As you know, the situation around COVID-19 (Coronavirus) is changing rapidly. Here is an update for you on the latest actions and decisions taken by the Executive Board today.
At this challenging time, we want to continue to operate as normally as possible while ensuring the health, wellbeing and safety of our employees, partners, suppliers, contractors and visitors. Our organisation is sufficiently large and flexible that we are optimistic we can continue a lot of our important work, even if a proportion of our staff are unable to work on a given day. Please note government advice that the majority of people will experience mild to moderate symptoms only. Wherever possible please prepare to be able to work at home if you need to.
Updates and guidelines relating to COVID-19 will continue to be published in two locations – one on the intranet and one on a public webpage. The un-indexed web page has the advantage of being easy for all staff to access wherever they may be:
Travel, training and visitors
Decisions taken today to minimise staff exposure to the disease and the spread of the disease in the community include:
- Travel. All overseas travel is to stop until further notice with immediate effect. This includes travel to Northern Ireland. If you believe there is a pressing need to make an exception, please contact Alan Jenkins (with Science Area Head approval) for authorisation. Please request a refund for travel bookings where possible.
- Travel between sites. All travel between UKCEH sites is to stop, and all cross-site meetings can and should be held remotely using Zoom, Teams or teleconferencing, for example.
- Visitors. No external visitors to UKCEH sites are now allowed until further notice unless they are required for repairs, maintenance or similar. If such an exception needs to be made, please contact the Site Facilities Manager who will make appropriate arrangements. Please look at your schedules and inform visitors in advance that we regret we are not able to host them at this time. Where possible, please arrange to meet remotely instead.
- Training and workshops. All workshops and training to be run at UKCEH sites for the next 30 days should be cancelled unless they can be delivered remotely. This includes the post-graduate day on 27 March.
Delivery of science projects
Alan Jenkins has asked the Science Area Heads to provide information on projects and contracts where we risk not delivering on time, and we will then speak to the relevant funders about this. Alan has supplied a list of all projects due for completion by the end of the year to Science Area Heads to support this.
Please continue to work on projects to which you have been assigned unless you are reallocated on an exceptional basis. If it is necessary for you to work from home, please continue to work on delivering your projects.
Attendance and absence from work
Please read the guidance on attendance and absence from work. If you are off work and signed off sick for any reason, please remember to set up an out of office message stating this. Please log your sickness on Workday as normal.
We wish to do all we can to care for staff with particular vulnerabilities such as compromised immune systems or underlying health issues. If you have vulnerabilities or live with someone with vulnerabilities, you should seek advice from a medical professional. You should also discuss risk mitigation measures with your line manager, such as working in a one-person office. Temporary home working may be agreed with your Group Leader or Function Head where appropriate and necessary. In particular cases, where you are unable to work at home, you can make an application for exceptional paid leave, but this will need to be approved by People & Skills. Further advice can be sought from the People & Skills team.
Make sure your contact details on Workday are up-to-date. We may need to contact you by text message – a system is in place to do this.
To prepare for the eventuality that you may need to work from home, you should ensure you are set-up to use Workday remotely. This can be done via any personal device, but needs to be set up while you are in the office.
If you are asked to work from home and have VPN access on your laptop, please limit your time connected to the VPN. This is to ensure that others can download information. Please note that there are limited licences for VPN access and these cannot be quickly increased in number.
Please take advantage of the range of solutions open to us to conduct internal and external meetings virtually, communicate with one another, and continue to operate our systems remotely. Office, iShare and MS Teams can all be accessed from home without a VPN licence.
If you are authorised to work from home, please divert your phone from work to an alternative home landline or mobile. This number will not be visible to colleagues.
Four members of staff have developed symptoms, which may indicate they have COVID-19. In accordance with our planned process and following NHS guidelines, staff who work in the same physical space with these members of staff (in the Blue Wing and Green Wing in Wallingford, in CCS in Edinburgh, and in the Data Lab in Lancaster) have been asked to work at home for a week as a precaution, returning to work on 23 March unless they fall ill themselves. In the meantime, the areas in which these staff work will be deep cleaned. It is only in shared occupancy offices or car share situations where staff will be asked to work from home if a colleague reports they occupied that space whilst unwell with COVID-19 symptoms.
Future changes and feedback
As the situation evolves, I will of course let you know of any changes as soon as possible. In the meantime please plan how you could best work at home if necessary, keep aware of government advice and UKCEH policies and instructions and avoid rumour. Our work as an organisation is very important to the pressing environmental issues we face globally and we must seek to sustain our activity using technologies and common sense so that we limit the impact on our work whilst looking after our health as individuals and family members.
Mark J Bailey
16 March 2020
For and on behalf of the UKCEH EB