This page was last checked and updated on 15 July 2021. The content of this page is in the process of being updated in line with new government guidance and may be added to as further advice and guidance becomes available.

We have now moved to step 4 (the final stage of the government’s roadmap) from 19 July 2021.

If you can’t find the answer to your question, email covid19@dorsetcouncil.gov.uk

 

Workplace

Q1.  Do I need to wear a face mask when attending the office?
A1. The legal requirements to wear a face covering has been lifted in all settings although this was never a requirement in an office location. The government has advised that wearing a face covering will reduce your risk and the risk to others, where you come into contact with people you don’t normally meet in enclosed and crowded spaces.  Whilst there is no requirement to wear a face mask when attending council premises* we understand that some may choose to do so whilst others do not.  We must continue to respect personal choice.

*There may be some premises where there is a need to continue to follow COVID measures. We are awaiting further government guidance on this matter.

Q2. Do I need to social distance within the workplace?
A2.  Whilst the requirement to social distance (2 meters or 1 meter with additional mitigation) has been lifted you should continue to consider the risks of close contact with others, particularly if you are clinically extremely vulnerable or not yet fully vaccinated (please be mindful of others, bearing in mind that this may apply to others if not yourself). There may be a need in certain work settings to social distance to maintain appropriate infection prevention and control processes as necessary. The government will issue updated guidance based on the latest clinical evidence this summer.

Q3.  Am I required to work from home?
A3. The government instruction to work from home where employees are able to do so no longer applies. The government has advised they expect and recommend a gradual return to workplaces over the summer. We’ll keep you informed on this, but for now work from home if you can. Your manager will be discussing what returning to the workplace might look like with you and your colleagues as part of the Dorset Workplace.

Q4. Are our offices still following COVID-secure guidance?
A4.The COVID-secure requirements for workplaces has now been lifted. ‘Working Safely’ guidance will be updated to provide examples of sensible precautions that employers can take to reduce risk in their workplaces. Dorset Council will take account of this guidance in preparing the risk assessments we are already required to make under pre-pandemic health and safety rules.

To ensure good ventilation in our offices, windows should be opened in meeting rooms and office spaces (including open plan office spaces) when they are in use. We strongly recommend colleagues continue to follow infection control measures such as washing hands, wiping down surfaces (including meeting room tables and desks) after use with the cleaning kits provided, and using the hand sanitiser provided.

The government advisory guidance sets out how the following behaviours are beneficial:

  1. Meeting in well-ventilated areas where possible, such as outdoors or indoors with windows open.
  2. Wearing a face covering where you come into contact with people you don’t normally meet in enclosed and crowded spaces.
  3. Washing your hands with soap and water or using hand sanitiser regularly throughout the day.
  4. Covering your nose and mouth when you cough and sneeze.
  5. Staying at home if unwell, to reduce the risk of passing on other illnesses onto friends, family, colleagues, and others in your community.
  6. Considering individual risks, such as clinical vulnerabilities and vaccination status.

Q5. What is the guidance for holding meetings with colleagues?
A5. There are no restrictions on how many people can meet in any setting, indoors or outdoors.  The government advisory guidance suggests meeting in well-ventilated areas where possible, such as outdoors or indoors with windows open as well as other mitigation that you may which to consider.  Colleagues may choose to practice social distancing or wear a face covering if they choose to do so but there is no requirement to do this. It is important that we respect our colleague’s personal choices in this regard.

To ensure good ventilation in our offices, windows should be opened in meeting rooms and office spaces (including open plan office spaces) when they are in use. We strongly recommend colleagues continue to follow infection control measures including wiping down meeting room tables with the cleaning kits provided.

Q6. I am a frontline employee.  Do I need to continue to social distance/wear a face covering?
A6. While no longer mandatory, we are recommending that measures such as face coverings, respecting each other’s space, hand hygiene and cleaning regimes all stay in place. We will politely ask customers to do the same, however, it will now be personal choice. All recommendations are strongly encouraged to help us keep you and our customers safe. Posters have been created that you can download (PDF) and put up if you work in an environment that has customers – contact the design team designers@dorsetcouncil.gov.uk

Travel

Q1.  What are the restrictions around travelling outside of the UK?
A2. There is no longer a legal restriction or permitted reason required to travel internationally. A traffic light system for international travel has been introduced, and you must follow the rules when returning to England depending on whether you return from a red, amber or green list country. These risk ratings are kept under regular review, updated every three weeks, or more urgently if the health picture dictates.

Q2. What if I am required to quarantine on my return to the UK?
A2. If you choose to travel outside of the UK, you will be going so fully aware of the quarantine requirements on re-entering the UK and the risk of other countries being moved within the traffic light system at any time.  Variants will continue to emerge globally in the coming months and years, and there may be variants which evade immune responses, weakening the protection given by vaccines. Accordingly, the risk ratings are kept under review.

If the government requirement at the time of your return to the UK is to self-isolate, then there will be no provision of paid leave.

You will need to take additional leave (paid or unpaid) to cover the period of isolation unless it is agreed that you can work from home.

It is advisable that you notify your manager of your wish to travel outside of the UK so there is an understanding of the workplace situation should you require to self-isolate on your return. If you knowingly plan to travel to a country on the red or amber list (those requiring a period of isolation on return to the UK) then it is essential that your manager is aware of this.

Q3. Can my manager refuse my request for annual leave based on the need to quarantine?
A3. All requests for annual leave are approved at the discretion of your manager who will take a number of considerations into account, such as maintenance of service delivery and the need for employees who have worked hard throughout the crisis to have time for rest and recuperation, the impact on the service of a period of self-isolation and any extenuating circumstances that they are made aware of.

You must make your manager aware that you intend to travel to a red or amber county (those requiring a period of isolation on return to the UK) and your manager will need to consider any impact a potential self-isolation period may have on service provision when approving any request for annual leave.

Awaiting second vaccination

Q1. I have only received one vaccination dose and am concerned about returning to the workplace before I am fully vaccinated.  Can I continue working from home?
A1. It is important that you discuss your concerns with your manager so they can work through these with you.  If it is possible for you to continue to work from home, then we will continue to support you to do so.

Q2. I have only received one vaccination dose and have been working in a COVID secure environment.  Now that all COVID secure restrictions have been lifted I am concerned about continuing to work whilst I am not fully vaccinated. How will you support me?
A2. It is important that you discuss your concerns with your manager so they can work through these with you.

Recovering from COVID-19

Q1.  I am recovering from COVID-19.  What support is available to me?
A1.  We understand that this can be a difficult time as you come to terms with the impact of the virus on your mind and body.  In addition to the support available from your GP and other health care professionals, the NHS has helpful information about supporting your recovery.

COVID-19 testing

Q1. If I have Covid 19 symptoms, who organises a test?
A1. You should self-refer for testing via https://www.gov.uk/get-coronavirus-test.
If you or a family member has covid symptoms and you are an essential worker, you should tick the relevant box on the self-referral portal to indicate your status. This will ensure you receive a prioritised slot.

Covid19 Testing and Vaccination – time off and payment for employees

Q1. Will I receive paid time off/payment to attend an appointment for a COVID19 test?
A.1. Where there is an occupational requirement,

  • employees will be paid irrespective of when the test takes place.
  • travel costs will be paid.

Where there is no occupational requirement

  • Where the test falls within an employee’s usual working hours paid time off will be allowed.
  • Travel costs won’t be paid.

Q2. Will I receive paid time off/payment to attend an appointment for a COVID19 vaccination?
A.2. Where there is an occupational requirement,

  • employees will be paid irrespective of when the vaccination takes place.
  • travel costs will be paid.

Where there is no occupational requirement

  • Where the vaccination falls within an employee’s usual working hours paid time off will be allowed.
  • Travel costs won’t be paid.

Q.3. How do I record my time for attending for a test or vaccination?
A.3. Paid medical appointments should be recorded in DES as ‘Appointments (Paid)’ and the total amount of working time to be credited should be agreed by the individual’s line manager in accordance with guidelines agreed by SLT above. Employees without access to DES should enter this in their timesheet.

Pregnant employees

Q1. Where can I find the latest advice for pregnant workers?

A1. The latest advice for pregnant employees can be accessed via the following link: Coronavirus (COVID-19): advice for pregnant employees – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

Clinically extremely vulnerable

Q1. I am clinically extremely vulnerable and I am concerned about returning to the workplace.  How will I be supported to do so?
A1. If you are clinically extremely vulnerable, shielding restrictions were lifted from 21 April 2021 and the government advised that a return to a COVID – secure workplace would be possible from this date. Step 4 of the roadmap effective from 19 July 2021 removes the COVID-secure requirements.

Whether you have returned to work to a COVID-secure environment, been able to work from home or been unable to work during the pandemic it is understandable that you may be anxious as we move to the step 4 of the roadmap and COVID-secure requirements are lifted.

Our position is to complete a COVID-19 risk assessment with you to help understand the risks and work through how to minimise these as far as possible including the consideration of different working options and measures that you may wish to take such as wearing a face mask.  The expectation is that you will return to work and the previous paid leave provision has now ceased now that we have moved to step 4 of the roadmap.  Please be assured that your safety and wellbeing is our priority and our aim is to work together to support you back to the workplace and/or minimise any anxiety around the transition to step 4.

We acknowledge that this has been an extremely difficult time for everyone but in particular those who are have been shielding and in high risk groups.

Work and self-isolation

Q1. What do I do if I have the symptoms of the COVID-19?
A1.The most common symptoms are recent onset of:

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

If you or a member of your household have these symptoms you must follow the government guidance and isolate/stay at home for the recommended period.

You are now able to order a test immediately at www.nhs.uk/coronavirus or call 119 if you have no internet access.

If your test is positive, you must complete the remainder of the government recommended self-isolation period. Anyone in your household must also complete self-isolation for the government recommended period from when you started having symptoms. If your test is negative, you and other household members no longer need to self-isolate

If you test positive for coronavirus, the NHS test and trace service will send you a text or email alert or call you with instructions of how to share details of people with whom you have had close, recent contact and places you have visited. It is important that you respond as soon as possible so that we can give appropriate advice to those who need it. You will be told to do this online via a secure website or you will be called by one of our contract tracers.

If you have any concerns about your symptoms, please use the NHS 111 online coronavirus service.

Q2.  I have been contacted by the NHS test and trace service because I have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for coronavirus. What do I need to do?
A2. You need to follow the government guidance for the track and trace service and self-isolation even if you do not have any symptoms.

Q3. What are the arrangements if I need to self-isolate?
A3. You will work from home when your job role allows you to and you are fit to do so.

You should use your normal time recording system. You should follow the guidelines to ensure that you are working safely in the home environment.

If you are unable to work from home as your job does not allow you to do so, paid leave will be given during the recommended isolation period. This will not be regarded as an absence due to sickness and will not count towards occupational sick pay provisions or for sickness absence monitoring purposes.

You must advise your manager as soon as possible of the need to self-isolate. If you are unable to work from home during the period of isolation and have access to DES record the period of absence in the paid leave section and select the self-isolation/quarantine leave.  It is important that this is recorded so the organisation is aware of the impact of self-isolation across the workforce.

If you hold responsibilities such as first aider or fire warden please make your manager aware so that we can mitigate any impact of absence from the workplace.

Q4. What if I become unfit for work during a period of self-isolation?
A4. If you are unfit for work during a self-isolation period, the days which you are unfit for work will be classed as sickness absence and normal sickness absence procedures will be followed. 

Q5.What happens if someone in my household is required to self-isolate?
A5.If  you or a member of your household show possible symptoms you must follow the government guidance and stay at home (previously referred to as self-isolation) for the recommended period.

If you have any concerns about your symptoms, please use the NHS 111 online coronavirus service.
 

Q6. What happens if I have been told to self-isolate when I am on a period of annual leave?
A6.The period of self-isolation will not be regarded as annual leave and will not be deducted from your allowance.  You will need to inform your manager as soon as you have been instructed to self-isolate even although you are on leave.  Please also see work and leave section.

Q7: I am due to go into hospital and I’ve been instructed to self-isolate beforehand.  What do I need to know?
A7: If you are having surgery or a procedure:

  • you, the people you live with and anyone in your support bubble may need to self-isolate for a specified period before you go into hospital
  • you may need a test to check if you have coronavirus before you go into hospital, your hospital will contact you with more information about what you need to do

If you are not already on sick pay, you will remain on normal full pay for the duration of the self-isolation period. If you are able to work from home (either in your own role or on alternative duties), you should continue to do so.

Work and leave

Q1. What are the interim annual leave arrangements for carry forward of unused leave?
A1. In response to the Covid19 situation, the annual leave carry forward maximum of 5 days has been removed, and all unused annual leave as at 31 March 2020 will be carried forward to the 2020-2021 leave year. This applies to all annual leave years – not just those that run from 1 April – 31 March.  This temporary arrangement will apply for the 2021/2022 leave year

You are encouraged to take as take annual leave to support your health and wellbeing and recuperation during this time.

Q2. I have approved leave booked. Is there a possibility that I will be asked to cancel or postpone my leave?
A2.It may be necessary to ask you to cancel or postpone leave if cases of sickness absence and/or self-isolation affect our ability to deliver services. If this is required we will provide as much notice as possible and due regard will be given to individual circumstances and potential financial hardship that may result from booked leave being cancelled.

Q3. I have approved leave booked, but my holiday has now been deferred to a later date. Can my leave be transferred to this new date?
A3. Employees can request that booked leave be transferred to later in the year, for example if a tour operator has offered alternative dates. The manager will consider this request based on the requirements of the service and staff resource at that time.

Q4. Can my manager refuse my leave request where a number of the team have put forward requests?
A4. Where multiple leave requests are received, the manager will approve requests based on service requirements in the normal way. Employees need to appreciate that the service still needs to operate. A request for leave may be refused in this situation.

Work and family/caring for others

Q1. What happens if my child’s school/nursery/preschool setting has to temporarily close, my child has to isolate or my childcare arrangements break down due to an outbreak of Covid/Public Health Guidance?
A1. You are encouraged that wherever possible you work flexibly to complete your role (i.e. working from home and/or completing work outside of standard working times) and seek alternative care arrangements in line with the government guidance for self-isolation where this applies.

However, we understand that during this time caring responsibilities can prevent you from being able to undertake your role in full or in part.

Your manager will discuss individual arrangements with you, ensuring that all options for childcare where permitted are exhausted, including your ability to take annual leave over this period, before any agreement is in place to continue to recognise any unworked hours due to caring for a child/children as paid leave.  Please note that the option of paid leave will only apply where it is the decision of the school or child-care provider that children should not attend or where the government guidance for self-isolation applies.

You continue to have access to a statutory right to a period of unpaid time off to care for dependents where you do not meet the criteria for paid leave.

Q2. I am caring for a dependent family member at home as well as trying to work. How am I expected to balance everything?
A2. We acknowledge that there continue to be a number of employees that are faced with difficult challenge of a balancing work and care responsibilities as a result of COVID particularly as residential care homes and care services may be stretched.

You are encouraged where possible to:

  • seek alternative care arrangements to enable you to undertake your role within the council
  • work flexibly to complete your role (i.e. working from home and/or completing work outside of standard working times).

However, we understand that during this time caring responsibilities can prevent you from being able to undertake your role in full or in part.

Your manager will discuss individual arrangements with you, ensuring that all options for care are exhausted, including your ability to take annual leave over this period, before any agreement is in place to continue to recognise any unworked hours due to caring for a dependent as paid leave.

If you have alternative caring options available to you but choose not to use these, then you will be required to take annual leave or unpaid leave for any time that you are unable to work.

Q3. I am struggling with pressures that the pandemic has placed on me. Is there any support available?
A3. We appreciate that this is an extraordinary difficult time for everyone and the extra responsibility for caring for others/home schooling can feel overwhelming. We recommend that you discuss with your manager so that they are aware of how you are feeling.

Q4. Can I suspend my childcare vouchers until I can use them again?
A4. It’s possible to remain in the scheme with a low or nil payment for a limited period of time, so that you won’t lose the entitlement to the salary sacrifice scheme as long as you reduce the contribution rather than leaving the scheme. Kiddivouchers will be able to advise you. The Kiddivouchers website will have more information or you can email them at info@kiddivouchers.com or telephone them on 0800 612 9015 quoting the council’s scheme number S278391T.

Work and pay

Q1. Can I claim any tax relief whilst working from home?
A1. Employees may be entitled to claim tax relief on additional household expenses they’ve incurred, such as heating and lighting. To make a claim go to GOV.UK and search ‘claim tax relief for your job expenses’. It’s quick and secure, and those who are eligible will receive their entitlement by an adjustment to their tax code.

Rapid testing for frontline employees

Q1. What is the purpose of rolling out Lateral Flow Device (LFD) testing?
A1. LFD testing is used to pick up some of those who have Covid-19 but don’t have symptoms. This will help make sure individuals and their contacts can isolate as soon as possible and reduce the spread of the infection. Evidence suggests that in some instances the test will also identify people at an early stage of infection before they develop symptoms. It does not allow us to go back to a normal way of life or to change how we are currently working. We must all continue to follow infection prevention and national guidance both in and outside of the workplace and should not change our behaviour following a negative test.

Q2. What is an LFD test?  How does this differ from a normal Covid-19 test?
A2. An LFD test is similar to a pregnancy kit. A swab is taken from the nose and throat and the sample swab is added to a fluid in the test kit which releases particles of the virus if these are present. Normal Covid-19 tests need to be processed in a laboratory which takes longer, but swabs processed using the LFDs receive results in 30 minutes.

Q3. Which employees are eligible?
A3. All adults in England can now take regular rapid tests. You can also collect kits from participating pharmacies or order them online to be delivered to your home. You can find full details here.

Q4. Do I have to be tested?
A4. Tests are voluntary, but we encourage you to be involved in the testing as this will benefit you, your family and those you are working with as part of your job role.

Q5. Will LFDs pick up the new strain of Covid-19?
A5. Yes, the LFDs will pick up all existing strains in circulation.

Q6. What happens if I get a positive LFD result?
A6. You and your household must isolate immediately until you receive your result, as set out in the government guidance.

Q7. If I have had a positive Covid-19 test, when should I start LFD testing again?
A7. You should start LFD testing 90 days after your positive test was taken. The LFD programme is currently running for 12 weeks so it may be that you will not be able to take part in the programme.

Q8. What happens if my test is negative, but I have Covid-19 symptoms?
A8. The LFD can give false negative results, so if you have any Covid symptoms, you must book a Covid-19 test at www.gov.uk/get-coronavirus-test as soon as possible. You and your household must isolate immediately until you receive your results. If you have any Covid symptoms, please don’t attend your LFD test.

Q9. I have received a void test result. What does this mean?
A9. In a small number of tests, the sample cannot be read properly, and it is not possible to say if the sample was positive or negative. The sample will be reported as void. You should have your next LFD test as planned the following week and book a normal Covid-19 test if you develop symptoms.

Q10. Will regular LFD testing allow me to go back to a more normal way of life?
A10. Unfortunately, no. LFD testing will identify about 50 per cent of those who have the virus with no symptoms. If you receive a negative LFD test this does not guarantee that you do not have Covid-19. Those with low levels of virus are more likely to test negative. You must continue to follow all infection control and national guidelines both in and outside of work.

Q11. Do I still need to go and have a LFD test if I have had a Covid-19 vaccine?
A11. Yes. Though you may have had a COVID-19 vaccine you can still be at risk of transmitting the disease without knowing to another person. It’s important to know that 1 in 3 people who have the virus don’t have any symptoms.

Other questions

Q1.Where can I go for further information?
A1.We recommend the following trusted websites which are regularly updated with any new developments, advice and guidance.

Public Health England’s national advice

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