Last reviewed 20 April 2022
Now that remaining COVID restrictions have been removed (apart from in hospital settings), we have an opportunity to return to a more normal way of working as we head towards summer.
Staff should continue regular on-site working to maximise the value and benefits of in-person interactions, collaborative working and team-building opportunities. This may not necessarily be on a full-time basis for all staff, and decisions about work patterns should ultimately be based on the University’s operational needs and support for its academic mission.
While transmission of COVID-19 in the workplace at the University remains low, the virus is still in circulation, so we’re asking all staff and students to be considerate and to take steps to minimise the spread:
- avoid contact with others if you might be infectious (see our Health page for more detailed guidance)
- respect other people’s space
- let fresh air in when indoors
- keep up to date with COVID vaccinations
- respect those who choose to wear a face covering
- cover coughs and sneezes and wash your hands regularly.
If you have any concerns about being on site, you should speak to your line manager or supervisor in the first instance.
Advice for those who are unwell
Many people with mild respiratory symptoms will have other illnesses, such as a common cold or hay fever, rather than COVID-19. Please read HMAG’s advice for staff and students who are unwell.
Building on our pandemic experience
The pandemic is not yet over, and moving on from it doesn’t mean we’re not learning from our experiences.
The last two years have been incredibly difficult for many of us – whether home-schooling children, suffering loneliness during lockdown, or rapidly adapting to remote work and study.
The University community has shown remarkable resilience, and responded positively in the face of these challenges. A few examples include:
- maintaining the University’s world-class teaching and research programme throughout the pandemic;
- engaging in world-class COVID-19 research including the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, as well a vast array of research across a range of disciplines;
- setting up and running a dedicated University testing service; and
- managing the Return to On-Site Working programme to ensure in-person teaching and research could resume as quickly as possible.
We thank all our staff and students and recognise the extraordinary efforts.
This term offers a real opportunity to take positives from the challenges we have endured during the pandemic, to ensure we benefit as much as possible from what we have learnt over the last two years.
LFD testing for COVID-19
If you have symptoms of COVID-19, you can continue to use the LFD tests which have already been distributed to University LFD Collect points, while stocks last. Tests are now only available if you have run out of LFDs and need to test because you have symptoms, or work or study in a hospital setting. Another University member may pick up tests on your behalf if you are unwell.
University staff working in a hospital setting should continue to follow the NHS guidance on testing for staff.
It is no longer possible to record PCR or LFD results with the University, due to the closure of the Early Alert Service. Staff should notify their line manager or supervisor as they usually would if they are unable to work or study (see the Health Measures Advisory Group’s advice for those who are unwell).
International travel testing
Please note you cannot use LFDs issued by the University or your college or received in the post from the NHS or collected at a pharmacy for travel testing purposes. Travel LFD and PCR tests must be purchased privately. You can find out about suggested test providers below or learn about different testing requirements for international travel on the UK government website.
Staff and students are free to use any of the test providers listed on GOV.UK to arrange COVID-19 testing when travelling abroad. This is a new and growing market, and all providers may experience capacity issues, leading to challenges with achieving advertised response times and service levels. Pricing is also subject to frequent change.
For in-person testing in Oxford the following services are available and are listed without any warranty or reports as to quality of service:
- ExpressTest with a test centre in the Westgate Shopping Centre
- London Medical Laboratory with a test centre on Market Street
- The Mayfield Clinic in Summertown.
Tests should be arranged and paid for personally, with the usual processes applicable for reimbursing expenses incurred in relation to University business where appropriate.
Support for managing COVID-19 cases
Advice on the ongoing management of COVID-19
The department case response guidance and supporting factsheets have now been retired and archived. These are replaced by a short advice note on the ongoing management of COVID-19 which can be used by all staff. This summarises current advice from HMAG and government. Queries from anyone dealing with the response to a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19 can continue to be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Teaching and assessment
Education Steering Group has published guidance for departments on teaching and assessment plans for the remainder of the 2021/22 academic year. This guidance states that, in the absence of any new national or local restrictions, departments should plan teaching for the remainder of the academic year with no COVID-19 restrictions on in-person teaching.
Teaching should normally be in person, unless a remote component is part of the course design; or where departments seek to retain elements of online learning which students value as inclusive.
Exceptions can also be put in place for those who are considered clinically extremely vulnerable; when accounting for staff and student illness or self-isolation; or in poorly ventilated areas.
New Ways of Working
New Ways of Working seeks to help departments build on positive experiences of remote working during the pandemic – whilst recognising that any new working arrangements must have at their heart the business and operational needs of the University, its mission of teaching and research, and the needs of the academics we are here to support. The guidance provides an agreed structure and a means to ensure that staff maintain a strong physical connection to their place of work and to Oxford.
Hybrid working management guidance
The following guidance covers on-site working, following the removal of government and University COVID-19 restrictions (apart from in hospital settings). Departments can access further support from the Facilities Management team via email@example.com or +44 (0) 1865 270087. For reference, archive copies of the previous Return to on-site working (RTOSW) resources can be found in the RTOSW SharePoint site.
College staff should refer to their own colleges for specific guidance on health measures and on-site Working.
Guidance for managers on working on-site after returning from COVID-19-related remote working
Managers can access guidance on working with staff who have now returned to on-site working on the Return to on-site working page of the HR Support website.
Supporting staff who have been overseas during the pandemic
Guidance for managers of staff who have been working from an overseas location during the pandemic is available on the HR Support website.
Updated event guidance (SSO required)
In-person events can take place across the University – for both educational and non-educational purposes. Under the University’s current Business Continuity Planning stage, Stage 0, events of any size are permitted. This includes non-educational events such as festivals, public events in museums and public lectures.
The University’s COVID-19 Event Guidance has been updated to reflect the latest situation. Anyone planning a University event will be expected to familiarise themselves with the guidance.
Overseas travel procedures (risk assessments and approvals)
Separate COVID-19 risk assessments for overseas travel are no longer required. The standard travel risk assessment template has been updated to incorporate consideration of COVID-19 risks (Section 1 for low-risk travel, and see the health risk section below on updated requirements for medium- and high-risk travel). Guidance on approving high-risk travel, previously developed for travel during COVID, has also been updated.
See the Safety Office webpage on travel and fieldwork for full details.
Updates to COVID risk assessments
Updated guidance on Risk Assessment and COVID-19 is available on the Safety Office website.
Updated COVID ventilation guidance
Updated safety guidance on ventilation is available on the Safety Office website.
Travel (to and from work)
Bus and rail services have returned to near pre-pandemic timetables, with operators providing flexible season ticket and multi-trip products. The University has negotiated a discount of up to 8% on GWR services and 10% on local bus services. Find out more on our travelling by bus or rail pages.
You can get the most up to date information about timetables online (GWR, Chiltern railways, Cross Country trains, Oxford Bus Company, Stagecoach) and you can check how busy your bus or train operator is by looking at their apps and websites. Visit Oxford Bus Company website, and the trainline website for more information.
To help staff cycle to work, the University continues to offer up to 6 hours of free cycle training to build road skills in less confident cyclists, a bike loan scheme and in the New Year, a bicycle salary sacrifice scheme; find out more at Travelling by bicycle | Travel (ox.ac.uk)
Health and wellbeing advice and support
Information about accessing vaccines
In line with government policy, we would strongly encourage all staff and students to be fully vaccinated (including booster vaccinations) to protect their own health and the health of others.
You can book a COVID-19 vaccination online at the NHS website or find information about walk-in vaccination clinics in Oxfordshire on the Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group website.
NHS COVID Pass
The NHS COVID Pass lets you share your coronavirus (COVID-19) status records in a secure way. It allows you to show others the details of your COVID-19 status and you may be asked for it when travelling abroad.
Please refer to the UK government website for full details of how to get the NHS COVID Pass and what you can use it for.
Residents in England who have received COVID-19 vaccinations overseas
If you live in England and have had one or more of your COVID-19 vaccinations administered overseas, you can have your vaccination details added to your NHS Record. You can then generate an NHS COVID Pass for domestic use and international travel if you meet certain certification requirements.
To register your overseas vaccinations, you’ll need to book an appointment to register your overseas vaccination with the NHS.
Mental health and wellbeing
The University’s Occupational Health Service promotes and supports physical and mental wellbeing in the workplace, and offers a range of services to the University, its employees and eligible students. In particular, on the Occupational Health website you can find advice and guidance about staff wellbeing and resources to help take care of your mental health.
Support for staff with ongoing health problems
Some people who contract COVID-19 continue to experience adverse effects for an extended period.
There is currently limited evidence about the long-term impacts of the Omicron variant of COVID-19. However, because Omicron symptoms often appear to be less severe, it is likely that there will be less impact on individuals in the longer term.
The National Institute for Clinical Evidence published guidance in December 2020 which sets out the following definitions:
- Acute COVID-19: signs and symptoms of COVID-19 for up to 4 weeks.
- Ongoing symptomatic COVID-19: signs and symptoms of COVID-19 from 4 to 12 weeks.
- Post-COVID-19 syndrome: signs and symptoms that develop during or after an infection consistent with COVID-19, continue for more than 12 weeks and are not explained by an alternative diagnosis.
In addition to the clinical definitions, 'long COVID' is commonly used to describe various signs and symptoms that continue and/or develop after acute COVID‑19.
The national clinical guidance also sets out the support patients should receive from NHS doctors, therapists and staff, including an online rehab service Your COVID Recovery.
Staff experiencing ongoing issues, including long COVID, will be primarily supported in their recovery by their GP and other NHS medical professionals, and the University has a very generous sickness absence policy and comprehensive sickness management arrangements which allow extended periods of paid leave.
Our University Occupational Health Service can advise on workplace issues, including advice for individuals who may continue to be at higher risk and advice to managers in facilitating a return to work for individuals who may have issues.
Individuals who might benefit from assessment with a clinical team member may be referred for an occupational health clinical assessment via a management referral. We would recommend full discussion with managers/ HR prior to any referrals to ensure clear lines of communication.
Staff who are concerned may make a self-referral to Occupational Health, but for general advice only, and please note that a self-referral is unlikely to generate any formal advice to managers or HR.
Advice relating to staff with school-age children
If staff are unable to carry out work because of caring responsibilities relating to COVID-19 (for example due to class or school closures linked to local COVID-19 outbreaks) they should continue to explore all the options available to them to enable them to work (including those set out on the government website), and should discuss their situation with their line manager.
Where necessary, departments should consider adjusting the working patterns, and/or the work expected of, affected staff to allow them to balance their responsibilities.
Colleagues in colleges should speak to college contacts for advice on arrangements.