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University of Bath

Returning to work on campus: guidance for managers

This guidance applies to all staff returning to work on campus and should be used by line managers to support their team during this time.

Introduction

For many staff, the transition to remote working happened very quickly and many have become accustomed to this way of working and adapted well. While it will be important for us as an institution to ensure we do not lose the flexibility and creativity in working that we have developed during the period of lockdown, it is inevitable that we’ll need some colleagues to return to working on campus in some form or other over the coming weeks.

The pandemic has had a big impact on people’s lives and there will be differing levels of anxiety about the prospect of returning to work on campus. This guide aims to support managers in preparing their staff to return with confidence and with the knowledge of how they can help the University ensure a COVID-secure work environment.

It should be noted that a separate, longer term piece of work is underway to help us to identify new ways of working based on what we can learn from the experiences during lockdown.

Scope

This guidance applies to all staff returning to work on campus, taking part in activities that have been approved by the Summer Restart Priority Group and its successors. Managers should not begin any new campus work without authorisation.

Responsibilities

The expectation is that where staff need to be present on campus to perform all or some of their role, Heads of Department and line managers are responsible for managing their work areas to provide safe working conditions, complying with the University’s guidance and requirements for COVID-secure work spaces.

Line managers should provide all returning employees with information about the practical arrangements for return, including the risk assessments that have been carried out and any specific mitigating measures that have been undertaken.

Employees should discuss with their manager any concerns they have about working on campus and any further control measures that may need to be taken.

Preparing to return

It is important to plan the return to the workplace in advance so that you’re able to deal with any concerns or queries in a timely way. Here are some initial tips:

  • Engage early with the health and safety requirements, including completing the COVID-specific risk assessment and the Line Manager Risk Assessment Checks template and preparing the building for re-opening in collaboration with the relevant professional services.

  • The aim is to be able to manage your work areas so that your team is able to work effectively while practising the required social distancing.

  • Heads of Department are responsible for signing off managers’ risk assessments and the necessary actions identified to ensure safe working.

  • Start talking to your colleagues now about returning to campus. Share your plans for the building with them so they can understand the practical measures that are being put into place to ensure their safety.

  • Encourage colleagues to work together to plan the return to campus.

  • Encourage colleagues who have any concerns to discuss these with you now so that you can work together ahead of any return to campus (further information is available below).

  • Where feasible, arrange for members of the team to return to their work building for a short visit so they can visualise how working back on campus will operate.

  • Make it clear that there is no expectation or requirement for staff to work exclusively on campus at this time, unless of course their role requires it, and where it is possible to perform some aspects of the role at home they should continue to do so. Discuss with your team how a rota can be established to enable colleagues to work effectively remotely and on campus wherever possible.

  • Ensure that all staff have completed relevant training prior to returning to campus or in the small number of cases where this is not possible, that provisions are made to enable this prior to staff starting any work.

Personal circumstances

There are a number of personal circumstances that affect people’s confidence and ability to return to campus working. These include:

  • Having an underlying heath condition that makes them particularly vulnerable to COVID-19

  • Colleagues from parts of the population disproportionately affected by COVID-19, such as members of the BAME community or those over the age of 70

  • Being pregnant

  • Having a close family member that they are living with or have caring responsibilities for who fall into any of the categories above

  • Having childcare responsibilities due to the closure or partial closure of schools or nurseries

Please make sure all your staff have completed their personal COVID-19 health questionnaire.

In addition, you may find that you have some staff who have none of the above, but who are nevertheless reluctant to return to working on campus.

In the first instance, it is important to have an honest dialogue with the staff member to establish whether they have any health reasons or anxieties about returning to campus. If you are aware that a colleague falls into one of the categories above, you should make contact with them to offer your support to them pro-actively rather than waiting for them to contact you.

It will be very important for you to talk to people who have expressed any concerns to offer them support and to reassure them about the arrangements being put into place to keep them safe while on campus. If they are unable to attend campus, you should ensure that they have the necessary support to work effectively at home.

  • For any health-related individual circumstances that cannot be resolved in terms of establishing a working pattern, consider a referral to your HR Operations Team for further Occupational Heath advice.

  • Prepare an individualised risk assessment to address specific concerns that require an individualised response.

We are aiming to reach a position where those staff who need to work on campus feel confident to do so, and where arrangements for remote and campus working are complementary and effective. However, there may be an exceptional case where agreement cannot be reached. In this situation it will be important for you to discuss how to resolve this with the support of your HR Advisor.

You should also discuss any cases with your HR Advisor where colleagues have retained childcare responsibilities as a result of choosing not to allow their child to return to school or nursery.

Following return

Once your colleagues are back working on campus, it will be important to monitor the situation so that you’re able to deal with any issues quickly and effectively. Here are some further tips:

  • Check in with your colleagues regularly to see how they are and to deal with any concerns or queries that they may have.

  • If your teams are working on a rota basis, or working non-conventional hours, ensure that you manage your time so that you are on campus at different times and are therefore able to meet with all members of your team face to face.

  • Follow up on the risk assessments to make sure that they are being complied with and intervene quickly if they aren’t. It may be necessary to make changes to working practices once people are back working on campus. Make sure that you liaise with the relevant colleagues in SHEW when doing so.

  • Encourage a culture that enables people to speak up if they’re feeling uncomfortable (e.g. if someone isn’t complying with the social distancing rules). Ensure that those who don’t feel comfortable doing this directly know that they should speak to their line manager.

  • Listen to the concerns of your team and act on them.

  • Continue to manage holiday effectively to make sure appropriate staffing levels are maintained at all times.

  • Remind colleagues regularly that if they, or a member of their household, develop symptoms of COVID-19, then they must strictly follow the government’s isolation procedures and not come to campus. Colleagues should advise their line manager as soon as is possible of any test outcomes. If the test is positive but the person is well enough (and their role allows it) they can work remotely, but they should not risk making their health worse and should report sickness absence if they are too unwell to work.

Furloughed Staff

Staff who have been placed on furlough may have had a considerable period out of the workplace, and will not necessarily be aware of what has happened, what has changed and how the rest of the department / team is working now. It’s therefore important that they are re-inducted into the workplace effectively so that they can resume their work. You should ensure that all staff returning have accessed the re-induction resources being prepared by the University.

In addition to one-to-one conversations with returning staff, you may also wish to consider:

  • Offering the returning staff member a “buddy” from among the staff who have not been furloughed.

  • Holding team meetings (with appropriate social distancing) to update them on any changes to the workplace and work practices.

  • Having one to one meetings/telephone calls with those who have known personal circumstances described above so that their concerns can be addressed prior to their return to campus.

Sources of support

The HR Operations Team, HR Advisors and the Safety, Health and Employee Wellbeing service are all available for further support and guidance. TU reps are also available to support their members.