At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, in line with Government guidance, we asked that staff work from home wherever possible.
As a Category 1 responder however, we also needed to identify key/essential staff required to attend work, in order to ensure we could respond to the pandemic, as well as services continuing to be delivered to our most vulnerable citizens/communities.
As the government continues to implement measures to ease national lockdown as well as ensuring transmission of virus is minimised (eg through the introduction of local lock downs), we as a Council are also looking at how we will deliver all services going forward and how we will reintroduce staff who have been unable to work back into the workplace.
As part of our recovery plan all council workplaces have been risk assessed and modified to meet national guidance and make them Covid secure.
We have introduced individual risk assessments for anyone deemed high risk to make additional provisions (where necessary) to reduce risk and protect their safety while at work. We will also, as restrictions ease, undertake individual assessments for those staff who have been shielding.
We have also updated our home working risk assessment and are working with services to provide office furniture and IT equipment to make sure that homeworking is a viable option for as many people as possible.
Now that schools and child minders have reopened and government advice allows for children to be cared for by others again we continue to move back towards all staff either working from home or coming back into the workplace to undertake their contracted hours.
The following briefing is intended to provide clarity on how annual leave and or special leave should be utilised as well as the provisions in place where measures are put in place at local/school level to minimise transmission of the COVID-19 virus.
All staff must ensure they are utilising their annual leave and should liaise with their managers to agree leave dates. Early planning will enable services to ensure they have available staff resources to maintain service provision for the year ahead and to make sure there is no unnecessarily large carry over of leave into the following leave year.
Due to the volume of annual leave not taken so far this leave year, large scale carry over of leave has the potential to disrupt service provision for the following year.
Once staff have recorded their annual leave in iTrent it can be amended at any point, following discussions and agreement with their manager.
The Council is working to the principle that no member of staff will be disadvantaged and lose annual leave because of the situation with Covid 19.
We understand that some staff in key services may be unable to utilise their full leave entitlement due to commitments at work and/or further outbreaks of the virus which would put additional pressure on services. Staff should discuss work commitments and leave with their managers and where staff are unable to take their full compliment of annual leave due to work commitments/service need, 10 days may be carried into the following leave year.
In exceptional circumstances, where work commitments/service need are very high or further Covid 19 issues result in annual leave having to be be cancelled or put on hold to allow continued delivery of Council services, staff members may carry over more than 10 days (to a maximum of 20 days) into the following leave year. This type of carry over and the reasons for it should be highlighted to the appropriate Director by the Senior Service Manager.
Staff and managers are reminded that time away from work is essential for staff to rest and recuperate. Requests for annual leave should only be declined in exceptional circumstances which only relates to service delivery.
Staff whose role allows for homeworking and have been set up to safely homework will remain doing so for the foreseeable future whether permanently at home or on a rota basis. Staff must continue to utilise their annual leave in the normal manner and schedule breaks throughout the year.
Staff must continue to utilise their annual leave in the normal manner and schedule breaks throughout the year.
As school and childcare provision has now resumed, staff should have in place their normal childcare arrangements, however, where staff have ongoing issues with working their contracted hours due to childcare or caring responsibility they should discuss this with their manager and consider one of the following policies which may be of assistance.
If employees are required to be absent from work to make alternative arrangements arising from family emergencies, up to 1 days leave with pay will normally be granted for each incident (subject to a maximum of 3 days in a 12 month period). Family emergencies may include incidents such as the sudden or unexpected illness of a relative, partner or child, disruption to the care of a dependent or an incident involving children at school/childcare.
Unpaid parental leave for up to 18 weeks per child, available from birth or adoption placement, limited to 4 weeks per year up to the child’s 18th birthday. Leave must be taken in blocks of 1 week, or multiples of 1 week. It is not possible to use as single days or multiples of one day, unless a staff member has a child who is disabled.
This could be helpful for staff who are unable to attend work for prolonged periods due to childcare needs at this time. We will also look favourably on extending this provision beyond the statutory allowance wherever possible for any member of staff who requests this due to COVID reasons.
The Councils carers’ policy provides various paid and unpaid options for carers, a carer being someone who provides support to a dependant who is affected by long term illness, disability or addiction who could not manage without this help. Examples may include a dependant who is ill, older and/or frail or disabled; or where there is a change in circumstances or health of a dependant who is ill, older and/or frail or disabled.
Staff should ensure they are familiar with the test and protect guidance previously issued. Please refer to the Latest News page.
Staff unable to work any contracted hours, as their roles do not allow for homeworking will, wherever possible be allocated alternative duties commensurate with their skills and grade. This will be in line with the temporary redeployment protocols agreed with our trade union colleagues. We will offer training to help support any employee taking on work of an unfamiliar nature to help them transition should this be an available option for them.
Staff must utilise their annual leave in the normal manner and schedule leave throughout the year.
Staff who have been identified as high risk or had previously been shielding and who are unable to work from home or return to work following a Council risk assessment, are required to liaise with their line manager to discuss and agree how their outstanding annual leave will be utilised for the remainder of the annual leave year.
Further engagement will be undertaken with TU colleagues to identify a longer term solution for staff that fall into this category. It is hoped all staff should be able to achieve some form of return to duty, providing it is safe for them to do so. Other tasks may also be allocated to be carried out at home if this is appropriate and possible to allow this.
Where parents are working from home and balancing childcare/school needs staff will require to liaise with their manager to agree weekly working hours/pattern of work. Changes to work patterns including both working days and hours should be given full consideration by all line managers.
Where the total number of contracted hours cannot be worked and all other possibilities have been exhausted, staff will need to identify and agree with their managers:
Where both parents are working (whether or not with the Council) we would ask that both parents liaise to agree work patterns which will allow childcare to be shared during this period. This will allow both parents to undertake some, if not all, of their contracted hours and the other measures can then be utilised as outlined above. If both parents work for the Council, the line mangers may wish to have a discussion and come to an agreement which suits both service needs as much as possible.
It is envisaged that this particular example will only arise in exceptional circumstances. Given the Council is a category 1 responder staff should be able to attend a place of work.
Should this circumstance arise it will be managed on an individual basis with the assistance of HR.