Guidance on research-based travel and fieldwork for staff and PGR students

At times it will be necessary to halt travel for research in all but the most exceptional cases. Before making any arrangements for travel for research, check with your college Director of Operations to ensure that your plans meet the criteria for essential travel for research. The guidance here assumes you have already done that and covers what staff and postgraduate researchers (PGRs)  need to do when planning research travel and fieldwork. You must also discuss your plans with your supervisor or line manager before completing the relevant documentation or making any travel bookings. This document should be read in conjunction with the University's Health and Safety Procedure.

1. Purpose

1.1 This report sets out the Travel Guidance and Principles for UK and Overseas travel by staff and PGRs during the COVID-19 pandemic and how the process will be managed. Travel for Students (PGTs and UGs) is being considered by a separate group.

2. Background

2.1 Travel disruption is highly likely; local, national and international control measures may be brought in with little to no notice. We are likely to be in a pandemic for some time, where the situation will keep changing. The local lockdowns experienced by Leicester and other cities and the various changes to the air corridor list illustrate how quickly travel can be disrupted.

2.2 For current advice on international travel from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) check their website

During periods when essential travel is permitted, travel to some countries and territories that do not pose a high risk for British Travellers may be exempted by the FCO. However, this is complicated by the fact that the borders of some exempted countries may be closed to UK Citizens. NB: travel advice for staff and students who are not UK citizens may differ.

For exempted countries you may be able to return to the UK without self-isolation, but the travel corridors list should be checked before and during the trip.

Each individual exempted country has its own entry requirements, and these are changing regularly so they must be checked on the FCO website.

3. Considerations when planning travel (applicable only during periods when essential travel is permitted)

3.1 UK and Overseas conferences/workshops and non-essential travel should not take place where a suitable online option is available. Generally, for overseas travel only recruitment, flying teaching faculty and research-related travel will be considered.

3.2 An individual’s vulnerability once infected by COVID-19 varies dramatically depending on several defined risk factors, some of which multiply the risk of mortality.

3.3 Disruption related to COVID-19 is likely to continue for the foreseeable future. Whilst travel is an important part of our work, there is still much uncertainly if any given journey can be undertaken, whether it will result in quarantine or whether any costs can be recovered or insured against.

3.4 For some overseas destinations a quarantine period may be required, which could result in additional cost if you have to remain in a hotel room or accommodation for 14 days, move to quarantine facilities for coronavirus and, if positive in some cases, be hospitalised abroad.

3.5 Return travel to the UK is subject to a period of self-isolation from some countries or territories - details can be found on the FCO website.

3.6 From 1 August 2020, insurers have confirmed that the process for the travel policy will include a pandemic exclusion under the cancellation/curtailment section.

3.7 In the period following the first national lockdown, 409 students had trips cancelled. Final costs are unknown until the airlines provide reimbursements. Financially, the University is also impacted with insurance excess payments and ongoing additional insurance costs.

3.8 Accommodation should not be shared by people outside of a household bubble for either UK or overseas travel. Trips should not go ahead unless single occupancy can be supported within existing budget finances

4. Process

4.1 Planning:

  • For Overseas travel once you have read and understood this guidance note and the travel risk assessment form USHP 06a F2. If you believe your trip meets the criteria, seek approval in principle from your line manager
  • Complete the business case section of the form. Details relating to the method of transport to and around the destination, accommodation and activities to be undertaken are outlined here.
  • The risk assessment section of the form should be completed with the input of someone familiar with the process such as an Operations Manager or Departmental Safety Officer.
  • This process applies to staff and PGR students wanting to travel country to country, even if the starting point is outside of the UK. i.e Poland to Germany
  • Most UK trips will not need a risk assessment and can be approved within Schools/Divisions; however if there was a local lock down a risk assessment would be required, or if a particular activity such as a field trip was taking place a risk assessment should be completed.

4.2 Approval:

  • The completed form should be submitted to the appropriate approver (as defined in section 2 of the form). They will either approve the trip, refuse the trip or ask for additional input.
  • Once approval has been received, the form, complete with sign off, should be sent to insurance@le.ac.uk
  • Once submitted, the Online Travel Insurance Request needs to be completed, but this will not be processed until the authorised form has been received.
  • For UK travel the completed form should be retained in the School Office, there is no need to forward the risk assessment forms to the Insurance Department, unless the request is for car hire

4.3 Prior to Travel:

  • As the travel situation can change rapidly, the FCO advice should be rechecked close to the time of travel.
  • If the FCO advice changes between the time of approval and the travel date, inform your approver immediately. The insurance team will be monitoring any changes from the FCO and will contact Travellers/Approvers if the change requires additional approval or further risk assessment.

4.2 Approval:

  • The completed form should be submitted to the appropriate approver (as defined in section 2 of the form). They will either approve the trip, refuse the trip or ask for additional input.
  • Once approval has been received, the form, complete with sign off, should be sent to insurance@le.ac.uk
  • Once submitted, you will need to complete the Online Travel Insurance Request but this will not be processed until the authorised form has been received.
  • For UK travel the completed form should be retained in the School Office, there is no need to forward the risk assessment forms to the Insurance Department, unless the request is for car hire

4.3 Prior to Travel:

  • As the travel situation can change rapidly, the FCDO advice should be rechecked close to the time of travel.
  • If the FCDO advice changes between the time of approval and the travel date, inform your approver immediately. The insurance team will be monitoring any changes from the FCDO and will contact Travellers/Approvers if the change requires additional approval or further risk assessment.

Flowchart for overseas trips

  1. Obtain initial approval by Line Manager
  2. Complete USHP-6a-F2 Overseas Travel and Research Risk Assessment
  3. Obtain approval from appropriate personnel
  4. Arrange travel and necessary insurance cover

Flowchart for UK trips

  • Obtain initial approval by Line Manager
  • Destination with local restrictions or higher risk activities, e.g. field trip
    1. Complete risk assessment
    2. Obtain approval from appropriate personnel
    3. Arrange travel and necessary insurance cover (if hiring a car)
  • Destination without local restrictions or higher risk activities, e.g. field trip
    1. Arrange travel and necessary insurance cover (if hiring a car)