staff in a meeting


Last reviewed 26 July 2021

Despite the significant upheaval caused by coronavirus, the University has continued to perform its vital role of delivering world-class teaching and research. Our first priority remains the health, safety and wellbeing of our people.

During the pandemic the University has put in place a number of staff support measures. To find out more visit our HR coronavirus webpages. There you will find sources of help for all staff - and a number specific to academic, research and teaching colleagues. 

We will continue to review the measures to keep our community safe and our COVID-19 emergency response status in light of Government and local health authority advice.

Thank you for your ongoing cooperation and understanding during this challenging and uncertain time.

Latest updates

**NEW 16 July 2021** University arrangements after 19 July
The UK Government has now confirmed that it plans to move to Step 4 of its Roadmap for lifting COVID-19 restrictions on Monday 19 July. However, with rates of COVID-19 in Oxford 70% above the national average, all staff and students working and studying on site should continue to follow all existing University health guidance. Staff should carry on following Return to On-site Working principles, and the Return to On-site Working webpage has been updated to reflect the latest position.  This position will be kept under constant review in coming weeks and will adapt as the local and national situation evolves.

Clarification on work-related travel following local travel advice
University staff can continue to travel when required for work purposes, following the government announcement this week that it is giving Oxford additional support in light of very high numbers of COVID-19 cases in the city.

As part of the additional support, people in Oxford are advised to be cautious about non-essential travel in and out of the city to help stop the spread of the virus. However, there are no restrictions on travelling for work purposes; and pre-arranged travel, including holidays and conferences, can go ahead. The Government recommends getting tested for COVID-19 before travelling to help protect those most vulnerable. 

**NEW 16 July 2021** Temporary vaccination centres now closed
The COVID-19 vaccination centres at the University Club, Ewert House and Iffley Road Sports Centre have now all closed. Thank you to all of our staff who provided operational support, including building provision and management and queue stewarding, and worked so effectively in partnership with NHS staff.

Information about other walk-in vaccine clinics in Oxfordshire can be found on the Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group website or you can book a vaccination appointment online via the NHS system.

**NEW 10 July 2021**  Updated COVID-19 advice for Oxford 
COVID-19 case numbers across Oxford remain very high, and those in the city are being asked to take additional action. This includes those aged 18-29 getting tested and vaccinated, and everyone being cautious about non-essential travel in and out of the city to help stop the spread of the virus. More information has now been published for staff and students on the health page of the University coronavirus website.

Case numbers in the University community are now reducing. Aside from promoting the Government’s advice, and following existing University health guidance, there are no additional implications or actions required at this stage. 

COVID-19 testing

Testing for COVID-19: Early Alert Service (SSO required)

Book a COVID-19 PCR test through the University’s Early Alert Service if:

  • You have symptoms of COVID-19 
  • You have received a positive result from an LFD test 
  • You have been advised that you are a close contact of, or are a member of the same household as, someone who has a PCR-confirmed case of COVID-19 or 
  • You are advised to do so by public health authorities as part of the formal response to an outbreak.

Rapid identification and isolation of positive cases is essential to slow the spread of the virus. 

If you receive a PCR test result (positive or negative) through a route other than the University's Early Alert Service (eg via the national NHS service), you must report your result on the Early Alert Service website, continue to self-isolate, and report your absence to your department and college. The information you provide will enable the University and/or your college to take any action that may be appropriate to protect our community, and to maintain a full picture of the prevalence of COVID-19 within the collegiate University. 

Regular symptom-free (LFD) testing for staff and students

Students and staff working or studying on site are able to pick up boxes of seven Lateral Flow Device (LFD) tests free of charge from sites around the University as part of the ‘LFD Collect’ scheme. The distribution points are all colleges (for their own staff and students); the Weston Library (11 am-1 pm Mon to Fri); the Richard Doll Building on the Old Road Campus (8.30am-4pm Mon to Fri); Radcliffe Humanities in the Radcliffe Observatory Quarter (9am-5pm Mon to Fri, but not between 12.30 and 1.30pm); IT Services at 13 Banbury Road (8.30am-5.30pm, Mon to Fri); and the Cairns Library Reception, Level 3 Academic Centre, at the John Radcliffe Hospital (10am–12noon on Mon, Tues, Thurs, Fri; 2pm–4pm Wed).

If staff are using LFD Collect or other self-testing kits, they must remember to report their results (positive, negative, or void) to both the University and the NHS. 

More information about LFD Collect and reporting LFD test results is available on the symptom-free testing webpage.

Testing is voluntary but we strongly encourage everyone who is working or studying on site to get tested twice a week, every week, including those staff who have been vaccinated or have had COVID-19 more than 90 days ago. 

Anyone who tests positive in any LFD tests (including those via community testing or received from the Government via another route), must self-isolate immediately and book a confirmatory PCR test, preferably through the University’s Early Alert Service. If staff receive a PCR test result, positive or negative, through a route other than the University's Early Alert service (e.g. via the national NHS service), they must report their result by using the University’s Report a Test Result page.

Support for managing COVID-19 cases

Contacts for COVID-19 cases

If you're a Single Point of Contact or a staff member dealing with the response to a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19 here are some useful contact points for any queries.

For staff enquiries related to booking a University
For queries from Single Points of Contact or college nurses about managing individual positive cases, including public
For staff operational queries or advice about the implementation of case management protocolsWithin office hours
Outside of office hours or in the event of a serious incident
01865 289999

COVID-19 case response protocols (SSO required)

Work-related guidance

**NEW 16 July 2021** Guidance for on-site working (SSO required)

The UK Government has confirmed that it plans to move to Step 4 of its Roadmap for lifting COVID-19 restrictions on Monday 19 July. However, with rates of COVID-19 in Oxford 70% above the national average, all staff and students working and studying on site should continue to follow all existing University health guidance. This position will be kept under constant review in coming weeks and will adapt as the local and national situation evolves.

The University continues to operate at Stage 2 of its Business Continuity Planning (BCP) framework. This means that staff should continue to work from home where they can. Silver Group agreed in May that there could be a gradual move to further, limited on-site working for a broader range of staff where considered necessary for staff health and well-being, and for team engagement and effectiveness.

Staff should only return to their normal place of work after agreeing it with their manager or supervisor, and subject to any restrictions that their department may still have in place. They should also receive a communication containing information on safe working in their particular location before returning, and be provided with information on the COVID-secure measures in place. If they require further information they should ask to see the risk assessment which includes consideration of factors such as building ventilation and any spaces adapted to support social distancing etc.

Please be aware that the University's health measures remain in place. The controls of social distancing (the two-metre guidance), use of face coverings (unless exempt), twice-weekly Lateral Flow Device testing, good ventilation and regular hand washing continue to be the way that we keep our workplaces safe.

We are aware that there could be a range of health vulnerabilities and additional concerns about travelling to work for those with caring responsibilities. For line managers whose staff have concerns, please refer to our guidance. Staff members can access the COVID-vulnerability self-assessment tool for more information.

Visit the Return to On-site Working coronavirus webpage for the latest update, and to access the full range of staff and line manager resources.

This limited return to on-site working is separate to the development of a framework for Professional Services staff regarding New Ways of Working which is now available online. The framework is designed to support conversations about future working arrangements once the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions are lifted and a return to on-site working becomes possible for all staff.

The University and colleges have outlined a roadmap for moving BCP stages, with an associated loosening of restrictions, to reopen the University and colleges, in line with the Government’s plans for gradually easing lockdown restrictions. The latest information can be found on the University status and response page. The plans will be kept under review, and any changes to Government phasing are likely to impact University and college arrangements. 

New Ways of Working

The New Ways of Working Framework aims to support the University to evolve – so that how we work enables individuals and teams to be highly effective and fulfilled – whilst we support the University’s mission.

It is designed to support conversations about future working arrangements once the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions are lifted and a return to on-site working becomes possible for all staff.

The New Ways of Working project provides managers and their teams with guidance and information to help them prepare for how they/their teams will operate as and when a return to the workplace becomes possible beyond current social distancing constraints, and in line with changes to the University’s Business Continuity Planning (BCP) stages as they are confirmed.

The project aims to provide a framework for how individuals and teams can work most effectively in the future – whether on site or remotely.

**NEW 23 July 2021** Updated guidance on international travel

A suitable and sufficient risk assessment must be completed and approved for all international travel. 

Where you plan to travel to a country or region to which the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) advises against travel (either because of COVID-19 concerns, or any other reasons), your risk assessment will need to be reviewed by the University Safety Office. All international travel will need to be approved by your Head of Department/ Faculty Board Chair.

For detailed information, please refer to the Safety Office website.

Travel updates (to and from work)

If you are travelling to and from work, please review the government guidance to help keep you safe and have a look at the University's dedicated travel web page. This contains practical support on bus and rail travel as well as car parking and a number of schemes to help staff start cycling.

Arrangements for students in the 2021/22 academic year 

The University has written to all current students and offer holders to provide a broad overview of the University’s approach to teaching, learning and assessment, health and safety and student life.  This includes confirmation that normal residency requirements will be in place once again for full-time students in Michaelmas 2021 term – with dispensations in place for students who might not find it possible to arrive for the start of the year. The expected behaviours of students to protect the health of the whole Oxford community will be outlined as University health and safety instructions, rather than in a specific agreement that students need to sign. Visit our student webpage for more information. 

Health and wellbeing advice and support

**NEW 19 July 2021** Keep protecting yourself and the community 

We are very grateful for all you have done already to protect staff, students and the wider community from COVID-19. Please be aware that although the government is lifting legal restrictions on 19 July, there have been no changes to the University’s guidance about how we should operate in the workplace, so the existing health measures remain in place:

  • Continue social distancing – assume 2 metres within University buildings unless told otherwise
  • Wash your hands
  • Wear a face covering (unless you’re exempt)
  • Get tested –twice a week, with Lateral Flow Devices (LFDs); and take a PCR test if you have symptoms or have received a positive LFD test result or have been advised that you are a close contact of someone who has a PCR-confirmed case of COVID-19.
  • Continue to follow the self-isolation guidance

We realise these measures have been in place for many months, but it’s really important that we all continue to follow all guidance to protect our whole community, even if you have already had COVID-19 or are fully vaccinated.

Staff and students who are working or studying on site can access symptom-free Lateral Flow Device (LFD) tests using 'LFD Collect'. 

If you need communications resources to help share the health messages with colleagues or students in your college or department, take a look at our Health Campaign Communications pack (SSO required). 

**NEW 19 July 2021**Information about accessing vaccines

In line with government policy, we would strongly encourage all staff and students to be fully vaccinated to protect their own health and the health of others. The government’s proposed change to self-isolation rules on 16 August also means that there will be a benefit to those who are fully vaccinated in that they will no longer be legally required to isolate if identified as a close contact of a positive COVID-19 case.

Anyone aged 18 or over and registered with a GP surgery in England can book a COVID-19 vaccination online at the NHS website. Details of how to register with a GP can be found on the NHS website.

You must continue to follow all University and government advice even after receiving your vaccination.

NHS COVID-19 app

Download the NHS COVID-19 app, which is available on smartphones from Google Play and the Apple App Store. We encourage you to use the app as it includes a number of tools to protect you, including contact tracing, local area alerts and venue check-in. Tracing recent close contacts of anyone who has tested positive is important for containing the virus.

Mental health and wellbeing

COVID-19 has disrupted our work and personal lives and some of us will feel the need for additional support. The University has put in place mental health and wellbeing resources to support staff during this challenging time. Information about these along with signposting to external sources of help can be found on our HR coronavirus webpages.

Support for staff who might be suffering with long COVID

Some people who contract COVID-19 continue to experience signs and symptoms of the illness for an extended period.  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 case definitions, 'long COVID' is commonly used to describe signs and symptoms that continue or develop after acute COVID‑19. It includes both ongoing symptomatic COVID‑19 and post‑COVID‑19 syndrome (defined above).

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 suffering with 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 issues such as where a phased return to work programme may be required, and how to keep an employee safe while in work and manage any risks to health in the workplace by suggesting adaptations or adjustments. All employees are assessed on an individual and holistic basis following the completion of a Management Referral form from an individual’s line manager or HR contact. The Clinical team have extensive expertise in supporting staff suffering with, or returning to work after, a period of absence caused by a range of serious or chronic illnesses and conditions and are already supporting individuals with symptoms relating to long COVID within the University.

Support for staff with childcare or caring responsibilities

Childcare and nursery arrangements

Our nurseries and Childcare Services have a wealth of information for staff, and you should not hesitate to contact them if you have a query.    

For more details on nurseries and the national restrictions, please consult the Government Webpage. In addition, there is specific guidance on nursery arrangements at the University. 

Advice for staff with caring responsibilities

If you are a parent or caregiver, you might have to undertake caring responsibilities as schools, nurseries and other care facilities close and reopen depending on current restrictions. If this happens, you should continue working from home if possible. If working at home or making alternative care arrangements is difficult, or not possible please explore the options set out in the Coronavirus working from home guide for University staff.

It is always important to keep in regular touch with your line manager or supervisor (if you have one) so that they know when you are working.

Advice relating to staff with school-age children

Schools in England are now open, and it is expected that those staff who had been furloughed due to caring responsibilities linked to the schools closure have returned to work.  As before, 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 will continue to be paid, and they may be placed on furlough, on a full or part-time basis. 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. 

Furlough, whether full- or part-time, should only be used where all other options have been explored, and for a minimum period of seven days.  Managers should read the guidance on furlough before discussing this with affected staff members. 

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.

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