and you have a child who cannot stay safely at home they will be prioritised for educational provision and you can contact your child’s school/nursery.

Managers are encouraged to think creatively how work might be enabled for staff who work from home including discussing flexible working hours arrangements that might not normally be considered while the pandemic phase is ongoing.

Managers may need to accept reduced productivity or that working full contractual hours may not be possible but this would be preferable where the alternative would be the person not undertaking any work at all. In these circumstances staff should not be asked to make up the hours not worked and flexi sheets should record the normal hours that someone would have worked.

Can staff work at home whilst caring for children (e.g. if their school is closed)?

An individual risk assessment approach should be undertaken and individual circumstances considered.  For example, if children are older, or there are periods where they are asleep or occupied by activities while their parent works, that is appropriate.  However, if someone is actively caring for the child then it is unlikely that they would be able to work. 

Managers could consider allowing discretion to agree compressed working/ weekend/ evening working where the role allows it.

How can we support employees who have caring responsibilities and whose support is needed at home if those they care for fall ill?

Managers should consider all options around home working and using special leave as necessary.  Access further support and information for carers.
 

Absence and returning to work

Will Covid-19 related sickness absence contribute towards attendance concern levels?

It has been agreed that for Council staff if a person is unfit for work while infected with Covid-19, the related sickness absence will not be included towards attendance concern levels. Schools are advised to adopt the same approach.

With the impact of Covid-19, staff and students will be more cautious in considering sickness symptoms they experience and it is anticipated that absence levels will be greater than in previous years. In operating the Absence procedure and supporting staff, particular discretion will be required in deciding whether it is appropriate to issue warnings.
 

Pay and Reporting

Situation

Options

Reporting

Sickness considered When can someone return

Covid 19 Symptoms and too unwell to work and a test confirms positive diagnosis

Sick Leave (full pay)

Report to FirstCare (or for school staff use your agreed local sickness reporting procedure)

Covid 19 sickness should be discounted for the purposes of absence concern levels If the person is enabled to work from home they will return to work as soon as they notify the school that they are well enough.  Otherwise they will remain off until the specified isolation period has ended.

Covid 19 Symptoms and too unwell to work and a test is ultimately negative for Covid 19

Sick Leave (ordinary Occupational Sick Pay entitlement)

Notify Firstcare of change of status of the absence (or for school staff notify Payroll the absence is non-Covid)

Yes The person will return to work as soon as they notify the school that they are well enough.

Covid 19 symptoms, advised to self isolate but staff member feels fit and able to work from home

Work from home (full pay)

Discuss and agree with line manager – no other reporting

No as not applicable n/a

Covid 19 symptoms, advised to self isolate and feels fit for work but not able to work from home

Special Leave (full pay)

Discuss and agree with line manager – line manager to record on PIER (“Covid 19 (self-isolated)” in other absence) (or for schools as usual absence recording method)

No The person will return to work after the specified isolation period has ended.

No symptoms but advised to self isolate (eg by NHS Test and Trace or due to living with someone with Covid symptoms) and fit and able to work from home

Special Leave (full pay)

Discuss and agree with line manager – line manager to record on PIER (“Covid 19 (self-isolated)” in other absence) (or for schools as usual absence recording method)

No as not applicable The person will return to work after the specified isolation period has ended.

Please note - full pay including for Special Leave in these circumstances means full contractual pay.  Contractual enhancements will be paid as long as these enhancements are for contractual working patterns. To ensure that these are paid they should be claimed in the normal way.

My member of staff has been absent due to suspected or confirmed coronavirus symptoms, but they have confirmed they are fit to return to work – what do I do?

In this first instance, ensure the employee has followed the up to date guidance from the NHS/Public Health on self-isolating. Where possible, return to work conversations should take place over the phone or on Microsoft Teams/Skype - read return to work guidance. It has been agreed that Covid-19 sickness absence will not be included towards attendance concern levels.

If the employee has recovered but is still in the self-isolating period and is unable to work from home, then special paid leave should be agreed. 

Think about anything that has changed/ may be unfamiliar to the employee and update them accordingly, for example:

  • how the team are working (e.g. at home, their working hours and flexibility)
  • how the team are staying connected
  • any updates to working practices (particularly highlighting government guidance around social distancing)
  • any new Health & Safety/ PPE measures
  • make them aware of the Wellbeing Zone for all staff – it is full of information and advice on how to make your wellbeing a priority during the Coronavirus outbreak

FirstCare have put together a COVID-19 form for RTWs as follows:

Line managers can now benefit from our guidance notes when undertaking return-to-work interviews for employees who have been absent due to suspected and/or confirmed coronavirus symptoms.

The latest addition to our suite of dynamic return-to-work forms is dedicated to Covid-19 absences, and our Clinical Governance Officer - in consultation with the NHS - has produced a reference guide for line managers to use when undertaking such interviews.

With still little known about the disease, the focus of these notes is to ensure the employee has properly followed Public Health England and NHS guidance to avoid risk of continuing the spread of the virus in the workplace or public. The notes are available to download from our website and will soon be accessible via MyFirstCare and FirstCare Insight.

Staff who need to self-isolate as directed by the NHS prior to an in-patient appointment

The NHS has advised that anyone who is due to go into hospital as an inpatient (including day surgery) for planned or elective surgery/medical care must self-isolate, along with all members of their household, for 14 days prior to admission. 

Staff will be required to work from home during the period of self-isolation. If they cannot be enabled to work from home, they will be granted special leave on full pay for the 14 day period. They should notify their manager of this requirement as early as possible and will be asked to provide documentary evidence of the appointment and instruction to self-isolate so that the appropriate start and end dates of the self-isolation period are clear and agreed in advance.  

Time off for the actual appointment if required will be managed as outlined in the Attendance Management Procedure. Special leave granted in accordance with this advice should be recorded on PIER using the specific special leave category related to COVID-19. Schools should record the absence on their usual monthly returns.
 

 

Casual and agency staff and pay

There is no contractual obligation to pay agency or casual staff if they are not required to work. This includes where need has reduced because of impact on services from the coronavirus pandemic.

Since 1 September 2020 casual staff will only be paid when they work unless they have been furloughed. (Applicable until the closure of the Coronavirus Job (Furlough) Scheme on 31 October 2020.)

For casual staff who have been furloughed, managers will need to continue to work out the average number of hours to pay them. Casual staff will then put in claims as normal for the confirmed hours and managers will need to authorise them for normal payroll deadlines.

If casual staff cannot work due to self-isolation then they may be entitled to a Self-Isolation Payment of £500.  For more information visit the Benefits section of the council website

Recruitment

We’ve recently recruited a new member of staff – can we delay their start date?

Where a start date has been agreed you may seek to negotiate a later start date but this needs to be mutually agreed. If you haven’t yet agreed a start date, you may choose to wait to do so.  If you no longer need the role you should seek advice from HR.

Interviewing

When carrying out interviews/selection processes it is best practice to conduct interviews virtually via eg Skype for Business or Microsoft Teams.

Read guidance for council managers on setting up interviews within Skype. For any technical issues, speak with the IT&D service desk x2001 option 2. If you need any help setting this up in Tribepad then please email recruitment@brighton-hove.gov.uk.

Carrying out virtual interviews may present an additional barrier to some candidates with a disability and due consideration will be needed in such circumstances of what adjustments or measures that could be put in place to remove any disadvantage including considering a face to face interview.

Further advice can be obtained from the Recruitment Team.

In circumstances where it's not feasible to interview virtually there are a number of considerations you will need to make to ensure that interviews are conducted in a Covid secure environment including:

  • A two-metre social distance will need to be maintained for the duration of the interview
  • Additional cleaning of surfaces and hand washing between interviews
  • Candidate will need to be made aware of any one way systems that have been put in place within the building.
  • Asking candidates whether there are any personal or individual issues in relation to Covid 19 that would impact their ability to attend a face to face interview if this is required eg they are considered clinically vulnerable and consider what additional risk control measures may be required
  • Please make sure the meeting room booked is within the room’s capacity.

For information on what is Covid secure refer to your service risk assessment and/or the template Covid Risk Assessments. Information on Covid 19 risk assessments are available here.

Further information can found on re–induction presentation available on the wave. If any member of the interview panel or candidate is displaying any symptoms of COVID 19 interviews should be rearranged. 
 

FirstCare reporting - not applicable to schools

What happens when someone reports coronavirus symptoms to FirstCare?

When employees contact FirstCare, reporting cough, cold and flu-like symptoms, If FirstCare, or the employee believe their symptoms are related to coronavirus, they are advising them to:

  • follow the latest advice from Public Health/NHS
  • do not attend a GP surgery, A&E unit or hospital without first calling the phone number/s listed above to make precautions.

What is FirstCare’s Coronavirus Protocol? 

  1. Greeting message COVID19 advice for employees (which all callers hear at the start of an absence call, and includes instructions on the steps to take if an employee suspects they are affected by coronavirus).
  2. advice from Trained Nurses
  3. FirstCare Infection Control Guide
  4. FirstCare Notifiable disease protocol, following evidence based Public Health Directions
  5. FirstCare are compiling COVID19 data from our base of employee interactions

With immediate effect, any absences reported to FirstCare that are potentially related to Coronavirus will be classified under one of two new absence reasons:

Absence type

Description

Comments

Coronavirus: COVID19 (Suspected) – Medical

for employees with symptoms but no official diagnosis.

Notification Alerts issued to line managers as standard.

Coronavirus: COVID19 (Confirmed) – Medical

for employees that have been diagnosed with the virus by a medical professional (GP etc.).

Diagnosing medical practitioners (GPs, for example) have a responsibility to inform Public Health England (PHE) of any diagnosed cases. PHE would then contact the affected worker’s employer directly. FirstCare would also request that the employee keep us updated throughout their absence

What if someone is self-isolating and is unable to work from home but is not unwell?

For any non-sickness related absence; e.g. if someone is self-isolating but is not sick, managers will need to update PIER as normal and this should not be recorded via Firstcare. Such absences will be recorded on PIER using the Special Leave category related to coronavirus/Covid-19.

What if someone is self-isolating and is unable to work from home but is not unwell?

Call volumes

FirstCare are experiencing unprecedented call volumes and are putting in place contingency measures to manage this. FirstCare are a national company and are receiving a 204% increase on call volumes compared to last year. However, 60 % of these calls have been to request advice from a nurse rather than to log an absence. During these significant increase in call volumes FirstCare have requested for staff members to only call FirstCare to log an absence and to refer to the latest advice from the NHS, if they require advice. This will help to reduce calls volumes and enable employees to reach FirstCare to record an absence. 

I am having difficultly recording my absence with Firstcare – what should I do?

Please be advised that waiting times may be longer than normal. The average wait time continues to be around 4 minutes. If you are holding for more than 5 minutes, please hang up and redial. However, if you are unable to get through to FirstCare on your second attempt, then please notify your line manager with your absence details in the first instance and call FirstCare back outside of peak recording hours, i.e. from midday onwards to record your absence.