COVID-19 guidance for managers who are supporting staff back onto campus.
This document was updated on 22 February 2022 to reflect the latest guidance from government. The latest UCL guidance on how we are supporting our people currently can be found on the Coronavirus (Covid-19) information pages.
Most recent Government Guidance for Higher Education Settings
This states that:
Following expert clinical advice and the successful rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine programme, people previously considered to be particularly vulnerable, clinically extremely vulnerable (CEV), and high or higher-risk are not being advised to shield again. Anyone previously identified as being in one of these groups is advised to continue to follow the guidance contained in Coronavirus: how to stay safe and help prevent the spread.
Staff with a weakened immune system should follow DHSC and UKHSA advice for people whose immune system means they are at higher risk from Covid-19. In some circumstances, staff may have received personal advice from their specialist or clinician on additional precautions to take and they should continue to follow that advice. Whilst individual risk assessments are not required, employers are expected to discuss any concerns that people previously considered CEV may have.
COVID-19 vaccination: a guide for women of childbearing age, pregnant or breastfeeding contains further advice on vaccination”
If you have any concerns about a specific health condition, please refer the employee to Workplace Health using the management referral process
On the 24 February 2022, the government removed all covid related restrictions in England. There is no longer any legal requirement to isolate, and everyone is expected to be sensible if they are unwell by not being in crowds or having contact with people who may be more vulnerable than others
Impacted groups to consider
A very small number of staff who are severely immunocompromised may have been unable to respond well to vaccination. This group includes anyone who has had recent bone marrow transplant, has had a solid organ transplant, a kidney transplant, has liver cirrhosis, is having chemotherapy, has Parkinson’s disease, dementia, Down’s Syndrome, sickle cell disease or has some significant neurological conditions such as Motor Neuron Disease or Multiple Sclerosis.
Staff with conditions that indicate a continuing significant risk will have been advised by their treating specialist or GP that that they remain at increased risk. Continuing to make adjustments, such as supporting home working where possible, or wearing PPE in environments where they are at increased risk of contact with infectious diseases.
The mental health impacts of the pandemic for some staff and their families are very significant and managers should consider this when supporting their staff.
Some may have found that a pre-existing mental health condition has become worse, and others may have developed new concerns and anxieties. In situations where staff have become unwell and unable to perform their role because of high levels of stress and anxiety, a referral to Workplace Health is recommended. Where workplace stress is identified, a stress risk assessment should be completed. Details of the support available for staff at UCL are outlined below.
For many it is not just the return to work that is the concern, but also the commute, potential infection risks, and the worry about whether they may bring infection home to vulnerable family members. For others, the return to a long commute when they have become accustomed to a better work-life balance by working from home, may create anxiety around returning to campus.
Some resources are outlined below:
UCL Employee Assistance Programme offers free confidential emotional support available 24/7, 365 days a year on 0800 197 4510. Members of UCL community also have access to SilverCloud – a selection of self-paced online Cognitive Behavioural Therapy courses that cover a range of mental health and wellbeing topics, including depression, anxiety, sleep and many others.
Anyone who is experiencing significant mental health issues which impact on their ability to undertake their role, should discuss with their manager any adjustment that may support them. A management referral to Workplace Health should also be considered.
For standards for managing stress at work, staff can refer to the relevant HR policy.
For more information about various mental health and wellbeing concerns, you can access digital booklets developed by Mind charity
All pregnant women (at any stage of gestation) should have a pregnancy risk assessment that is reviewed regularly. This is because pregnancy can increase the risk of a severe illness from Covid-19, especially after the 28th week or if the individual has a coexisting cardiac or respiratory condition. Click on the hyperlink here for guidance from the Royal College of Obstetricians.
Processes to support your staff
Workplace risk assessments
Please consider the type of role and the level of risk the individual may have, using the return to on site working risk assessments you will have completed for your area. For example, a role that has higher face to face contact with a large number of people is likely to be at increased risk of exposure depending on the measures in place locally.
Updates advice on keeping safe on campus can be found here.
Referral to Workplace Health
In complex cases where there continues to be a significant vulnerability, or where occupational health advice would be useful, please refer to Workplace Health using the management referral process. The Workplace Health team will always consider the medical opinion of a GP or treating clinician in giving advice on fitness to attend campus when we suggest adjustments to be considered.
You may still decide to refer to Workplace Health for reasons that are not identified above; for example, if your staff member has a high level of anxiety which is having a detrimental impact on their wellbeing. Please make the reason for referral clear in your submission.
Employees can also be referred to Workplace Health if they would prefer to discuss their health concerns in confidence.
Any referral to Workplace Health will be assessed in confidence by an occupational health practitioner and will involve a detailed consultation using the bio-psycho-social model of health assessment, considering workplace risk factors and the current prevalence of COVID-19 in the community.
Maintaining confidentiality and seeking permission for onward referral to Workplace Health
If it is apparent through your discussions with your employee that further support from UCL Workplace Health or Care First (our Employee Assistance Programme partner) would be helpful, you must discuss with your employee what information you wish to share and obtain their consent to do so. If the employee does not wish to be referred, please contact your HR Business Partner for further advice. Managers may also seek support in having difficult conversations from Care First, our Employee Assistance provider or your HR Business Partner.
Your HR Business Partner can support you with writing a referral to Workplace Health if required.
Some general advice on checking-in with your team’s wellbeing can be read prior to having this conversation.
Advice on Transport
Staff are advised to read the information on getting to campusrisk of coming into prolonged contact (more than 15 mins) with an infected person. Other methods such as cycling, walking, motorcycling etc are unlikely to increase infection risk. Being double vaccinated, with the second vaccination having taken place two weeks previously, will reduce the risk associated with travelling on public transport. Booster vaccination in those eligible offers further protection.
Impact of vaccination
Vaccination has been shown to be effective in reducing the risk of hospitalisation and serious illness or death from Covid 19. Although it greatly reduces the risks, vaccination does not entirely prevent infection and transmission.
UCL’s COVID-19 vaccination statement can be found here.
Where the individual is in contact with few people, in a space that isn’t crowded, there should not be any change to the individual risk. Where the individual’s work activities expose them to high numbers of people, either because of frequent prolonged contact with many individuals throughout the day, or because of prolonged contact with large groups, there is a potential for increased risk of coming into contact with an infected person. The risk of prolonged contact is mitigated through the measures outlined in Keeping Safe on Campus.