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Coronavirus staff FAQs

FAQs on leave, self isolation, working from home and redeployment into essential services.

Due to the recent increased concerns regarding Covid-19 (Coronavirus), please see the following responses to a number of questions received.

The situation with COVID-19 (coronavirus) is a fast moving and developing issue. You will have seen the specific responses from Welsh Government and Public Health Wales raising awareness regarding how individuals can protect themselves and others from the virus and these will continue to be revised and updated in the light of our developing understanding of the situation.

There is delicate balance to strike in relation to ensuring that we maximise the availability of staff whilst at the same time supporting the control of the spread of this virus and there is an expectation that organisations take appropriate and proportionate action to support staff in their organisational responses and communications which do not inadvertently work against this approach.

The following FAQs are based on a few overarching principles which need to be borne in mind, as follows:

  1. This is an ongoing situation where many decisions will have to be made on an immediate basis. Whilst this set of FAQs sets out some of the areas where we can provide guidance and advice, we will not be able to cover everything. The key message is that managers will be supported to manage during this period in the decisions which they make which should be in line with this guidance, but we would encourage managers to make proportionate judgements as the specific circumstances present themselves and in making these decisions to follow appropriate assessment of risk;
     
  2. The primary responsibility for the management of workforce related situations during the COVID-19 outbreak rests with individual managers. The rationale for this approach is that managers should "know their employees" and be familiar with the issues, individual circumstance and needs of their employees; Managers in "knowing their employee", have the discretion that when making decisions in relation to an individual's needs and circumstances eg whether it is appropriate for them to work from home, return to work or be deployed to another area, they should consider the appropriateness of the decision for that particular individual against the demands of the service;
     
  3. Individuals with symptoms, or who have been advised to self-isolate will be expected to remain at home and away from the workplace and if you have any of the symptoms above you must stay at home and arrange to have a test to see if you have COVID-19;
  4. The health and wellbeing of individual staff and the community we serve is of paramount importance.

These FAQs will be reviewed on a regular basis as the situation and Government policy adapts and changes. They are aimed at all staff and managers covering both local policy changes and those agreed on an all Wales basis.

The council will be adopting the following key principles in dealing with this unprecedented situation:

  • A duty of care to ensure that employees and their dependents remain healthy
  • An exception that employees will be flexible in working arrangement to maintain council services
  • A request that employees make themselves available for redeployment to maintain continuity of essential services. 

 

FAQs

General advice and support

COVID-related absence

Self isolating and testing

Extremely vulnerable and vulnerable employees

Taking care of others

Returning to work

Annual leave and returning from holidays

Working from home

Other general information

 

General advice and support

Who can I go to for support?

If you have any questions or concerns please raise these with your line manager in the first instance.

Employees will continue to have access to advice and support on HR issues via our Service Centre: ServiceCentreHelpdesk@Swansea.gov.uk

Advice on medical issues: Occupational Health and Wellbeing Unit

Please currently direct any communication to the Occupational Health and Wellbeing Unit via email to occhealth.teama@swansea.gov.uk.

If you are not able to communicate via email please call on of the below numbers. You may need to try more than one number to speak to a member of the Occupational Health Unit: 01792 635181 / 01792 636499 / 01792 636718 

Support and advice for mental health/stress issues: Stress Management and Counselling Service

Email Confidential.counselling@swansea.gov.uk or phone 01792 636027

Support will also be available via our recognised trade unions.

This page will be updated on a regular basis as further questions are received and as the situation develops. 

Although this guidance is available on the intranet we know many staff have limited or no access to information online.

Please can all managers make specific arrangements and every effort within your area to make sure all your staff are aware of this advice


Where can I get general advice and guidance?

The council has adopted advice and guidance published by the Government and Public Health Wales. This advice and guidance changes daily so please use the following links to access the latest information:

The information published is comprehensive and covers items such as:

  • Information about the virus
  • Signs and symptoms of Covid-19
  • How Covid-19 is spread
  • How long the virus can survive
  • Preventing the spread of infection
  • Returning from travel overseas to affected areas or anywhere else in the world
  • Specific actions for social and community care staff visiting patients at home or providing care to customers
  • Closure of the office or workplace or residential setting and other actions if colleagues, members of the public or customers are undergoing Covid-19 testing and they have been in the office, workplace or residential setting.

 

COVID-related absence

What do I do if I have symptoms of the coronavirus?

The most up to date advice is available on UK government and Public Health Wales website.  Always check the advice afresh as the guidance is being refined as we learn more about this illness. Also the Staffnet is being updated as advice changes. We are publishing the links to ensure staff have the most up to date guidance. 

The most important symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19) are recent onset of any of the following:

  • a new continuous cough
  • a high temperature
  • a loss of, or change in, your normal sense of taste or smell (anosmia)

For most people, coronavirus (COVID-19) will be a mild illness. However, if you have any of the symptoms above you must stay at home and arrange to have a test to see if you have COVID-19

Guidance links:

 General guidance

  • 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 10 days from when the symptoms appeared, regardless of what day they are on in the original 14 day isolation period. See ending isolation section below for more information
  • if you can, move any vulnerable individuals (such as 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
  • if you have coronavirus symptoms: 
    • do not go to a GP surgery, pharmacy or hospital
    • you do not need to contact 111 to tell them you're staying at home
    • testing for coronavirus is not needed if you're staying at home
  • plan ahead and ask others for help to ensure that you can successfully stay at home and consider what can be done for vulnerable people in the household
  • ask your employer, friends and family to help you to get the things you need to stay at home
  • wash your hands regularly for 20 seconds, each time using soap and water, or use hand sanitiser
  • if you feel you cannot cope with your symptoms at home, or your condition gets worse, or your symptoms do not get better after 7 days, then use the NHS 111 online coronavirus service. If you do not have internet access, call NHS 111. For a medical emergency dial 999

Can the self-certification period be extended in the current circumstances?

Given the demand on general practice and the advice not to attend surgeries, we have extended  the self-certification period and only require a fit note after 14 days of absence.

However, if you are self isolating you will need to provide a 'self- isolation' certificate from Day 8. (as per guidance -https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/self-isolation-advice/)

What happens if I become unwell at work?

If you become unwell, you should ensure that you:

  • Remain at least 2 metres (7 feet) away from other people
  • Go to a room or area behind a closed door, such as a sick bay or staff office
  • Avoid touching anything
  • Cough or sneeze into a tissue and put it in a bin, or if they do not have tissues, cough and sneeze into the crook of your elbow
  • Use a separate bathroom from others, if possible contact your line manager who should advise you to go home and self-isolate.

How do I report my absence?

You should report your absence to your line manager in the normal way.

If you have been required to self-isolate it is important that you make your manager aware of your health condition in order that appropriate advice can be sought from Occupational Health to ensure appropriate measures are in place to protect you from the risk of infection. We will deal with individuals in this position based on clinical advice and on a case by case basis.

It is recognised that staff will have difficulties in contacting their medical centres so the Government have announced "isolation notes" to provide employees with evidence that they have been advised to self-isolate due to coronavirus, either because they have symptoms or they live with someone who has symptoms, and so cannot work.

For the first seven days off work, employees can self-certify so you don't need to provide evidence. After that, where you are absent and this is related to having symptoms of coronavirus or living with someone who has symptoms, the isolation note should be used to provide evidence of the advice to self-isolate.

These notes can be accessed through the NHS website and NHS 111 online and found via: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/self-isolation-advice/

If you do not have an email address, you can send the note to a trusted family member or friend, or directly to the Service Centre. The service can also be used to generate an isolation note on behalf of someone else.

How do I book absences related to Coronavirus?

It is important all absence relating to Covid-19 is recorded correctly and codes have been established for recording absences and notified to managers / headteachers.

For Special Leave arrangements:

  • If you have access to Self Service this should go through planned leave on Oracle.
  • If you don't have access to Oracle, please complete the special leave form and pass onto your line manager for approval. This needs to be forwarded onto Workforce Transactional Team on the following email address - Workforce.Transactional@Swansea.gov.uk

If you have any questions please direct them to the Service Centre Helpdesk via the following email address - ServiceCentreHelpdesk@Swansea.gov.uk

Schools will need to record all absences on the monthly returns in line with normal reporting procedures, ensuring that the relevant code is detailed on the return.

I need to self isolate, will I get paid?

Yes, you will receive normal pay. If you are not sick (e.g. you feel well enough to carry out work from home) you do not need to report as sick and your absence will not be counted as sickness absence against your record. Your absence will be recorded as 'self-isolation' for the purposes of council wide monitoring on the scale of the impact of the Coronavirus. Managers should record this via Oracle.

In the event that this applies to you, you must not attend work during the isolation period. You must contact your manager as soon as possible to let them know that you have been required to self-isolate and keep them updated on any developments.    

Your manager can require you to work from home and it is expected that you will do so if your job lends itself to any duties you can carry out at home. You should discuss this with your manager and log periods of self-isolation for required government reporting.

The Government is currently advising people to self-isolate if they have recently returned from certain countries even if they have no symptoms, which means staying at home and not having contact with other people. 

If I need to self-isolate and I am not well enough to work from home, will this go on my sickness record and will I be paid?

Yes, if you are ill with the coronavirus then you will be paid in line with the council's sick pay scheme, and your sickness record will be updated to show that you are absent from work as a result of the illness. You should follow the normal sickness reporting procedure and keeping in touch requirements as set out in the council's policies and procedures.

Trigger levels for any absences will be suspended for any absence connected with coronavirus and the principle of "no detriment" regarding sick pay for absences relating to coronavirus. Management of trigger levels for other absence reasons will be considered on a case by case basis.

My colleague has become unwell with suspected COVID-19 and been sent home, should I also be sent home?

There is no need for you to be sent home at this point and you should attend work as normal, unless you yourself become symptomatic. Occupational Health will advise on any actions or precautions that should be taken including risk assessment.

I have been self-isolating because I have had symptoms of the Coronavirus. When can I come back to work?

Please refer to current guidance from Gov.UK which is updated regularly on the Gov.UK website at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-stay-at-home-guidance/stay-at-home-guidance-for-households-with-possible-coronavirus-covid-19-infection

I have been told to self-isolate prior to admission to hospital. What happens in regards to this period of absence?

The NHS has instructed that anyone who is due to go into hospital as an in-patient (including day surgery) for planned or elective surgery/medical care must self-isolate, along with all members of their household, for 14 days prior to admission.

Unless you are already on sick pay, you will remain on normal pay for the duration of the self isolation period. If you can work from home (either in your own role or on alternative duties), you should do so. Hopefully dates scheduled for admission do not get deferred, however if they are and a further period of self-isolation being required, this is something that may occur and the same principles apply to the self-isolation period.

 

Self isolating and testing

Our staff can be tested for coronavirus as part of the Welsh Government's Test, Trace, Protect strategy.

In what circumstances should I self-isolate?

Staff should self-isolate only if they:

  1. have coronavirus symptoms and are waiting for a test result
  2. have tested positive for coronavirus
  3. are a member of the same household as someone who has coronavirus symptoms or has tested positive for coronavirus
  4. have been in close recent contact with someone who has tested positive and received a notification to self-isolate from NHS Test and Trace

Self-isolating if you have symptoms

If you have any of these symptoms, however mild, other than leaving home to be tested, you must self-isolate at home immediately.

If you live alone and you have symptoms you must stay at home for 10 days from when your symptoms started. After 10 days, if you do not have a high temperature, you do not need to continue to self-isolate. If you still have a high temperature, keep self-isolating until your temperature returns to normal. You do not need to continue to self-isolate if you just have a cough or loss of smell or taste after 7 days, as these symptoms can last for several weeks after the infection has gone.

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 at least 10 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.

For anyone else in the household who starts displaying symptoms, they need to stay at home for at least 10 days from when the symptoms appeared, regardless of what day they are on in the original 14 day isolation period.

Staying at home for 14 days will greatly reduce the overall amount of infection the household could pass on to others in the community.

How to get tested?

As council and/or schools employees you are designated as critical/key worker so if you begin to display symptoms of coronavirus then you have the option of attending a drive-through testing unit at the Liberty Stadium.

You'll need to book an appointment and more information on how to do this can be found here: https://sbuhb.nhs.wales/coronavirus-covid-19/coronavirus-covid-19/test-trace-protect/

Or you can request for a home testing kit be delivered to you by either visiting https://www.nhs.uk/ask-for-a-coronavirus-test or by phoning the free number 119. People with hearing or speech difficulties can call 18001 119.

Before requesting a test you must have at least one of the symptoms, as listed above, (you need to take the test in the first 5 days of having symptoms).

What happens if I test positive?

As part of the Test, Trace, Protect strategy, those who test positive will be contacted by a member of the tracing team.

You will be asked to provide all contact details for anyone in your household and anyone you have recently spent at least 15 minutes with, within a proximity of 2 metres. This means mobile phone numbers, email addresses, landlines and home addresses.

They will also gather information on the places you have visited recently and the names and contact details of people you were in close contact with in the 48 hours before your symptoms started.

The tracing team member will provide advice on the next steps to be taken following a positive test result, for example on self-isolating and hygiene measures for you and your household.

What happens if I have been contacted by Test and Trace and instructed to self isolate?

If you are instructed, by NHS Test and Trace, to self isolate, your absence will not be recorded as sickness absence. If you can work from home you should do so. If you are unable to work from home you must stay at home and you will receive full pay for the duration of the self isolation period.

As part of their standard operating procedures a TTP Contact Advisor should send a letter by email/post to the 'exposure'. You will need to provide a copy of this letter to your manager to inform them that you have been requested to self-isolate for 14 days.

If you are not offered a letter at point of contact from the TTP advisor, then you should request one.

I have developed symptoms what should I do about alerting close contacts?

When someone first develops symptoms and orders a test, they will be encouraged to alert the people that they have had close contact with in the 48 hours before symptoms onset. If any of those close contacts are co-workers, the person who has developed symptoms should consider asking their employer to alert those co-workers.

Close contacts at this stage do not need to self-isolate unless requested to do so by NHS Test and Trace or a public health professional, but they should:

  • avoid contact with people at high increased risk of severe illness from coronavirus, such as people with pre-existing medical conditions
  • take extra care in practicing social distancing and good hygiene
  • watch out for symptoms and self-isolate if they also show signs of coronavirus

Managers will need to keep staff informed about COVID-19 cases among their colleagues. However, managers should not name the individual.

If a co-worker is at risk because of close contact with the positive case, then they will be notified to self-isolate by the NHS Test and Trace service.

 

Extremely vulnerable and vulnerable employees

What happens if I am in an 'extremely vulnerable group'?

It is recognised that we will have employees who are in "extremely vulnerable groups" as identified in Welsh Government guidance. These include:

  • Solid organ transplant recipients
  • People with specific cancers:
    • People with cancer who are undergoing active chemotherapy or radical radiotherapy for lung cancer
    • 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.
  • People with severe respiratory conditions including all cystic fibrosis, severe asthma and severe Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
  • People with severe single organ disease (eg Liver, Cardio, Renal, Neurological).
  • People with rare diseases and inborn errors of metabolism that significantly increase the risk of infections (such as Severe Combined Immunodeficiency (SCID), homozygous sickle cell).
  • People on immunosuppression therapies sufficient to significantly increase risk of infection.
  • People who are pregnant and children up to the age of 18 with significant heart disease, congenital or acquired.

From 16 August, shielding will be paused for everyone, you can go out to more places and see more people. The advice is:

  • you can go to work, if you cannot work from home, as long as the business is COVID-secure and has taken reasonable measures to minimise risk to employees. 
  • you can go outside for any reason, ensuring you keep 2 metres (or 3 steps) apart away wherever possible. 
  • You no longer need to stay 2 metres or 3 steps away from people you live with or who are part of your extended household.
  • children who have been shielding can return to school when schools re-start.

An individual risk assessment must be completed for all employees who are returning to work from shielding.  The 'Workforce Risk Assessment Tool' can be located on www.swansea.gov.uk/staffnet/coronavirushealthandsafety

What happens if I am in a 'vulnerable group'?

It is recognised that we will also have employees who are in "vulnerable groups". In accordance with Government and NJC guidance.

Those who are at increased risk of severe illness from coronavirus (COVID-19) should be particularly stringent in following social distancing measures. This group includes those who are:

  • pregnant women 
  • those aged 70 or older (regardless of medical conditions)
  • under 70 with an underlying health condition listed below (broadly anyone instructed to get a flu jab each year on medical grounds):
  • chronic (long-term) respiratory diseases, such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), emphysema or bronchitis
  • chronic heart disease, such as heart failure
  • chronic kidney disease
  • chronic liver disease, such as hepatitis
  • chronic neurological conditions, such as Parkinson's disease, motor neurone disease, multiple sclerosis (MS), a learning disability or cerebral palsy
  • diabetes 
  • problems with your spleen - for example, sickle cell disease or if you have had your spleen removed 
  • a weakened immune system as the result of conditions such as HIV and AIDS, or medicines such as steroid tablets or chemotherapy 
  • being seriously overweight (a BMI of 40 or above)

gov.wales/coronavirus-social-distancing-guidance

An individual risk assessment must be completed for all employees who are classed as being in the vulnerable category. The 'Workforce Risk Assessment Tool' can be located on www.swansea.gov.uk/staffnet/coronavirushealthandsafety

 

Taking care of others

We recognise that making arrangements for the care of others at this time is not an easy or simple thing to do especially for those who would normally rely on others. It is going to be critical we find solutions to this difficult situation so that we are able to continue to provide the services so many will depend on in the weeks and months ahead.

The situation for employees who live with but do not care for those classified as clinically extremely vulnerable and cannot work from home, may start to be reviewed. This review should include the possibility of them returning to work, potential redeployment and ensuring workplaces are 'COVID secure' (including stringent social distancing).

What should I do if I live with or am caring for someone who is classed as vulnerable?  

If you are living with or caring for someone who is categorised as vulnerable and you cannot work from home you should discuss this with your line manager to ensure your workplace is COVID secure. These circumstances should be considered as part of an individual risk assessment. 

You ensure that you adhere to all the relevant risk assessments in place and maintain social distancing wherever possible.

The authority, and the general public, are reliant on its front line workforce and support staff at this time to deliver the essential services needed during these most difficult times. If staff are affected in these circumstances we would also ask that they do all they practically are able to explore other ways in which they can ensure that the vulnerable individual within their household is appropriately protected.

I have family who has an underlying medical condition and I do not want to risk exposing them to COVID-19. What can I do?

Discuss with your manager, as if you are in a position to work remotely and there is no operational impact on service provision then where possible then this is to be encouraged.

Where you are not able to work remotely then, in a situation where there is no medical need to self-isolate then you should continue to attend work ensuring that you following the social distancing guidelines both at home and in the workplace. This should be assessed and detailed within an individual risk assessment. 

Local government guidance states:

It is anticipated that employees will, as far as possible within the constraints of caring responsibilities and complying with Government advice on self-isolating and social distancing, continue to perform their duties and be flexible to ensure that services continue to be provided. Personal protective equipment advice should be followed both in relation to Covid-19 and any other risks applying to the roles that employees are asked to perform. If difficulties arise with a refusal to attend work or a refusal to carry out certain duties, managers should ascertain what the concerns are, consider what, if anything, can be reasonably done to address those concerns and take action accordingly, to encourage the individual to work.

What should I do if I am contacted by track and trace and advised that my child needs to self-isolate for 14 days and are therefore not able to attend school or their regular childcare facility?

Where a child/ pupil has been identified as a contact, by the contact tracing (TTP) service and/or sent home by their school, and there is a requirement for time off for staff who are parents or carers who need to look after them, the following approach will be taken;

  1. If temporary homeworking arrangements, or redeployment into alternative roles are practical, that should be allowed,
  2. Only, where temporary homeworking is not an option, will staff be given paid time off to undertake their parental/carer responsibilities.

There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this issue so for those employees who cannot work due to childcare issues as a direct result of the above, consideration should be given to using a combination of measures, including the potential for use leave options if appropriate. 

These arrangements should be considered with your Line Manager as soon as practicable.

 

Returning to work

How and when will I return to work?

During COVID-19, essential council services have continued to function and operate albeit, with a vastly reduced service and staffing level. The authority has introduced a process to deal with the returning to work processes for services and staff. This process includes the engagement of trade unions. The purpose of the process is to review those services currently running at a reduced capacity, to enable a gradual return to normal service adhering to Welsh Government (WG) and Public Health Wales (PHW), NJC and Joint Council whilst For Wales (JCW) statements relating to protecting people from exposure to the COVID 19 virus.

As a council it is important that we look to support the community in as many ways as we can and to do this we need to get to some sort of new normal.

With this in mind we are looking to return the workforce to a working position on a phased basis and we are now in a position to follow best practice and start the process of returning area within services back to work.

Risk assessments and working practices have been reviewed to ensure all our workforce returning to work are safe and remain safe during these concerning times.

Managers will be in touch, when applicable to inform employees of the start date and will go through with you any changes to working practices.

If an employee expresses concerns about returning to the workplace it is important that their Manager and/or HR ascertains and seeks to address the reason for the concerns and carries out an individual risk assessment. Concerns raised by the employee could include but are not limited to, their BAME background, gender, age, physical or mental health conditions, other caring responsibilities, vulnerable members of the household or practicalities of uncertain childcare arrangements.

Your manager and you can talk through how we can support you and taking into account your personal circumstances and the business needs of the council. The important thing is that we work together to find a solution.

Can I still travel to work?

In line with the latest Government guidance states that, "you can travel for work purposes, but only where you cannot work from home". Please follow that guidance which is available in full via the following link: www.gov.uk/guidance/coronavirus-covid-19-safer-travel-guidance-for-passengers

Many meetings now offer the opportunity to use Teams or dial in on a conference call basis, and this is to be encouraged.

In other cases, Swansea Council has identified its "critical workers", who are engaged in essential services and therefore cannot work from home. These identified staff will need to travel to undertake their employment. All staff identified as critical workers will have received a letter from Swansea Council.

This letter should be kept on the critical worker at all times along with their council ID badge.

If you travel to work using public transport, you should discuss this with your manager. Consideration could be given to staggered start and finish time to help avoid having to travel at peak times. Also consideration could be given to facilitate requests to work from a site other than their usual place of work.

What happens if I do not want to come to work to avoid infection?

If you have any concerns about catching the coronavirus through the work place, then please discuss this with your manager to decide on the best course of action.

If you want to take time off and are unable to work remotely then, your manager may be able to arrange for you to take the time off as holiday or unpaid leave. However, if this is not possible from an operational perspective you are contractually obliged to attend work.

If everything has been done to address an employees concerns and action taken accordingly and you still refuse to attend work, this may constitute unauthorised absence or partial performance (ie where only certain tasks are carried out rather than the full range of duties). If this case arises managers should contact HR for immediate advice.

Will I be expected to be redeployed?

In some circumstances, in order to maintain essential and core services, employees may be required to be redeployed to other roles and/or work areas. A protocol for redeployment and a dedicated team has been established to support this. Where that occurs steps will be taken to ensure that employees receive appropriate training and support, including the need to undertake appropriate risk assessments.

A Volunteering app is also available for employees who wish to volunteer for redeployment. Details on how to volunteer can be found at: www.swansea.gov.uk/staffnet/applystaffvolunteering

Employees are encouraged to discuss with their line managers and heads of service arrangements on how you can best support this.

The recently passed Coronavirus Act provides for emergency volunteering leave. It would not be expected that council employees volunteer for these duties outside of the council in the first instance, but please discuss this with your line manager if you feel you have specialist skills or experience that may lend themselves more readily to key roles outside of the council.

How will this affect my working hours?

There may be occasions when you will be requested to be flexible and your line manager will ask you to work additional hours or be able to change working patterns / days in line with the needs of the Service, complying with the Working Time Regulations as in accordance with any rotas / working arrangements within your place of work. 

Full consultation will be undertaken with you and your personal circumstances taken into consideration. Your manager will be reasonable in making such requests and will seek to achieve this by mutual agreement.

Managers must ensure that where staff are working additional hours that they are still getting adequate breaks. Whilst we are facing challenging times we must make sure we are working safely.

For term-time and part-time workers, any additional hours worked will be paid at existing rates.

Will I be obliged to change roles to support other areas?

It is likely that staff in certain areas or staff that undertake certain specific roles will be expected to assist in other priority areas. Some services will be stood down temporarily to focus staff resources where they are most needed. It is therefore possible that if you work in one of the areas which is stood down whether completely or partially you may be expected to help elsewhere. We will always attempt to do this on a voluntary basis wherever possible. Your co-operation in this matter would be appreciated to avoid the necessity of compulsory redeployment.

 

Annual leave and returning from holidays

At times during this crisis the council will need to maximise the numbers of staff in work and so you may be asked to cancel any existing leave commitments to support the service, this would be done by agreement with you and would be really helpful.

Any new requests for annual leave will to be carefully considered in light of the current situation but will be granted where possible subject to the needs and demands of that service. There is no blanket ban on approving annual leave but we must do all we can to maximise the number of staff available and in work as this crisis develops.

What will  happen to planned absences, such as annual leave?

Planned absences such as annual leave, special leave, flexitime leave, or leave for public duties, (or even compassionate and parental leave in very critical instances) may need to be cancelled or rearranged to ensure sufficient cover can be maintained. Cancellation will have to be in line with any national advice or guidance and based on the need to maintain necessary services). Leave requests should also be prioritised, e.g. special leave requests for bereavement situations and public duties which must be provided by law, will clearly take precedence over non-critical flexitime or annual leave requests.

As it is necessary to balance the need for work and rest during a prolonged period, leave may not automatically be cancelled and new requests may be considered, but can be cancelled and turned down respectively, where it is considered operationally necessary, and alternative dates will have to be agreed once the situation returns to normal.

Can I carry over annual leave?

In order to manage employee welfare and promote a healthy work / life balance as the emergency situation evolves, employees should continue to to take their annual leave and flexi leave where possible to support their health and wellbeing. However, managers will be asked to take a sensible approach to granting annual leave in consideration of business continuity arrangements.

In line with government regulations, where necessary and in discussion with their manager, employees will be able to carry forward 4 weeks of annual leave to be taken within their next two leave years, if they have been unable to take leave due to the Pandemic. These leave arrangements would be pro-rata'd for part-time staff.

This annual leave will be added to their future leave years record and can be taken in accordance with the current annual leave policy: www.swansea.gov.uk/staffnet/annualleavepolicy

Where employees have by agreement cancelled holiday arrangements as a result of the pandemic to support the response by the council, managers have been advised to be flexible in allowing key or critical workers to cancel annual leave and attend work.

Managers will work with staff on a case by case basis to work out what flexibility is required. For example, managers may ask staff to cancel their holidays so that they can come to work. In this instance we would expect that to be done in collaboration with the staff member.

Another example maybe where a staff member wants to book more holiday than they are entitled to, to deal with the impact of Coronavirus. Normal leave rules apply and if operationally not feasible then your leave may be declined.

I was due to take some pre-booked annual leave, but I have now developed symptoms of Coronavirus

If you have to self-isolate you can cancel pre-booked annual leave. You should ring your line manager (in line with normal sickness reporting arrangements). Please keep in contact with your manager on a regular basis. If you are well enough, and as an alternative to sick absence, you can agree with your line manager that you will work from home. 

Will I have to quarantine if I go on holiday outside the UK?

Please be aware that as isolation requirements in respect of every country are subject to change, employees are requested to consult Welsh Government guidance and make the necessary provisions, as above, prior to booking foreign holidays.  

The Government guidance as of 4 July, continues to advise against non-essential international travel, except to countries and territories listed with exemptions for travelling to certain countries and territories that no longer pose a high risk for British travellers. View the list of exempted destinations. They also currently advise against cruise ship travel.

They are monitoring the international situation very closely and keeping this advice under constant review so that it reflects our latest assessment of risks to British people. 

Developments in the coronavirus pandemic remain uncertain around the world. No travel is risk-free. If you are planning travel abroad in the weeks and months ahead, even if you are returning to a place you've visited before, please refer to the following guidance: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/travel-advice-novel-coronavirus

If you are intending to book annual leave and travel abroad you will need to let your manager know where you are going, and that you have checked and are aware of the current guidance in relation to foreign travel in particular, any requirements to self-isolate upon return to the UK.  

If you travel abroad and the current requirements are that for travel to that country you are required to self-isolate upon your return, you must make arrangements with your line manager in advance of you taking your annual leave. In these circumstances, the following options are available:

  • Where applicable, employees should be afforded the opportunity to work from home, or redeployment opportunities should be sought to allow them to work from home.
  • Utilise annual leave or unpaid leave.
  • Utilise Flexi/Lieu (where applicable and where employees have accrued time beforehand, in line with the Flexible Working Arrangements).
  • Purchase additional leave 

If you travel abroad and the current requirements for travel to that country are that you are NOT required to self-isolate upon your return but the requirements change whilst you are abroad, the options above will apply.  

All requests for annual leave are approved at the discretion of the employer who will take a number of considerations into account, such as maintenance of service delivery and the need for employees who may have worked hard throughout the crisis to have time for rest and recuperation. However, it has not been appropriate, until now, for the employer to ask where the employee's leave will be taken. Therefore, because of the new rules it is now imperative that when an employee submits a request for leave that involves travelling abroad, they are reminded of the government's advice to avoid all non-essential travel and the potential requirement to self-isolate for 14 days on their return.

The situation now is that employees booking holidays from this point forward will be going abroad fully cognisant of the quarantine requirements on re-entering the UK. 

There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this issue so for those employees who cannot work from home during quarantine, managers should consider using a combination of some or all of the different types of leave options shown above.

 

Working from home

What do I need to consider in working from home?

In line with National Joint Council guidance, 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 ensure, along with your line manager, that you:

  • Consider your working environment and your health and safety
  • Review your Display Screen Equipment Self-Assessment and revisit the online DSE training to ensure you're working safely (see link below)
  • Check you have the right equipment to enable you to work from home and that it's set up in the correct manner (see link below)
  • Agree monitoring arrangements, work programmes and targets
  • Ensure that you should inform utility providers, insurance companies and mortgage providers of your intention to work at home
  • Agree hours of work
  • Agree contact arrangements, which may mean regular email contact confirm start and finish times
  • Discuss requirements for attendance at the office for team meetings and training or to cover peaks in workload
  • Consider any procedures that are different for Home Workers.

Additional Health and Safety advice and guidance is available via staffnet:

I am working from home as a result of COVID, are there any changes to how I claim for mileage?

Where an employee is required to attend a meeting or event during their working day, travelling expenses will be payable for that element of the journey which is over and above normal travel to work (ie you should only claim mileage where you have exceeded your normal home to work mileage per day).

If your mileage exceeds your normal home to work mileage you must ensure that the home to work mileage is deducted from your overall claim per day.

For example:

  • If your normal travel to work is 3 miles each way, your home to work mileage would be 6 miles per day.  
  • If you travelled 5 miles during your working day, for work purposes you wouldn't make a claim as you have not exceeded your home to work mileage.
  • If you travelled 10 miles during your working day, for work purposes you would claim any mileage over and above you home to work mileage, i.e. 4 miles for that particular day.

Employees will not be able to claim any additional travelling expenses as a result of a temporary or fixed move of work location. 

Employees will not be able to claim home to work mileage when undertaking overtime, at weekends or outside normal working hours.

'Normal Travel to Work' is defined as the shortest reasonable distance from home to the 'fixed centre' and return.

What if I can't work from home?

Again, in line with NJC guidance all options for using annual leave, special leave etc should be explored but given the length of time that this national emergency is set to last it is not reasonable, for example, to expect employees to use their entire annual leave entitlement to cover all or part of the lockdown period as consideration should be given to planned booked holidays later in the year, along with employees who may require leave throughout the year to support dependents. 

Individual leave arrangements should be discussed with your line manager.

 

Other general information

Can I be paid for Time Off In Lieu (TOIL)?

As stated in our policy on TOIL, it is generally accepted that a number of employees will be required to work in excess of their normal working hours, and, therefore, will require some form of recompense. This may be due to regular additional hours where overtime is not paid, evening meetings, weekend work or an occasional, unplanned yet urgent need to extend the working day. In usual circumstances, recompense will take the form of TOIL.

In recognition of these unprecedented circumstances and in line with our above principles, it has been agreed that payment will be made for additional TOIL incurred over 5 days as a result of COVID-19. Payments will be made with the agreement of the director, provided this has been previously agreed in advance with the head of service and/or manager.

What will happen to flexitime?

Existing arrangements will remain in line with our Flexitime Policy. As far as possible staff should aim to work your contracted number of hours unless the demands of the service or work area require additional hours, and any additional hours will need to be agreed in advance with your manager and to suit the business needs.

Will I be required to continue paying for car parking?

The council is suspending staff car parking permit charges for up to six months, backdated to 1 April, as part of its response to the Coronavirus pandemic. Permit fees will not be taken by payroll from May and those who paid in April will be refunded in due course.

Anyone who has cancelled their permit since mid-March and wishes to have it returned will be able to reclaim it by contacting car parking services.

In the meantime parking restrictions in our car parks at Civic Centre and Paxton Street and in the areas around Guildhall and in Baths Car Park will continue to be enforced.

The council will conduct a fundamental review of the parking permit system in the coming months to develop a new staff parking policy to sit alongside the accommodation strategy and new ways of working.

While a review of parking permits was already planned prior to the Covid-19 crisis, in part because the current requests for permits are oversubscribed, the Covid 19 has significantly changed the way businesses operate. Many of these changes will likely become the 'new normal'. Therefore it is now even more important we review the parking permit allocation system to prepare for this.

The current freeze on new staff car parking permit applications will remain until the review has competed and a new system is proposed.

How will the council support me if I am in financial difficulties as a result of COVID-19?

To continue to support those who are unable to return to work due to closed buildings/ reduced services etc, Heads of Service/ Managers will be liaising with the Service Centre providing lists of employees who may still be affected financially due to the pandemic.

If you believe you are still affected financially by the pandemic, you should speak to your line manager in the first instance.

I live in an area that has been placed under local lockdown. Can I leave the area to travel to work?

From the advice provided to people currently living in areas that are under lockdown, you are able to leave the area if you have a 'reasonable excuse'.  There are a number of thes listed in the law used to enforce the regulations. This includes travelling to work if you are not able to work from home.  If you are affected by this issue you should notify and discuss this with your line manager.

Should I wear a face covering when sharing a council vehicle with others?

Face coverings are mandatory when sharing council vehicles with others.

Staff are being reminded that following a change to Welsh Government legislation it is now compulsory for staff to wear a face covering if you are sharing a council vehicle with other people.  This is in addition to the mitigating measures contained within the relevant risk assessment that all staff should be working to. Please note that failure to comply would be a criminal offence subject to the imposition of a fine and also risks possible disciplinary action

This is in addition to the mitigating measures contained within the relevant risk assessment that all staff should be working to. Please note that failure to comply would be a criminal offence subject to the imposition of a fine and also risks possible disciplinary action. The guidance from Welsh Government indicates that medical exemptions are permitted and you should advise your manager if you intend to claim such an exemption, but the individual will be responsible for justifying the exemption to the enforcement bodies, if challenged.

Sharing council vehicles with other members of staff should take place only if agreed with your manager as part of the risk assessment. Discussions continue with the trade unions to review risk assessments where necessary

Staff are welcome to provide their own face covering line with guidance but the council will also make available where required

We would also like to remind staff that it is a legal requirement to wear face coverings on public transport, including buses and taxis. 

The guidance from Welsh Government indicates that Medical exemptions are permitted and you should advise your manager if you intend to claim such an exemption, but the individual will be responsible for justifying the exemption to the enforcement bodies if challenged.

Can I be disciplined if I breach the COVID-19 rules and procedures?

Yes, since the outbreak and initial restrictions earlier this year, we've ensured that all staff have been suitably protected from the risk of transmission through appropriate PPE, changes to working practices and where possible working from home to protect the safety of staff and our families.

It is vitally important that we as council employees personally and fully adhere to the rules which Welsh Government have put in place to protect each other and our families and friends.

In cases where it is determined that you have not adhered to the rules and your actions have placed yourself and others at risk, this will result in disciplinary action being taken.

It is expected that all staff take all steps to avoid breaking the restrictions both during and outside working hours.

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