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Coronavirus (COVID-19): updates and advice, including help if you are struggling financially

Employee coronavirus FAQs

COVID-19 testing for Dorset Council employees

Q1. Can I register myself through the National Employer Referral System for a test?
A1. No. The National Employer Referral System is for use by employers only who are referring key workers for testing. Dorset Council employees are to be nominated for testing through the national referral system. Your manager will contact you to let you know that you have been nominated for testing as you have Covid19 symptoms or you are self-isolating due to someone in your household having Covid19 symptoms. You will receive a text with a link to book a test at your preferred location.

Q2.  If I wanted to be tested, can I organise this myself?
A2. Yes, you can self-refer for testing via www.gov.uk

Q3. My manager has contacted me to say I have been nominated for Covid19 testing, what do I do now?
A3. You will receive a text with a link to book a test at your preferred location.

Q3. What do I need to provide to my manager in order to be tested?
A3. Your manager will ask you for your mobile telephone number (or the mobile number for a member of your household if you do not have one).

Q4. What happens after I have been tested?
A4. Results will take up to 72 hours and will be sent to you by text message. It is your responsibility to notify your manager of the results.

Q5. What do I do when I receive my test results?
A5. Once you have told your manager your results, they will confirm the next steps. Either plan for a return to work or a required period of self-isolation.

Q6. I am living with someone who has Covid19 symptoms, can they be tested?
A6. Yes, if you are self-isolating because someone in your household has symptoms they can be put forward for testing.

If you want a member of your household tested, including children over the age of 5, the non DC employee details need to be sent to Covid19 mailbox –  covid19@dorsetcouncil.gov.uk. Details required are the name of the person to be tested, and a mobile number.

Q7. I have had Covid19 symptoms recently, can I still be tested?
A7. Individuals will be identified for testing if they currently have Covid19 symptoms. If you have had symptoms in the past but are ok now, you will not be referred for testing.

Q8. I haven’t had Covid19 symptoms but I am a keyworker, can I still be tested?
A8. Only individuals that currently have Covid19 symptoms will be referred for testing at the current time.

Q9. I am self isolating as I am on the vulnerable or shielding list, can I be tested?
A9. For those that have received a letter from their GP or the NHS, you will need to remain self isolating for the 12 week period. Only those that are working but are experiencing Covid19 symptoms will be referred at the current time.

Q10. I have Covid19 symptoms, can members of my family be tested?
A10. No, only you as an employee of Dorset Council will be referred for testing.

Q11. Will I get paid for the time it takes to attend testing if I am not scheduled to be at work when the appointment comes through?
A11. You should record the time as flexi or Toil. If you do not claim flexi or TOIL as part of your normal working arrangements, then these hours will be paid in this instance. You will need to claim these hours as additional hours.

Q12. Will I be able to claim mileage for travelling to the testing site?
A12. Yes, any travel to the test site can be claimed as business mileage in the usual way.

Q13. What if I do not want to be tested and do not attend an appointment?
A13. If you are identified for testing it is important that you attend any appointment.  If you have any concerns about the process or difficulties in attending the appointment you should discuss this with your line manager.

Q14. What if I feel too ill to attend the appointment?
A14. When you are contacted by the National Referral Unit, inform them that this is the case and alternative means for testing will be arranged.

Q15. As a manager, what do I do if a member of my team reports they have Covid19 symptoms?
A15. You will need to update DES immediately with the absence reason recorded as Covid19. This information will then be picked up via the daily DES reporting that is sent to the Single Point of Contact (SPOC) within the Directorate and the HR Business Partner. The SPOC will liaise with the manager to confirm whether the individual is eligible for testing and obtain a mobile telephone number, where this is not already captured in DES. The employee’s details are sent to the National Employer Referral Unit who will contact the employee directly regarding the testing process. The SPOC will confirm with the manager that the individual has been referred for testing and the manager needs to inform the individual.

All arrangements for taking the test are made between the employee and the National Employer Referral Unit.

The exception to this would be for providing details of the individual who the key worker is putting forward for testing, if it is not themselves. So, all recording and information relating to the keyworker needs to be put into DES. If the keyworker wants a member of their household tested, the non DC employee details need to be sent to Covid19 mailbox by the keyworker - covid19@dorsetcouncil.gov.uk.

Q16. How will the new testing programme work for schools staff?
A16. The testing is for key workers who are self-isolating with symptoms or who are self-isolating because a family member has symptoms. If you have any employees that currently meet these criteria and you would like to book a test at one of the  testing facilities please email:  covid19@dorsetcouncil.gov.uk and provide the following information:

  • organisational identifier e.g. staff number (optional)
  • key worker’s name
  • mobile number
  • personal email address
  • employing organisation
  • name of person for testing (if not the key worker)
  • mobile number of person for testing (if not the key worker)

Further information is available at: www.dorsetcouncil.gov.uk/employee-info.  If you have any questions not covered on our website please email:  covid19@dorsetcouncil.gov.uk

Q17. Can children be tested?
A17. If an essential worker is self-isolating due to an under-18 in their household showing coronavirus symptoms, the child is eligible for a test.

Test kits are only suitable for children over 5 years old. If your child is aged over 12 years old, then they can use the test themselves or have a parent/guardian perform the test.

Children age 5-12 must have the test administered by a parent/guardian.

If your child is under 5 years old, they are not suitable for testing at the testing centre. Alternative arrangements will be made if they need to be tested.

If your child has coronavirus symptoms, please follow current NHS guidance https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19

Q18. What will the test tell me?
A18. The test will confirm if an individual who is showing symptoms of the virus currently has it. It will not confirm whether they have had it and have now recovered. Like any diagnostic test however, there is always the small possibility of a false negative or a false positive result.

If you received a negative result you can return to work immediately, but only if you are well enough. If all household member(s) test comes back negative you can return to work, but self-isolate straight away if you or they later develop symptoms.

If any member of the household receives a positive result, please continue to follow the national guidance.

Q19. How does the test work?
A19. The test involves taking a swab of the throat and nose. A single swab is used to collect a sample from the back of your throat and your nose. This swab is then placed into a sample tube and securely packaged, where it is sent to the lab for testing. Depending on where you get tested, you will either have a trained member of our team take your swab or be asked to do it yourself.

Q20. Why is it ok to take a single swab?
A20. Providing satisfactory samples are taken from both the back of the throat and the nose, a single swab is perfectly adequate and consistent with Public Health England guidance on appropriate collection of samples of this type.

Q21. Does the test hurt? How long does it take?
A21. You may experience some mild discomfort and you may feel a gagging sensation, but it should not hurt. How long it takes depends slightly on the person, but it is a quick process and is usually completed within a matter of minutes.

Q22. Who takes the swab?
A22. A number of individuals have been trained to take your swab, including health care professionals, employees of Boots the Chemist and military personnel.

Q23. How long does it take to get the results?
A23. Test results will be sent to you within 72 hours of a swab being taken. You must inform your employer of the result of your test.

Q24. Who do I contact if I don’t understand my test results?
A24. If you do not understand your test result and you are concerned about your health and wellbeing following your test result, please contact NHS 111 or your local GP.

Q25. If I test negative, and then later I develop symptoms, can I get tested again?
A25. Yes. If you are experiencing coronavirus symptoms, your employer may refer you again to be tested.

Q26. If you previously tested positive for coronavirus and have another episode of symptoms, do you need to self-isolate again?
A26. If your first illness was so severe you were prioritised for a coronavirus test and the result was positive, you will probably have developed immunity to coronavirus. Your new symptoms are very unlikely to be due to coronavirus and therefore you and your household do not need to isolate.

However, if another person in your household develops symptoms and they have not previously tested positive for coronavirus, then they need to isolate along with all other members of the household except for you (as you have already tested positive).

If you are concerned about your new possible coronavirus symptoms (a new, continuous cough or a high temperature), use the 111-coronavirus service https://111.nhs.uk/covid-19/ or call NHS 111.

For up to the minute information for households with possible coronavirus, please see refer to the national guidance

Q27. How reliable is the test?
A27. The test is reliable and effective if performed at the right time. There are different tests in use under this programme and all have been assessed as performing to manufacturers specifications before being used. In addition, the newly established Lighthouse laboratories that will undertake the majority of the tests have been reviewed by experts as part of their set up and each has a clinical virology lead.

Further information is available via the following link: www.dorsetcouncil.gov.uk/employee-info.  If you have any questions not covered on the Dorset Council website please email covid19@dorsetcouncil.gov.uk

Working during the coronavirus emergency

We understand that you'll have many work-related questions.

Work and your health

Q1. What happens if I have an underlying medical condition that could make me more vulnerable to COVID-19?

A1. The government has advised that all citizens must follow the stay at home guidance. This is even more important for those whom the government have identified to be in an at risk group which is detailed within the Government's advice and guidance.

If you have been identified as a clinically extremely vulnerable person NHS England will be contacting you to provide further advice around shielding.  Shielding is a measure to protect extremely vulnerable people by minimising interaction between those who are extremely vulnerable and others. This means that those who are extremely vulnerable should not leave their homes, and within their homes should minimise all non-essential contact with other members of their household. This is to protect those who are at very high risk of severe illness from coronavirus (COVID-19) from coming into contact with the virus.

We hope that you will be able to work from home, however, if you are unable to work from home and are in a high risk group then you will receive full pay for the period that the governments suggested shielding measures are in place (currently at least 12 weeks).

You must advise your manager as soon as possible of the need to shield and discuss what can be put in place to assist you to continue to carry out your work from home if possible.

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.

If you have not been identified as needing to shield, but have concerns, please contact your manager to highlight any issues that you may have.

Q2. I am unable to obtain a Fit Note/Med 3 Form from my GP due to surgeries being inundated with callers. How will this affect my entitlement to occupational sick pay?

A2. The normal requirement for a fit note (Med 3 form) will be waived in accordance with the recommendation from Public Health England. There will be no impact on occupational sick pay. Otherwise the normal absence notification procedures will continue.

Q3. I am pregnant and unable to obtain my MATB1 form due to my surgery being inundated with callers. How will this affect my occupation maternity leave and pay?

A3. You will be asked for an application for maternity leave with the expected date of confinement being accepted if you cannot obtain a MATB1 from your surgery.

Q4. Do I need to continue to work if I am being advised to ensure social distancing due to my age, an underlying health condition or pregnancy?

A4. Where you fall into one of the above categories the council recognises the need for you to do all you can to socially distance yourself from others.  

In such circumstances we would advise you speak to your manager about ways in which your role can be adapted to allow you to continue to work whilst ensuring appropriate social distancing.  This might include working in a different office location where you will be able to work without close contact with others, working from home or a temporary change of duties.  

If it is not possible for you to adapt the work that you do to allow you to ensure social distancing, we recommend that you remain at home.  If you are advised to remain at home, we will ensure that you continue to be paid during this time.

Work and self-isolation

A1. What do I do if I have the symptoms of the COVID-19? 

Q1. The most common symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19) are recent onset of:

  • new continuous cough and/or
  • high temperature

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

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

Q2. What are the arrangements if I need to self-isolate?

A2. 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.

Q3. What if I become unfit for work during a period of self-isolation?

A3. 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.

Q4. What happens if someone in my household is required to self-isolate?

A4. 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.

Q5. What happens if I have been told to self-isolate when I am on a period of annual leave?

A5. 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. 

Q6. I live with in the same household as someone who has a serious health condition.  My householder hasn’t been advised to “shield” as they are not classed as extremely vulnerable (they haven’t received a letter from their G.P. instructing them to self-isolate for 12 weeks).  There is no one in my household who are showing symptoms.  My role does not lend itself to working from home, can I self-isolate?

A6. The Public Health England advice is that you do not need to self-isolate unless you or a householder have symptoms.  You should however follow the Public Health England’s advice about social distancing at work and hand washing.

Work and pay

Q1. Will I still get paid if I am a casual worker in a service that is closed?

A1. If you have worked with the council on a regular basis with a routine working pattern over the course of the last three months we will ensure you continue to get paid during any period of enforced closure due to COVID-19.  Pay will be calculated on the basis of your average earnings over the previous 12-week period.

If you have worked with the council on an ad hoc basis no payment will be made.

Q2. Will I still get paid if I am an agency worker in a service that is closed?

A2. If you are engaged in work on an agency basis and the duration of any agreed assignment is likely to exceed any period of closure the council will continue to honour the agreement to pay you for work during this period.

Q3. What exactly are the enhanced payments, and which roles are eligible to receive these?

A3.  Employees will continue to receive enhancements for weekend and bank holiday working in line with the terms set out in their contract of employment. SLT have agreed that time and a half payment for weekend working and triple time payment for working the bank holidays over the Easter period could be agreed where:

  • Employees are required to work weekends and bank holidays where it is not an expected or typical requirement of the role
  • There is a need to mobilise the workforce to work differently at short notice, creating disruption to lives
  • Non-payment of higher-level enhancements could result in poor service or service failure

Decisions to increase any level of enhancement need to be made at Corporate Director level or above.

Q4. When will the enhanced payments for weekend and public holiday cease?

A4. The enhanced payments will stop and revert to the normal contractual when the government announce they are reducing the status to recovery. We will communicate the change of status at the appropriate time.

Q5. On what basis will I get paid if I am employed on a zero-hours contract in an area of service that is forced to close?

A5. Your pay during any period of closure will be based on an average weekly wage, calculated on the basis of your average earnings over the previous 12-week period.

Q6. Can I claim any tax relief whilst working from home?

A6. Advice from our tax specialists states that the current temporary requirement to work from home does not meet the necessary HMRC criteria for tax relief to be applied.

Workplace and the coronavirus

Can I pop into the office to pick something up or do some printing?

Yes but you must follow the guidelines on social distancing and infection control measures.

Do not use a desk if you visit an office, unless you have a designated desk. Using desks increases the risk of transmitting the virus.

Can I use a desk if no one else is using it?

Desks have been designated to individuals. You should not use a desk that has not been allocated to you. Desks and IT kit, like keyboards, are not routinely cleaned as part of the cleaning contract. Using a desk that has not been allocated to you increases the risk of transmission. 

My circumstances have changed and I can no longer work from home; can I request a designated desk?

If your circumstances have changed and it's no longer feasible for you to work from home you should discuss this with your line manager in the first instance. Your manager can then make a request for a designated desk through the Assets, Estates and Facilities Management Team.

Can I book a desk?

We have some bookable desks available in County Hall and we're rolling this out across the estate. These desks are available for colleagues who have a one-off essential requirement to work in an office, for example:

  • building work
  • a power cut
  • connectivity issues
  • childcare issue
  • another essential need

We quarantine bookable desks for a period of time after use.

Contact the Assets, Estates and Facilities Management Team to book a desk.

Can I have a face to face meeting?

To reduce the risk of transmitting the virus you should continue to hold meetings virtually wherever possible.

For essential face to face meetings that you cannot hold virtually you can book a large meeting room through Condeco. These large rooms have been selected as they're large enough to allow social distancing. You'll also find information about occupancy for these rooms on Condeco. Make sure you book the room before use. 

We've taken smaller meeting rooms out of use as they're not big enough to allow social distancing. These rooms should not be used.

My set-up at home is not very comfortable. Can I still get IT kit or an office chair delivered to my home address?

Yes, it's still possible to request home delivery of equipment. Find the request form on the intranet or speak to your manager.

Find information about working safely at home in our coronavirus employee toolkit.

Why can I go to the pub but not the office?

There are different COVID-19 Secure requirements for different settings.

Didn't Boris Johnson say 'go back to work'?

Central government has encouraged people to go back to 'COVID Secure workplaces'. Guidance continues to state that risk of transmission is substantially reduced if COVID-19 Secure guidelines are followed closely.

Is social distancing 2 metres? Or 1 metre?

In office spaces the guidance continues to state that social distancing of 2 metres should be maintained. 1 metre plus risk mitigation is acceptable where 2 metres is not viable.

When will things be back to normal?

SLT have said we should expect the current working arrangements to be in place until at least the end of March 2021, but this depends on the scientific advice relating to COVID-19 Secure requirements. Any return to the office will be part of the phased implementation of the Dorset Workplace.

Work and annual leave during the coronavirus emergency

Q1. What are the interim annual leave arrangements for carry forward of unused leave? 

A1. In response to the Covid-19 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.  My child’s school/childcare setting has closed due to a local outbreak of COVID/my child has been asked to self-isolate due to COVID and I am trying to care for a child as well as work.  What support is available to me? 

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 or the us, then you will be required to take annual leave or unpaid leave for any time that you are unable to work.

Q3. Can I suspend my childcare vouchers until I can use them again?

A3. It’s possible to remain in the scheme with a low or nil payment, 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.

Working from home

Q1. Which tools can I use to communicate with groups inside and outside Dorset Council?

A1. We have two options available to hold virtual meetings, webinar type events and collaborate on documents with other people:

Skype: This runs on our network and is familiar to a lot of people. However, there are a small group of people that don’t have Skype/ headsets, they can still be involved in virtual meetings if someone else creates the meeting and invites them in.

Teams: This is a new addition which we are learning how to use, everyone has access. It is in the cloud and controlled by Microsoft. It provides all the functionality of Skype and more. For meetings the video quality is better, you can broadcast an event to more than 250+ people.

Recruitment

Q1. I have an employee who has recently been recruited into a role, and is due to start soon, will this be affected by Covid-19?

A1. As a manager you will need to be mindful that we are not in a steady state at the moment. We are working through how Covid-19 is affecting us now and what precautions we need to take in the future to help support frontline services.

If you have already agreed a start date, make sure you have early contact with employee to agree an onboarding plan. This should include:

  •  All new employees will receive a Welcome to Dorset Council guide with their offer letter. This contains documents to complete and information relating to their employment with us
  • Discuss flexible and remote working arrangements. Liaise with IT as early as possible about any technology requirements
  • Consider setting up some orientation calls so that the new employee can meet their team virtually on a 1-2-1 basis. To help build rapport, video calls are recommended
  • Make sure the employee has meaningful work to do. Consider a project to keep them busy for the first few weeks to help them get used to working remotely if the team are mainly working remotely at this time
  • Use Skype and Microsoft Teams to increase collaboration across the team. Consider holding ‘team lunches’ or social time to check in with each other
  • Consider a team Whatsapp to increase social interaction within the team during a period of remote working
  • If the role isn’t front line or business critical, do they have a skillset which could be helpful elsewhere in the organisation?  If so, consider offering them up into the internal redeployment pool
  • It may be possible to delay the start date, but only with the agreement of the individual

Q2. I’m interviewing for a role at the moment, what should I consider?

A2. Remember that this is an unprecedented time. Protecting frontline services is important and we realise that we may need to continue to recruit to roles to help to maintain service delivery, do consider if recruitment to this role could be delayed until we know more about how Covid-19 will impact on the services we deliver. Talk to your Head of Service or Corporate Director about this in the first instance. Here are some questions to consider:

  •  How critical the role is, and where does the activity of the role fit in terms of your business continuity plan?
  • Do you need the person straight away, if so, how practical will it be to onboard them remotely?
  • Are there different activities they could undertake in the short term?

If you do need to advertise and interview for a role, consider how you could use technology to support this. Talk to your digital champion about the options available to you. It’s also important to think ahead about how the role may need to change and what needs to be put in place to support this.

Q3. How do I check a new starter’s DBS documents, when I am social distancing?

A3. Under normal circumstances, ID checkers should be in physical possession of original ID documents, so they can be checked for indicators of fraud.

As you have been advised to work from home where possible, this may cause difficulty in receiving the physical documents, which could lead to delayed applications, and in some cases, prevent applications from being submitted.

To ensure that the necessary DBS and basic checks can still be carried out, the DBS Service’s guidance has been changed for a temporary period.

The change enables:

  • ID documents to be viewed over video link
  • scanned images to be used in advance of the DBS/basic check being submitted

Please note, the change should only be implemented for urgent cases where it is not possible to follow the normal identity checking guidelines. The applicant must present the original versions of these documents when they first attend their employment or volunteering role.

The change is now in effect and will continue until further notice.

Work and working hours

Q1. I have been asked by my manager to work 5 days out of 7 (this may include weekends and/or public holidays). I normally work Monday to Friday only. The reason for the request is to help meet the needs of vulnerable service users during the COVID-19 outbreak. Is this OK?

A1. Specific services may need more staff cover than previously, to offset extra work and sickness absence. They may ask for suitably skilled employees to work more flexibly during the COVID-19 outbreak. The request is voluntary and we will ensure you receive payment enhancements for out of hours work during the COVID-19 period.

Your manager will also ensure you receive days off and breaks as entitled under the working time directive.

Q2. What does the working time directive say about maximum working hours?

A2. You can’t work more than 48 hours a week on average – normally averaged over 17 weeks (unless you have opted out of the 48 hours week) https://www.gov.uk/maximum-weekly-working-hours

Q3. What does the working time directive say about rest breaks?

A3. Workers over 18 are usually entitled to 3 types of break – rest breaks at work, daily rest and weekly rest.

Rest breaks at work: Workers have the right to one uninterrupted 20 minute rest break during their working day, if they work more than 6 hours a day. This could be a tea or lunch break.
The break doesn’t have to be paid – it depends on their employment contract.
Daily rest: Workers have the right to 11 hours rest between working days, eg if they finish work at 8pm, they shouldn’t start work again until 7am the next day.
Weekly rest: Workers have the right to either an uninterrupted 24 hours without any work each week OR an uninterrupted 48 hours without any work each fortnight
https://www.gov.uk/rest-breaks-work 

Visiting other premises

Q1.What should I do if I have visited premises that has subsequently been identified as having a confirmed case of coronavirus?

A1.The owners of those premises will be contacted by the PHE local Health Protection Team to discuss the case, identify people who have been in contact with them and advise on any actions or precautions that should be taken.

If you have not been contacted by a public health official, then you do not need to do anything.

National advice about the coronavirus

Q2.Where can I go for further information?

A2. We recommend the following trusted websites which are regularly updated with any new developments, advice and guidance.

New starters

Q3. I have an employee who has recently been recruited into a role, and is due to start soon, will this be affected by Covid-19?

A3. As a manager you will need to be mindful that we are not in a steady state at the moment. We are working through how Covid-19 is affecting us now and what precautions we need to take in the future to help support frontline services, keep checking the FAQ’s which are being updated regularly.

If you have already agreed a start date, make sure you have early contact with your employee to agree an onboarding plan. This should include:

  • a Welcome to Dorset Council guide with their offer letter. This contains documents to complete and information relating to their employment with us
  • discussing flexible and remote working arrangements. Liaise with IT as early as possible about any technology requirements
  • considering setting up some orientation calls so that the new employee can meet their team virtually on a 1-2-1 basis. To help build rapport, video calls are recommended 
  • making sure the employee has meaningful work to do. Consider a project to keep them busy for the first few weeks to help them get used to working remotely if the team are mainly working remotely at this time 
  • using Skype and Microsoft Teams to increase collaboration across the team. Consider holding ‘team lunches’ or social time to check in with each other 
  • considering a team Whatsapp to increase social interaction within the team during a period of remote working 
  • working out if they have a skillset which could be helpful elsewhere in the organisation, if the role isn’t front line or business critical. Consider offering them up into the internal redeployment pool
  • delaying their start date, but only with the agreement of the individual

Q4. I’m interviewing for a role at the moment, what should I consider? 

A4. Remember that this is an unprecedented time. Protecting frontline services is important and we realise that we may need to continue to recruit to roles to help to maintain service delivery, do consider if recruitment to this role could be delayed until we know more about how Covid-19 will impact on the services we deliver. Talk to your Head of Service or Corporate Director about this in the first instance. Here are some questions to consider: 

  • how critical the role is, and where does the activity of the role fit in terms of your business continuity plan?
  • do you need the person straight away, if so, how practical will it be to onboard them remotely?
  • are there different activities they could undertake in the short term?

If you do need to advertise and interview for a role, consider how you could use technology to support this. Talk to your digital champion about the options available to you. It’s also important to think ahead about how the role may need to change and what needs to be put in place to support this. 

Quarantine on returning to the UK

Q1. What if I wish to book a holiday/travel outside of the UK?   

A1. You are reminded of the government’s advice to avoid all non-essential travel and the requirement to self-isolate for 14 days on their return.

If you book a holiday from 25 September 2020 or have moved holidays from earlier in the year you will be going abroad fully aware of the quarantine requirements on re-entering the UK and the risk of other countries being added to the quarantine list at short notice.

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

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.

Paid leave should only be granted for employees who have previously booked a holiday before 25 September 2020.

It is essential that you notify your manager of your wish to travel outside of the UK.

Q2. Can my manager refuse my request for annual leave?  

A2. 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 may 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 outside of 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.

Extremely Clinically Vulnerable and Clinically Vulnerable Employees

Q1. I have been identified as extremely clinically vulnerable and had previously been advised to shield.  I am no longer required to shield from 1 August 2020.  Can I return to work?

A1. The Government has advised that you can go to work as long as the workplace is COVID Secure but should carry on working from home wherever possible.

Our position is to look for ways to enable you to work from home as far as is practicable and, where this is not possible, managers are required to complete a COVID-19 risk assessment with you to ascertain whether a return to a COVID Secure workplace is possible including exploring temporary alternative duties and changes to locations. 

Where it is agreed that it is not possible to provide a COVID safe working environment having applied all the necessary and relevant guidance, you will remain on full pay during any period of non-working.  This position will be reviewed at the end of the year.

If a return to work is deemed reasonable having applied all the necessary and relevant guidance, however, you choose not to return to work alternative options will be explored, such as the use of annual leave or a voluntary period of unpaid leave.  If all options are exhausted that you are unable to come to an agreement then pay may be withdrawn or the matter considered under the council’s disciplinary policy. Please be assured that your safety and wellbeing is our priority and we hope not to have to evoke such action.

We acknowledge that this has been an extremely difficult time for everyone but in particular those who are have been shielding. We have a range of support available through the helping us through coronavirus employee toolkit. If you don’t have access to the intranet please contact your manager or email covid19@dorsetcouncil.gov.uk for more information.

Q2.  I live with a family member would is categorised as Clinically Extremely Vulnerable. Can I return to work?

A2. Our position is to look for ways to enable you to work from home as far as is practicable and, where this is not possible, managers are required to complete a COVID-19 risk assessment with you to ascertain whether a return to a COVID Secure workplace is possible including exploring temporary alternative duties and changes to locations. 

Where it is agreed that it is not possible to provide a COVID safe working environment having applied all the necessary and relevant guidance, you will remain on full pay during any period of non-working.  This position will be reviewed at the end of the year.

If a return to work is deemed reasonable having applied all the necessary and relevant guidance, however, you choose not to return to work alternative options will be explored, such as the use of annual leave or a voluntary period of unpaid leave.  If all options are exhausted that you are unable to come to an agreement then pay may be withdrawn or the matter considered under the council’s disciplinary policy. Please be assured that your safety and wellbeing is our priority and we hope not to have to evoke such action.

We acknowledge that this has been an extremely difficult time for everyone but in particular those who are have been shielding. We have a range of support available through the helping us through coronavirus employee toolkit. If you don’t have access to the intranet please contact your manager or email covid19@dorsetcouncil.gov.uk for more information.

Q3. I have underlying health or other conditions that places me in the clinically vulnerable category. Can I return to work?

A3. Employees who are categorised as clinically vulnerable include those who are

  • aged 70 or older (regardless of medical conditions)
  • under 70 with an underlying health condition (i.e. anyone instructed to get a flu jab as an adult each year on medical grounds)
  • pregnant

Our position is to look for ways to enable you to work from home as far as is practicable and, where this is not possible, managers will support a return to work to a COVID Secure workplace. 

If a return to work is deemed reasonable having applied all the necessary and relevant guidance, however, you choose not to return to work alternative options will be explored, such as the use of annual leave or a voluntary period of unpaid leave.  If all options are exhausted that you are unable to come to an agreement then pay may be withdrawn or the matter considered under the council’s disciplinary policy. Please be assured that your safety and wellbeing is our priority and we hope not to have to evoke such action.

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