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Coronavirus (COVID-19): updates and advice.

Employee coronavirus FAQs

This page was last checked and updated on 27 January 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.

Travel

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.

Car Sharing

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.

COVID-19 testing

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 via our online booking system (your manager will give you a link if you are eligible). You will be able to select a date and time slot convenient to you.

Once your booking is confirmed, you will receive a text message to confirm the date and time of your test. 

When booking your test, you will be asked to commit to being tested every week, once a week for 12 weeks. If you do not commit to sign up for the 12 weeks, you will not be able to book a test. By signing up for testing you will also be consenting to sharing information with the NHS Test and Trace service.

When on site, you will need to go to https://test-for-coronavirus.service.gov.uk/register-kit to register your test to ensure the test, results and the notification are well managed. If you don't have a smartphone, there will be people who can register you on site but you still need a mobile phone number.

Q7. Where do I go for an LFD test?

A7. Our LFD testing site is at:

Weymouth Mount Pleasant Park and Ride, Mercery Road, Weymouth DT3 5HJ

We appreciate that this site will be harder to get to for those who live in east and northern parts of Dorset. We are looking at alternative sites, but this is currently the only one.

You can claim mileage for travelling to the site and take paid time off during your working day to be tested.

Q8. What do I need to bring with me when I have booked my test?

A8. You will need your employer ID (you will not be allowed your test without this). You must also bring a face covering, your smartphone. You need to arrive ten minutes before your slot and will then be asked to follow registration instructions when you arrive. This will involve going to: https://gov.uk/enter-lateral-flow-test

If you do not have a smartphone you will be able to complete the full registration process at the time of testing on site, but you need a mobile phone number to receive the results. 

Q9. What do I do while I wait for the results?

A9. 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.

Q10. Will LFDs pick up the new strain of Covid-19?

A10. Yes, the LFDs will pick up all existing strains in circulation.

Q11. What happens if I get a positive LFD result?

A11. You and your household must isolate immediately until you receive your result, as set out in the government guidance.

Q12. If I have had a positive Covid-19 test, when should I start LFD testing again?

A12. 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.

Q13. What happens if my test is negative, but I have Covid-19 symptoms? 

A13. The LFD can give false negative results, so if you have Covid-19 symptoms, you must book a normal 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.

Q14. I have received a void test result. What does this mean?

A14. 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.

Q15. Will regular LFD testing allow me to go back to a more normal way of life?

A15. 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.

Q16. Do I still need to go and have a LFD test if I have had a Covid-19 vaccine?

A16. 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.

Q17. Can members of my family have an LFD test?

A17. 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

Q18.  Will Early Years staff be invited to have a LDF test at the Dorset Council/BCP Council site?

A18. 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.

Workplace

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. How am I expected to balance my childcare responsibilities with my job now that the schools are closed? 

A1. We appreciate that the government’s decision to close schools places additional pressure on parents and carers. You should try to seek alternative care arrangements if possible, to enable you to undertake your role within the council.

If it is not possible to put in place alternative care arrangements, you should consider ways to work flexibly to complete your role (i.e. working from home and/or completing work outside of standard working times).

Where caring responsibilities continue to prevent you from being able to undertake your role in full or in part, you will continue to receive your substantive pay for any periods of school closure during school term time (i.e. excluding school holidays).  You should still attempt to complete as many of your substantive hours as possible during such times.

Please speak to your manager to agree the most appropriate working arrangement.

During school holiday periods you will not receive paid leave*, but can consider flexible working arrangements, including working from home, adapting working patterns to care for children or dependants or taking time off, whether this is special leave, annual leave or flexible working or TOIL. Parental Leave may be applicable in some circumstances.

Q2. If I am a critical/key worker can my child continue to attend to school?

A2. If you are a critical/key worker your child may be able to attend school during the period of national lockdown if necessary.

The Department for Education (DfE) has clarified the list of critical/key workers and the full list is on the government’s website. The expectation is that schools are open for all these children and vulnerable children and only one qualifying parent is needed.

We have agreed the list of services that are critical to our response to the coronavirus and EU transition.

However, if your children can stay safely at home, they should, to limit the chance of the virus spreading.

If you are a key worker please contact your child’s school to discuss this further.

Q3. My child’s school wants proof that I’m a key worker. What do I do?

A3. No proof is needed from parents to qualify. Mark Blackman, Our Corporate Director for Education, has also reminded Dorset schools of this guidance from the DfE and that all you need to do is say you work for Dorset Council.

Q4. My child is at nursery/preschool which remains open but I wish to keep my child at home during this period of lockdown. Will I be able to access paid leave for any hours I am unable to work?

A4. No. The government has deemed that early years education settings are safe and to remain open. 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 to make up any hours that you are unable to do.

Q5. I am caring for a dependent family member at home as well as trying to work. How am I expected to balance everything?

A5. 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.

Please refer to the absence procedures and reporting guidance.

Q6. I understand that I may be able to request be furloughed as I have childcare issues due to the school closures. Is this correct?

A6. We are committed to supporting you through this period of lockdown and have support in place so that there should be no loss of earnings for those who are unable to work their hours in part or in full due to childcare therefore no reason to request to be furloughed.

Q7.My family doesn’t have internet access or a device that my child can use for online learning. Can I get help?

A7.Parents and carers who do not have internet access or a device to access online learning should contact their school, college or education setting as help may be available.

Q8. I am struggling with the demands of home schooling. Is there any support available?

A8. We appreciate that this is an extraordinary difficult time for everyone and the extra responsibility for home schooling can feel overwhelming. Please refer to our wellbeing section for useful information about the services that are available and how to access them.

Q9. Can I suspend my childcare vouchers until I can use them again?

A9. 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.

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)
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 

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.

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