Employee coronavirus FAQs
This page was last checked and updated on 18 March 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 becomes available.
The government announced a national lockdown effective from 5 January during which you must stay at home to protect the NHS and save lives. You must not leave your home unless necessary. Stay 2 metres apart from anyone not in your household or bubble.
Please visit the government’s website for more information on what you can and cannot do during national lockdown.
Q1. Do I have to have the vaccine?
A1. Although vaccination is not compulsory, the council strongly recommends that everyone takes up the offer as soon as they are contacted to protect themselves and those around them
Q2. Which vaccines are being used?
A2. Two vaccines (developed by Pfizer-BioNTech and Oxford-AstraZeneca) are currently being used in the UK. A third, from Moderna, has been approved and will be used when stocks become available in the spring. As with all immunisations licenced for use in the UK, any vaccines being considered have to satisfy the standards of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) along with the Medicines and Healthcare Regulatory Authority (MHRA).
More specific information in regard to the Dorset vaccination programme.
Q3. Once I have had the vaccine, do I need to continue to observe social distancing?
A3. Yes. While the vaccine significantly reduces the risk of developing a serious covid-19 illness, you can still pass on the infection. It will take around six months before the national vaccination programme is complete. Until otherwise directed by the NHS and Public Health bodies, we must all continue to observe the guidance of hands, face and space.
Q4. Which occupational groups are being prioritised?
A4. The priority occupational groups are health and social care staff and those who work these settings. The next stage will be the 50+ age group and those who are extremely clinically vulnerable and individuals on the extended shielding list.
You can see the list of the vaccination priority groups on Gov.uk.
Q5. I am one of the top four priority groups that are already being called forward for the vaccine but haven’t been contacted yet – how can I get an appointment?
A5. You can book an appointment on-line directly via the NHS website and do not need to wait to be contacted. If you are not able to access this on-line, you can call the national covid-19 number 119 free of charge and the lines are open 7am – 11pm every day.
If you are not in one of the top four groups, please wait and you will be contacted either by the NHS booking system or via your GP as soon as your turn is reached.
Q6. Where can I go for my vaccination?
A6. Currently vaccination sites are at the BIC in Bournemouth and Yeovil Hospital. But work is currently underway to look at increasing the vaccination sites across Dorset to help in the roll out. You might also be invited to your doctor's surgery to have your vaccination.
Q7. I am pregnant – can I be vaccinated?
A7. There is no evidence that any of the current vaccines are unsafe for those who are pregnant. However, further studies are on-going so the vaccination is not being offered routinely to pregnant women in the UK at the current time and the position will be regularly reviewed.
Consideration for vaccination may be given to pregnant woman who are either at a higher risk of coming into contact with the virus as a result of their employment, or for those who have serious underlying health conditions.
If you have any concerns about whether you should have the vaccine, do please talk to your antenatal team who can advise you further and asses your personal circumstances.
More advice on pregnancy and vaccinations can been found here.
Q8. Can I have the vaccine if I’m breast feeding?
A8. Yes. It is safe to have the vaccine if you are currently breastfeeding.
Q9. We are trying for a baby – should I get the vaccination?
A9. Yes. The British Fertility Society is very clear that there is no evidence that any of the currently available vaccines would affect the fertility of men or women. Their full advice can be found on their website.
Q10. Are there any side effects to having the vaccine?
A10. Other than some soreness at the injection site, many people have no other side effects and any vaccines used within the UK will have passed strict safety standards. Most reported side effects of the COVID-19 vaccines are mild and should not last any longer than a week. The most common side effects are:
- a sore arm where the needle went in
- feeling tired
- a headache
- feeling achy
- feeling or being sick
You can take over the counter painkillers, such as paracetamol, if you need to. If you have a high temperature, you may have coronavirus or another infection and this is not a reported side effect of the vaccine. If your symptoms get worse or you are worried, call 111.
Q11. What do I do if I feel unwell after the vaccine and am not able to attend work?
A11. Let your line manager know – in the same way as any other absence due to sickness - and that your illness is due to the vaccination.
Q12. I am having regular lateral flow testing due to my current working arrangements, do I still need to continue with this once I have been vaccinated?
A12. Yes. Even once vaccinated, you can still pick up the infection, be asymptomatic and potentially pass the illness on to others.
Q13. Is there any possibility that the vaccine could trigger a false positive from a lateral flow test?
A13. No. The lateral flow test detects a different protein of the virus than the one encoded in the vaccine and the PCR test detects different genes of the virus than the one included in the vaccine so there is no possibility of cross reaction.
Covid-19 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?
A1. 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 COVID-19 vaccination?
A2. 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
Q3. How do I record my time for attending for a test or vaccination?
A3. Paid medical appointments should be recorded on your timesheet 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.
Q1. Am I permitted to travel to work?
A1. Yes, but only where you cannot reasonably work from home. If you need to travel, walk or cycle where possible, and plan ahead and avoid busy times and routes on public transport. This will allow you to practice social distancing while you travel.
Q1. Can I car share with a work colleague?
A1. You should try not to share a vehicle with those outside your household or support bubble. If you need to do this after exploring all available alternatives and discussion with your manager if this is a work journey, in line with government guidance try to:
- share the transport with the same people each time
- keep to small groups of people at any one time
- open windows for ventilation
- travel side by side or behind other people, rather than facing them, where seating arrangements allow
- face away from each other
- consider seating arrangements to maximise distance between people in the vehicle
- clean your car between journeys using standard cleaning products – make sure you clean door handles and other areas that people may touch
- ask the driver and passengers to wear a face covering
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 which can be found here.
There is also a range of support and advice about supporting your health and wellbeing within the employee toolkit.
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 COVID-19 symptoms or you are self-isolating due to someone in your household having 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
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. A 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. LFD testing is offered to employees who still need to go out to work and are in face-to face contact with others. It is not currently offered to those who are office/home based. At least 1600 employees have been recommended for this testing. Those who are in close contact with members of the public are being prioritised first.
Q4. How do I know if I am in a team that is being offered LFD testing?
A4. Managers have been asked to put forward teams that should be offered LFD testing. Your manager will be letting you know if this includes you, when you can start to book tests and what you need to.
Q5. Do I have to be tested?
A5. 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.
Q6. How do I book a test?
A6. You can book your test at one of the following sites:
- Swanage and Wareham Rugby Club, Bestwall Road, Wareham, BH20 4HY
- Wimborne Town Football Club, J&B's Stadium, New Cuthbury, 16 Ainsley Road, Wimborne, BH21 2FU
- Bridport Leisure Centre, Brewery Fields, Bridport, DT6 5LN
- Sherborne Rugby Club, The Terrace Playing Fields, Gainsborough Park, Sherborne, DT9 5NS
- Dorchester Rugby Club, Coburg Road, Dorchester, DORSET, DT1 2HX
- Weymouth Park and Ride, Mount Pleasant, Weymouth, DT3 5HJ
Q7. What do I need to bring with me when I have booked my test?
A7. Arrive at the test site 10 minutes before your booking slot with your employer ID and face covering. You will not be tested without your employee ID. Please do not bring anyone with you from your household or family, as they will not be tested.
Complete the registration process at https://gov.uk/enter-lateral-flow-test. You could download a QR code reader to help speed up the process. If you don't have a smartphone, someone will register you at the test site, but you do need a mobile phone number.
The test itself will not take more than 10 minutes and your results will be sent to you via text message within half an hour. You can either wait in your vehicle or go home, but do not go back to work until you have a negative result.
Q8. What do I do while I wait for the results?
A8. You'll receive the results within 30 minutes. You should either wait in your car or at home. Do not go back to work until you have the results.
Q9. Will LFDs pick up the new strain of Covid-19?
A9. Yes, the LFDs will pick up all existing strains in circulation.
Q10. What happens if I get a positive LFD result?
A10. You and your household must isolate immediately until you receive your result, as set out in the government guidance.
Q11. If I have had a positive Covid-19 test, when should I start LFD testing again?
A11. 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.
Q12. What happens if my test is negative, but I have Covid-19 symptoms?
A12. 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.
Q13. I have received a void test result. What does this mean?
A13. 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.
Q14. Will regular LFD testing allow me to go back to a more normal way of life?
A14. 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.
Q15. Do I still need to go and have a LFD test if I have had a Covid-19 vaccine?
A15. 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.
Q16. Can members of my family have an LFD test?
A16. No. LFD testing cannot be offered to household members, family or friends and is only for those without symptoms. Employees and family members who have symptoms should book a Covid-19 test in the normal way at www.gov.uk/get-coronavirus-test
Q17. Will Early Years staff be invited to have a LDF test at the Dorset Council/BCP Council site?
A17. Staff in schools-based nurseries and maintained nursery schools will be receiving home test kits for asymptomatic testing as part of the rollout of asymptomatic testing to primary schools. In the meantime, these Early Years staff may be offered asymptomatic testing, at school sites with established weekly staff testing programmes.
In relation to staff in private, voluntary and independent nurseries (PVIs) and childminders, asymptomatic testing will be available through Dorset’s community testing programme, currently being set up. Staff will be invited, in due course, to attend these testing facilities for regular asymptomatic testing.
Any member of staff who has symptoms, should continue to book at test at a local testing centre, by visiting www.gov.uk/get-coronavirus-test
Work and my health
Q1. 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?
A1. The normal requirement for a fit note (Med 3 form) will be waived in accordance with the recommendation from Public Health England where an employee is unable to obtain one as their GP is unable to provide one due to pressures. There will be no impact on occupational sick pay. Otherwise the normal absence notification procedures will continue.
We understand that most GP’s are able to provide a Ft Note/Med 3 as business as usual services are resuming.
Q2. 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?
A2. 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.
We understand that most midwives/GP’s are able to provide a MATB1 as business as usual services are resuming.
Q3: I am due to go into hospital and I’ve been instructed to self-isolate beforehand. What do I need to know?
A3: 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.
Clinically extremely vulnerable and clinically vulnerable
Q1. I have been identified as clinically extremely vulnerable. Can I attend work?
A1. No. If you have been identified as clinically extremely vulnerable and were previously advised to shield you are now required to shield with immediate effect which means that you cannot attend work if you are unable to work from home.
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 COVID-19 from coming into contact with the virus. NHS England or your GP will write to you to provide further advice around your need to shield.
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 you have been asked to shield.
You must advise your manage 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.
We appreciate that this is an extraordinary difficult time for everyone but particularly those who are required to shield. Please refer to our wellbeing section for useful information about the services that are available and how to access them.
Please refer to the absence procedures and reporting guidance.
Q2. I have underlying health or other conditions that places me in the clinically vulnerable category and/or are over 60. Am I able to attend the workplace?
A2. In line with the latest government guidance, 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.
Q3. I share a household with someone who is Clinically Extremely Vulnerable and cannot work from home. Should I attend work?
A3. Yes. There is no reason not to attend work but please discuss any concerns with your line manager.
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.
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.
Q1. Can I pop into the office to pick something up / do some printing etc.?
A1. Yes, but you’ll need to follow the guidelines on social distancing and infection control measures. Please do not use a desk if you visit an office unless you have a designated desk. Doing so increases the risk of transmitting the virus.
Q2. Can I use a desk if no one else is using it?
A2. Desks have been designated to individuals. You should not use a desk which has not been allocated to you. Desks and shared IT kit (such as keyboards) are not routinely cleaned as part of the cleaning contract. Using a desk which has not been allocated to you therefore increases the risk of transmission.
Q3. My circumstances have changed and I can no longer work from home – can I request a designated desk?
A3. If your circumstances have changed and it is 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 via the Assets, Estates and Facilities Management Team.
Q4. Can I book a desk?
A4. We have some bookable desks available in County Hall and South Walks House and Sturminster Newton Area Office. These are available for colleagues who have a one-off essential requirement to work in an office – for example, building work, a power cut, connectivity issue, childcare issue or other essential need. Bookable desks are quarantined for a period after use. You can book a desk by contacting the Assets, Estates and Facilities Management Team.
Q5. Can I have a face to face meeting?
A5. To reduce the risk of transmitting the virus meetings should continue to be held virtually wherever possible.
For essential face to face meetings which cannot be held virtually, there are large meeting rooms available for booking via Condeco. These rooms have been selected as they are large enough to allow social distancing. Information on occupancy for these rooms is included on Condeco. Please make sure you book the room before use.
Smaller meeting rooms have been taken out of use as they are not of sufficient size to allow social distancing. These rooms should not be used.
Q6. My set up at home isn’t very comfortable, can I still get IT kit and/or an office chair delivered to my home address?
A6. Yes, its still possible to request home delivery of equipment, you should speak to your manager. You can access information about working safely at home in the coronavirus employee toolkit.
Q7. Is social distancing 2metres or 1metre?
A7. In office spaces the guidance continues to state that social distancing of 2metres should be maintained. 1metre plus risk mitigation is acceptable where 2metres is not viable.
Q8. When will things be back to normal?
A8. 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 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. When will pupils return to school?
A1. From the 8 March 2021 pupils in England can return to face-to-face education in school. In addition, wraparound childcare such as after-school clubs can reopen.
Q2. I wish to keep my child at home and not send my child back to school/preschool from 8 march 2021. Will I be able to access paid leave for any hours I am unable to work?
A2. No. The government has deemed that schools are safe to open. Early years settings have remained open throughout the most recent period of lockdown.
If you have concerns regarding your child returning to face-to-face learning from 8 March 2021 we would urge you to contact the school directly to discuss.
If you choose not to send your child to nursery or preschool then we would urge you to seek alternative care arrangement or consider ways to work flexibly to complete your role, however, you will need to use annual leave, flexible working or TOIL or if this is not available unpaid leave to make up any hours that you are unable to do.
Q2. 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?
A2. 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.
Q3. I am caring for a dependent family member at home as well as trying to work. How am I expected to balance everything?
A3. 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.
Q4. I am struggling with pressures that the pandemic has placed on me. Is there any support available?
A4. We appreciate that this is an extraordinary difficult time for everyone and the extra responsibility for caring for others/home schooling can feel overwhelming. Please refer to our wellbeing section for useful information about the services and support that are available and how to access them. We would also recommend that you discuss with your manager so that they are aware of how you are feeling.
Q5. Can I suspend my childcare vouchers until I can use them again?
A5. 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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.
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.
Q4. Can I still interview for vacancies?
A4. Yes, but you will need to consider the safest way to carry out interviews currently. Dorset Council have prepared some information to help with virtual recruitment.
Please be aware all meeting rooms are currently closed.
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. When might I be redeployed?
A3. If you are unable to undertake your post at this time, we will seek to redeploy you to an alternative role.
An example of this might be if you are clinically extremely vulnerable and cannot work from home might be able to find suitable alternative work that can be done from home. Another example might be if your place of work has closed as it is not deemed an essential service by Government during this period of lockdown we may be able to find you suitable alternative work within another service.
Your manager will discuss any redeployment options available or your name may be added to our skills agency to help us respond to the needs of our residents during this period of lockdown.
Q4. What exactly are the enhanced payments, and which roles are eligible to receive these?
A4. 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 the most beneficial entitlements of all predecessor councils will be applied during the lockdown period. This means that time and a half payment for weekend working and triple time payment for working the bank holidays over the Easter period, or double time for all other relevant bank holidays leading up to Christmas 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. Where it is agreed that enhancements will be paid at a level above those set out in individual contracts of employment any payment of the higher level of enhancement will be made the month following which the hours are worked, to allow payroll colleagues sufficient time to make the manual adjustments to pay rates.
Q5. When will the enhanced payments for weekend and public holiday cease?
A5. 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.
Q6. 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?
A6. 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.
Q7. Can I claim any tax relief whilst working from home?
A7. 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.
Q8. What if my service has been closed or is partially open due to government guidance?
A8. You will be aware that the Dorset Council Service you work in has been impacted by the new government guidance in relation to Covid-19. During this second lockdown period, which is scheduled to last from 5 November to 2 December 2020, your service may be closed completely or partially open with changes to the operating model. Your local manager or team leader will have been in touch with you regarding the impact on you personally during this time. You should continue to keep in close contact with them.
If you cannot work during this lock down period due to the closure/partial closure of your service, Dorset Council will look to redeploy you and we will be in contact as soon as possible to discuss any opportunities in more detail. If you are unable to work or be redeployed, you should use this time to pursue personal and professional development opportunities. Log onto The Learning Hub to access a variety of training and learning resources.
Information regarding payment during this time is contained within the work and pay section of these FAQ’s.
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)
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
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.