Friday 15 May 2020

All staff and PGR email

Covid-19 update Friday 15 May - Government guidance and restrictions

Dear colleagues,

Following the announcement by the Prime Minister last Sunday on easing lockdown restrictions, I am writing to provide you with a further update on the approach we are taking. The Government published a set of additional Government advice documents on Monday.

The additional guidance makes it very clear that people who can work from home must continue to work from home. This means that there will be no change in working arrangements for most of us for the foreseeable future.

I know that this is not what many of you wanted to hear. I also know that this is a challenging time for those with additional caring responsibilities. But as always, the health and safety of students and staff must be our top priority.

Please do continue to liaise with your line managers about your individual circumstances and do also look at the additional advice and support for managing your health and wellbeing while remote working. This week’s focus is on your physical wellbeing.

Phased approach to easing restrictions

We are now developing a phased approach to easing restrictions which will be determined by the following principles:

  • For those unable to work remotely, we will introduce a clear framework that prioritises who can return to work on campus, in addition to our essential workers already on site;
  • Decisions on how we ease restrictions will be part of a safe and carefully managed plan, based on Government, sector, and industry guidelines and will include additional training and guidance for relevant staff;
  • We will manage how we help staff needing to access campus to collect critical items and equipment, so that we do this in a coordinated, safe and responsible way.

The Government advice on easing of lockdown does not specifically reference universities except for one key area - laboratories and research facilities, such as clean rooms, simulators and specialist testing areas. I know that many colleagues and PhD students have been frustrated that they have not had access to their research labs during the period of lockdown. The Government advice now opens up the prospect that lab work can re-commence. But we need to approach this carefully.

This is why the Research Contingency Group is taking the lead on developing a robust plan to bring our lab and research facilities back into action. Led by the PVC for Research, Professor Matthias Ruth, and the Special Advisor on Research, Professor Deborah Smith, the Group will be issuing further guidance on the process of prioritisation and authorisation early next week to our research community.

In planning for this phased approach, I want to particularly highlight the enormous depth of expertise and experience of our colleagues in lab and research facilities. They have been working on plans to introduce social distancing and other safety measures. At the same time our Estates and Campus Services colleagues, who are integral to our ability to reopen laboratories as safely and quickly as possible, have been working on how we support this transition with all the appropriate safeguards. They have all been in consultation with colleagues across the UK and overseas to share best practice - thank you for all your hard work in this context, it is hugely appreciated.

Please bear with us while we work this through.

Best wishes

Charlie

Professor Charlie Jeffery

Vice-Chancellor