Guidance to ensure a consistent approach across UCL for managing the risk presented to staff identified as being potentially disproportionally affected by COVID-19.
Updated on 1 September 2021 to reflect the latest guidance from PHE.
Managers are advised to ask all their direct reports in advance of their return to campus as to whether they consider themselves to be at higher risk of a serious illness from Covid-19 and to check-in about their general wellbeing including their mental health.
If a member of your team considers themselves to be at greater risk, we recommend that you work through the health assessment tool provided and have a conversation with them around their possible risk factors. Your HR Business Partner can support you with this assessment if required. There is no requirement to complete this tool with all staff members.
You should reassure your team that this information will be kept in strictest confidence. Some general advice on checking-in with your team’s wellbeing can be read prior to having this conversation.
Step 1. Workplace risk assessment
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.
Step 2. What is in place at UCL
All staff on site are expected to undertake two Lateral Flow Tests per week. Details of how to book an asymptomatic test on the Bloomsbury campus can be found here or the government’s home test kits can be ordered here or they can be picked up from most pharmacies, Student Eqnauiry Centre or Workplace Health reception. Please report your results – positive or negative - to Connect to Protect as well as on the NHS app.
Face coverings should be worn on campus at all times when indoors and around others, unless you are exempt. Please see Keeping our community safe for further information
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 over two weeks ago will reduce the risk associated with travelling on public transport. Face coverings are mandated on public transport in London. FFP2 masks are available from UCL.
Step 3. Some special considerations
Please note that this is not an exhaustive list.
Impact of vaccination
Vaccination has been shown to be effective in reducing the risk of serious illness or death from Covid 19. Although it greatly reduces the risk, vaccination does not entirely prevent infection and transmission.
Individuals who have had both doses of Covid vaccine, with the last one at least two weeks before assessment, move into the next lowest risk tier. For example, someone who has been considered to be at high risk of serious illness moves into the moderate risk group.
UCL’s COVID-19 vaccination statement can be found here.
Where the individual is in contact with low numbers 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 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.
If the employee is deemed to be ‘high’ risk, managers are advised to discuss options for reducing exposure, for example through remote working if possible, or moving to a lower-risk role.
For many individuals, the pandemic, the restrictions and the impact of several lockdowns will have had an impact on their mental health.
Some may have found that a pre-existing mental health condition has become worse, and others may have developed new concerns and anxieties. 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.
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 adjustment that may support them. A management referral to Workplace Health can 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. The Covid risk assessment tool also applies in pregnancy. 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 hyperlinks here for national guidance and guidance from the Royal College of Obstetricians
Step 4 - Individual Health Risk Assessment Tool
This tool aims to help identify those employees who may be at greater physical risk of a serious illness if they develop Covid-19. It is based on the emerging data and available evidence.
Managers are advised to listen carefully to staff concerns, provide support and consider reasonable adjustments or temporary redeployment if it can be accommodated for any staff who are identified as being at greater risk.
This tool is intended to:
- supplement your department’s general return to on site working risk assessment(s);
- to help you with supporting your staff by being aware of any increased risks they have from exposure to Covid-19 and creating a plan to mitigate those risks.
- reassure concerned staff who are not at increased risk.
- identify those individuals who may require additional control measures to support a reduction in the risk of contracting Covid-19 when there is a higher risk of poor health outcomes.
Adjustments to mitigate any risks identified may include:
- Remote working if possible.
- Moving to a lower-risk role
- Avoiding public transport at peak times if viable, and wearing an FFP2 mask on public transport if at higher risk
- Altering hours and workload
The questions below are directed at your staff member and are designed so that details about any medical condition they may have do not have to be given if they would prefer not to. We suggest you make a note of their responses for your records, considering UCL’s Legal Service’s Personal Data Overview when doing so. Please ensure that personal data is stored securely and confidentially.
Any staff who remain at high risk due to health issues, especially those who have not been able to receive vaccination for health reasons, can access face fit testing and FFP2 masks if they are considered at risk following this assessment process.
Health risk assessment tool
Covid 19 has a bigger impact on people who are older.
- Age 50-59 Score 1
- Age 60-69 Score 2
- Aged 70 or above Score 4
- Gender at birth
COVID-19 seems to have a bigger impact on males than females.
- Male Score 1
COVID-19 seems to have a bigger impact on people from some ethnicities.
- Do you identify as Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic or mixed race? Score 1
- Existing Health conditions (Comorbidity)
COVID-19 seems to have a bigger impact if you already have other pre-existing health conditions. You may want to speak to your GP if you are not sure about these questions.
- Cardiovascular disease Score 1
Are you on any treatment for Hypertension (high blood pressure), Atrial Fibrillation (Irregular heart rate), Heart Failure, Previous MI (had a heart attack), had a stroke, or Transient Ischemic Attack (mini stroke)
- Diabetes Type 1 or 2 Score 1
- Chronic lung disease (including asthma, COPD, interstitial lung disease) Score 1
- Chronic kidney disease (any stage 1-5) Score 1
- Sickle cell, Thalassemia or other haemoglobinopathy Score 1
- Chemotherapy treatment for cancer (immunosuppression) Score 1
- Immunosuppression (other causes) Score 1
- Obesity – COVID-19 seems to have a bigger impact if you are overweight Score 1
This link will help you work out your BMI – if your BMI is more than 30
- Cardiovascular disease Score 1
- Family history
COVID-19 seems to have a family susceptibility for some people, especially twins.
- Has a member of your immediate family (parent, sibling, child) been in ITU or died with COVID-19 Score 1
|3. HIGH||7 or more|
Please remember: If the staff member has been fully vaccinated (two doses of Covid vaccine given more than 2 weeks ago), reduce the risk factor by one level
Referral to Workplace Health
If you feel that you would like advice on mitigating risks because the medical situation is complex, or your employee would prefer to discuss their health concerns in confidence with Workplace Health, please refer them following the management referral process.
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. The staff member 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 virus prevalence in the community.
Maintaining confidentiality and seeking permission for onward referral to Workplace Health
To make a management referral follow the UCL manager referral to Workplace Health process. Managers may also seek support in having difficult conversations from Care First, our Employee Assistance provider or your HR Business Partner.
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.
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.