FAQs for staff

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

Visit the Government and NHS websites and download the NHS COVID-19 App for the most up to date information about what to do if you feel unwell and what you can do to avoid spreading the virus. 

Remember, you must stay at home, inform your line manager and use the UCL Connect to Protect reporting tool if: you think you may have coronavirus; you have tested positive for the virus; you are waiting for the results of a coronavirus test; you need to self-isolate.

Report a potential case

Working on campus 

In line with government guidance you must work from home if you can. Campus will remain open and some colleagues will be required to work onsite.Find out more about working on campus and booking a study space.

Visit our keeping safe on campus website to find out what we’re doing to protect our staff and students, how you can help keep campus as safe as possible.

1. 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 during the current outbreak such as: information about leave and absences, guidance for parents and carers, and resources and information for managers about how to support staff. Please read HR’s updated policies and guidance to support staff during the coronavirus outbreak.

What support is available for parents and parents and carers?

We know that many of you will be affected by the Government’s closure of schools, or you may have additional caring responsibilities that make it harder for you to work. UCL is committed to supporting all our staff affected by these changes.

If this applies to you, please speak to your line manager about what options are available, such as changing your work routine, delivering more learning asynchronously, reprioritising your objectives, reducing the number of hours you are able to work or potentially being placed on the Government’s furlough scheme or flexible (part-time) furlough. Anyone in these circumstances will continue to receive full pay.

Under the latest Government guidance, university staff are considered critical workers and are therefore eligible to send their children to school for in-person teaching. This is because we are being asked to keep universities open and to continue to deliver learning and research (even if remotely). However school capacity is limited, and we would ask that you please think carefully when you are deciding whether to request a place for your child. The Government has restricted school attendance to reduce the spread of infection and those families who do send their children to school will face a higher risk of catching the virus.

Many schools are facing high levels of demand for places and have therefore introduced additional criteria such as both parents being critical workers, which means not everyone will be allocated a place. It is important to stress that UCL does not expect you to send your children to attend school in-person unless you are comfortable that this is the right decision for you.

If you do wish to request a place at school for your child, please present your UCL staff pass as evidence. If the school requires further documentation a template letter is available for your manager to complete. 

Visit HR’s Parents and carers website for further information, including updated policy guidance and details of support networks.

2. Remote working / working from home

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?

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 provide 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 headsets

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 via either:

  • Faculty Directors of Operations, who can liaise with respective Heads of IT.
  • Other PSLT members, who can 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 the UK Government website for more information and to claim your tax relief.

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.

3. Teaching, assessment and academic guidance

UCL is committed to continuing its mission of excellent teaching and research during Academic Year 2020/21. 

The Education Planning 2020-21 pages have information about how we have prepared to deliver an excellent and distinctive education to all UCL students in the current academic session as well as guidance, FAQs and support for teaching staff.

What is the guidance for teaching and learning plans for Terms 2 and 3 

In view of Government guidance, there will be no in-person teaching on campus until Monday 22 February at the earliest, except for a small number of exempt subjects. We will share further information about plans for the second half of term at the start of February, or earlier if possible. Read more about changes to teaching in Term 2.

UCL is reviewing its package of support for student assessment in 2020-21. A panel of academic and administrative staff and Students’ Union UCL representatives has now agreed the principles on which the support package for 2020-21 will be based, including supporting all students individually, providing fair and equitable assessment, and protecting the value of UCL degrees. Find out more on UCL student news.

The new temporary operating model sets out the principles of our response to the pandemic for Terms Two and Three. The implications of these changes will now need to be worked through a local level, and you may have questions about what they will mean for you. If you are responsible for teaching, you should work with your Head of Department in the first instance to determine how individual sessions will be affected, and how you will ensure that students are kept up-to-date with any necessary changes. Faculty Tutors and Deans will also be able to support these discussions. 

The Education Planning 2020-21 pages have information about how we have prepared to deliver an excellent and distinctive education to all UCL students in the current academic session as well as guidance, FAQs and support for teaching staff.

4. Academic/Research staff  

Can I continue with my research on campus during the national lockdown?

Researchers and research students who require specialist facilities for their work can work on campus. 

Please speak to your Head of Department about local arrangements for your department before you arrive, and ensure that you are aware of, and abide by, safety guidelines. 

I am a researcher, am I able to continue my fieldwork during the national lockdown?

Please note that researchers should review any current fieldwork arrangements and verify whether fieldwork in the UK can be carried out remotely or should be suspended for the duration of the restrictions

Please refer to UCL’s framework for starting or resuming fieldwork in non-UCL settings and UCL’s framework for fieldwork activity in taught and MRes programmes, 2020-21.

If you have any questions about 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 information on new research projects into Covid-19 - new project funding, submissions, etc

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


5. Staff using UCL buildings

In line with Government guidance, if you can work remotely you should do so. If your role requires you to work onsite, campus will remain open and our Estates and Safety teams will continue to provide key services to support you. University buildings are open, but you will need your access card or fob to gain entry. Our support services will be similar to those offered during UCL’s closure periods due to the limited availability of support staff, particularly cleaning, maintenance and security colleagues.

Find out more about working on campus and booking a study space.

6. About the virus

Find out what to do if you or someone else thinks they have coronavirus, how to get a test at UCL, how we're planning for a potential outbreak, and about confirmed cases at UCL on the Testing, reporting and managing potential cases page.

What is UCL Connect to Protect?

The Connect to Protect reporting tool has been designed with public health experts to help us monitor and respond to coronavirus cases at UCL and inform our testing programmes. It does not replace NHS Test and Trace. Read more about when and how to use it. 

When will I be offered a COVID-19 vaccine?

The NHS is currently offering the COVID-19 vaccine to people most at risk from coronavirus. The order in which people will be offered the vaccine is based on advice from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI). Visit the NHS website for more information about the vaccine.


6. Events and travel


What's the situation regarding external events in UCL locations?

All external events are suspended until further notice. 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 on UCL business

Is travel on UCL business allowed?

In line with the national restrictions, the UK Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) has updated its position stating that travelling away from home, including internationally, is restricted from England except in limited circumstances. In line with this guidance, UCL advises against all but essential travel where that travel meets the legal exceptions until further notice.

Staff should check the travel advice for their destination and seek permission from their line manager before booking travel. Quarantine positions remain the same and staff should make provisions for any compulsory quarantine period on their return. 

Any international travel must be booked with Key Travel and staff should complete the necessary insurance and risk assessment forms. Using Key Travel allows UCL to contact you quickly and bring you back to the UK safely in case of emergency. Key Travel have a robust price match process that offers an assurance that they will source the lowest fare or rate available. If you find travel cheaper, then please email Key Travel within an hour of identifying the fare/rate, together with the relevant link and a screenshot. For further information on the process, please see the Travel Bookers Guide.

UCL will not accept any expense claims for international travel bookings.

If you need help with a booking please visit UCL’s Travel Guidance webpages. 

I’m thinking about travelling – what do I need to consider?

Travellers and Heads of Department should consider whether travel is safe and “essential” before agreeing any trips. Examples of essential travel may include field and laboratory work that require a physical presence and cannot be undertaken remotely or delayed without impacting academic or research outcomes. Please explore all options for using virtual meetings (e.g. via Microsoft Teams) as an alternative to travel, which will also help UCL meet our environmental sustainability targets. 

Remember that no travel is risk-free: disruption is still possible and national control measures may be brought in at short notice. Many countries have also put their own rules and regulations in place following the coronavirus outbreak as we have seen in response to the identification of new variants of the virus. Please make sure you take this into account when planning any travel. For this reason, we are now recommending that staff needing to book travel book flexible tickets.

If you decide to travel on UCL business, it is your responsibility to ensure that you comply with both the guidance of the FCDO and the destination country. You must check the relevant guidance regularly before departure, during the trip and on your return. You may also be required to quarantine or self-isolate when you arrive back in the UK if you have been to a country outside one of the Government’s travel corridors.

If you need help with a booking please visit UCL’s Travel Guidance webpages. 

What steps do I need to take before travelling?

Due to the ever-changing nature we are now recommending that staff needing to book travel book flexible tickets. Any international travel must be booked with Key Travel. Using Key Travel allows UCL to contact you quickly and bring you back to the UK safely in case of emergency. Key Travel have a robust price match process which offers an assurance that they will source the lowest fare or rate available. If you find travel cheaper, then please email Key Travel within an hour of identifying the fare/rate, together with the relevant link and a screenshot. Providing the booking is on a like for like basis, Key Travel will ensure that your price is matched. For further information on the process, please see the Travel Bookers Guide.

UCL will not accept any expense claims for international travel bookings that are not made through Key Travel. 

UCL also recommends you take the following steps before and during any essential travel:

  • Read the UCL Travel Bookers Guide for information and guidance on the insurance and risk assessment forms that you must complete before travelling;
  • Consider your personal risk and safety requirements, ensuring you are prepared for any local measures that may be in place at your destination. Please follow FCDO travel advice and find and more on the HR website;
  • Review the Governments travel checklist and sign-up to the daily FCDO emails for country you are traveling to;
  • Discuss with your line manager the implications associated with having to quarantine or self-isolate on arrival at your destination and on your return to the UK. More information is available on the HR website
  • Ensure that before returning you have completed all necessary border entry requirements;
  • UK is no longer part of the EU. For more information on any new restrictions that may affect you, read the Travel FAQs on the UCL and Brexit website 

If you need help with a booking please visit UCL’s Travel Guidance webpages. 

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

If you need help with a booking or would like further guidance, please visit UCL’s Travel Guidance webpages for information about:

  • What to do if you have a travel booking between now and the end of Term Two
  • Cancelling or rescheduling bookings made offline (phone/email) or online
  • Travel bookings for incoming external international visitors
  • Travel plans after the end of Term Two
  • What to do if you have booked travel outside of the Key Travel service
  • Insurance cover
  • General information and contact details
I’m currently living or on long term secondment in a country outside the UK – am I covered by UCL’s insurance? 

All UCL staff and students are covered under UCL’s Personal Accident insurance when working on UCL business. This policy applies to staff and student resident or seconded overseas (defined as staff who are contracted to work overseas for a period over 12 months).

Where overseas resident and seconded individuals are required to travel as part of their role (either in-country of internationally), additional travel insurance should be requested via the insurance webpage. This also allows the secondee to have a health insurance policy in place for GP and pre-existing medical treatment.

Where staff are resident in the country, and are not a secondee, then they are responsible for their own medical and insurance cover when not on UCL business.

For more information on insurance visit the staff intranet.

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. 

Personal travel

What's the advice with regards to personal travel?

Given the fluid nature of the current situation, we are asking that staff continue to consider carefully before travelling overseas and follow all applicable government guidance in place at the time. 

For information on travelling abroad on holiday please see HR's Information for staff travelling abroad.


7. Further support for staff

UCL Day Nursery

The Day Nursery remains open and we are following national guidance. Visit the UCL Day Nursery website for more information

If your child attends the nursery and you have any questions, please get in touch with the team directly.

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


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.