Advice for Council staff

COVID-19 Protection Levels - Argyll and Bute is at Level 2

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

WORKING ARRANGEMENTS

"Do I need to wear a face covering at work?"

Following the First Minister's announcement on 07 October 2020, employees are required to wear a face covering in communal areas in the workplace. This includes corridors and canteen areas. Please ensure that if you are in a Council workplace you follow this guidance.

 

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

 

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.

Please remember to call the Absence Line back when you return to work in order to close off your record.

 

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.

The Wellbeing Team are also available to provide assistance.

EXPENSES

Can I claim expenses while home working due to the Covid Pandemic?

You can claim retrospectively on expenses you have had. So, if you're only at home due to coronavirus, it's best to wait until you're back working in the office, then make the whole claim at once. Your tax code will likely be adjusted so you pay less tax over the year, as opposed to you getting a direct refund. Find out more about this here.

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, for example, good posture, taking breaks etc. More information is available here. You can also find information about working from home here.

"GDPR - What are my responsibilities?"

Employees who work from home should know that they are responsible for keeping all information associated with Argyll and Bute Council secure at all times.

This includes being under a duty to:

  • Maintain service user confidentiality
  • Carry out sensitive conversations in confidence.
  • Store confidential files (paper or electronic) securely and use agreed methods of encryption.
  • Comply with password policies for work computer / system / homeworking portals (etc.) and any other digital devices.
  • Employees should be aware of the councils’ policy on use of computers or other equipment for personal purposes or by family or household members.

Home Insurance - "Is this affected while I am working from home?"

Employees should check with their home and contents insurance providers that they have cover in order to be able to work from home.

 

Mortgage or Rental Agreements – "Do I need permission to work from home?"

Employees should check mortgage or rental agreements to ensure they are permitted to work from home and should obtain any permissions necessary in order to be able to work from home.

 

In-House Professional Advice and Support – "What support is available to me?"

Employees and their Managers should be aware of the range of in-house sources of professional advice and support that they can continue to access while working from home. Examples include,

Employee Assistance Programme

Human Resources hremployeerelationsenquiries@argyll-bute.gov.uk

Wellbeing Team wellbeing@argyll-bute.gov.uk

Occupational Health Services 

Recognised Trade Unions

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.

QUARANTINE

What countries are on the exempt list from quarantine if returning from abroad?

The following link to the Scottish Government website contains all information relating to which countries require you to quarantine if returning from abroad: https://www.gov.scot/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-public-health-checks-at-borders/pages/exemptions/

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 such as 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 . for example 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

TESTING

I am a council employee and have symptoms of coronavirus, how do I get tested?

Can I share the fact that someone has tested positive with other employees?

You should keep staff informed about potential or confirmed COVID-19 cases amongst their colleagues. However, you should avoid naming individuals if possible, and you should not provide more information than is necessary. 

SELF-ISOLATION

1. What should I do if I have symptoms of COVID-19?

Anyone developing symptoms consistent with COVID-19 (new continuous cough or a high temperature or loss of/change in sense of smell or taste), however mild, should stay at home for 10 days from the start of symptoms and arrange to be tested. For information on how to access testing please go to https://www.argyll-bute.gov.uk/coronavirus/advice-council-staff#testing

2. What should I do if my symptoms are worsening?

Seek prompt medical attention if your illness is worsening (see NHS Inform for more information on when to get help). If it is not an emergency, contact NHS 24 (phone 111). If it is an emergency and you need to call an ambulance, dial 999 and inform the call handler or operator that you may have Coronavirus (COVID-19).

3. When should I self-isolate?

You should self-isolate if you:

  • have Coronavirus (COVID-19) symptoms or have tested positive for Coronavirus (whether you have symptoms or not). You should follow self-isolation guidance on NHS Inform and arrange to be tested. Workers should not return to work until symptoms go away, with the exception of cough and loss of/change in taste or smell, as these symptoms may persist for several weeks. Workers should only return to work when they are feeling clinically better, have completed their self-isolation period and have been fever-free for at least 48 hours without the aid of medication.
  • need to self-isolate because someone in your household has symptoms or has tested positive (whether they have symptoms or not). You should follow self-isolation and test and protect guidance on NHS Inform.
  • are told to self-isolate (stay at home) by the NHS test and trace service, because you’ve been in close contact with someone who's tested positive. You should follow self-isolation and Test and Protect guidance on NHS Inform. It is possible that people will have to self-isolate more than once – perhaps multiple times – if they are identified as a close contact of separate cases on several different occasions.
  • need to quarantine after a holiday or business travel from outside the Common Travel Area. For further information go to: https://www.gov.scot/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-public-health-checks-at-borders/

Covid secure facilities