Important advice - UCL and coronavirus (COVID-19) mitigation measures

16 March 2020

Representatives from campus trade unions met with senior HR staff today to discuss UCL’s response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

The most important step that we need to take without delay is to enforce social distancing.

UCL’s decision to suspend face-to-face teaching is a positive move, and should be welcomed as should the university’s advice to sections of the workforce that they can work from home with line-manager approval.

The meeting agreed the following:

  • Changes to working practices in response to COVID-19 are temporary and subject to consultation and negotiation with campus trade unions.
  • UCL's position is 'no detriment'. Staff will not be financially disadvantaged for making decisions to work from home or self-isolate as a result of COVID-19 precautions.
  • UCL will cover the costs for contractors paying staff to self-isolate.
  • Home-working is encouraged, public events are cancelled and international travel has ceased.
  • Where staff cannot work from home for practical reasons, they can apply for special leave to their line manager. (We have asked for a checklist of advice distributed to managers, and we want further assurances on this process.)

Additionally, UCL agreed that:

  • The large number of staff working in open plan hot desking environments will be able to insist on taking steps to ensure 2 metre separation from colleagues without threat of disciplinary action.
  • Sickness absence monitoring triggers related to COVID-19 will be discounted: no-one will be taken through a Sickness Absence Management procedure as a result of COVID-19. Staff on probation or that have entitlement to sick pay reduced for other reasons will be paid Special Leave at the rate of full pay.

As a matter of urgency, to slow the spread of infection, union reps also proposed that hot-desking (UCL prefers ’agile working’) should cease immediately, staff be allocated their own desks and 2 metre separation between staff working in offices be enforced. This will clearly have an impact on densely populated open-plan buildings. Note that the ending of face to face teaching has released a lot of space in the estate for moving teams. We are awaiting formal confirmation from the UCL Coronavirus Mitigation Group but urge colleagues to take action in the interim, consulting their line manager as appropriate.

We are conscious that colleagues have many other concerns and are pressing UCL to convene an emergency meeting of the Health and Safety Committee.

Representatives from campus trade unions have been invited by UCL to join meetings of the Coronavirus Mitigation Group and have accepted the invitation.

We will write again with advice about ASOS and ongoing strike action.