Further guidance for managers and staff about caring responsibilities and working arrangements

The impact of COVID-19 has been significant for all staff. The uncertainty of the situation has affected both work and personal lives, including those with caring responsibilities, particularly where the normal arrangements have no longer been available, or have reduced due to the restrictions in place.

To date, the University has supported staff during this period of uncertainty by utilising the Government furlough scheme, continuing to top up pay to retain 100% of salary and understanding that flexibility has been required to accommodate changing circumstances over recent months in relation to expectations for work delivery.

Where care facilities/providers and education establishments are open, it is expected that staff work their contracted hours and carry out all duties associated with their role. Where staff have any concerns about their hours or duties we would encourage them to speak with their Head of Department/Line Manager in the first instance to explore the support options available.

The University understands that some staff may have sudden unexpected changes to their care arrangements i.e. school closures or have a longer-term reduction in care availability. All of which will impact on the member of staff’s ability to work their contracted hours/duties (whether attending site or working from home, where this is operationally possible).

Managers should have a discussion with staff taking into account the difficult and stressful situations people may find themselves in. All efforts should be made to provide flexibility, wherever possible, and all staff should be understanding that everyone’s situation may be different.

Managers and their teams should discuss contingency planning when staff are likely to be absent from work at very short notice. It is important to ensure that existing staff are not overloaded as a result and managers should consider whether it is possible to pause any existing work. It is important to discuss arrangements with staff on an ongoing basis, as circumstances may change. Where arrangements are put in place they should be reviewed on a regular basis depending on the length of time the flexibility is expected for. Staff will not be expected to undertake significant caring responsibilities while also being expected to complete their contracted hours/duties.

Approach to be followed where caring arrangements are unavailable for a temporary period

It is expected that a manager will have a discussion with a member of staff to discuss a range of options, as soon as they are aware of a change in the member of staff’s circumstances. The outcome will be dependent on the situation of the carer, or alternative support they may have and if there is the ability to work from home (as this may not be possible for all roles).

If alternative care arrangements cannot be put in place that allow the member of staff to attend work as normal, managers should be flexible in exploring alternative working arrangements before the need to employ the other options below.

Alternative options should be discussed and agreed. These may be as outlined below:

  • Initially, under the University Special Leave Policy (log-in required) (Section 3.1) staff have the right to take a reasonable amount of time off work to deal with emergency situations involving dependents that they could not have reasonably have been aware of. The University currently allows members of staff to take up to one day off, with pay, to deal with an immediate, unexpected problem, and to put other necessary care arrangements in place.  Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the current isolation requirements, the University has increased this to five days where the nature of the emergency time off is related to COVID-19.  This should still be recorded in the normal way using the Special Leave form and recorded locally.
  • Annual leave - should be considered as the first option that can be used either in the short term or long term (by taking half days/a day or two per week for example), to provide flexibility to cover caring responsibilities.
  • Flexible working hours - Where possible managers should use their discretion to explore options to come to a suitable temporary working arrangement, whereby the staff member can balance their caring responsibilities whilst being able to deliver on key tasks. This will only be achievable where the arrangement is for a short period of time (i.e. the two weeks’ isolation period schools are requesting).
  • Temporary reduction in hours/flexible working - A short term arrangement can be agreed if this is operationally viable, e.g. working hours outside of the normal working pattern if possible. Alternatively, a temporary reduction in hours and pay (log-in required) (up to 3 months) can be agreed under the Flexible Working Policy (log-in required) and Human Resources can assist with the prompt agreement of this.
  • Up to four weeks’ unpaid Parental Leave can be requested, per year per child, under the Parental Leave Policy (log-in required).
  • Should the caring responsibilities require longer term absences from work, the university provides a Career Break Policy (log-in required).

We appreciate that this guidance may not apply to all circumstances, therefore if you have any queries regarding a specific situation or about a formal Flexible Working request, please contact your Senior HR Adviser (log-in required) who will be able to assist and advise.