Introduction

These frequently asked questions provide guidance on HR policy matters impacted by COVID-19. 

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Absence and returning to work

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

If you're unfit for work while infected with COVID-19, your related sickness absence will not contribute to 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 the sickness symptoms they experience and we anticipate that absence levels will be greater than in previous years. Managers should exercise discretion when considering the Attendance Management procedure and supporting staff, particularly when deciding whether it's appropriate to issue a formal review period.

Sickness absence attributed to Covid-19 but beyond the initial period where someone is infected (referred to as long Covid) will be supported and managed as with any other illness. 

Support for staff with long Covid

What is long Covid?

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) defines three distinct phases COVID-19 patients may experience after infection: 

  • acute COVID-19 - signs and symptoms of COVID-19 for up to four weeks
  • ongoing symptomatic COVID-19 - signs and symptoms of COVID-19 from four weeks up to 12 weeks
  • post COVID-19 syndrome - signs and symptoms that:
    - develop during or after an infection consistent with COVID-19
    - continue for more than 12 weeks
    - are not explained by an alternative diagnosis. 

    It usually presents with clusters of symptoms, often overlapping, which can fluctuate and change over time and can affect any system in the body. Post COVID-19 syndrome may be considered before 12 weeks while the possibility of an alternative underlying disease is also being assessed

NICE defines 'long Covid' as follows: Long Covid - in addition to the clinical case definitions above, the term ‘long Covid' is commonly used to describe signs and symptoms that continue or develop after acute COVID-19. It includes both ongoing symptomatic COVID-19 (from four to 12 weeks) and post COVID-19 syndrome (12 weeks or more).

Our approach to supporting staff with long Covid

If you have long Covid, we want to support you as much as possible whilst you’re unwell and unable to work. We’ll also support your return to work. 

We realise this is a new and emerging condition and we’ll manage long Covid using our existing Attendance Management process

Sickness absence attributed to COVID-19 will be classified as long Covid after four weeks. Long Covid will be supported and managed in the same way as any other illness. 

Guidance for managers

Managers should refer to the Attendance Management Procedure and Toolkit for guidance in supporting staff.  Managers will be as flexible as they possibly can in considering how to support staff and will be creative about adjustments that would enable staff to be able to continue to work. 

The HR Attendance and Wellbeing team provide advice on supporting staff with long Covid. More information is available on the Council website - see the section titled ‘Support to recover from COVID-19’ on the wellbeing zone.

The NHS website advises:

“If you are worried that you are not getting better as quickly as you would expect it is worth discussing with a health care professional (contact the hospital team if they have provided you with a number, or your family GP practice for further advice). You may require examination or further tests for your ongoing symptoms. Some of the medicines used to treat “Covid can cause symptoms (such as muscle aches, tiredness, feeling anxious or cough). Please do not feel that you are wasting NHS time, we want to help you to get better as quickly as possible especially if you develop new or worsening symptoms.

Long Covid absence can now be recorded on GoodShape as Coronavirus: COVID19 (Post-COVID-19 Syndrome)

Long Covid and pay

  • if a member of staff is unable to work due to being infected with COVID-19, ie, they are infected with the virus and are too ill to work, they will receive full pay and this absence will not be counted against their normal sick pay entitlement for the first four weeks of the absence. Their absence will be managed outside of the normal attendance management procedure
  • if their illness and inability to work is caused by the ongoing impact of the virus but beyond being infected, ie, long Covid, then the absence will be managed within the normal attendance management procedure and they’ll receive normal sick pay entitlements. An absence will be classified as long Covid for these purposes after four weeks

Sickness absence caused by the COVID-19 vaccination

The COVID-19 vaccination causes side effects in some people, leading them to become ill for a short period after receiving the vaccination.  We want to encourage as many people in our workforce as possible to accept the vaccination when offered.  

If a staff member is unwell and unable to work due to the receiving the vaccination, this should be recorded and reported as normal sickness absence. 

However, short-term absences for this reason will not be counted towards absence concern levels in the Attendance Management Procedure for the purposes of triggering a formal absence review meeting.  Schools are advised to adopt the same approach.

Staying at home if you have symptoms or have tested positive

There is no longer a legal requirement for people with coronavirus (COVID-19) or symptoms of COVID-19 to self-isolate. 

Staff with symptoms of COVID-19, and a high temperature or do not feel well enough to go to work or do your normal activities should:

  • try to stay at home and avoid contact with other people until they feel well enough to do so 
  • avoid meeting people at higher risk from COVID-19, especially if their immune system means they’re at higher risk of serious illness from COVID-19, even if they’ve had a COVID-19 vaccine

Staff who have tested positive for COVID-19 should:

  • try to stay at home and avoid contact with other people for 5 days. This starts from the day after they did the test.
  • avoiding meeting people at higher risk from COVID-19 for 10 days, especially if their immune system means they’re at higher risk of serious illness from COVID-19, even if they’ve had a COVID-19 vaccine

Staff should discuss any concerns about attending their normal workplace with their line manager, who may agree additional control measures with them as part of an individual risk assessment. 

Read more about what to do if you have COVID-19 symptoms or have tested positive for COVID-19.

Social and Health Care Staff 

Due to the higher risk nature of health and social care settings, the advice for staff members working in these settings is different. 

Healthcare workers and those working in health and social care settings should follow the specific healthcare guidance for health and social care settings.  

Pay and reporting

Situation  

Options 

Reporting  

Sickness considered normally under Attendance Management Procedure? 

When can the staff member return to work 

COVID-19 symptoms and too unwell to work, and a test confirms positive diagnosis 

Sick leave (full pay) 

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

 

COVID-19 sickness should be discounted for the purposes of absence concern levels (schools are advised to adopt this position) 

If a staff member can work from home, they’ll return to work as soon as they confirm they’re well enough. Otherwise, they’ll remain off for at least five full days and until they have received two negative LFD test results on consecutive days. Unless they are still unwell, and in line with the government guidance, they will be able to return to work after 10 days. 

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 GoodShape of change of status of the absence (or for schools’ staff notify Payroll the absence is non-COVID-19) 

Yes 

The staff member will return to work as soon as they notify their line manager, they’re well enough. 

Tested positive for  COVID-19, or have main  COVID-19 symptoms 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 

Tested positive for COVID-19 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 staff member will return to work after at least five full days and when they have received two negative LFD test results on consecutive days. Unless they are still unwell, and in line with the government guidance, they will be able to return to work after 10 days  

 

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 these are paid they should be claimed in the normal way.

GoodShape reporting - not applicable to schools

What happens when someone reports coronavirus symptoms to GoodShape?

When staff contact GoodShape, reporting cough, cold and flu-like symptoms, If GoodShape, or the staff member 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 GoodShape’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. GoodShape Infection Control Guide
  4. GoodShape Notifiable disease protocol, following evidence based Public Health Directions
  5. GoodShape are compiling COVID19 data from our base of employee interactions

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

Absence type

Description

Comments

Coronavirus: COVID-19 (Suspected) – Medical

for staff with symptoms but no official diagnosis

Notification alerts issued to line managers as standard

Coronavirus: COVID-19 (Confirmed) – Medical

for staff 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.

GoodShape would also request that the staff member keep us updated throughout their absence

Coronavirus: COVID-19 (Post-COVID-19 Syndrome) for staff who continue to be ill (after four weeks of absence) and are unable to work due to the ongoing impact of the virus   
Coronavirus: COVID-19 Vaccination Recovery for staff experiencing side effects post vaccination  

What if someone has tested positive for COVID-19 and is unable to work from home but is not unwell? 

For any non-sickness related absence, for example if someone has tested positive for COVID-19 but is not sick, and is unable to work from home, managers will need to update PIER as normal. This should not be recorded via GoodShape. Such absences will be recorded on PIER using the special leave category related to COVID-19. 

Casual and agency staff and pay

Pay for casual/agency staff who need to self-isolate

Where casual/agency staff are booked to work but can’t because they have developed COVID-19 symptoms or tested positive for COVID-19, then their pay will be maintained. Please see the table below for further clarity. Their pay for the period they are unable to work should either be based on what they would have reasonably expected to earn for the booked work (in accordance with the shift pattern/hours booked) or on their average pay.  Where someone with symptoms tests negative, they will be expected to return to work. 

In these cases, managers should agree with the casual or agency worker what they will put on their hours claimed which will then be authorised for payroll as normal. 

 

Situation 

Options 

Casual Worker Reporting (BHCC) 

Agency Worker Reporting 

When can the worker 

return to work 

COVID-19 symptoms and too unwell to work, and a test confirms positive diagnosis 

Sick leave  

Manager notifies Payroll of missed booked shifts due to sickness. Payroll review for eligibility for SSP pay. 

Worker follows usual sickness reporting process and notifies their employer the Agency. 

If they can work from home  

they will return to work as soon as they  

notify the agency that they're well enough.   

Otherwise, they'll remain off for at least 

five full days and until they have received two negative LFD test results on consecutive days. Unless they are still unwell, and in line with the government guidance, they will be able to return to work after 10 days  

COVID-19 symptoms and too unwell to work and a test is ultimately negative for COVID-19 

Sick leave  

Manager notifies Payroll of missed booked shifts due to sickness. Payroll review for eligibility for SSP pay. 

Worker follows usual sickness reporting process and notifies their employer the Agency. 

Return to work as soon as they notify their  

agency that they are well enough 

Tested positive for COVID-19or has Covid 19 symptoms, but worker feels fit and is able to work from home 

Work from home 

Discuss and agree with line manager – no other reporting 

Discuss and agree with line manager – no other reporting 

n/a 

Tested positive for COVID-19 or has COVID- 19 symptoms but feels fit for work but not able to work from home 

Council will maintain average pay for period of time that booked workers are unable to go to work 

Discuss and agree with BHCC line manager – Line manager agrees average hours to be maintained for period that worker is unable to go to work, worker submits timesheets for approval as usual for relevant time. 

Discuss and agree with BHCC line manager.  Line manager may agree to maintain pay for the period of time that the worker is unable to work, based either on pay they were reasonably expected to earn for booked shifts, or the worker’s average pay.  Confirm to Guidant and request update on cost code detail code to include 'COVID19' for period of isolation. Worker submits timesheets for approval as usual for relevant time.  

The worker will remain off  

for at least five full days, and until they have received two negative LFD test results on consecutive days.  Unless they are still unwell, and in line with the government guidance, they will be able to return to work after 10 days. days.