Monday 23 March 2020

All staff email

Covid-19 update Monday 23 March

Dear colleague

I hope you managed to get some rest and relaxation over the weekend after a very demanding week last week. And I hope that those of you who are transitioning to home working are finding the process manageable. Thank you again to those who continue to provide our essential services on campus.

Home-working

I know that for many of you who have school-age children, home-working became more complicated as of this morning. You may be juggling your work with additional caring responsibilities, coupled with giving support to children on the school work they have been given to complete online.

I want to reassure you that we understand the additional responsibilities that many of you now have. Do whatever you need to do to support your household; do the work you can, when you can - and importantly please let your line manager know about the pressures you may be facing. Keep in touch, and don’t forget you can also liaise with our colleagues in our employee assistance programme Health Assured, who can provide additional support including telephone counselling and other HR related advice.

Annual Leave

We are reviewing our annual leave policy, as we know that many staff have had some holiday time cancelled. We have decided to extend the current annual leave provision of a 5 day ‘carry over’ allowance to the next holiday year of up to 10 days. But that doesn’t mean we should all save up our annual leave for later in the year, and holiday leave will still need to reflect the circumstances and requirements of individual teams and departments at that point in the future where travel may become less constrained.

Taking regular annual leave is a vital part of our health and wellbeing, to ensure we get proper breaks from work. So, even if you're not physically at work in the office any more, and even though you can't use your annual leave as you would have wanted to, please do make sure you schedule some time off work over the coming months.

Recruitment of Staff

It’s a statement of the obvious to say that the future is uncertain. And because of this significant uncertainty, we took the decision today to suspend all recruitment processes with only very few exceptions:

  • Where a firm offer has already been made and accepted by a candidate, although we may need to review start dates
  • Business critical roles: which will only go into recruitment following approval by the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (for academic posts) and the Registrar and Secretary (for non-academic posts).

The HR Services team will be providing recruiting managers with guidance for all other recruitment that is in the pipeline, but the principle is that all no new recruitment campaigns will commence without the approval of the Deputy Vice-Chancellor or the Registrar and Secretary, and current campaigns will be suspended and candidates advised that they will be contacted at a future date should the decision be to proceed with that recruitment.

Building Closures

The second policy decision we made is to close as many buildings on campus as possible in order to ensure we maintain appropriate social distancing and that the work of essential service teams is kept to an absolute minimum for their own protection against Covid-19 infection. The intention therefore is to close as many buildings as possible from 5pm Wednesday of this week, with a view to closing the majority of buildings by the end of the week. This decision does not of course apply to student residences; some of our students have no alternative but to live on campus.

If this decision on building closure causes a major problem, please ask your line manager if you feel that you need additional support, but I must stress that very few exceptions will be made. The hard and fast decision is that most buildings will need to close.

If you are planning to come in and remove materials or books from your office in the next few days again please ensure that you observe strict social distancing guidance, and only if you have no Covid-19 symptoms of any kind.

I recognise that this decision will cause concern. But we must have rigorous social distancing measures which could inadvertently be compromised if we left buildings open. And we must do everything we can to protect the health and wellbeing of an already small team that will keep essential services running on campus.

Open Days and other Recruitment Events

We have also taken the decision to move online all remaining planned recruitment events, including the scheduled Open Days in June. Colleagues in Marketing, Recruitment, Admissions and Outreach are working to develop online alternative events and they will be in contact with relevant staff to provide regular updates on plans for alternative provision.

UK HE Sector Impacts

Some of you may have seen the letter from Michelle Donelan, the Minister for Universities, which has been reported across a number of media platforms. I welcome the Minister’s letter and its points of reassurance about the difficulties that the sector faces. I will continue to liaise with the Minister, UUK and the Russell Group to ensure that the Government understands the scale of challenge faced by the University sector.

Health and Wellbeing

I have asked colleagues in HR to provide further guidance on how to keep well while working from home, including tactics and tips for keeping in touch, keeping fit and well, and taking time out. As this gets published do please take time to look at it and work out what works for you.

As always please continue to consult our Covid-19 information hub as we upload more information on the FAQs.

I want to thank you all again for your continued hard work, patience and good humour as we continue to respond to this difficult situation.

Best wishes

Charlie

Professor Charlie Jeffery

Vice-Chancellor