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1. Introduction

1.1.  As the UK’s lockdown restrictions ease, St George’s, University of London needs to consider how to adapt to the new requirements and ease back to working onsite. The health, safety and wellbeing of our staff and students is our primary priority and any return to onsite activities will be undertaken with this in mind.

1.2.  Prior to any workspaces being reopened, we will undertake and publish online a Covid-19 risk assessment to ensure it is as safe as possible to work there, in line with government requirements. It is recognised, though, that it is not possible to eliminate the risk of Covid-19 completely.

1.3. Onsite working will occur in line with government guidelines. These guidelines reflect current government advice as at the time they are dated. The guidelines will be updated as appropriate as government advice advances.

1.4. The University is taking a phased approach to the return to onsite working. Details of the phases can be found on the website.

1.5. We will discuss arrangements for returning to onsite working with employees and the unions.

1.6. All employees have a personal responsibility for observing regulations in relation to Covid-19, for example with regard to physical (social) distancing. As with all health and safety issues, failure to follow St George’s, University of London’s policies and procedures could result in disciplinary action. If you have concerns over appropriate health and safety measures not being observed, please discuss this with your manager, the Safety, Health and Environment team or Human Resources.

2. Cleaning and handwashing

2.1. Everyone is reminded of the importance of washing their hands effectively, ie for 20 seconds in hot water and regularly.

2.2. Estates and Facilities will make arrangements to ensure that workspaces and communal areas are cleaned regularly and that there is sufficient hand soap made available. Procedures for employees to inform Estates and Facilities if supplies are running low will be made available.

3. Social Distancing

3.1. Any return to onsite working will require physical (sometimes called ‘social’) distancing to be observed as much as is reasonably possible. Estates and Facilities have put in place plans to ensure that workspaces enable appropriate physical distancing, for example one-way systems in corridors, screens and reducing the number of people working at banks of desks. Where physical distancing may be more difficult, for example in more confined spaces, appropriate safety guidance will be provided.

3.2. Physical distancing is also required in communal areas, such as kitchen areas. Further information can be found in the Personal Safety and Social Distancing Guidance.

3.3. Where possible, the use of remote meeting facilities, for example Microsoft Teams, will continue in order to minimise the numbers of people in the same workspace. Where meeting or teaching rooms are used, appropriate signage will be provided to assist with physical distancing.

3.4. While it is important to maintain physical distancing you should nevertheless continue to follow the guidance on Lone and Out of Hours Working which can be found here.

4. Changing Work Patterns

4.1. In order to ensure that working onsite is possible while observing appropriate physical distancing, managers will consider work patterns and whether these need to be adapted. For example, it may be that some individuals start and finish work earlier or later than they had done before the lockdown. Working pattern changes could also include splitting teams so that some members of the team work onsite on some days while others work from home and vice versa, or having an extended working day where teams work in shifts.

4.2. Your managers will discuss these options with you to determine what will work best in order to deliver the requirements of your and your team’s responsibilities. You and your manager should discuss any circumstances which may impact your working pattern, for example caring responsibilities or commuting distance, in order to determine what may work best for you and your team. 

5. Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

5.1. For most employees working in St George’s, University of London, PPE is not required and government advice is that PPE would generally not assist in reducing the risks of Covid-19. Observing appropriate hand washing, high standards of hygiene and physical distancing advice will be the most effective ways to reduce the risk.

5.2. However, where you feel there may be a need for PPE you should discuss this with the Safety, Health and Environment Office who can provide appropriate advice and guidance.

5.3. Guidance on wearing face coverings and face masks can be found here. If you are wearing a face covering please be mindful of the fact that there may be some individuals who rely on lip-reading for effective communication.

6. Clinically extremely vulnerable (Shielding)

6.1. Clinically extremely vulnerable people will have received a letter telling them they are in this group, and/or will have been told by their GP. Guidance on who is in this group can be found here. You manager may request to see a copy of your letter. This will be treated confidentially and managed in accordance with GDPR regulations.

6.2. From 1 August 2020 the government will pause shielding unless the transmission of Covid-19 in the community starts to rise significantly. Nevertheless, every effort will be made to ensure that employees who are clinically extremely vulnerable are able to work from home for as long as required.

6.3. Where working from home is not possible an individual risk assessment should be undertaken. Consideration might also be given to whether there are alternate duties that can be given to clinically extremely vulnerable employees that can be undertaken from home. Alternatively, they might be placed on furlough, during such time as the government’s scheme remains available. At the end of this period arrangements will be made based on the government guidance available at that time. If necessary consideration may be given to a career break or sabbatical.

6.4. For employees who live in the same household as somebody who is designated as clinically extremely vulnerable the risk assessment will be reviewed to determine the extent of the risk. If necessary, an individual risk assessment will be undertaken. As above, if required, consideration will be given to alternate duties undertaken from home or furlough, if appropriate. 

7. Clinically vulnerable

7.1. Clinically vulnerable people are those who are aged 70 or older (regardless of medical conditions) or under 70 with an underlying health condition listed below (that is, anyone instructed to get a flu jab as an adult each year on medical grounds):

  • chronic (long-term) mild to moderate respiratory diseases, such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), emphysema or bronchitis.
  • chronic heart disease, such as heart failure.
  • chronic kidney disease.
  • chronic liver disease, such as hepatitis.
  • chronic neurological conditions, such as Parkinson’s disease, motor neurone disease, multiple sclerosis (MS), or cerebral palsy.
  • Diabetes.
  • a weakened immune system as the result of conditions such as HIV and AIDS, or medicines such as steroid tablets.
  • being seriously overweight (a body mass index (BMI) of 40 or above).
  • pregnant women.

7.2. Every effort will be made to ensure that individuals who are clinically vulnerable are able to work from home for as long as required.

7.3. Where working from home is not possible, clinically vulnerable employees will be offered the option of the safest available onsite roles, enabling them to stay 2 metres away from others. Your manager will discuss these options with you. If no onsite options are available, consideration will be given to alternate duties that can be can be undertaken from home. Furlough can be considered for clinically vulnerable employees but only where there is no work available for them to do.

7.4. The same arrangements will apply for employees who live in the same household as somebody who is clinically vulnerable.

8. Self-Isolating

8.1. Individuals who are self-isolating, either because they have Covid-19 symptoms or a member of their household has Covid-19 symptoms, should work from home if they are well enough to do so or take sick leave. Usual sick pay entitlements will apply.

8.2. The University is not able to offer tests to determine if you currently have, or have previously had, Covid-19. If you or somebody you live with is showing symptoms of Covid-19 you should contact NHS Direct. More information is available on the NHS website here.

9. Caring Responsibilities

9.1. We recognise that some St George’s, University of London employees have caring responsibilities covering many different situations. You should discuss these with your manager, in confidence, if you think they may impact your ability to return to working onsite.

10. Employees travelling by Public Transport

10.1. We recognise that individuals may have concerns about using public transport in order to return to onsite working. While we will offer as much support as we can, our expectation is that those employees who are well enough to do so will return to work onsite when permitted or required for service delivery, subject to changes in working patterns as described above.

10.2. Employees using public transport should observe the social distancing requirements put in place. It is a requirement that passengers wear a face covering and respect the space of fellow passengers when travelling. You should not travel if you have symptoms of the virus.

10.3. In some cases it may be possible to assist with alternative travel options, for example the university offers the cycle to work scheme and employees should contact Estates and Facilities if they wish to enquire about parking facilities.

11. Support for Employees

11.1. You should discuss any concerns you have about returning to onsite working with your manager. In addition, support is available via the Counselling Service or Employee Assistance Programme. More details on the support available can be found here.

Appendix: Onsite working flowchart

Download the onsite working flowchart (PDF)


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