Return to on-site working
Return to on-site working

Return to on-site working

Last reviewed 24 January 2022

The guidance on this site is provided for University staff. College staff should refer to their own colleges for specific guidance. 

**NEW 21 January 2022** Update following the UK Government’s plan to remove ‘Plan B’ restrictions 

On Wednesday 19 January, the UK government confirmed its plans to remove the current ‘Plan B’ COVID-19 restrictions by Thursday 27 January. The University and colleges are urgently reviewing the government’s updated guidance, and are taking advice from Oxford’s clinical health experts.

The University remains at Business Continuity Planning (BCP) Stage 2, but is expected to move to BCP Stage 1 next Thursday, 27 January. In anticipation of that move, staff who are currently working remotely are now being encouraged to return to working on-site (as they were in Michaelmas term before Plan B restrictions were introduced).

In line with government guidance, face coverings are no longer mandated during university teaching and assessments. However, teaching staff have been given authority to require them to be worn in individual education settings (unless individuals are exempt). Face coverings remain mandatory in libraries.

All other existing University health guidance remains in place. This includes the expectation that staff and students will get tested twice a week while working and studying on-site this term.

More detailed guidance will be provided at the end of next week.

In light of the ongoing high rates of COVID-19 nationally, the University has agreed the following measures:

Update on business continuity planning

The University remains at Business Continuity Planning (BCP) Stage 2, but is expected to move to BCP Stage 1 on Thursday, 27 January. Under BCP Stage 2, the University remains open, with as full a cohort of students as possible on site, and a fully operational research programme underway.

For more information, visit the University status and testing data page.

Working arrangements

In anticipation of the move to BCP Stage 1 on 27 January, staff who are currently working remotely are now encouraged to return to working on site (as they were in Michaelmas term before Plan B restrictions were introduced).

Please visit the staff coronavirus webpage for the latest COVID-19 updates.

The guidance below describes the University’s approach to the wider transition back to working on site, subject to the University’s operating status and government restrictions at any given time. It is completely separate to the New Ways of Working framework which is intended to support departments to have conversations with their staff about a considered approach to longer-term working arrangements, building on positive experiences of remote working during the pandemic.

Guidance for departments 

Departments should continually review and update their risk assessments and working practices so they are in line with Government and University guidance. The RTOSW Helpdesk can help departments with any queries that are not covered by the guidance documentation. Contact them on +44 (0)1865 276916 / rtosw@admin.ox.ac.uk

Guidance for staff

Please visit our Return to On-site Working: staff guidance page for full details. Guidance for line managers is provided on the HR Support site

Further Guidance 

Advice about ventilation

Heads of Administration and Finance, Building Managers and Safety Officers are advised that it is unlikely changes will be needed to existing ventilation measures as part of current Return to On-Site Working (RTOSW) activities. 

Ventilation was reviewed in summer 2020 in all the buildings across the estate on a space-by-space basis. At that point, increased air flows were added in mechanically ventilated spaces; advice was provided on opening windows and doors in naturally ventilated spaces; and numbers were restricted in spaces with no ventilation.

Because this work has already taken place, it should not now be necessary to restrict numbers based on ventilation, except where the space is identified as having ‘poor ventilation’ (as defined in the RTOSW Guidance for Departments – table page 9).

Health guidance

Everyone needs to take individual responsibility for minimising the risks of COVID-19 to our community. It is important that everyone is considerate when working on site and follows health guidance. Even if you don’t feel at risk yourself, please respect others who may feel more vulnerable.

Please see our Health page for the latest health guidance.

College staff should refer to their own colleges for specific guidance.

Travel (to and from work)

Visit the return to on-site working travel page for related government news, local transport updates and travel options for returning to on-site working.

Principles of the Return to On-Site Working Programme 

The following principles underpin all planning activities: 

  • The safety of staff and students is a key priority. 

  • In line with current government restrictions, any restarted activity in University buildings must be feasible to be undertaken safely in line with the appropriate departmental risk assessments and follow the University's health campaign guidance. 

Outline of processes and responsibilities 

Divisions and departments hold responsibility for undertaking preparations, including risk assessments, workspace arrangements and communications with staff. Individuals should also review the guidance provided to understand what is expected of them. 

Full guidance for staff 

Staff who have not already returned should not return to working in a University building until this has been agreed with their manager or supervisor, and subject to any restrictions that their department may still have in place. They should receive a communication containing information on safe working in their particular location before returning, including the COVID-secure measures in place. If they require further information they should ask to see the risk assessment for the location. 

Once staff have returned to on-site (including office) working, it will then be possible to consider longer-term changes to working arrangements as appropriate to the role, building on our experiences during the pandemic. For Professional Services staff, this includes New Ways of Working, which is now underway in some departments. 

The key determining factor when trialling and assessing whether hybrid working options are effective will be how the University’s academic and organisational needs can best be met. Departments will update staff locally about plans and a timetable for implementing any changes.  

College staff should refer to their own colleges for specific guidance. 

 Full guidance for managers 

Detailed guidance is provided on the HR Support site for line managers and supervisors, and covers how to work with staff to manage the return to on-site working.  

Colleges have been provided with updated Return to On-site Working guidance that includes draft induction templates for colleges to adapt to their own specific requirements and college staff should refer to their own college for information. 

SharePoint site with detailed guidance and checklists 

A variety of Return to On-site Working guidance documents, checklists and templates are provided on this SharePoint site (SSO required) including:

  • Full consolidated Return to On-site Working guidance for departments – details of processes and checklists to support implementation. 
  • Ventilation record – a spreadsheet to support tracking of opening ventilation systems. 
  • The specific Laboratory Teaching Space document – to support teaching in laboratories (please note this is now an appendix in the main Return to On-Site Working guidance). 

 College staff should refer to their own colleges for specific guidance. 

New Ways of Working 

Once staff have returned to on-site (including office) working, it will then be possible to consider longer term changes to working arrangements as appropriate to the role, building on our experiences during the pandemic.  For Professional Services staff, this includes New Ways of Working, which is now underway in some departments. 

The key determining factor when trialling and assessing whether hybrid working options are effective will be how the University’s academic and organisational needs can best be met. 

Departments will update staff locally about plans and a timetable for implementing any changes. College staff should refer to their own colleges for specific guidance. 

FAQs  

What do we mean by a ‘full return’ to on-site working? 

The details of what this full return of staff looks like will be defined by individual departments based on academic and organisational needs. For example, where the department requires it, some staff will need to work on site for all of their working hours, while others may continue to work some of their time remotely. 

**NEW 24 January 2022** Do I still have to wear a face covering and maintain social distance in University buildings? 

Staff are encouraged to keep a reasonable distance between each other wherever this is reasonably practicable and in line with any government guidance at the time.  Social distancing is not formally required. However, staff and students are expected to respect each other’s space, using the experience of the last two years. 

Face coverings play an important role in reducing the spread of COVID-19, and the University continues to encourage the wearing of face coverings in indoor communal areas and when moving around inside University buildings. Face coverings remain mandatory in libraries (unless individuals are exempt). Further details are provided in the face coverings guidance

What consultation is taking place about these plans? 

The University continues to seek the views of Trade Union representatives, and the relevant guidance has been discussed at the staff Consultative Committee for Health and Safety. Staff in departments, divisions and central services, as well Oxford SU, have also provided feedback through the RTOSW programme. 

How will I know when I can return to on-site working?  

Your department will contact you formally with information on any changes that are being made locally, and what that might mean for where and how you work. If you have not yet returned to working on site, your department will contact you to confirm the date you can return. At this point they will provide you with an induction and information to support safe on-site working. 

Does the University require its staff to be vaccinated for COVID-19?  

No – although in line with government policy, we would strongly encourage all staff and students to be fully vaccinated (including booster vaccination) to protect their own health and the health of others. 

Information about the COVID-19 vaccination and how to book appointments can be found on the NHS website. 

What if I have caring responsibilities or am concerned about the risks of returning to site? 

Personal circumstances (including personal risk, risk to other household members, and caring responsibilities relating to the current situation) will be taken into account in all discussions with staff members about the return to on-site working. Your line manager or equivalent will offer to discuss with you any concerns you may have to explore ways of addressing them. If you are concerned about your own health with regards to returning on site, you are encouraged to discuss it with your line manager, who may make a referral to the Occupational Health team if appropriate for a clinical assessment of any underlying health issues. Unfortunately, Occupational Health cannot comment on health conditions that may be affecting family members, other people in your household or individuals for whom you have caring responsibilities. 

See the guidance for staff and the full guidance for line managers (behind SSO). 

How will I keep safe if I’m returning to work on site? 

Before work on site is resumed, your department will have completed a risk assessment and developed a work plan for you and others to work on site. The assessment will consider any government and University guidelines and identify those measures needed to keep you and your colleagues safe. This will include setting up the workplace in such a way so as to reduce the spread of COVID-19, and identifying specific ways of working or protective measures needed for certain areas or activities. 

Your department will have put in place appropriate measures before you return. These safe working procedures will include making sure you are free from symptoms, regular Lateral Flow Device testing, maintaining effective hygiene practices, ensuring effective ventilation of workspaces and wearing face coverings where required in line with the University’s face coverings guidance. You will be briefed on these safe working procedures and provided with information on what you need to do to stay safe when working in and around the building, so if you have any questions or concerns, these can be discussed with your line manager. 

Are risk assessments for each building shared and available to relevant staff? 

The Head(s) of Department responsible for each building must formally consult with staff and student representatives (ensuring that disabled staff are consulted to ensure their particular needs are not inadvertently overlooked), including and also with their departmental safety advisory committee members, as building risk assessments are developed. This is to ensure that the reasoning behind the identified control measures is understood and that staff and student views feed in to help identify workable solutions. Final approval of the risk assessment rests with the Head of Department. This should be shared with staff and students who use the building and published on the internal website/intranet.   

What are my transport and car parking options, and how do I travel safely?  

The University has a dedicated travel web page with practical support on bus and rail travel and car parking (updated weekly), as well as information about a number of schemes to support cyclists and help staff start cycling

To receive regular updates about travel, sign up to the Travel team’s newsletter by contacting travel@admin.ox.ac.uk.

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