Headline
Latest Brief from the Chief: COVID-19 Update - 28 August
Date
Fri, 28 Aug 2020
Description

Dear colleagues,

With lockdown measures continuing to ease, the country is moving into a new phase with regards to the COVID-19 pandemic.

This new phase has more of a focus on reopening the economy and trying to return society to something that resembles normality.

However, achieving this requires everyone to play their part including adhering to public health advice around social distancing, sanitising hands regularly and wearing face coverings. It will also require a more localised approach to handling outbreaks of coronavirus and that is why the council has devised and launched its own local outbreak management plan. Further information on this, including the 3 Steps To Safety, can be found here.

What does this mean for the council in terms of our work going forward? Well, after several months of remote working for many of us, it does mean that we can start to bring some office-based staff back into our buildings from Tuesday, 1 September.

However, before I get into the detail of this, I'd like to again take the opportunity to thank our entire workforce for their hard work and dedication over the past six months.

As well as those staff working remotely, frontline staff have also played a key role in our response to COVID-19 and have worked tirelessly throughout the pandemic - both in the community and at many of our buildings that, for operational reasons, have remained open throughout the pandemic.

Your efforts have meant that we have been able to continue delivering vital services to our residents, businesses and communities and, most importantly, support and protect some of the most vulnerable people in our society. As chief executive and on behalf of CMT, SMT and our elected members - thank you!

We must all remember that the pandemic is NOT over, and the threat of COVID-19 remains. The health and wellbeing of both staff and our residents remains this council's top priority.

With that in mind, from Tuesday, 1 September, we will begin a phased approach in bringing some office-based staff back to our buildings. It is important to stress that this is NOT a deadline and we are NOT expecting all staff to return on this date. Indeed, this will not be possible. We will have reduced occupancy of our buildings in order to ensure they remain COVID-secure and promote a safe environment.

Staff may return either for operational reasons and service need or because they have found working remotely difficult for specific reasons.

If staff working in an office-based role are able to continue working effectively, remotely or from home, and if there are no individual reasons as to why this is proving to be difficult, I am happy for this to continue for the foreseeable future and I would encourage it.

However, it is important that this is discussed and agreed with line managers to ensure the needs of the service area continue to be met.

Managers have an important role to play in facilitating the discussions on staff returning to the office and I would encourage them to take a proactive approach in their conversations with staff and identify the solution that works best for them and the service area, whether that is returning to the office or continuing to work from home or indeed a mixture of both. This should then be communicated with group managers and agreed with the service area representative appointed for workplace reintroduction, so they can ensure a coordinated approach to staff returning and ensure offices and buildings do not exceed the determined occupancy levels.

Each member of staff returning to our buildings must undertake the following before they can come back:

  • watch the informational video on returning to the workplace
  • complete the Passport to Work e-form - there will also be the option of undertaking an individual risk assessment - please speak with your line manager about this.

These are located on the intranet  here

There is also a frequently asked questions section.

Staff should also familiarise and understand the safe systems of work that have been put in place to make buildings COVID-secure.

Planning the return of staff to our buildings has been a huge undertaking and was coordinated by a group chaired by Ian Burnett, head of asset strategy.

A lot of work has been done, including

  • putting in place fire and first aid provision
  • establishing safe systems to support social distancing, such as the introduction of one-way systems
  • increased cleaning regimes
  • determining safe office and building occupancy levels
  • the use of shared spaces, such as kitchens and toilets.

It is also recommended that staff wear face coverings in office buildings (unless exempt) where social distancing may be difficult and where they will come into contact with people they do not normally meet, such as when entering and leaving a building and when walking around a building.

You do NOT have to wear a face covering while at your desk or in your own office.

This advice is based on guidance from Public Health England and the council's public health team, but it is for individual members of staff to act on this if they wish to do so.

External visitors will be able to visit our buildings as well, but this should be kept to an absolute minimum and should only happen after all other alternatives have been considered, such as the use of Microsoft Teams. A visitor will also need to follow all public health guidelines and a protocol for visitors will be made available on the intranet.

Our main buildings, County Hall, Bridlington Town Hall and the Goole Offices, have now been fitted with appropriate signage and floor markings to advise staff of the new systems in place and hand sanitiser stations have also been installed at various locations throughout the buildings.

Similar measures have also been put in place at all our buildings and have been determined by service areas in conjunction with safety services. It is important that all staff, regardless of where they are based, follow all public health guidance.

The past six months have been extremely challenging, and we will continue to provide up-to-date information as regularly as possible. My message today relates to our immediate working arrangements from September onwards. I know many staff are keen to hear about what plans we have for how we might work longer term, beyond the end of the pandemic, whenever that it. We are currently working on that and listening to staff and others. We will have more to say about this soon.

Finally, it leaves me to welcome back those staff who are returning to our buildings and, while it might be a small gesture, to acknowledge that the re-opening of the doors at our offices and buildings will be hugely symbolic in this challenging chapter of history.

#TogetherEastRiding

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