Page last updated: 17 July 2020

Covid-19 Staff FAQs

Frequently asked questions about the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, for University of Worcester staff.

These FAQs take into account government guidance and University policy at this time. The University’s approach will continue to be reviewed and updated and the arrangements described in these FAQs will be subject to change.

How can I best support our students?

We know that many staff will be approached by students with concerns about coronavirus. If a student raises a concern about their health please ask them to follow the advice on this page. If they have any specific questions or need additional support, they should contact firstpoint@worc.ac.uk

I wish to travel abroad for my holiday. Do I need to do anything further before I travel? (UPDATED - 17 JULY)

As of 8 June 2020, those arriving in, or returning to, the UK from abroad were automatically required to self-isolate for 14 days (NB: this stipulated timeframe is in line with current government guidance and so may be subject to change). 

With effect from 10th July however, the Government confirmed that a number of countries were now exempt from this requirement. A current list of such countries is available at the following link: - https://www.gov.uk/guidance/coronavirus-covid-19-travel-corridors#countries-and-territories-with-no-self-isolation-on-arrival-in-england. You are advised to regularly review this list before you travel however as it may be subject to change at any point.

Should it be the case that you are due to be travelling to a country that is not included on the exemption list then, prior to travelling, you are required to discuss and agree with your manager which of these options is most appropriate in relation to your role: -

  • work from home for the self-isolation period if this is possible;
  • book additional days holiday to cover the self-isolation period; or,
  • take unpaid leave for the self-isolation period.

Please note that if you fail to seek prior approval and agreement from your line manager, your absence may be classed as unauthorised.

I am a member of staff who is concerned about becoming unwell in the work environment. (UPDATED - 8 JULY)

Please support yourself, colleagues and students by following the advice provided by Public Health England and the World Health Organization which is designed to minimise the spread of any infection. You may wish to remind and reassure colleagues and students of this advice at the start of lectures or meetings.

  • Observe good respiratory and hand hygiene, washing hands regularly.
  • Cover your mouth and nose when you sneeze or cough with a tissue or your sleeve.
  • Observe the University’s social distancing regimes and safe workplace protocols.  Follow the control measures that have been put in place in relation to your particular working environment and activity.  If you are unsure or have concerns speak to your line manager in the first instance.
  • Follow the travel and health advice from the Foreign & Commonwealth Office.

You can download the ‘Wash your hands’ PowerPoint slide which promotes good practice and include it alongside your lectures and presentations.

How does the lifting of restrictions on movement affect the University? (UPDATED - 8 JULY)

The government has set out a roadmap for lifting  restrictions and opening more businesses and venues, but this plan is dependent on successfully controlling the spread of the virus. If the evidence shows sufficient progress is not being made in controlling the virus, then the lifting of restrictions may have to be delayed.

The University is preparing to re-start in-person teaching in September, under a careful plan to Save Lives; Protect the NHS; Live; Learn.  Your line manager will contact you when a return to work is being planned for your area of work.  You should not return to work until contacted by your line manager.  Further information is available here.

I am at a greater risk of severe illness from Covid-19 and the official guidance advises that I consider social distancing measures. What options are available to me? (UPDATED - 8 JULY)

Some people are clinically vulnerable, meaning they are at higher risk of severe illness from coronavirus, including those aged 70 and over, those with specific chronic pre-existing conditions and pregnant women. 

From 6th July Government guidance has relaxed and further changes are proposed from 1st August.  The advice remains that those people who are classified as clinically vulnerable should work from home if possible.    

The University will continue to support working from home for those classified as clinically vulnerable where working from home is appropriate and in agreement with your line manager.  When a return to campus is appropriate for your area of work your line manager will discuss your individual circumstances with you – further details may be found here.

Guidance on social distancing can be found here.

I have been advised to follow shielding measures what should I do? (UPDATED - 8 JULY)

The government has issued further guidance for people who are at very high risk of severe illness from coronavirus (COVID-19) because of an underlying health condition, and for their family, friends and carers.

From 6th July government advice has relaxed and further changes are proposed from 1st August.  The advice remains that those people who are classified as clinically extremely vulnerable should work from home if possible. People in this category will have been notified by the NHS

The University will continue to support working from home for those classified as clinically extremely vulnerable where working from home is appropriate and in agreement with your line manager.  When a return to campus is appropriate for your area of work your line manager will discuss your individual circumstances with you – further details may be found here.

How do shielding measures differ from the social distancing guidance for vulnerable people? (UPDATED - 8 JULY)

Social distancing measures are steps you can take to reduce social interaction between people. This will help reduce the transmission of coronavirus (COVID-19).

Shielding guidance  advised to stay at home at all times and avoid any face-to-face contact for a period of at least 12 weeks from the day you received your NHS shielding letter. 

Measures have been relaxed from 6th July and it is proposed that shielding will be paused from 1st August.  Strict social distancing and enhanced hygiene control measures continue to be the main way to reduce the risk of infection.

What should I do if I think that I have symptoms of Covid-19 (Coronavirus) or I have been exposed to Covid-19?

In accordance with the latest advice from Public Health England, you should self-isolate at home in line with official guidance if you have both or either of:

  • a high temperature
  • a new continuous cough

You do not need to contact NHS 111 to tell them you’re staying at home and you should follow the guidance on self-isolation.

You may also be required to stay at home and self-isolate despite having no symptoms, for example if there is a risk that you have been exposed to the virus or if you are providing care to someone who has symptoms of Covid-19.  If you are following official government medical guidance to self-isolate despite having no symptoms you must stay at home.

Who do I need to tell if I need to self-isolate due to Covid-19?

If you are following official guidance to self-isolate or you have received a letter advising you to take shielding measures or you are following social distancing guidance please contact your line manager at the earliest opportunity.

If you do not have symptoms of Covid-19 your manager will be able to discuss whether you are able to carry out all or part of your work from home. 

Please advise your manager which category you fall into (self-isolation, social distancing, shielding) the guidance that you are following and how long the recommended duration, in accordance with the government guidance.

If your school / department has local absence reporting procedures which require you to notify someone in addition to your line manager, for example, the ASU generic email, please follow this process.

If you are self isolating due to coronavirus for more than 7 days, you should notify your line manager and obtain an online self-isolation note from the:

Please also refer to the advice provided by the NHS on self isolation:

How do I report that I am receiving treatment for a confirmed case of Covid-19?

If you are receiving medical treatment and have a confirmed case of Covid-19 please report it following your normal departmental process. The absence will be treated as sickness absence in line with the University’s sickness absence policy.

I am a line manager – how do I report that a member of my team is not at work due to Covid-19?

For absence relating to Covid-19, including precautionary self-isolation, social distancing, shielding and unpaid leave, please record using your normal departmental processes in the first instance. 

The University now has a central reporting portal for absence relating to Covid-19 and your Head of School/Department has nominated the people with responsibility for reporting to the portal for your School/Department.  It is important that all staff follow your normal reporting procedures so that the designated person can report the Covid-19 related absence to the University Covid-19 portal.  You are not required to email absence@worc.ac.uk .

What will I be paid?

If you are displaying symptoms of Covid-19 (Coronavirus) and have been advised to self-isolate you will be paid in accordance with the University’s sickness absence policy. https://www2.worc.ac.uk/personnel/681.htm

If you are following official government medical guidance to self-isolate/social distance/take shielding measures but you do not have symptoms of Covid-19 your line manager will be able to discuss with you whether it is possible for you to do all or some of your work from home.  If you work from home you will continue to receive normal pay.  If you are following official guidance to self-isolate/social distance/take shielding measures and are unable to work from home you will be entitled to sick pay in accordance with the terms of your contract and the University’s sickness absence policy: https://www2.worc.ac.uk/personnel/681.htm.

Hourly paid employees will be paid for scheduled work in accordance with their contact of employment and should follow the University’s guidance on providing appropriate self certification and medical certification in addition to submitting timesheets identifying the scheduled hours as either sickness absence or self isolation/social distancing/shielding.

If you are self isolating due to coronavirus for more than 7 days, you should obtain an online self-isolation note from the:

My child’s nursery/school is closed due to the virus. What leave can I take? (UPDATED - 8 JULY)

With the government’s decision to close schools from Friday 20th March for the majority of children, you may need to take time away from work to care for your young child(ren), despite them not displaying any symptoms of the virus. Reasonable paid time off will be permitted in order for you to make arrangements for alternative childcare (1 – 2 days). You should contact your line manager in the first instance to notify them of your absence.  

If a longer period is required and alternative childcare is not possible, you may be able to work from home, take annual leave or unpaid leave. Your line manager will be able to discuss these options with you. 

If you are unable to work due to caring responsibilities caused by the Covid-19 pandemic you may have been eligible for furlough leave.  The Government’s job retention scheme (furlough leave) continues to be reviewed and separate FAQs are here.  If you wish to  consider temporary alterations to your working hours to help manage caring responsibilities please speak to your line manager in the first instance.  It will also depend on the extent to which your workload can be reallocated within the department. 

Am I able to cancel my childcare vouchers with Edenred?

Yes, you can cancel your childcare vouchers, however, please be advised that under the rules of the scheme, you will not be able to re-join Edenred at a later date.

Alternatively, you can defer your voucher deductions for a specific time period and reinstate these at a time in the future, as long as the reinstatement is within 12 months of the last deduction and you have a balance remaining on your voucher account.

Please email HR detailing any changes you wish to make to your childcare vouchers.

Will I still need to pay for my car parking permit?

All monthly payments for staff car parking permits have been suspended from 1 April 2020 until further notice. 

If you have been identified as an essential member of staff, who needs to come on to campus to work, you will be able to use the car parks free of charge. We are also offering free car park access for NHS staff and for students who have remained in our halls of residence.

My holiday arrangements have been cancelled, can I rearrange my leave for another time?

Annual leave should be agreed in the normal way and it is expected that the majority of staff will be able to take their full leave entitlement by the end of August. Under the existing University policy, you may carry forward up to 5 days annual leave entitlement (pro rata for part time staff) from one leave year to the next, if agreed in advance with your line manager. 

If you are a member of staff who has been placed on furlough leave please refer to the relevant FAQs.

What are the arrangements for working from home? (UPDATED - 8 JULY)

The work of the University is continuing. The University moved fully to online teaching on Friday 20 March.

From Friday 20 March, the University made the decision that colleagues would work from home, where appropriate and in agreement with the line manager. You should discuss any questions with your line manager in the first instance. The University is preparing for a phased reoccupation and return to campus over the next few months and details can be found here.  You should not return to working on campus until your line manager advises you.  There may be occasions when colleagues will be required to attend the workplace as and when needed, unless they are unable to due to sickness or annual leave.

If you are working from home and unable to work due to sickness, you should advise your line manager following the normal reporting procedures. 

We've put together some guidance and resources to support the wellbeing of those working from home.

How can I organise my work when working from home?

  • Identify in discussion with your line manager which aspects of your work are suitable for homeworking and what access to University systems is required and available. If needed, the University may be able to loan equipment on a short-term basis to support homeworking.
  • Your line manager must agree your usual start and finish times. You will be expected to attend virtual meetings, events and any training arranged by your line manager and, for example, your team or course leader.
  • To help colleagues keep in touch with you, you must provide a contact email (your usual work email address in most cases) and telephone number. You are expected to be available by telephone and email during your working hours. In addition, you should use your outlook calendar to provide information on your working arrangements and share this with your line manager.
  • You are expected to be available during working hours. If there are times when you will not be available, or you need quiet time to concentrate without being disturbed, please let your colleagues know and advise when you will be contactable.
  • Working from home might require being more aware of the need for confidentiality and GDPR requirements. Please refer to the University’s guidelines on safe practice, data protection and information security.
  • The University’s insurance policy for employer’s liability and personal accident will operate in the same way as office based employees for approved occasional home working. However, you should also consider whether you need to advise a landlord, mortgage provider and/or insurer (contents and/or buildings) that you will be working from home occasionally. 
  • In certain circumstances the University may ask you to carry out work at home that is outside your normal duties but commensurate with your role to help maintain essential services.
  • There may be occasions when you will be required to attend the workplace to support the work of your School or Department and/or the wider University. 

How can I keep in contact with colleagues when working from home?

  • Working from home, for some people, might give rise to feelings of being isolated especially if the normal work setting is as part of a close team; you may find it helpful to book regular contact with colleagues and line managers
  • Forms of contact might include email, telephone, and Skype. Having a visual contact session may be preferable to using email or phone alone.

What IT support is available to me?

IT are working with colleagues across the University to ensure we can provide the right support during the current and evolving situation.

Working remotely

The best place to go for support about how to access services and attend meetings virtually are the IT Service web pages on remote working.

You will find information about how to connect to corporate systems, access files and email, and use Microsoft Teams for collaboration and video calls. As time progresses we will be offering support to colleagues through online chat and this can be found on the standard IT Service Desk. Chat will become a key way IT can support you when working remotely but at present our focus is preparing for homeworking so chat this week will be limited.

IT support during this period

At the moment calls to the IT Service Desk number are very high.  Before getting in touch we ask that you read through our guidance on remote working and using  Microsoft Teams

Otherwise you can get in touch in the usual ways and IT will, as always, get to you as soon as they can. We only ask colleagues for patience and understanding as they prioritise those calls that allow them to pre-emptively prepare for any disruption caused by the virus. This means it may take a little longer to respond to some calls than you might otherwise expect.

Do you have any advice on GDPR?

Data Protection – Best practice while working remotely

Worcester’s commitment to the protection of data is a vital component of how we all work. This applies onsite and equally when offsite in remote locations. It’s very important to remember that when we are not in the office, and where we might be working in different ways that we still adhere to the same stringent processes that protect people and data.

 - You can access personal data while working at home, as you would do in the office, if you need this to do your job.

  • You should not share this data with any unauthorised third parties, including the people you share your home with.
  • You may print documents with personal data or confidential information to enable you to do your job, but you MUST ensure that you do not mislay it.  When you have finished using it ensure safe and secure disposal by shredding or careful cross cutting by hand.
  • Where possible ensure that you lock personal data away when not in use, or when you are absent from your home workspace.
  • Apply password protection to computers, screensavers and documents and remember to log out/close any applications when you finish working.

 - You can share data securely by:

  • Via voice calls, either phone, Skype for Business or Teams – this also allows you to stay in touch
  • Using Onedrive to share information securely
  • Using a shared folder on the O drive
  • You can use email but be mindful that anything sent by email is more vulnerable to cyber-attacks. In addition, anything you put in writing is subject to disclosure under data protection law.  We therefore recommend that you keep personal data sharing by email to a minimum and use one of the other methods listed above.

If you are using your personal device to work remotely please ensure that when accessing any University files stored in OneDrive, SharePoint or those located on the O: drive, you must not download said files to your device. Work on these from within the Microsoft Office 365 applications or your web browser and save them back to the location they are stored in.

Further advice on remote working including instructions to add the O: drive to your personal device are located on the IT Service webpages found here or you can contact the IT helpdesk on 01905 85750 for further information.

If you are working on a personal device that is used by other members of your family or household you should endeavour to have a different account on that device for your work that they do not share. Where this is not possible - such as on single account devices - be very mindful to close any browser sessions you have open that connect to Worcester before handing the device to someone else. You should also be mindful that any cached credentials would give that person access to your accounts (email etc.) and that these should be cleared before the other users access the device.

Suspected Data Breaches

Any suspected data breaches MUST be reported as soon as you become aware of them, the sooner we are made aware the better chance we have to rectify the position.

You should report any suspected data breach, as usual, to infoassurance@worc.ac.uk and for this period we also request these are also sent to h.johnstone@worc.ac.uk and gemma.harris@worc.ac.uk.

We have 72 hours to investigate incidents and report them to the ICO so your urgent action is required.

You can find more information about Data Breaches via this weblink

Information Requests

Please also ensure that you pass on any requests for data made by individuals or organisations (Subject Access Requests or Freedom of Information requests) urgently as we are obligated to respond to these within strictly prescribed deadlines.   

Please send requests to foirequests@worc.ac.uk

Further guidance can be found at: https://www2.worc.ac.uk/informationassurance/information-security.html and https://www2.worc.ac.uk/it/remote-working.html

For any other queries in relation to personal data and working remotely that aren’t addressed here or via the above weblinks please contact the Information Governance Officer, Gemma Harris by email to: gemma.harris@worc.ac.uk

Are there any plans to re-open The Hive?

Plans are being put in place to re-open The Hive in July, with a limited number of services and opening hours to begin with.

The Hive is one of six libraries in Worcestershire planned to re-open on Saturday, July 4th, pending confirmation from Government, in line with phase three of Central Government’s relaxing of lockdown restrictions.

The re-opening will be carefully phased, managed and monitored. There will be a limited number of public computers available each day on a booking only basis. Meeting rooms and study spaces will not re-open to begin with and browsing the shelves for books will be replaced with a ‘Reserve & Collect’ service, where people can reserve items through Library Search and collect in person.

The Hive will initially be open from 10:00 to 17:00 Monday to Friday and 10:00 to 16:00 on Saturdays.

All library items on loan can be returned to any of the County’s libraries that will be open - the return dates for all items on loan will be extended to 31 August 2020.

In addition, the University’s Library Services will be restarting the digitisation service and continuing with online enquiries support, as well as access to online resources, and hopes to reintroduce the Interlibrary service as soon as the British Library re-open.

For the most up-to-date information check the Library Services webpages.

Where can I get support and advice?

We understand that you may have concerns or anxiety in relation to the current situation.

The University's Employee Assistance Programme can provide additional advice and support.  It is available to all University staff. The programme is run by Care first and offers, among other things, a helpline with confidential, 24-hour personal assistance from experienced counsellors. The helpline number is 0800 174319. If you have any other concerns about the virus, please contact your line manager.

For questions around furlough related issues see our furlough FAQs.

Submit a question

If you have a question that hasn’t been answered here, you can submit a question through our online form. These messages come into a central helpdesk, if you have an HR related question please contact your line manager in the first instance.