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FAQs for staff

Frequently asked questions, advice and support for UCL staff during the coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak.

Since the lockdown announcement, various restrictions have been eased; however, UCL’s current policy of remote working will stay in place for now.

We are asking everyone not to return to UCL for the time being, unless you are one of our key staff who has worked onsite during the lockdown, or your manager or line manager has contacted you about returning to work on campus. The safety of our community is paramount and there is much to do to make sure the campus is as safe as possible before larger numbers are able to return. For more information about our plans to reopen campus, see Keeping safe on campus.

i. Policies and guidance for staff

HR has produced a detailed set of frequently asked questions responding to some of the main queries that have been raised with them during the current outbreak. Please read HR’s updated policies and guidance to support staff during the coronavirus outbreak and check the links and FAQs below for more information.

How is UCL making use of the Government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) to place staff on furlough leave?

Our top priority at this time is to do everything we can to protect jobs. In order to do this we need to be as prudent as possible with our finances and preserve our cash as far as possible. UCL has decided to place staff on furlough leave for whom remote working is not possible due to the COVID-19 pandemic (for example, because of caring responsibilities or the type of work undertaken).
 
Only part of a salary is covered up to a capped limit by the furlough scheme, but UCL has decided that any furloughed staff will continue to be paid full salary and all benefits in the normal way. The terms and conditions of staff on FL will not be affected.
 
Staff will not be subject to any disadvantage or detriment at a later date as a result of having been placed on furlough leave. Those staff placed on furlough leave should not be concerned that their jobs are at risk as a consequence.

At least one of the following conditions must apply in order for someone to qualify for furlough leave:

  • the staff member works in an area of the University where their services are temporarily not required;
  • the staff member has no work because they have nothing to do as a result of temporary changes necessitated by the pandemic (e.g. their lab is closed); or
  • the staff member is unable to work (e.g. due to caring responsibilities).

Staff who meet the criteria for the Scheme will be contacted directly. Any member of UCL staff eligible for furlough leave must have been placed on furlough by 10 June at the latest. If you have queries about being placed on furlough leave, please speak to your line manager in the first instance.
 
For more information see HR’s FAQs for staff regarding furlough arrangements.

ii. Remote working / working from home

Should I be working remotely? 

Yes, unless you are one of our key staff who has worked onsite during the lockdown, or your manager or line manager has contacted you about returning to work on campus, please continue to work remotely.

We know some of you will find it difficult to work from home as effectively as you would wish and this is understood. Please speak to your line manager if this applies to you, but be assured that you will not be penalised in any way. For more information please see HR’s policies and guidance to support you during the outbreak of coronavirus.

Some of you may wish to return to your home country and work remotely from there until the university opens again. While logistically this may be difficult for you we are happy for staff to do so. Please speak with your line manager.

For the latest on UCL's plans for returning to campus, please refer to our live updates page

What support is available to help me work remotely?

Two task groups have been launched to develop policy and guidance to support staff with moving to online teaching and alternative assessment. The Teaching Continuity webpages provide key guidance on how to teach and assess online. They are being updated daily and link to the most up-to-date information including how-to videos.

Colleagues in Human Resources have launched Remote, Not Distant at UCL, a new website to help you and those around you adapt to remote working. We hope you’ll find it useful for:

  • Optimising your workspace, so you can work comfortably and safely
  • Staying connected with colleagues, whether that’s your team, department, communities of practice or friends
  • Some ‘golden rules’ for managing and supporting teams remotely
  • Tips for looking after your mental and emotional health

ISD have created a guide to remote working, which includes information about setting up at home, tools to help you work remotely and tips for how to use them. Please keep an eye on the ISD website for latest advice. We will be regularly updating the remote working page with further guidance and support materials.

To make sure you are able to work from home, please take the following steps:

  • Make sure you have the necessary software installed on your UCL laptop or home computer.  
  • Use the VPN only when needed, as capacity is limited. You don’t need to use it for Office365, Microsoft Teams or other productivity tools. To save using the VPN, please copy your working files from the N: and S: drives to MS OneDrive (which is cloud accessible).
  • For teaching staff, if you are preparing online lectures, please speak to your department if you think you need a headset. You will also need to install the Lecturecast Personal Capture application on your computer.
  • Make use of Microsoft Teams, especially for collaborating (e.g. for daily “stand-up” calls with your team).  

Many of us are now using Microsoft Teams to collaborate via chat and conference calls. Please remember that: 

  • It isn’t just meeting attendees that can view the meeting chat; others who are on the invite list but haven’t connected in can see it too.
  • The chat is retained indefinitely so could be referred to at a later stage by meeting attendees/invitees.
  • Chats are just like emails and could be requested under a Freedom of Information request.
How can I support my safety whilst working remotely? [Updated]

Working at home should be just as safe as it would be on UCL premises. The Health and Safety Executive has produced a Display Screen Equipment workstation checklist which will help support those who work at home and in particular those not used to working in their home environment. They have also shared a video on workstation setup for staff temporarily working from home to help you make your temporary environment as comfortable as possible.

All staff and postgraduate researchers should complete an online workstation assessment. It doesn’t take very long to complete and is designed to reduce the risks of ill-health associated with using display screen equipment (DSE).

The assessment consists of a brief tutorial that will give you information about optimising your workstation. You’ll also be asked to tell us about your working environment such as your chair, screen, work surface and keyboard, including any problems you may be experiencing. Any issues you raise in the assessment will be forwarded to your line manager or supervisor, who will consider any actions necessary to make sure you can work as comfortably as possible. If you have completed an assessment on riskNET since 25 May 2020 then you do not need to repeat it now.

To complete your assessment please follow the instructions at the Safety Services website. If you have any problems accessing your assessment, please email the riskNET Helpdesk. 

If you have any concerns about working at home or DSE you should discuss these with your manager.

How can I support my wellbeing whilst working remotely?

UCL is partnered with Care First to provide 24/7 support to all staff/PhD students and out of hours support to all students. Telephone support is now also available to contractors working for UCL during the pandemic. You can contact them on 0800 197 4510 to discuss any concerns you may have whilst working remotely. Care first can help you look at strategies that you can use to support working in what might be a very different way. Care first is a free and confidential service to our community. You can find more information on the Workplace Health website.

HR have created a guide aimed towards helping you maintain your wellbeing in this time of change and gives you tips to build into your new routine. It includes resources for support, and advice and guidance about looking after your mental and emotional health as well as managing your work-life balance.

Using technology to connect with colleagues is important and Microsoft Teams is a resource available at UCL that we can contact our colleagues through. ISD have created a series of guides on using this technology which are available thought the MS Teams app on your computer.

We may struggle with our own concerns and anxieties about coronavirus. Mind have created some useful guidance focusing on how to look after our mental health during these uncertain times. Please do take a look at these and see how you can build them into your day.

Can I forward my phone calls to a Non UCL Number?

Yes. Users of the UCL VOIP telephone systems (Cisco phones) can forward their numbers to external and mobile numbers. You need to be connected to the VPN to make this change. Instructions can be found here. For users of older UCL phone systems you will need to request this service by emailing is-telecoms@ucl.ac.uk. Please provides your UCL extension and the number you wish to forward from and to.

I need to request a purchase or submit an expense related to working from home – can I do this?

Yes. However, do consider whether the purchase needs to be made or whether there is a reasonable zero cost alternative. The current expenses policy remains appropriate for the majority of home working needs and should be followed. For low value items (less than £10/item) stationery and office goods these can be ordered more easily through local or online vendors. Reimbursements can be claimed via the usual expenses route, but prior authorisation by line manager is still required. Do note that all expense requests will be centrally monitored.

In the case of higher value assets such as mobile phones, staff should recycle and reuse where possible rather than buying new. Any request to purchase items costing over £50 should be pre-approved by the Faculty Director of Operations or nominated deputy.

Do I have to buy from UCL preferred suppliers?

No, not for low value purchases and where the cost of the purchase is being recovered through expenses. In the current economic environment, we would like to promote a “buy-local” approach where it is financially sensible to do so.

Laptops and headets

ISD has a small stock of laptops and headsets that can be provided to any staff who do not have appropriate IT equipment available at home. To limit what could be a large demand, all requests require approval which are to go via:

Faculty Directors of Operations, who can liaise with respective Heads of IT.

Other PSLT members, who liaise with Ketan Parikh at k.parikh@ucl.ac.uk 

To enable prioritisation of a limited supply of equipment please provide your approver with a statement of the impact of not being able to provide the equipment. Note: In exceptional circumstances, we are able to courier the laptops to staff member’s preferred address.

Tax relief on expenses incurred from working at home

If UCL requires you to work at home, you can claim for tax relief for bills at a flat rate of £4 per week for the tax year 2019/2020 and £6 per week for the tax year 2020/2021.

See HR’s Pay and Benefits FAQ for more information

I have a question about GDPR and data protection. Where can I find advice and resources to help me?

The Data Protection Office, Information Security Group and the GDPR Programme have produced a series of FAQs about data protection and security when working remotely

If I am working from home, am I still covered by UCL insurance?

UCL Policy covers employees who are working from home. This includes personal accident cover - providing the injury happened whilst they were carrying out their occupational duties which includes research activity - and professional indemnity cover for staff providing online advice and teaching. Personal accident cover is currently provided for UCL members of staff only and does not extend to include their household or family members. 

Working from home is not something that home insurers usually ask you to declare and UCL has cover on its Policy for items temporarily moved or taken off-site up to the value of £100k, but if you are in any doubt or have any questions, you should discuss them with your policy provider.

If work equipment is lost or damaged whilst working from home and the item is valued above the level of the excess on the UCL insurance policy, ie. £2k, please contact Serena Ezra or June Campbell in the Insurance Team. Any claims submitted for damaged, lost or stolen equipment valued at less than this amount, may need to be covered internally by the UCL department for which the employee works.

For more information please contact the insurance team.

Can I access the office to collect belongings or equipment?

You can collect personal belongings from campus on a pre-arranged, rota basis.

Buildings will be opened up on set dates and times, either in the morning (10:00–13:00) or the afternoon (14:00–17:00) on specific days. 

Find out more about collecting your belongings from campus.

Will UCL’s remote working policy for staff extend beyond the current coronavirus crisis?

It’s too early for us to give a definitive answer, but it is unlikely that we will return to the way we worked before we shut down campus. We will consider our longer-term options for remote working in detail once the immediate crisis is over. 

We are now clear about how we want to deliver teaching and run the campus next year and have developed a delivery model for 2020-21 that, of necessity, looks very different to our normal way of working. We are currently focusing on translating our planning into practice and our priority is to ensure that our phased return to campus is as safe as possible.

Is there any extra support available to help me balance work with my additional caring responsibilities during the coronavirus outbreak? [New]

We are conscious that many staff now have additional caring responsibilities, please be assured that UCL will support all staff affected in this way. This could be through changes to work routines or perhaps by reducing the number of hours worked. Any changes should be discussed and agreed with line managers. Please be assured that anyone affected in this way as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic will continue to receive full pay. 

UCL’s Chief Operating Officer Fiona Ryland has written about How UCL can help you find the best work/life/plus blend during lockdown.

Further information, including updated policy guidance and details of support networks, is also available on the HR webpages.

iii. Teaching, assessment and academic guidance

Where can I get information and practical guidance on teaching and assessment planning for 2020/21? [New]

The Education Planning, 2020-21 pages provide the most up-to-date information on how we are preparing to deliver an excellent and distinctive education to all UCL students in the next academic session.

These pages include regularly updated Frequently Asked Questions about teaching, assessment and academic practice (including timetabling) for 2020/21.

You can also find practical guidance on moving to online teaching and assessment, alongside the contact details of the Arena Centre and Digital Education teams who can support with this transition.

What are extenuating circumstances regulations for the remainder of 2019/20 academic year? 

Students can self-certify if they have Extenuating Circumstances for the remainder of the 2019/20 academic year. The full procedure is set out in the Academic Manual.

Student guidance is available from the Illness and unexpected disruptions page. 

Can I share my views on the support that staff and students will need in the 2020/21 academic year?

We have launched consultation to gather your views on what will be needed to support you and your students through Term 1 and beyond. The consultation is open to all staff and will run until 1 July and your responses will inform the support programme that central teams and faculty delivery teams develop.

We have developed two documents, the UCL Commitment to Students and Connected Learning at UCL – our pedagogical approach, which we hope will provide you with some helpful context. You can find these documents and take part in the consultation here.

Responses received before 12 June will be circulated to Academic Committee and to Council at their June meetings. A full set of final responses will be shared with Council in July when the consultation has closed.

 

iv. Academic/Research staff  

I’m a researcher, am I able to conduct research on campus?

We are currently implementing plans for a measured and phased return to campus. Please refer to our live updates page for details about when departments and buildings are scheduled to reopen. 

Unless your research is in the immediate national interest (for example, work on coronavirus) and it has been agreed by your Faculty Dean, or your line manager or supervisor has been in touch with you about your department reopening, please continue to work remotely where possible.

I am a researcher, am I able to restart my fieldwork? [New]

Fieldwork can restart from this week, as long as individuals wish to take part, and the activity:

  • Is in line with the plans for reopening buildings and travel advice (further down this page);
  • Is supported by a risk assessment, which has been signed off by the relevant Dean.

You must ensure all fieldwork follows UK Government travel advice and any national or regional guidance at your destination. This includes the different rules operating in the four nations of the UK. The Foreign & Commonwealth Office is currently advising British nationals against all but essential international travel and UCL staff and students should not travel internationally on UCL business until 1 August 2020. This advice is being kept under review. 

Fieldwork must also be reviewed in line with the insurance requirements, with any necessary actions considered in the risk assessment. 

If you have any questions about restarting fieldwork, please speak to your manager.

I’m a researcher and I am concerned about the impact of coronavirus on my research project / funding. What should I do?

For more information about the impact on research funding, please visit the Research Services page.  

I’m a researcher with a ready to release technology that could be useful in tackling the Covid-19 health crisis. How can I make it rapidly available to others for free?

UCL strongly recommends you make use of UCLB’s secure licensing platform, which is being used for the UCL-Ventura breathing aid (CPAP). This non-commercial UCL-branded site (covid19research.uclb.com) has been customised specifically for the controlled dissemination of technologies related to the fight against Covid-19. Technologies could include modelling tools, software, datasets, materials, device designs, etc. More information is available on the UCLB website.

I'm a researcher and looking for more info on new research projects into Covid-19 - new project funding, submission, etc

For the latest, check the information for UCL researchers on our Covid-19 Research website. 

 

v. Critical and key workers using UCL buildings

Where can I find information and support to help me work safely on site?

ISD and Estates have created a SharePoint site for staff who need to work safely and securely on campus during the lockdown. This is accessible to all staff who have been identified as key workers. 

The site includes instructions for working on campus, advice on ensuring your personal safety, information on the level of service and facilities available to you and working in Bidborough House, UCL’s only functional ‘hub’ building for staff during lockdown.

How did UCL identify key workers?

UCL followed the criteria and guidance set out by the Department for Education in April to include staff whose roles are critical to our business while keeping the number of staff identified to the minimum needed for essential operations. Those identified include:

  • Staff responsible for research and other activities to mitigate the effects of COVID-19 and for other essential research and supporting activity necessary to meet regulatory, legal, health and safety or other on-going requirements. This includes long-running research which cannot tolerate a break, staff looking after live animals, plants, bacterial cultures or hazardous materials; and technicians for essential maintenance of equipment and facilities.
  • Staff responsible for providing services for students who need to remain in student accommodation (including those who are isolating after contracting COVID-19), including catering staff, cleaners, wardens, mental health support, IT and security staff.
  • Staff critical to the safety and security of the university estate and business-critical operations.

 

vi. Events and travel

Events

All external events are suspended until 1 August. This includes:

  • Events in the Bloomsbury Theatre, all UCL galleries and museums
  • Staff recruitment (unless it can take place remotely via Microsoft Teams)

The central UCL room bookings system will not accept any further external bookings for this period.

I'm organising an event, conference or course and delegates will be travelling from other parts of the UK or overseas to attend. Are we liable for any cancellation fees if the event cannot go ahead due to coronavirus?

You should check any contracts and insurance policies you have in place for your event, including venue hire, speaker agreements and catering, as these will be different for each event.  

Please bear in mind that delegates may not be able to recoup their expenses if your event is cancelled or postponed at short notice, so please let them know as soon as you know it cannot go ahead as planned.  


Travel

The Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) is advising against all but essential international travel indefinitely. This position recognises that we should do all we can to prevent the spread of coronavirus and protect the more vulnerable members of our communities. Please see their website for more details.

In light of this advice, UCL has extending its travel restrictions. Staff and students should not travel internationally on UCL business until 1 August 2020.

Please therefore postpone or cancel all incoming external international visitors for seminars and conferences with immediate effect. Please consider whether planned international collaborative activity could instead be conducted virtually (e.g. via Microsoft Teams).

Where can I find information about travel bookings and cancellations, rescheduling travel and travel insurance?

UCL will no longer accept expense claims for any travel bookings made after 15 April 2020. Staff have until the end of April to submit any historical international travel related expenses claims.

With many countries having put or putting travel restrictions in place at short notice, we advise that you refrain from making any non-essential bookings at this time. If you are required to travel for essential reasons please use Key Travel to make the booking. Using Key Travel allows UCL to contact you quickly and bring you back to the UK safely in case of emergency. 

If you require support with a booking or would like further information on the cancellation and claims process, you can find out more on UCL’s Procurement website as well as information about:

  • What to do if you have a travel booking between now and 1 August 2020
  • Cancelling or rescheduling bookings made offline (phone/email) or online
  • Travel bookings for incoming external international visitors
  • Travel plans after 1 August 2020
  • What to do if you have booked travel outside of the Key Travel service
  • General information and contact details
I'm currently in a country outside the UK or am thinking about travelling abroad – what should I do?

The Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) currently advises against all but essential travel. All Study Abroad students are being formally recalled.

Staff currently living abroad or wishing to travel abroad should be aware that the Government has introduced a two-week self-isolation period for anyone entering the UK on or after 8 June (this does not apply to travellers from Ireland, the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man if they have been there for 14 days or more). See HR's policies and guidance about leave and absence related to coronavirus. 

Many airlines have suspended flights and many airports have closed, preventing flights from leaving. Please check the FCO website for the latest advice for the area you are in. UCL staff and students should contact UCL’s insurers Drum Cussac by calling (+44) (0) 208 608 4100 or emailing rsa@healix.com for help returning to the UK. 

I’m a recipient of seed-funding, e.g. Global Engagement Funds or Grand Challenges funding that I was intending to use for international travel. Can I repurpose this funding or postpone my activity (and therefore funding) to the next academic year?

Please contact the administrator of the relevant funding scheme, who will provide guidance on your options. 

 

vii. Further support for staff

I’m very worried, or I have experienced bullying or abuse related to coronavirus. Who can I talk to?

Staff can access Care First’s employee assistance programme 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. To discuss any issues that concern or affect you, please dial Care First’s Freephone number 0800 197 4510. If you are outside the UK, telephone +44 (0)1452 623246.

UCL does not tolerate abuse of any kind within our community. Please report this directly to the police. If you are a UCL student or member of staff, you can also use our online Report + Support tool

 

viii. Further questions

If you have a specific question about your individual circumstances please speak to your line manager in the first instance.

If you have a more general question, please check that it has not already been answered above or on our Keeping Safe on Campus webpages. If it hasn’t, members of UCL staff can submit a question about keeping safe on campus via our online form or alternatively you can email covidhelpline@ucl.ac.uk. If you would like to speak to someone on the phone, please call our helpline on 0203 108 5699. Lines are open 9am-5pm, Monday-Friday.