Advice for Council staff

Health advice for Council staff  Dealing with stress  Social distancing

It is understandable you have a lot of questions at this time as a result of COVID 19.  We have created this page to answer as many of them as we can .

If your question is not covered in the FAQ list below then please contact the Employee Relations Advice Line on 01546 605513 option 2 or by email on HRemployeerelationsenquiries@argyll-bute.gov.uk

This is a constantly changing situation and we will be updating this frequently and adding more questions.  Please check back regularly.

Please choose from the subject headings below

REDEPLOYMENT AND VOLUNTEERING OPPORTUNITIES

The Coronavirus pandemic means we’re all having to work together in new, innovative ways to deliver services to our communities. These changes have had a huge knock on effect on individual council departments, resulting in additional pressure on some areas of service.

A number of you are employed in non-critical posts (if you are unsure if your post is non-critical please check with your manager), whilst many of you are currently unable to carry out your normal work because of the emergency arrangements that are in place. If you are in one of these two categories, we are appealing to you to let us know of any qualifications and/or experience you have that could help us fill vacant critical posts during these very challenging times.

A Redeployment/Recruitment Hub has been set up to help teams deal with pressures on staff. If you have skills and/or qualifications that you think would be useful, and are willing to sign up, please let us know by completing the form that is now on the Council website.

FAQs on volunteering

ARRANGEMENTS FOR WORK DURING LOCKDOWN

"What should I do now that the country is in lockdown?"

Please read this guidance document which was compiled with reference to this COSLA circular.

WORKING IN AN ESSENTIAL SERVICE…

You should contact your line manager and establish if you are working in a front line service, key worker or if you are an essential staff member. Those of you who are working in our critical frontline services, please attend work as normal, keeping in touch regularly with your manager to make sure you are clear about any changes to normal working arrangements. Pay close and careful attention to social distancing and health and safety measures to keep yourselves safe. If you have any concerns or worries, please contact your manager or supervisor directly. If they cannot answer immediately, they will escalate to senior management for an answer as quickly as possible. 

WORK FROM HOME…

If you are able to work from home please organise do so and call the absence line (01546 605513 option 1) to advise that you are doing so.

OFFICE/SERVICE/SCHOOL SHUTDOWN…

If you are unable to work from home then please contact your line manager or supervisor with your personal contact details and remain available for work.  Please call the absence line (01546 605513 option 1) to advise that you are available for work but are unable to do so.

During this time we may ask you to carry out tasks that are not part of your normal daily work. These will be in line with your skills and abilities and we will ensure that you receive appropriate training.

Do I work in a front line service, am I a key worker or essential staff member?

Your line manager will be able to advise if you fall into one of these categories.  These services need to continue to ensure vulnerable people are supported during this very difficult time.  Where possible, we need employees in these services to continue to work and provide support.  We appreciate that this will be a very difficult time for employees working in these areas and appreciate the commitment of our staff.  Work is being done to identify additional support.  You should attend work and local safeguards will be put in place.  If you have any questions regarding your safety at work during this time you should speak to your line manager.

I am still at work, will I be asked to work a different shift pattern?

In the current situation we are asking staff to be as flexible as possible.  Managers will try and take into account personal circumstances when making such requests. Read the Joint COVID-19 statement with trade unions,

Can I be asked to work at different location and if so, will I be appropriately compensated?

Yes, if you are required to work in an essential service you may be asked to be flexible and may work in a different building or location for a temporary period of time.  If you have any concerns regarding this request you should speak to your line manager who will consider your concerns and what can be done to resolve these. Read the Joint COVID-19 statement with trade unions.

If this building/location is out with the town detailed on your contract of employment you will be entitled to Excess Travel arrangements which allow for a payment of the difference between your home and usual place of work and your home and your temporary new place of work to be paid to you.  This should be claimed via My View on a monthly basis.

Can I work from home?

Working from home is being promoted by the government to help support and limit social contact.  Whilst working from home is an option we need to consider this alongside delivering our services.  Employees therefore, need to speak to their manager about options, which will include reference to the nature of the service, work needing done at any particular time and equipment available to determine the best approach.  You should discuss this with your line manager and with their agreement then you may work from home.  As the situation evolves, it may be that you will be required to support service delivery in a different way therefore this may be reviewed.

SELF ISOLATION

"I have symptoms that suggest I have COVID 19 (continuous cough or fever/high temperature/loss of taste or smell) what should I do?"

Review the guidance from NHS.  Call the Absence Line (01546 605513 option 1) and report absent citing COVID 19 as the reason.  You should also contact your line manager to advise them. 

This absence will not be recorded against your sickness allowance and you will be entitled to normal pay.  It will not be counted towards sickness absence triggers.

Do not return to work for seven days.  You must call back when you are fit enough to return to work (even if you may then not be able to work due to school or office closure).

"I have been in contact with someone who is now displaying COVID 19 symptoms (continuous cough or fever/high temperature)?"

Review the guidance from NHS.  You should call the Absence Line (01546 605513 option 1) and explain that you have been in contact with someone who has COVID 19 symptoms.  You should let your line manager know and explore with them if you are able to work from home during this period.

This absence will be recorded as self isolation, it will not be recorded against your sickness allowance and you will be entitled to normal pay. It will not be counted towards absence triggers.

Do not return to work for 14 days.

Call back if you develop symptoms and your status will be changed to absence due to COVID-19.

You must call back when your self isolation is complete (even if you may then not be able to work due to school or office closure).

Do I need a medical certificate for self isolation or COVID 19?

No

SOCIAL DISTANCING

"I am over 70, have a long term health condition, am pregnant, have an underlying health condition should I be at work?" 

You should review the guidance on social distancing on the .gov website  and any advice you have been given from your doctor in coming to your decision.

You should discuss with your line manager the options that are contained within the Social Distancing document below.

If none of these possibilities are options you will be paid normal pay at this time although this situation is subject to regular review.

Please call the absence line (01546 605513 option 1) and explain that you are social distancing, the reason why and whether you are working from home.

"I live with someone who is elderly, pregnant, has an underlying health conditon should I be at work?"

You should review the guidance on social distancing on the .gov website and any advice you have been given from your doctor in coming to your decision.

You should discuss with your line manager the options to continue working that are contained within the Social Distancing advice document below.

If it is not possible for you to continue working in some capacity you will be paid normal pay at this time although this situation is subject to regular review.

Please call the absence line (01546 605513 option 1) and explain that you are social distancing, the reason why and whether you are able to work in some capacity.

"I do not have any of the health conditions that are mentioned in the .gov guidance regarding social distancing or live with anyone that does but can I work from home?"

Working from home is being promoted by the government to help support and limite social contact.  Whilst working from home is an option we need to consider this alongside delivering our services.  Employees therefore, need to speak to their manager about options, which will include reference to the nature of the service, work needing done at any particular time and quiepment available to determine the best approach.  As the situation evolves, it may be that you will be required to support service delivery in a different way.  You should discuss this with your line manager and with their agreement then you may work from home.  However, the council is currently reviewing its contingency plans and it may require you to return to work if there is not enough band with or space on the VPN for all employees to work from home.  Priority will be given to individuals who are working on critical activities.  Therefore this agreement may be reviewed at any time.

ADVICE FOR PEOPLE AT HIGHER RISK

"I am aged 70 or over/ have a long term health condition/ am pregnant/ have an underlying health condition should I be at work?" 

You should review the guidance on the nhs website, any advice you have been given from your doctor in coming to your decision.

Some groups in the above groups are considered to be at extremely high risk of severe illness with COVID 19 and should rigorously following shielding measures.

You should discuss with your line manager the options that are contained within the Social Distancing document below.

If none of these possibilities are options you will be paid normal pay at this time although this situation is subject to regular review.

Please call the absence line (01546 605513 option 1) and explain that you are social distancing, the reason why and whether you are working from home.

"I live with someone who is elderly, pregnant, has an underlying health condition should I be at work?"

You should review the guidance on shielding on the nhsinform website and any advice you have been given from your doctor in coming to your decision.

You should discuss with your line manager the options to continue working that are contained within the Social Distancing advice document below.

If it is not possible for you to continue working in some capacity you will be paid normal pay at this time although this situation is subject to regular review.

Please call the absence line (01546 605513 option 1) and explain that you are social distancing, the reason why and whether you are able to work in some capacity.

 

EMOTIONAL SUPPORT AND FINANCIAL ADVICE

We are all facing pressures due to the ever changing demands that are being placed upon us during the corona virus pandemic. 

Pressures can affect people’s health and wellbeing in many different ways and it is important to be able to access the resources available in order for you to be supported at this difficult time. 

Argyll and Bute Council has teamed up with Health Assured who are an independent, external organisation who provide the Employee Counselling Service. 

Health Assured can help you manage your emotional health providing support, guidance and information on dealing with anxiety, depression and stress.  Your physical health including any conditions relating to this and life support which provides guidance and help relating to any financial or legal worries you or your immediate family may have.

Health Assured have fully trained counsellors available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.  If the service is accessed via the online link below, under the ‘contact us’ heading there is the option to use live chat where you can chat to the advisor without speaking in person.

This service is available to all employees, their spouses or partners and their dependents aged 16-24 if they are in full time education. You do not need to be at work to access this employee benefit.

You can access the service directly or by telephoning 0800 030 5182 or by downloading the app via Apple Store or Play Store for Android devices.   Once downloaded the username is argyll and the password is bute

It takes two minutes to download the app on to your smart device and it’s there for when you need it.

OFFICE/SCHOOL CLOSURES/SERVICE SHUTDOWN

"I am currently employed in a school or an office that has been closed or a service that has been shutdown what should I do?"

You should speak to your line manager in the first instance. Where at all possible you will be offered work to undertake from elsewhere during the period of disruption this could involve

  • Participating in work from home or another location
  • Completing online learning or development
  • Alternative duties or redeployment to another role in which your skills and experience can support the council
  • Teaching staff providing Remote Learning for our children and young people as directed by your Head Teacher

In the event that we are unable to offer you meaningful work and your line manager has satisfied themselves that this is the case you should remain available for work (unless on leave) and you will receive full pay for the duration of the period of closure.

You should contact the absence line 01546 605513 (option 1) to report that you are unable to work due to office or school closure/service shutdown and that you are available for work.

If you, or someone you have been in contact with, becomes ill with COVID 19 during this period you should contact the absence line to say you are now in self-isolation

My child’s school or nursery has closed, I have no one available to look after them?

If you find yourself in this situation you should contact your line manager to discuss the potential options available in terms of your working arrangements. Your line manager will be as flexible as possible to allow you to carry out some work and options available for consideration could include but are not limited to:

  • Home working where possible
  • Working alternative hours, when it is suitable for you to do so
  • Undertaking alternative duties/ online training where possible.

If you are able to work some hours but not your full hours during this time you will receive full pay. If you are unable to work at all during this time and your line manager is satisfied that all alternative options have been exhausted you will receive full pay. You should keep in regular contact with your line manager during the period and update them immediately if you are able do some work. Read the Joint COVID-19 statement with trade unions.

If you are a key worker and do not have anyone else to look after your children childcare is being provided at some schools – please review the information on the website about this.

You should call the absence line on 01546 605513 to advise that you have child caring responsibilities and what your availability for work is.

If you, or someone you have been in contact with becomes ill with COVID 19 during this period you should contact the absence line to say that you are now in self-isolation.

WORKING FROM HOME - ADMINISTRATIVE ARRANGEMENTS

"Will we need to carry out display screen self-assessments when we work from home?”

Continue with temporary measures and staff should remember good practice e.g. good posture, taking breaks etc. For more information go to the Health and safety SharePoint on the Hub. You can also find information about working from home here.

ANNUAL LEAVE ARRANGEMENTS

"What happens to my leave if I am unable to work due to self isolation, social distancing, school closure or office shutdown for more than one month?"

Read the latest guidance on the treatment of Annual Leave during COVID-19.

Council employees total annual leave entitlement will be dependent on their length of service (pro rata for part time employees). Annual leave is made up of Statutory and Contractual leave. In the event that an employee is unable to take all of their leave during this leave year ALL employees will be entitled to carry forward up to 28 days leave (the statutory element of their leave) to be used before December 2022.

Employees will not normally be allowed to carry forward a balance of more than 28 days which means their contractual leave (the remaining balance) should be used during the leave year in agreement with their line manager.

In exceptional circumstances where an employee has been asked by their line manager not to take a period of leave due to service requirements linked to COVID 19 then a balance of more than 28 days may be approved and carried forward.

Leave Explanation

Years’ Service

Total Days leave Entitlement

Statutory element (can be carried forward for use by December 2022)

Contractual Element (to be taken during current leave year)

Up to 5 Years

32

28

4

5-10 Years

37

28

9

10 years and over

40

28

12

There is no requirement for employees to carry forward leave. Employees are encouraged to use their leave where appropriate during the year to allow downtime and maintain their wellbeing. Employees are entitled should they wish, to use their full leave entitlement during the current leave year. This table outlines the maximum that can be carried forward where employees have been prevented due to covid from taking their leave.

All public holidays and term time allocated holidays that occur over the period of being paid for not working at home will be deemed to have been taken over that period.

"I am term time what happens to my leave if I am unable to work due to self isolation, social distancing, school closure or office shutdown?"

All public holidays and term time allocated holidays that occur over the period of shutdown or not being able to work for self-isolation, social distancing or childcare reasons will be deemed to have been taken over that period.

RECRUITMENT

"Is recruitment on hold?"

HR are still able to advertise jobs and schedule interviews at the moment.  Before going ahead with interviews we would encourage you to think about whether it is essential at this time or whether these could be held when the situation is clearer.

"I have offered someone work with a start date – should I honour this?"

Yes, if you have verbally offered someone a post with a start date then you should honour this and continue with processing their contract. You should have a conversation with them regards what they are able to work during this period as per questions above.

"I have offered someone work with no start date – what should I do?"

You should consider whether you still need to recruit to this post at this time. If it is not essential delay making arrangements until the situation is clearer.

"I have interviews scheduled should I continue with these?"

If the post is not essential then you should delay your interviews until the situation is clearer.  If the post is essential then you should continue with your recruitment process but consider whether interviews could be held over the phone or skype.

The role I am recruiting to requires membership of the PVG scheme - what do I do?

At the moment Disclosure Scotland are only processing applications for posts related to work covering supporting the fight against COVID:

  • healthcare
  • pharmaceutical
  • childcare
  • social work
  • social care
  • prisons and justice

If your post relates to the above areas then there is a new process involving an electronic form.  There is guidance available here.  There is currently no charge for either employees or the Council for applications.  If your post does not relate to any of the above then Disclosure Scotland will be unable to process the application at this time.  You may need to consider holding off on appointment to this post at this time – for further advice please contact Hremployeerelations@argyll-bute.gov.uk.  For further advice on processing of electronic PVGs email pvg@argyll-bute.gov.uk.

TRIAL PERIODS

"I was on a redeployment trial but I am prevented from completing this due to my circumstances.  What will happen?"

Your trial period will reconvene when you are in a position to do so.

MEETINGS

"Should I still be having face to face meetings whilst I am at work?"

Where there is benefit in the meeting going ahead, this should be done by skype where possible. If a meeting is non-essential, then the meeting should be cancelled. You may wish to discuss the importance of a meeting going ahead with your manager and if you are required to meet in person, social distancing must be observed.

What will happen to current HR processes such as meetings for disciplinary, grievance etc.?

Initially the meetings may be postponed, as operational plans are reshaped.  However, thought is being given to how such matters will continue in the future perhaps via video conference, skype or telephone.  Further guidance regards this will be issued to managers shortly.

MATERNITY LEAVE

"I am due to go on maternity leave – do I have to go off earlier?"

No you don’t need amend the arrangements you had planned.

"I am due back from maternity leave – what do I do?"

You do not need to amend the arrangements you had planned.  If you wish to come back to work earlier than planned as your role is essential to efforts to fight Coronavirus then you should contact your line manager to confirm this is the case and consideration will be given to waiving the 8 week notification period.   In both cases complete your forms as planned and return them to your line manager.  If your line manager is not at work try to find an alternative manager to discuss with.  Please send forms to attendanceenquiries@argyll-bute.gov.uk.

TRAINING

"How do I access online learning?"

All online courses continue to be available.  Employees should use this opportunity to complete relevant courses if you have the time to do so,

The Council’s online learning website is called LEON. This can be accessed via the Hub, Argyll and Bute Council’s website by searching for LEON or via the following link.

https://tracking.brightwave.co.uk/LNT/ArgyllAndBute/Login.aspx?ts=636621479996003541

This website can be accessed from any device with connection to the internet. If you have any issues with your user name and password you can contact the training centre on trainingcentre@argyll-bute.gov.uk or 01546 605513 option 3.

"Is all training cancelled?"

Face to face training will not be delivered at the present time.  Where possible we have found alternative training delivery solutions e.g. online delivery.  You will be advised whether any training that you have scheduled over the next few weeks is cancelled or is being delivered online.  If it is cancelled it will be rescheduled for a later date.  If it is being delivered online you will need access to your pc / laptop and Skype video. 

SICKNESS ABSENCE

"What happens if I can’t get a fit note?"

We recognise that GPs may not be in a position to issue medical certificates at the moment.  If you are absent you should complete a self certificate as normal for the first 7 days of absence, there is also a facility to obtain an online certificate, to ease the workloads of GPS.  You will find this on NHS inform.  If this is not possible, a fit note can be obtained when the surgeries are able to deal with these requests again.   

CONTRACTUAL ARRANGEMENTS

"I am a casual member of staff but I can no longer work due to self isolation, social distancing, school closure or office shutdown will I be paid?"

You will either be paid till the end of your assignment e.g. if your manager had asked you to work until the end of the week, end of term etc. you will be paid until the end of that date.  You should speak to your manager if you have any queries about this OR you will be paid an average of your Jan-Mar earnings in April, May and June whichever is the greater. You should contact your line manager to explore working from home or alternative arrangements.

"My contract is ending at end of March.  Will I be kept on?"

You should speak to your manager about whether your contract will be extended.

 

I am a supply teacher but I can no longer work due to school closure will I be paid?

Please see the SNCT Circular on this matter - http://www.snct.org.uk/library/2718/JS-20-78.pdf