Coronavirus: Frequently Asked Questions for staff

COVID-19 is a new illness that can affect your lungs and airways. It's caused by a virus called Coronavirus.

Employees should ensure they are following current advice provided by the Government.

The advice is being updated as the situation develops so employees are encouraged to check the site regularly and familiarise themselves with new and updated guidelines.

The Council will continue to follow Government and Public Health England advice and we have produced a set of FAQs below for staff which are available on the intranet (or on ESS and upon request via managers if you do not have access to the intranet).

These answer some common COVID-19 related questions which people have and they will be updated as and when necessary.

We have to be as prepared as possible for COVID-19 impacting on our workforce, in terms of attendance and our ability to deliver services and, for that reason, business continuity planning is taking place to ensure as far as is possible all business critical services to our residents are delivered.

I know you will have a positive, can-do attitude and that you will give total support to colleagues across the council, whatever the situation and whatever you may be asked to do to support essential and high-priority services.

Caroline Lacey

Chief Executive

Last updated - June 9th 2020

Coronavirus - Frequently Asked Questions

Q1 - How do I record an absence due to COVID-19 related issues?

All absences related to COVID-19 should be recorded on iTrent. This should be done for Council employees by their manager contacting HR Employment Services Helpdesk.

Our preferred method of contact at this time is email:

hr.helpdesk@eastriding.gov.uk

A phone line is also available for urgent enquiries: 1221

School employees absence related to COVID-19 should be reported to the school Business Manager and recorded on iTrent.

The following are how absences should be reported:

  • If a reportee is displaying symptoms of COVID-19 - 'suspected symptoms'
  • If a reportee is required to self-isolate for 14 days, as advised by government guidelines or a medical professional including NHS 111, and is working from home - 'self-isolation working from home'
  • If a reportee is required to self-isolate for 14 days, as advised by government guidelines or a medical professional including NHS 111, but is not working from home - 'self-isolation not working from home'
  • If a reportee has been tested and has a confirmed case of COVID-19 - 'tested and confirmed'
  • If a reportee is in the 'extremely vulnerable' group and is 'shielding' and has received a letter from the NHS in line with government guidelines and is working from home - 'shielding working from home'
  • If a reportee is in the 'extremely vulnerable' group and is 'shielding' and has received a letter from the NHS in line with government guidelines, but is not working from home - 'shielding not working from home'
  • If a reportee is not attending work, not due to any of the above reasons, and is not able to work from home - 'other'

Self-isolation is only for those whose household is displaying symptoms of COVID-19 and should only last 14 days.

COVID-19 absences due to the above reasons need to be reported to the HR Employment Services Helpdesk for recording, even if the employee is still working from home.

Q3 - What should I do if I have symptoms of COVID-19?

If you have mild symptoms you should stay at home and self-isolate for 7 days.

Symptoms are either:

  • A high temperature (fever) - You don't need a thermometer or to know a precise temperature. If you feel hot to touch on your chest or back you have a high temperature.
  • A new, continuous cough - this means coughing a lot for more than an hour, or 3 or more coughing episodes in 24 hours (if you usually have a cough, it may be worse than usual).
  • A loss or change to your normal sense of smell or taste (anosmia).

If you have symptoms you need to stay away from other people.

Refer to NHS 111 online for more guidance.

Those with mild symptoms will not be tested.

You do need to follow the usual sickness absence notification procedures to inform your manager you are self-isolating and the reason.

Please refer to the government guidelines for more information.

Q4 - What if I live with or share accommodation with someone who has symptoms of COVID-19?

The Government is now advising whole households to self-isolate for 14 days if someone develops a high temperature and/ or a new persistent cough.

If you live with someone who has symptoms of COVID-19 you should self-isolate for 14 days from the date when the other person became ill.

You should only self-isolate for 14 days if someone in your household develops symptoms, unless you then display symptoms.

If you then display symptoms you should self-isolate for 7 days from the first day of your symptoms.

Q5 - I understand that testing for COVID_19 is now available. Who can be tested and how do I arrange it?

All council key workers or those that cannot work from home who show symptoms of COVID-19 or live/work with someone else that does can be tested.

It's very easy, staff themselves or their manager simply email the name of the worker, job title/department and contact mobile number to staffscreening@eastriding.gov.uk.

There is no need to explain if it's the member of staff showing symptoms or someone they live with, it is just the staff members' details that are needed, as above. Any questions can come through to this email address as well.

The NHS will then contact the member of staff directly - in many cases the same day - to arrange an appointment for the following day. They will take information as to how many people in the household require testing.

Please note testing must take place within the first 3-5 days of the onset of symptoms and is most effective on days two or three. Ideally referrals for an appointment to the council should occur within 24 hours of the onset of symptoms.

Q6 - How can I implement the Governments advice on staying alert and staying safe?

The government has set out its plan to return life to as near normal as we can, for as many people as we can, as quickly and fairly as possible in order to safeguard livelihoods, but in a way that is safe and continues to protect our NHS.

For more information on this plan, please refer to this government guidance.

Please also refer to these government FAQs on what you can and can't do.

In addition, please refer to the question about higher risk groups below.

Q7 - How do I know if I am in a higher risk group?

The Government advises that those in the following groups are at an increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19.

People in this group are strongly advised to follow government guidance on social distancing at all times.

Note: there are some clinical conditions which put people at even higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19. If you are in this category, the NHS in England will or may already have directly contacted you with advice about the more stringent measures you should take in order to keep yourself and others safe.

People falling into this group are those who may be at particular risk due to complex health problems such as:

  • people who have received an organ transplant and remain on ongoing immunosuppression medication
  • people with cancer who are undergoing active chemotherapy or radiotherapy
  • people with cancers of the blood or bone marrow such as leukaemia who are at any stage of treatment
  • people with severe chest conditions such as cystic fibrosis or severe asthma (requiring hospital admissions or courses of steroid tablets)
  • people with severe diseases of body systems, such as severe kidney disease (dialysis)

If you are in this group you should follow the government's shielding guidance.

Please refer to the government guidelines for more information.

Q8 - What should I do about coming into work if I have a dependent with a chronic underlying medical condition who falls into the 'extremely vulnerable' group?

Those who are in the extremely vulnerable group are advised to rigorously follow shielding measures and are strongly advised to stay at home for at least 12 weeks, however those who live with them are not required to follow shielding measures. They are advised to stringently follow the social distancing guidelines.

Please refer to all of the guidance provided by government in relation to shielding and social distancing.

Q10 - What will happen if individuals in the workplace/ school have had contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19?

If a confirmed case is identified the local health protection team will provide relevant staff with advice. These staff include any employees who are in close face to face or touching contact, talking with or being coughed on for any length of time whilst the employee was showing symptoms, anyone who has cleaned up body fluids, close friendship or working groups, any employee living in the same household as a confirmed case.

Those who have had close contact will be asked to self-isolate at home for 14 days from the last time they had contact with the confirmed case.

If they develop new symptoms or their existing symptoms worsen within the 14 day period they should call NHS 111 for reassessment.

If they are unwell at any time within the 14 day period they should self-isolate for 7 days.

Please refer to the Guidelines for Dealing with Major Emergencies and the government guidelines for more information when working with colleagues in any of the above situation.

Staff who have not had close contact with the original confirmed case do not need to take precautions and can continue to attend work, taking into account Government guidance.

Q11 - What happens if my Manager believes I should self-isolate?

If your manager has concerns that you should self-isolate, as you may have been exposed to COVID-19 or you are showing symptoms, you should initially remove yourself to at least a 2 metre distance from other people and refer to NHS 111 online coronavirus service for further advice.

Q12 - Do I have to certify my absence from work?

Medical evidence is not required for the first 7 days of sickness. After this time a fit note is normally required, however the Council/school will use its discretion around the need for medical evidence if an employee has been advised to self-isolate and therefore not attend the workplace or visit a GP surgery due to suspected COVID-19. Employees are required to communicate regularly with their manager.

The government have provided an NHS Isolation Note for those who are self-isolating for more than 7 days which can be completed online. However the Council/school do not require employees to provide this note. Instead, employees can simply inform their manager that they are self-isolating.

Q13 - Will I be paid sick pay when I am absent from work due to COVID-19?

Employees on NJC terms and conditions

The Council's sickness scheme allows an employee on NJC terms and conditions who is prevented from attending work because of contact with infectious disease to be entitled to receive normal pay.As a result any absence due to contracting the illness or being required to remain at home and self-isolate will not result in any loss of pay.

When an employee is required to self-isolate or is placed in quarantine, these provisions will apply.

Employees on 'Burgundy Book' terms and conditions

When an employee is absent due to an infectious disease (such as COVID-19), they shall receive full pay and the absence will not be counted towards their entitlement to sick leave.

When an employee shares accommodation with someone with an infectious disease and are required to be absent from work as a result, or the workplace is closed as a result of an infectious disease, the employee shall receive full pay and the absence will not be counted towards their entitlement to sick leave.

Q14 - I have been absent from work due to COVID-19 and my absence has been recoded as one of the COVID-19 reasons on iTrent. What should I do now I no longer have symptoms or are no longer self-isolating?

If you have self-isolated in line with government guidelines for 14 days and have not developed symptoms you no longer need to self-isolate and can return to work. Your manager will need to log your return to work on iTrent. You may be required to work from home, or an alternative location, if your normal workplace is closed. You will need to speak to your manager for instructions and ensure you are complying with government guidelines in relation to social distancing and 'shielding'.

If you have been absent from work with symptoms of COVID-19, you should isolate for 7 days from the onset of symptoms. After 7 days, if you feel well again you can return to work. Your manager will need to log on iTrent on your return to work. You may be required to work from home or an alternative location if your normal workplace is closed. You will need to speak to your manager for instructions and ensure you are complying with government guidelines in relation to social distancing and 'shielding'.

If you have been tested and have a confirmed case of COVID-19 please follow the guidance provided by the medical professionals.

Q15 - Will my absence relating to COVID-19 be taken into account for consideration of an attendance level warning within the Attendance at Work Policy?

Any absence due to an employee being required to self-isolate or be placed in quarantine due to COVID-19 will be recorded but not count as an absence which would be used in consideration of the attendance level warnings.

Q16 - What happens if I have no symptoms but I am unable to undertake my normal duties due to closures or limitation of activities?

You may be directed by your line manager to other specific duties to enable continual delivery of 'front line services' and those services which support the front line. Assignment to these roles will take account of reported medical conditions and caring responsibilities.

Q17 - What should I do if I work in a childcare setting and have family members in the higher risk health group?

Government guidance states that if a member of staff lives with someone in a vulnerable health group, including those who are pregnant, they can attend their education or childcare setting as the number of social interactions in the education or childcare environment will be reduced, due to there being fewer children attending, social distancing and good hand hygiene being practiced.

Q18 - What happens if I am not willing to attend work but do not have any symptoms of COVID-19 and are not required to self-isolate in line with Government guidelines?

If you are not willing to attend work but do not have any symptoms of COVID-19 and are not required to self-isolate, you should discuss your concerns with your line manager. If you are not able to work from home, your manager may be able to agree to adjustments to your duties or location to alleviate your concerns. If such adjustments are not possible and you are still not willing to attend work your absence should be recorded as detailed in Q11 above.

Q19 - What happens if I need time off for caring responsibilities due to the Coronavirus?

If an employee is caring for someone who has or may have the coronavirus, this period of absence should be regarded as self-isolation. Given that the employee may then have been in direct contact with the virus, where possible, home working arrangements will be considered for the duration of the incubation period. Managers should keep in touch with and support employees.

Following any school closures, the Council/school will be fully supportive of employees with childcare responsibilities and 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.

Q20 - Can I send my child to school?

Education and childcare settings are already open to priority groups (vulnerable children and children of critical workers). Now that progress has been made in reducing the transmission of coronavirus, the Government are encouraging all eligible children to attend - it is no longer necessary for parents of eligible children to keep them at home if they can.

From the week commencing 1 June, the Government are asking primary schools to welcome back children in nursery, reception, year 1 and year 6, alongside priority groups.

From 15 June the Government are asking secondary schools, sixth form and further education colleges to offer some face-to-face support to supplement the remote education of year 10, year 12, and 16 to 19 students who are due to take key exams next year, alongside the full time provision they are offering to priority groups.

The Government will then gradually increasing the number of children and young people attending schools and colleges.

For more information about whether your child is able to attend school please contact your child's school.

Q21 - What should I do about my annual leave while the country is in 'lock-down'?

If you are an NJC employee and already have annual leave booked which you wish to cancel, you should speak to your line manager and update your leave record on iTrent. If, as a result of cancelling your leave, you have more than the maximum 5 day pro rata annual leave carry forward at the end of the leave year (March 2020), CMT have agreed that, due to the exceptional circumstances, you are able to carry forward a maximum of 15 days into the new leave year (April 2020). The additional 15 days must be used over the next two leave years (by March 2022).

However it is expected that you still use some of your leave entitlement while in 'lock-down'. Employees should not save all of their leave until 'lock-down' ends. It is still important for your wellbeing to take time away from work duties to rest and recuperate.

The government has introduced regulations enable workers to carry 4 weeks statutory leave forward where the impact of coronavirus means that it has not been reasonably practicable to take it in the leave year to which it relates.

If you are unable to take leave at the current time due to work requirements (for example an increased workload due to COVID-19) in exceptional circumstances, you may carry your annual leave forward into the following leave year, if necessary. In this instance you must discuss this with your manager in advance in order to agree how this will be managed and that the circumstances comply with the legislation.

Q22 - Am I able to take annual leave if I wish during 'lock-down'?

You are able to take annual leave during 'lock-down', subject to agreement from your line manager, in the normal way. Although you may be working from home or working in a different way at present, it is important to be mindful of your wellbeing by ensuring you take breaks and have time off work. This may be helpful if you are juggling caring responsibilities and working from home, for example.

Additional information relating to supporting your health and wellbeing during the pandemic is available on Insight.

Q23 - I participate in the Flexitime Scheme. Am I able to accrue flexi-time during 'lock-down'?

Whilst the corporate flexitime framework remains operative the accrual of flexitime should be minimised during the current period. Services should adopt a pragmatic approach to the service schemes adopted and determine the most appropriate working practices during this period including temporarily pausing schemes as appropriate.

Q24 - What should I do if I am an essential worker who is working in the community and I am challenged as to why I am not following the social distancing guidelines?

The Council/school will provide all essential workers who are required to work in the community with an individualised letter, which must be used in conjunction with their Council/school ID badge, to confirm their status as carrying out an essential role. This documentation can be shown in the event the employee is challenged in relation to social distancing.

Q25 - I normally work as a casual for the Council. Will I continue to receive payments?

If you are a true casual worker - i.e. you work as and when required with no guarantee of work, you are not entitled to receive a payment.

In the event that you are a true casual, your manager may agree to pay you for sessions which had already been booked in but have had to be cancelled due to coronavirus. In this event the manager may need to redeploy you to alternative duties should the need arise.

If, in reality, you work regular sessions and hours, you may be entitled to payment. In this event you will need to contact your line manager. If your manager is in agreement they will need to complete timesheet and submit them in the normal manner. Failure to do complete a time sheet will mean you are not in receipt of payments.

Regular work does not mean that you have worked the Council for a number of years (you could have worked for the Council for a number of years in a casual capacity), but rather that you have regular predictable work.

Please contact your line manager for more information.

Q26 - I am unable to work at the moment due to COVID-19. Can I become a 'furloughed worker' in line with the Government Job Retention Scheme?

The Government's Job Retention Scheme is designed to support employers whose operations have been severely affected by coronavirus, however as Councils and schools receive public funding for staff costs they are not expected to furlough their staff.

Q27 - I am an employee who has volunteered to undertake different duties during the COVID-19 lockdown. My new duties include driving for work to deliver essential food parcels. Do I need to have business insurance while doing this?

The Council's and maintained schools insurers are extending the Council's Motor Insurance programme to incorporate Occasional Business Use for the period for which such action is deemed necessary. This will apply to employees own vehicles used for business purposes. This cover will be provided on a Comprehensive basis subject to an excess of £100 in respect of each and every claim for own damage (Accidental Damage, Fire, Theft and Windscreen replacement). The excess is payable by the employee.

This insurance is contingency cover and any employees who already have insurance for business use should use their own policy in the first instance.

This is not applicable to academy employees who must ensure their own policy will cover any additional duties undertaken.

Q28 - As I am now working from home do I still need to deduct home to work mileage from my mileage claims?

Any employees who is now working from home will not be required to deduct their home to work mileage from any mileage claim where they are travelling to another site to undertake their duties. In this instance all miles travelled for business purposes will be paid. This is not applicable for journeys to the employee's normal place of work, where home to work mileage should still be deducted.

Q30 - Do I need any additional checks to be done in order to drive for work purposes if I don't normally?

In order to drive your vehicle for work purposes you need to have undertaken a Drivers Licence Check, even if driving is not normally part of your duties.

If you are an employee of the Council or a maintained school and require a Drivers Licence Check please send an individual or group email to:

econsentquery@drivercheck.co.uk

cc to:

admin@drivercheck.co.uk, fleet.management@eastriding.gov.uk

Please include the following details in your email:

  • Drivers Full Name (as shown on the licence)
  • Date of Birth
  • Email address

with the wording 'Please add to East Riding of Yorkshire Council account'

More information

Q31 - I currently pay for a parking season ticket for use in Council car parks. Is there are way to get a refund as I am not able to use it at the moment?

The Council has agreed an extension to the free parking for staff who pay for a parking permit. Details regarding staff parking permit payments:

  • Paper permits with an expiry date between 1/4/2020 and 31/07/2020 can still be used, even though expired. This reflects the period permit charges were made free. If you want to renew your permit, they should be renewed on or before 1/8/2020.
  • For those staff who paid upfront, permit expiry dates can be extended free of charge to reflect the free period by contacting the traffic and parking team.
  • Staff who pay via salary deduction do not need to restart their permits until such time as they need to start using council car parks again. Requesting a permit should be done in the normal way.
  • Staff who paid in advance for a permit may request a refund by contacting the traffic and parking team.

Staff are asked to contact the parking team on 01482 395411 or email parkingnotifications@eastriding.gov.uk to discuss.

Parking charges in Council car parks and parking bays have been reinstated with effect from the 1 June 20, however, NHS and critical care staff, as well as NHS Covid-19 volunteers, will still benefit from free parking when on official duty as long as they display their NHS pass.

Controlled parking zone restrictions will continue to apply, where applicable.

Q32 - I am finding it very difficult to deal with this situation emotionally. Is there any support the Council can offer me or my family?

The Council offers an Employee Assistant Programme (EAP) which offers a free telephone helpline 24 hours a day, 365 days of the year. The helpline is open to all Council employees and their families and offers confidential advice relating to:

  • Stress
  • Anxiety
  • Emotional problems
  • Relationship difficulties
  • Bereavement
  • Family issues
  • Debt
  • Legal information

Employees are able to speak to qualified counsellors, or get advice from the information team, which is similar to Citizens Advice.

To access the advice line please call 0800 107 6147.

Guidance is also available from the Government on the mental health and wellbeing aspect of Coronavirus.

Q33 - I pay for membership to East Riding Leisure Centres through the Council corporate membership scheme. As I am unable to use the facilities at the moment can I pause my payments?

The Council has paused leisure centre membership deductions with effect from 31 March 2020. The deduction has already been made from members' salaries in March, so a refund will be issued in April's salary payments.

Q34 - I am about to return to work from maternity leave / sickness absence. What shall I do as my usual place of work is closed?

Speak to your line manager in the first instance. If you are currently on maternity leave, sickness absence or self-isolating you will remain on this until you let your manager know you are intending to return to work. You will need to discuss your return to work with your manager, particularly if you need to work from home, your normal place of work is closed due to Coronavirus or you are a critical worker etc.

Q35 - I am an apprentice and I am unable to attend work and training at the moment. What should I do?

Training providers are being encouraged to deliver training remotely, and via e-learning, as far as is practicable, as well as keeping in touch with you directly. You can continue evidencing your learning time via these distance learning tools as well as completing other activities around the workplace, where possible. If you are not able to attend your workplace this could be an opportunity for you to get ahead with compiling their evidence in anticipation of assessor contact.

The end-point of assessment may be modified to an earlier or later date and remote assessments may be made.

Furlough does not currently apply to Apprentices employed by the Local Authority.

Q36 - Can I claim telephone expenses for using my personal mobile and-or home landline telephone for work purposes?

Employees should maximise the options available to make and receive voice and video calls such as work mobile telephone, personal mobile if you have agreed to use this for work purposes or Microsoft Teams which has had more functionality rolled out to include Microsoft Calendar which can be used as a virtual meeting room, allowing both internal and external participants to join.If you do not have access to Microsoft Teams please contact the IT Service Desk.

If you are using LoopUp for conferencing calls if you access via the weblink and add in your contact number it will call you rather than you having to call in, this works on mobiles and landline telephones

If no other alternatives are available or there are connectivity/ signal issues with mobile telephones you may seek agreement with your line manager/budget holder to make a claim via iTrent MSS as a subsistence claim. Claims can only be made for actual call costs and not for line rental or a monthly mobile contract charge. Evidence of call charges must be retained and provided upon request.

However, if you are in receipt of a £5 allowance for using your personal mobile for work purposes in line with the Mobile Device Policy then you can only claim in excess of £5 for calls made from an alternative telephone line.

Q37 - I am working over a Bank Holiday weekend. Will I receive additional hours and TOIL in the normal manner?

Please refer to the Annual Leave Guidelines for details of payments for Bank Holiday working.

* This does not apply to Council Services where Collective Agreements have added such days to the employee's leave entitlement. Such days will be treated as normal working days and accrue no enhancements.

Q38 - Can I claim an allowance for working from home during the coronavirus epidemic?

The Council does not pay an allowance for this purpose however HMRC have a provision where tax relief may be claimed on home working expenses via Form P87 or via self-assessment. Should you wish to claim you must do so individually by either of these methods

More information is available at this gov.uk information page.

Q39 - How do I avoid catching or spreading COVID-19?

Do

  • wash your hands with soap and water often - do this for at least 20 seconds
  • always wash your hands when you get home or into work
  • use hand sanitiser gel if soap and water are not available
  • cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when you cough or sneeze
  • put used tissues in the bin immediately and wash your hands afterwards
  • try to avoid close contact with people who are unwell

Don't

  • touch your hands, eyes or mouth if your hands are not clean.

Please refer to the Government guidelines for more information.

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