1. Work requirements
In light of the latest Government guidance there is no longer a requirement for staff to work from home if they can, 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 and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) guidance on protecting vulnerable workers). Departments should ensure that all required COVID-secure measures are being 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: a pregnancy risk assessment should be completed before a pregnant employee returns to the workplace. In addition, managers should assess any additional risks for expectant or new mothers in their role and think about mitigation measures. In some cases, this might include continuing to work remotely or redeployment to an alternative role. See the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists guidance for further information. Managers should be sensitive to those who wish to be particularly cautious to minimise the risk of infection in the run-up to time-sensitive scans, for example.
- 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
There is no longer a requirement for staff to work from home if they can, and staff are expected to return to working on-site. However, some staff members may be unable to return to work on-site in the immediate future. For example:
- Anyone who has COVID-19 symptoms or has been advised to self-isolate;
- Those who have symptoms of COVID-19 must remain at home for 10 days or until they are fully recovered in accordance with NHS guidance. If they are not well enough to work from home, or unable to do their job remotely, they will receive sick pay subject to entitlement, but this will not be counted towards their sickness absence record;
- Those who are required to self-isolate for other reasons under current government guidance must remain at home for the full prescribed period of self-isolation. Staff who are self-isolating should work at home if they can, provided that they are well. If they are unable to work at home for operational reasons, they will continue to receive their normal pay.
Note: It is an offence for the University to knowingly permit a member of staff who is required to self-isolate to attend the workplace. Fines for the offence start at £1,000.
Staff in high risk categories
Under Government guidance from 19 July 2021, those who were previously considered to be clinically extremely vulnerable may return to the workplace but may wish to think about additional precautions; see government guidance on protecting people who are clinically extremely vulnerable from COVID-19 and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) guidance on protecting vulnerable workers.
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 also have concerns around care responsibilities such as local closures resulting from COVID outbreaks or the continued reduced availability of normal care arrangements. It may be possible to adjust working patterns on a temporary basis to allow staff to accommodate caring requirements during the day, including where these arise at short notice.
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.