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

Return to on-site working

Last updated 20 October 2021

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

With appropriate risk assessments of the working environment and with the wide uptake of effective vaccination, University staff are now returning to on-site working in line with local departmental plans. This will facilitate a return to business as usual in our core teaching, research and innovation activities.

The University’s Return to On-site Working (RTOSW) guidance has been updated to reflect the lifting of most COVID-19-related restrictions (including social distancing). It supports departments in reviewing and updating their risk assessments and work plans, including identifying any specific areas where a significant residual risk of COVID-19 transmission might remain (eg in less well-ventilated areas), and which will therefore require consideration of ongoing additional health measures.

Staff guidance has been updated to ensure staff have the information they need to come back to working on site, including what to do if they are medically vulnerable or have specific concerns. 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.

The University’s health advice has also been updated to help facilitate COVID-secure in-person teaching, research and on-site professional services support

In summary:

  • Face coverings are no longer mandatory, but will be encouraged in some areas
  • Social distancing is no longer required; however, individuals are encouraged to be considerate of others’ space 
  • Residual mitigations may be required in less well-ventilated areas and could include continued distancing or use of face coverings
  • All staff and students will continue to be strongly advised to get vaccinated as soon as possible, and to follow the government’s latest self-isolation rules 
  • Regular symptom-free testing will continue to be strongly encouraged for all staff who are working on site (as well as for all students while they are in Oxford), and the University’s Early Alert Service will continue to operate for those who have suspected COVID-19 or have a positive LFD test result.

Visit the health section and face coverings guidance page of the University’s coronavirus website for further information. 

Events updated guidance

Following the removal of restrictions on events on 19 July, and in line with the University’s plans for the return to on-site working, the COVID-19 Event Guidelines have been updated in relation to COVID-19 and are now embedded in the University’s online events guidance under ‘Health & Safety’. Anyone planning a University event will be expected to familiarise themselves with the guidance.

Parking 

Parking arrangements are due to change in light of the changing situation.  

Parking charges and peak permits were temporarily suspended during the pandemic, with the Temporary Permit to Park (TPTP) system introduced, and additional parking provided for staff at the Radcliffe Observatory Quarter (ROQ) and the Old Road Campus (ORC) gravel car park.  

It has now been confirmed that the temporary parking at the ROQ and ORC will remain available until 31 December 2021, and the TPTP system will continue until the end of October, to help staff transition back to on-site working. 

TPTP will end on 31 October, and the charging regime will change, with season peak permits returning, alongside the introduction of a new flexible peak permit, designed for staff that irregularly or infrequently need to look for a space.

Further details are available on the coronavirus travel webpages

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

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).

Updated health and face coverings guidance 

Updated University health guidance has come into effect with staff and students encouraged to minimise risks to themselves and the community through the following actions:  

  • Get vaccinated  as soon as possible if you have not already done so  
  • Wear face coverings where indicated (unless exempt)  
  • Test regularly, and if you have symptoms  
  • Stay at home if you are unwell
  • Wash your hands  regularly with soap or sanitiser  
  • Be considerate of other people’s space 

For further information read the:

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

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. 

To help facilitate COVID-secure in-person teaching, research and on-site professional services support, updated University health advice came into effect from Monday 6 September.  

From 6 September: 

  • Face coverings are no longer mandatory, but will be encouraged in some areas 
  • Social distancing is no longer required; however, individuals are encouraged to be considerate of others’ space
  • Residual mitigations may be required in less well-ventilated areas and could include continued distancing or use of face coverings 
  • All staff and students will continue to be strongly advised to get vaccinated as soon as possible, and to follow the government’s latest self-isolation rules  
  • Regular symptom-free testing will continue to be strongly encouraged for all staff who are working on site (as well as for all students while they are in Oxford), and the University’s Early Alert Service will continue to operate for those who have suspected COVID-19 or have a positive LFD test result.

Visit the health section and face coverings guidance page of the University’s coronavirus website for further information.  

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) and these have been updated following the University’s decision to move to Level 1 of its Business Continuity Planning (BCP) framework from 6 September 2021.  

  • 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  

Dealing with changing guidance 

Why has the University changed its health guidance? 

The University moved to Business Continuity Plan (BCP) Level 1 on Monday 6 September. This brought the University in line with Step 4 of the UK Government’s Roadmap, allowing for in-person learning and assessment wherever possible, a return to working on site for all staff, and increased public access to University and college facilities. The move to BCP Level 1 removed most COVID-19 restrictions currently in place and our health guidance was updated to reflect this. 

Visit the health and face covering guidance pages of the University’s coronavirus website for further information. 

College staff should refer to their own colleges for specific guidance

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. 

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. However, you will not have to maintain formal social distancing (such as 2 metre distancing), apart from in specific locations where this has been recommended by a local risk assessment and in which case colleges and departments will notify you.  

As part of our ongoing health measures to help keep staff, students, visitors and the wider community safe – and in consideration of each other – we encourage the wearing of face coverings inside University buildings. Staff, students and visitors are welcome to wear face coverings if they wish in any setting. Further details are available in the Face coverings guidance. 

Additional mitigations may be recommended where identified by risk assessments (eg altering layouts, increasing distancing, or recommending face coverings in spaces which are not well-ventilated or require very close working). 

At this stage, we expect this guidance to be in place until at least the end of Michaelmas term. However, we will keep this position under constant review in coming weeks and will adapt as the local and national situation evolves. 

What will happen if there are further government guidance changes in Michaelmas term?  

The University will consider any change to government guidance and the impact on the University’s business continuity plans. The University will continue to comply with government and Public Health England 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. 

Returning to buildings

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 to protect their own health and the health of others. The government’s change to self-isolation rules on 16 August also now means that there is a benefit to those who are fully vaccinated in that they are no longer legally required to isolate if identified as a close contact of a positive COVID-19 case

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 asked 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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