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Coronavirus incident response – Attendance and absence from work

Amended 19/3/20

Instructions and guidance for UKCEH staff affected by Coronavirus COVID-19 with regard to leave and sickness absence, including submitting leave details correctly.

The government - FCO/WHO/NHS - remains the point of reference for actions individuals should take in relation to COVID-19 spread and personal health.

I ) Attending Work

UKCEH seek to achieve consistency of approach but recognise that individual situations vary, therefore managers are authorised to make decisions that comply with this framework and UKCEH policies in light of Government rulings in the developing situation.

UKCEH expects all staff/students/Fellows to comply with UK advice and quarantine regulations. 

All staff/students or fellows returning from overseas including Northern Ireland are required to self-isolate for 14 days before returning to a UKCEH site or field site.

Note: You will also need to self-isolate if a cohabitant returns from overseas. Information on what self-isolation involves and why it is important can be found here.

In accordance with the UKCEH Sickness Absence Management Procedure (Section 3.7 – Contagious illness) in the event that individuals are required by UKCEH to stay away from work but are not ill, this will not be sickness absence. Please see information below on the type and duration of leave that can be requested in these circumstances.

If staff feel unwell with a cough or raised temperature they must not attend work.  If they attend work and experience one of these symptoms during the day they must immediately go home advising facilities manager and their line manager.   

Government advice is that there is no need for anyone to be sent home from work because they have been in contact with a person with symptoms. There is likewise no action if someone reports sick from home even if in work the previous day.  However, in circumstances where symptoms have occurred on site, UKCEH will ask any staff sharing offices or a lab on that day to go home for 72 hours whilst the space is cleaned and to return after that time.  Earlier measures taken to send staff home are no longer necessary due to social distancing measures in place and the new government guidance.  Those sent home previously should return to work if well and unable to work at home but should agree this with their line manager who will liaise with Facilities to seek singleton office accommodation if possible.

II ) Working at home

Other than in case of illness, wherever it is agreed staff are not to attend a worksite staff are asked to work at home either partially or fully wherever possible: tasks and equipment permitting, including health and safety. Individuals will need approval and to discuss arrangements with their line managers.

Staff are asked to PDF icon prepare for self-isolation by following the preparation steps laid out by UKCEH if they have a role which can be carried out even partially at home.

Staff who are home working must follow home working instructions and ensure they have a safeworking environment. UKCEH will not be in a position to fund any additional equipment to enable such home working nor reimburse any additional costs incurred. Arrangements for those unable to work at home are set out below.

III ) Absence from work due to Coronavirus COVID-19 isolation or site closure 

  1. Individual required to self-isolate

If it is possible to work from home, staff should do so provided you have the approval of your line manager. If this is not possible or only partially possible, then absence will be approved by your line manager as exceptional paid leave for the self-isolation period of up to 14 days (i.e. 10 working days). See below (V) for how to record this.

  1. Subsequent periods of self-isolation

If more than 14 days isolation absence is required by NHS instruction or Government advice, e.g. for vulnerable people, but you are not ill, further exceptional paid leave may be approved by your line manager subject to a written explanation of circumstances if you are unable to work from home.  At any stage where you become ill or are assessed as positive for COVID-19 then the absence must be classed as sickness absence.

  1. Individual falling ill with COVID-19 symptoms

Where an individual is assessed as positive for COVID-19 or showing symptoms associated with the Coronavirus, then the related absence whilst ill will be agreed as sickness absence in line with UKCEH occupational sick pay provision. For any subsequent quarantine this can be treated as self-isolation above. For those staff on new terms, payable at statutory sick pay rate for first six months, please note that your terms are already in line with UK government provisions for this to be payable from Day 1 of the related absence. Return to work must comply with NHS instructions and your line manager notified in advance of day of return.

  1. Site closed by UKCEH

In the unlikely event that a decision is taken by Director UKCEH to close a site, then the resulting non-attendance or absence from work will be automatically treated as paid duty time for all affected staff – there is no requirement to seek manager approval.

All staff on duty time will be required to work from home where possible as II above.

You will only be eligible for the above paid duty time resulting from site closure if you were expected to attend work at the site on the day/period the site was closed. Therefore if you are ill then the related absence will be agreed as sickness absence and paid in line with the UKCEH occupational sick pay provision and if you already had planned annual or flexi leave or TOIL or planned and authorised home working you would be expected to carry on as planned.  Annual leave for site closure day holidays when the site is closed during this period, will also continue as planned.

IV ) Arrangements where personal circumstances alone create Coronavirus COVID-19 related absence or change to working.

  1. Site open but individual has to provide care for children or co-habiting dependants whose normal care arrangements are unavailable

Children may not be brought onto site due to this circumstance

Staff are expected to minimise the time out of the workplace and to share care with other carers equitably. If it is possible to work from home as above, even if partially, staff should do so.  If this is not possible, then absence must be agreed with line manager and should be covered by any Time Off in Lieu or accumulated flexi leave.  Any booked annual leave must be taken. 

If agreed by the line manager as necessary then they may approve exceptional paid leave. The number of day’s exceptional paid leave given is dependent on individual circumstances but is currently no more than 10 working days. This must be requested and approved via Workday.  Managers may enter this if staff member is unable to access.

If alternative care arrangements cannot be made within this time and working from home is not an option, staff will need to take accrued flexi or TOIL or annual leave.  Arrangements and levels of retention of the latter will be reviewed and rules and instructions issued by end March.  Further exceptional paid leave or unpaid leave will be made available under rules to be defined. UKCEH will be mindful of the need to avoid financial hardship for staff.

  1. Site open but the individual has concerns regarding attendance for personal or cohabitant health reasons

Staff with particular vulnerability as listed on the gov.uk website, e.g. compromised immune systems or underlying health issues or cohabitant health vulnerability, should work from home where possible – see UKCEH instructions on home working. If this is not possible, they should discuss the situation with their line manager, who will consider a written request and may then authorise exceptional paid leave. Where exceptional paid leave has been granted, this should be entered into Workday for formal approval as below. Advice can be sought from the Head of People & Skills. 

Other requests not to attend site

Staff who are required to attend site, but who do not wish to do so for personal reasons other than the above, must agree flexi, annual leave or TOIL with their line manager as appropriate. If this is not an option an application for unpaid leave may be made. Staff are advised that UKCEH will have limited ability to grant such additional absence in order to maintain operations.

V )  How do I record the absence?

To access Workday remotely for the first time follow the advice on the procedure PDF icon here. This needs to be done before leaving the site.

If unable to access Workday then email your manager with the information and update the system upon return to work. 

a)    ‘Exceptional Paid Leave’ will be set up in Workday as a new absence type. If agreed by your manager request the exceptional paid leave absence on Workday in the normal way.

b)   If annual leave is agreed, request on Workday in the normal way.  Where insufficient leave is available, and the new leave year is due to commence within 3 months, up to 10 days may be anticipated from the new leave year by agreement with your manager as above (pro-rata for part-time staff).

c)    If flexi-time is agreed, please record in the normal way. Please note that staff working flexi-time arrangements will be allowed to anticipate up to two days flexi leave where current flexi balance is insufficient.

d)    If unpaid leave is agreed, Unpaid Special Leave must be recorded on Workday at the time of absence. Payroll would then be notified automatically. Please note that this will be in line with the payroll deadline and therefore may not be deducted until the month after the next payroll.

e)    If staff do not generally work flexi-time and it is agreed that the time may be made up, the specific arrangement should be recorded via an email between the line manager and the individual. Such time should generally be recovered within one month of the unplanned absence occurring.

f) If further clarification is needed, please contact the HR Team (People & Skills).

19 March 2020