Thursday 11 February 2021

All staff and PGR email

Supporting our parents and carers

This email is sent on behalf of Rachael Millhouse. Please direct any queries to

Dear colleagues

I would like to recap the support and guidance to help staff manage the ongoing challenge of balancing their work and caring responsibilities.

Most recently, Charlie talked to staff about these challenges and the commitment to supporting flexibility. You can watch the whole Vice-Chancellor update for staff or listen to the sections on working from home, workload, staff levels and wellbeing or flexible working during lockdown.

We have published information on our webpages in relation to supporting staff during the current and have explained the steps we expect managers and staff to take to help maintain manageable workloads over this period in the temporary carers leave policy we have introduced.

To recap:

  • Your manager is here to support you: any member of staff who is struggling with balancing childcare or caring with their role(s) is asked to discuss with their line manager what can be put in place on an informal, temporary basis to improve the situation.

  • Many staff with caring responsibilities will understandably find it difficult to meet the full hours or duties of their role at this time. Managers should be flexible and sympathetic in how they approach and handle discussions with staff about workload, working hours or any other aspect of their roles.

  • In the first instance, managers will discuss with members of staff how work can be re-prioritised; achieved by other means such as limited attendance at meetings; reallocating tasks to other people within or outside the department/university; whether work can be delayed or ceased in order to deliver role/department demands.

  • Line managers should support affected staff to manage their work life around their caring responsibilities. Staff and line managers should be prepared to explore all the options, including the flexible working options described below, to understand what will work best for an individual to enable them to balance work and home life. Options available include:

  • opting to undertake work flexibly including flexible start/finish times

  • utilising flexitime arrangements

  • using annual leave, accrued flexi leave, unpaid parental leave or unpaid leave*

  • making use of the 10 days additional paid carer’s leave available until 31 March 2021.

  • Staff with caring responsibilities should not feel pressured to ‘make up the time’, for example by working late into the evening or at weekends.

  • Staff should feel able to make adjustments to their working routine during the day so that they can deal with any unexpected situations and meet commitments that may require them to take time away from their role for example use of an ‘out of office’ message to highlight restricted hours or the availability functions in Slack (set status to 'Away') may help others understand revised working patterns.

  • Temporary or long term reduction in contractual working hours can be requested (this will be a last resort and only considered if requested by a member of staff)

If managers are experiencing problems in being able to agree on flexibility or are finding that their team’s resources are stretched, they should consider alternative solutions including consideration of overtime or exceptional short-term recruitment.

The current period of school closures not only impact parents and carers, but also have wider implications for teams and individuals who may feel the need to carry additional workloads to keep things on track. Managers should consider and discuss with their teams what activity can be paused, scaled back, or other options to maintain manageable workloads for everyone.

We appreciate everyone’s efforts to maintain a supportive environment for all within our community.

Best wishes

Rachael Millhouse

Acting Director of HR

*Staff may wish to take some annual leave or flexi time leave to assist them in achieving the balance they need. It is important that staff do take leave for their own wellbeing and to avoid large amounts of leave being accrued, which need to be taken during later in the year