Coronavirus (COVID-19) Information – Return to Work FAQs

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Returning to work on college premises

The safety and wellbeing of our colleagues and learners is at the forefront of our mind in every decision we make about returning to the colleges.  The government advice about returning to work has changed and on the 17th July when the Prime Minister announced that from 1 August ‘Instead of government telling people to work from home, we are going to give employers more discretion, and ask them to make decisions about how their staff can work safely.’ This could still mean continuing to work from home, or it could mean making workplaces safe by following COVID-secure guidelines. ‘Whatever employers decide, they should consult closely with their employees, and only ask people to return to their place of work if it is safe”

Gavin Williamson has made a statement about returning to education:

“Nothing can replace being in the classroom, so ever since schools, colleges and nurseries closed to most children, we have been working hard to ensure they can reopen as soon as possible. We have already seen more than 1.5 million children and young people return, but we must make sure all pupils can go back to school in September, giving them the opportunity to thrive and fulfill their potential.

I want to reassure parents and families that we are doing everything we can to make sure schools, nurseries, colleges and other providers are as safe as possible for children and staff, and will continue to work closely with the country’s best scientific and medical experts to ensure that is the case.”

 

NCG Position

From August there will change in focus in returning to College premises. We have previously shared that any return to the college premises would be voluntary however this is now changing. NCG’s approach to returning to college premises is that colleagues who need to have to contact with students, are expected to return to work within the Colleges when required.  It is likely that colleagues may be requested to return to work from early August. There is still likely to be some agile working for these people, and it is not expected that things will be the same as prior to lock down. Detailed risk assessments have been carried out at all locations to ensure that all of our buildings are Covid secure, the risk assessments for your College will be published locally and you will be notified to through induction and management.

Your manager, if they have not already done so, will be contacting you to discuss what this means for you. We understand that there are colleagues who have concerns about returning to work due to their health, the health of those they live with, transport to work, childcare and other individual issues. We want to give you our assurances that as and when you are asked to return to college premises, we will have open discussions with colleagues to try and resolve these concerns.

The situation with coronavirus is constantly changing and, as a result, we continue to update our plans, risk assessments etc. based on the latest guidance. We will continue to review the situation and ensure that we communicate with Union representatives and Individuals as further plans are agreed.

We are committed to going over and above what is expected to ensure we support all colleagues and if colleagues do have any concerns that they believe are not already being addressed (including as part of a risk assessment), you should discuss these in the first instance with her line manager. If you still have concerns, please contact planning@ncgrp.co.uk and we’ll be happy to discuss these individually with you.

 

 

I’ve been working from home for some time now do i need a risk assessment on my working area?

NCG, in following the Government guidance to Stay Home during lockdown, have followed the Health and Safety Executives advice and guidance whilst ensuring those individuals who have additional needs and requirements for equipment are met whilst working at home. The HSE have stated that there is no increased risk from DSE work for those working at home temporarily, so employers do not need to ask them to carry out home workstation assessments at this time.

As the lockdown restrictions have eased and the Government message changes to that of returning to work if safe to do so, NCG recognise the benefits of continued flexibility in working patterns, enabling our colleagues to work from home and remain safe where practical. As a result, NCG are developing a means to assess the risks of your workstation and work activities, whether in an office, at a hot desk or other locations, through training, information, guidance and instructions to facilitate an agile working environment

The assessment and arrangements will be directed by your line manager together with the arrangements within your workplace / College to ensure we recognise and manage risks to your health, safety and wellbeing.

 

 

I’ve heard that I am eligible for expenses for working from home. Is this the case?

NCG has reviewed whether they are able to afford to make the employer payment, and unfortunately, we cannot afford to make this payment. We have been very generous in how we have supported colleagues through pandemic. As your workplace closed you are able to make a claim from the HMRC without having to provide any receipt for the period from 23rd March until you are asked to return to the college premises.

You are able to claim the tax relief on up to £6 a week, this means that you would make a tax saving on £6/week claim.  This is a gain of £1.20 per day (about £62/year) for basic 20% rate taxpayers, and £2.40/week (about £124/year) for higher 40% rate taxpayers.  If you believe you have higher increased costs then you can claim more, but you will need evidence of the cost increases and to have agreed any expenditure with your line manager ahead of it being incurred. You can make a claim via the following link: https://www.gov.uk/tax-relief-for-employees/working-at-home.

 

I’m returning to work at Newcastle and cancelled my travel pass, can I renew?

The window to apply for Travel passes for Newcastle will be available as soon as possible. Please continue to check this page for further info.

 

I’ve received a shielding letter; I’m in the vulnerable group; I have an underlying health condition; I live in the same house as someone who is shielding or classed as vulnerable
How does this affect me returning to work?

The government guidelines have changed and there is no longer a requirement to shield and people are now encouraged to return to work.  For anyone with concerns your manager will carry out an individual risk assessment to see what can be done to ensure that you are safe if you are required to return to college premises.

 

I’m worried and believe it may not be safe to return to work. what should I do?

We will work with you on an individual basis by undertaking a robust risk assessment / occupational health review to facilitate a return to work.

If following the above support, there are genuine concerns for the health and safety of an individual, we will work with you to assess what (if any) work can be done from home.  If this is not possible for you to continue to work from home and you chose not to return to work, unpaid leave will be considered.

 

I’m unable to return to work as I have caring responsibilities. what should I do?

You should discuss this with your line manager. NCG has continued to act over and above the expectation placed on us and have continued to pay staff with caring responsibilities full pay. This will continue moving forwards over the next period of time although there will be an expectation that colleagues do work where they are able to do so around their caring responsibilities.

 

I have a foreign holiday booked. I’m concerned that i may need to self-isolate when I return the UK. What will happen about returning to work?

Current government guidance is not to undertake ‘All but essential international travel’. Travel to some countries and territories are currently exempted.  This advice is being kept under constant review. Travel disruption is still possible and national control measures may be brought in with little notice.

As a result, if you have a foreign holiday booked that is expected to go ahead, you should speak to your manager about this to see if you are able to work from home for the 2 weeks on your return to self-isolate. If you are thinking of booking a foreign holiday you should discuss with your manager whether there will be ability to work if needed for 2 weeks prior to booking and, as always, you should seek agreement from your managers a head of booking.  If you are required to self-isolate and are unable to work from home, you should take holidays or unpaid leave to cover this 2-week period.

 

 

The area I live in has a local lockdown can I still travel to work?

Yes. People living inside and outside of this area can continue to travel in and out for work.

 

I’m classed as clinically extremely vulnerable and live in a local lockdown area, how does this affect me?

If you’re clinically extremely vulnerable and live in an area where additional public health measures require you to resume shielding, the government will write to you and advise you to stay at home and shield.

If you’re unable to work from home or a location outside the lockdown area, you will be paid in line with the guidance from the previous FAQ.

In the event of a local lockdown, visit your local authority’s website for further guidance and follow the public health guidance for your local area.

If you work inside an area where clinically extremely vulnerable people are still being advised to shield, you are advised to work from home where possible, and not attend a workplace within the area where local restrictions are in place. If you live outside of that area, you may need to request a shielding letter as proof for your employer that you cannot attend your usual workplace.