Self-isolation

Public Health England (PHE), NHS 111, a doctor 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 (for example, 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.

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
  • find more information and guidance on coronavirus from GOV.UK and the Public Health England Blog
  • if you are showing symptoms, follow PHE guidance

A colleague has been advised that they have been in contact with someone who should self-isolate.  I’m concerned that I should now self-isolate too.

Unless you have symptoms there is no need to self-isolate.

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
  • find more information and guidance on coronavirus from GOV.UK and the Public Health England Blog

Vulnerable staff who should use social distancing measures

Anyone identified below should now work from home until further notice. If it is not possible to facilitate home working for these staff then they will need to not work and be recorded as being on special leave with normal pay.

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

We are now also advising that staff should work from home if they:

  • live with someone over 70
  • live with someone is pregnant
  • live with someone with an underlying health condition
  • are a carer for someone over 70 or for someone who has an underlying health condition

You will not be expected to work if you are not able to do your job from home and you are:

  • in self-isolation due to having Covid-19 symptoms, but feel well enough to work, or live with someone who is in self-isolation due to symptoms
  • a vulnerable member of staff because either you, or someone you live with or care for is over 70, pregnant, or has an underlying health condition

This will be considered special leave.

There is a further group of people who are defined as being extremely clinically vulnerable.
This group is being asked to remain at home for 12 weeks (at the end of March) and should receive a letter from NHS England advising them to do so.

This is to minimise any contact with the virus for those who would be at very high risk of severe disease should they become infected.

People falling into this extremely vulnerable group include people:

  • who have had a solid organ transplant
  • 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
  • with severe respiratory conditions including all cystic fibrosis, severe asthma and severe COPD
  • with rare diseases and inborn errors of metabolism that significantly increase the risk of infections (such as SCID, homozygous sickle cell)
  • on immunosuppression therapies sufficient to significantly increase risk of infection
  • who are pregnant with significant heart disease, congenital or acquired

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

Advice for this group is:

  • strictly avoid contact with someone who is displaying symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19) - these symptoms include high temperature and new and continuous cough
  • do not leave your house
  • do not attend any gatherings - this includes gatherings of friends and families in private spaces, like family homes, weddings and religious services
  • do not go out for shopping, leisure or travel and, when arranging food or medication deliveries, these should be left at the door to minimise contact
  • keep in touch using remote technology like phone, internet, and social media

Symptoms

What to do if you have symptoms

If you live alone and you have symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19), however mild, stay at home for 7 days from when your symptoms started. Find more information about ending isolation.

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 7 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. Find out more in the government's self-isolation timeline explanation 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 7 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 (like 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. Do we have to notify their colleagues/people/parents/guardians of children they may have come into contact with?

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.

There is no requirement to tell other staff or colleagues they may have come into contact with someone that has exhibited symptoms and as with any episode of sickness absence, we should not be sharing information about why a member of staff is absent from work.

The premises team can be contacted if further cleaning is required of an area, beyond the current increased cleaning regimes.

There is also no need to tell other service users, parents or guardians that another service user or child/young person has exhibited symptoms and staff should not share any personal or medical information about individuals with others.

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

If anyone becomes unwell with a new, continuous cough or a high temperature 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 or a high temperature, 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.

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

Find the full guidance on decontamination in non-healthcare settings from GOV.UK.

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.

While 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 while at work, in line with Public Health guidance.

Wellbeing resources are available on our website and these will be regularly updated to provide staff and their families with ongoing support during the pandemic. These include signposting and 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
  • financial support

Find out what you can do to help take care of your mental health and wellbeing during times of uncertainty from the NHS.

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 about how work might be enabled for staff who work from home. This includes 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.

Can staff work at home while caring for children? For example, if their school is closed

An individual risk assessment approach should be taken 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. Find out more about support and information for carers.

Hygiene

What should we do where equipment sharing is required, like use of 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 getting coronavirus, so do not think they should be required to have any contact with other people’s bodily fluids, like picking up used tissues or cleaning vomit

If dealing with bodily fluids is already part of their role, like supporting service users with personal care or undertaking cleaning tasks, staff should continue to follow their team’s 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.

Managing staff

My role is not one that is able to be carried out at home but I am 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 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.

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 (in other words, 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 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.

Find more information about deployment to other services.

How should we support our teams in homeworking?

Managers should inform staff whether they are critical workers who have access to Direct Access (in other words, they connect from home through a council laptop) between 9am and 5pm.

Guidance is available on the website using Skype for Business to attend virtual meetings which can now be used with people external to the council.

Guidance is also available on how to download access to emails and Skype on personal devices (Outlook Web Access).

All staff working from home should complete a health and safety assessment for working from home (HS-F-04-3) to help you find any issues that might affect your safety or health while 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 through the Learning Gateway.

Anyone working from home should remember the need for confidentiality and apply appropriate safeguards, like 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, like a monitor, keyboard, mouse or chair. Managers should consider all requests reasonably and ensure staff have the equipment they need for working from home.

Find more guidance on taking equipment home.

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’s 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?

As the Council do not make a payment for homeworking, an employee may be able to claim tax relief directly from HMRC under Section 336 ITEPA 2003.

( 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), without having to justify that figure.

There are, however, certain tests that need to be met by the employee before HMRC will approve a claim. Given this and that HMRC have not yet decided on a concessionary approach to this issue, employees are not recommended to make such a claim at this time. We understand however that this has been identified as an important issue for HMRC to consider over the coming days/weeks and we will ensure staff are made aware of any changes to the current position.

In the meantime 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: https://new.brighton-hove.gov.uk/coronavirus-covid-19-information-staff/using-dse-equipment-home

Behaviours for managers

Remember to treat all staff in a consistent manner and be aware of unconscious bias when considering the dignity and respect for those self-isolating or confirmed cases.

Be mindful of an individual’s right to confidentiality – details of personal matters/ an individual’s health condition should not be shared with other team members without their consent.

Annual leave

2019 to 2020 leave year and carry over

Managers may now agree to carry over more than the normal maximum of 5 days of annual leave where it was not reasonably practicable for a member of staff to take some or all of their leave.

Managers may also agree that carry forward does not need to be used by the usual deadline of the end of May. Such requests should be considered where there is a business need for people to be at work/maintain essential services or it was otherwise not practicable for them to take their 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.

They should be reminded that if they want to take this leave at a later time in the year, approval will depend on service need, and the leave being able to be accommodated in accordance with the Annual leave policy.

2020 to 2021 leave year

Staff should continue to be encouraged to plan to use all their 2020 to 2021 leave entitlement throughout the leave year. This includes any agreed carry over where possible.

Staff and managers should avoid waiting until later in the leave year to use all their leave entitlement. Even if they are currently not needed at work due to restrictions as a result of coronavirus social distancing measures or government advice.

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

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

It has been agreed that Covid-19 sickness absence will not be included towards attendance concern levels.

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.

What’s happening with existing recruitment campaigns?

Current adverts should be left to run till the existing closing date. Due to the current movement restrictions in place, at this stage unless you are recruiting a key worker then it would be advisable to postpone your campaign.

We’d still recommend shortlisting and rejecting any candidates that haven’t met the shortlisting criteria and messaging the candidates you want to interview to let them know that the recruitment is on hold.

You can find an email template in Tribepad.

Can I still arrange interview face to face?

In line with current government guidance around self-isolation and social distancing, you shouldn’t be conducting face to face interviews at this time other than in exceptional circumstances.

You can now use Skype for Business for video calls to contacts outside the council network.

Along with arranging interview slots on Tribepad you will also need to send an outlook meeting request with a Skype Meeting link included on the invite.

Candidates will need to install Skype for Business on their mobile, tablet or computer. They will then be given the option to join the meeting as a guest.

Please note candidates won’t be able to join the meeting using a personal Skype account.

For any technical issues, speak with the ICT service desk x2001 option 2. Or if you need any help setting this up in Tribepad, please send an email to recruitment@brighton-hove.gov.uk.

You can also make a conference call from our normal desk phones.

Press the config button on the phone when you’re on a call and it will give you the option to dial another number into the call.

Virtual interviews may present an additional barrier to some candidates with a disability. Due consideration will be needed of what adjustments or measures could be put in place to remove any disadvantage.

Further advice can be obtained from HR.

Will notice dates be extended for teaching staff?

No, a joint statement from the Local Government Association, the National Governance Association and the teacher unions ASCL, NAHT, NASUWT and NEU recognises that Easter is a busy time for schools.

It recommends that the requirement for teachers to provide written notice by 31 May of their intention to leave a school’s employment by 31 August of any year (for head teachers the deadline to provide written notice is by 30 April of their intention to leave a school’s employment by 31 August of any year) is maintained, to ensure schools can plan adequately.

However, flexibility on both sides should be considered, like delaying retirement where possible, and considering interviews by virtual methods (Skype or similar) or choosing to delay recruitment while government advice is to stay at home.

Agency staff and pay

There is no contractual obligation to pay engaged agency staff if they are not required to work which includes where need has reduced as a result of impact on services from the coronavirus pandemic. However the Council has decided that in the immediate future where there is a reduction in work available to agency workers because of coronavirus impact on a service, we will maintain the usual hours of pay for agency staff even if they cannot work.

This will be back dated to Monday 23 March 2020 and apply for the remainder of their assignment, or until they are able to secure alternative employment, whichever is sooner. For shift workers who do not have assignment end dates this will apply for a period of 12 weeks and will then be reviewed. Please ensure all impacted pay is logged by the Agency on invoices with an additional detail code after the usual cost code/detail code/COVID19. The Council’s mandated supplier of agency staff, Guidant, is aware of this but in the small number of circumstances where agency staff are supplied directly from an agency and not via Guidant, managers will be responsible for ensuring the below is applied to agency staff and ensuring costing is applied to invoices/payments.

This means:

  • In the first instance, if you are no longer able to provide work for an agency person please discuss with the worker and contact your Agency Account Manager so they can review suitability for the deployment of that worker to an alternate agency role within BHCC/elsewhere. Where this is not possible, usual pay should be maintained.
  • If the Agency offer work to an agency worker and this is unreasonably refused then the worker will not continue to be paid.
  • If you have already stopped an agency worker from working due to the coronavirus pandemic please directly contact your Agency Account Manager to confirm the council’s new position to maintain pay, and arrange for payment to be back dated to the date they were stopped working. Agree with the Agency who will contact the worker.
  • Where there are natural seasonal variations in work there is no need to maintain pay when we otherwise would not have done so. For example if during the Easter school holidays there would normally be no work offered, it is not necessary to maintain their pay through that period.
  • For shift workers with non-standard working patterns, and/or where there is a reduction in work available because of the coronavirus impact on a service, managers along with the Agency will need to work out the average number of hours claimed weekly over the last 12 weeks and use this to confirm with individual agency workers what they will continue to claim for the next 12 weeks.
  • Agency Staff will then put in claims as normal for the confirmed hours and managers will need to authorise them for normal Agency payroll deadlines.
  • This applies where an agency person is either no longer needed or needed less due to service reductions linked to the pandemic and where home working cannot be supported (limited to agency staff engaged before the lockdown occurred), or if we have work available but the agency person
  • cannot work due to self-isolation/social distancing advice for vulnerable groups from the Government (applicable to all agency staff).
  • Where the agency worker is unable to work due to sickness, they should continue to follow their usual sickness reporting process for payment via their Agency.

Casual staff and pay

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

However, the council has decided that in the immediate future, where there is a reduction in work available because of coronavirus impact on a service, we will maintain casual staff pay even if they cannot work.

This will apply for 12 weeks from Monday 23 March 2020 and will then be reviewed.

This means, in the first instance, managers should consider whether casual staff could be engaged in any work as an alternative to paying them just to be at home. This includes work elsewhere in the council.

If we offer work to a casual member of staff and this is unreasonably refused then they will not continue to be paid.

Where there are natural seasonal variations in work there is no need to maintain pay when we otherwise would not have done so.

For example, if during the Easter school holidays there would normally be no work offered, it is not necessary to maintain their pay through that period.

Where there’s a reduction in work available because of the coronavirus impact on a service, managers will need to work out the average number of hours claimed weekly over the last 12 weeks (if they have not been able to work every week due to service closure (e.g. school holidays), the total hours worked should be divided by the number of weeks worked (e.g. if there were 3 weeks’ school holidays within the last 12 weeks, base the calculation on 9 weeks rather than 12).

Then use this to confirm with individual casual workers what they will continue to claim for the next 12 weeks.

Casual staff will then put in claims as normal for the confirmed hours and managers will need to authorise them for normal payroll deadlines.

This applies where a casual person is either no longer needed or needed less due to service reductions linked to the pandemic.

It also applies if we have work available, but the casual person cannot work due to self-isolation/social distancing advice for vulnerable groups from the government.

This principle is to be applied for all casual posts held by an individual and includes those staff who may also have a contracted post in addition to a separately established casual role.

Schools are strongly advised to adopt the same approach as the above.

Pay and reporting

Pay and reporting
Situation Options Reporting
Symptomatic and too unwell to work Sick Leave (full pay) Report to FirstCare (or for school staff use your agreed local sickness reporting procedure)
Mildly symptomatic, advised to self isolate and fit and able to work from home Work from home (full pay) Discuss and agree with line manager – no other reporting
Mildly symptomatic advised to self isolate but not able to work from home Special Leave (full pay) Discuss and agree with line manager – line manager to record on PIER (or for schools as usual absence recording method)
No symptoms advised to self isolate and fit and able to work from home Work from home (full pay) Discuss and agree with line manager – no other reporting
No symptoms advised to self isolate but not able to work from home Special Leave (full pay) Discuss and agree with line manager – line manager to record on PIER (or for schools as usual absence recording method)

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 take precautions

What is FirstCare’s Coronavirus Protocol?

  1. Greeting message: COVID-19 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 COVID-19 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:

Coronavirus absence types
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 (Diagnosed) – Medical For employees that have been diagnosed with the virus by a medical professional, like a GP If an absence changes, such as the status changing from ‘suspected’ to ‘diagnosed’ as a result of a positive test result it’s important that this is updated through FirstCare. A staff member can do this if they are able or managers can extend/amend an absence on their behalf by logging in to myfirstcare.uk, then clicking ‘customer support portal’ at the top of the page and selecting ‘absence information changes’.

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

For any non-sickness related absence, for example, if someone is self-isolating but is not sick, managers will need to update PIER as normal. This should not be recorded through Firstcare.

Such absences will be recorded on PIER using the Special Leave category related to coronavirus/Covid-19.

Call volumes

FirstCare is experiencing very high call volumes. It’s put contingency measures in place to manage this.

FirstCare is a national company and is 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 the 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 difficulty 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, please notify your line manager with your absence details in the first instance. Then call FirstCare back outside of their peak hours. FirstCare are currently seeing peaks at around midday, so try to avoid calling around that time. 

Reasonable adjustments

 

Guidance on reasonable adjustments

'Reasonable adjustments' is the term used to describe any steps taken to remove barriers that prevent a disabled person doing their job so that the same opportunities in the workplace are available to all. 

Managers have a duty to support disabled employees, helping them to remain effective and productive at work with the same opportunities as their non-disabled colleagues.

The Reasonable Adjustments Guidance for Managers will help you to:

  • identify who needs an adjustment
  • identify how work can be done differently (in other words, provide the reasonable adjustment)
  • decide whether an adjustment is reasonable
  • make sure the law is followed
  • set out procedures to provide a seamless service to disabled colleagues
  • know where to go for further help and advice
  • access useful resources.