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Human Resources

Return to Campus Conversations

What to cover in your conversations with staff

For those staff returning to campus, managers are encouraged to have a conversation with these colleagues about:

  • Their expected return date. Consider whether the return can be phased.
  • The measures that have been taken following a University-wide and more local risk assessments to make the campus safe and to protect staff, students, visitors.
  • Any matters arising from the individual health assessment.
  • The fact that when they return to work, things will be different. It may take a while for everyone to get used to the ‘new normal’ but that there will be help and support available through line management, Health and Safety, and HR.
  • The social distancing norms, reminders about regular handwashing, and local measures about social distancing, availability of sanitisers etc. to protect our workplaces and our staff.
  • What else is changing, e.g. any new rules about the entry to the building, or use of the communal areas, where they can take a break etc.
  • Checking any concerns they may have and discuss how best these can be alleviated, referring to the risk assessment document if needed
  • Checking their travel plans, what is a convenient time for them to travel, can peak times be avoided, and use these discussions to inform and build into departmental plans
  • If staff are nervous about travelling by public transport, consider other ways of travel- walking, cycling, use of own car, car parking. See our Covid-19 Travel to and From Work Guidance. 
  • Exploring if some of the work can be done from home and some on campus. Agree a working week schedule according to this.
  • Any arrangements for fixed teams or partnering, so that each person works with only a few others, discuss which roles they work most closely with.
  • Any requirement for referral to Occupational Health to advise on reasonable support and adjustments that need to be made.
  • Caring issues and any adjustments that need to be made.
  • When considering who might come in/different shift patterns, consider the need for fire marshals or first aiders. Where appropriate you may want to discuss with other local teams to agree pooling resources.

Summarise plans by email after your conversation with the members of staff. The return to work should be mutually agreed. It is vital that there is a clear dialogue between the manager and member of staff so concerns, such as caring responsibilities or commuting by public transport, can be raised and individuals’ needs and concerns taken into account. There will need to be flexibility on both sides to accommodate different working times or schedules as ways of managing some of these issues. The emphasis should be to make sure that staff are safe and feel safe.

We would look for both managers and staff to be flexible and reasonable when discussing phased return to work in a safe manner. In this initial phase of the return, when we are looking to bring back a small number of staff, managers are encouraged to seek agreement prior to phasing someone back at work.

Following the initial communication regarding phased return and follow up discussions with staff, managers are encouraged to bring back those staff who are willing or volunteering to return to work in the first instance rather than mandating someone to return against their will. There are issues that will need more careful consideration, such as the apparent link between BAME/protected characteristics, and people will be understandably worried.

Who to contact for more information or guidance

As the first group becomes safely re-inducted to campus (with all due safety measures in place), we will monitor and further enhance/ alter our arrangements where required and more staff may get the additional assurances by that time about the safety on campus. The travel arrangements would also have been tried and tested by then. This may help getting more people to return to work in phase 2 being more reassured and feeling that it is safe for them to return.

If anyone has a particular difficult situation that they wish to discuss at this stage, please speak to your HR Partner.

Where a staff member is unable and/or unwilling to return to campus and this is a key requirement of their role:

  • Line managers should explore the precise reasons why the individual is unable and/or unwilling to attend
  • Reasonable support options and/or adjustments should be explored (see list above). Each individual case should be considered on its individual circumstances, and assessed on a case by case basis.

If a staff member is unable and/or unwilling to attend campus following reasonable support and adjustments being offered and implemented, the line manager will need to carefully consider what other options can be explored to support the staff member. Where there are no suitable alternative options, your HR Partner can advise on potential next steps.

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