Tuesday 31 March 2020

All staff email

Covid-19 update Tuesday 31 March 2020

Dear colleague,

The Covid-19 crisis has seen our way of life, and our ways of working, change in ways we would scarcely have believed possible even a month ago.

I know many of you have been doing what you can, when you can, balancing the considerable pressures of working and home life.

Additional annual leave

As a thank you, and in recognition of the resilience and community spirit that has enabled the University to respond so well to the unfolding situation, we are offering all staff an extra two days annual leave this year.

We will be introducing a mini Easter shut-down, to extend the Easter weekend with two additional days of paid leave, on Wednesday 8 April and Thursday 9 April. We know there is no ideal time for everyone, but we want as many of our staff as possible to have the opportunity of a long weekend so they can rebalance work and home life.

We are asking heads of department and other line managers to plan carefully for this mini shut down, and where possible, avoid scheduling online meetings, to wind down email traffic, and to encourage everyone who can to ‘switch off’.

We recognise that this timing might not be appropriate for everyone. Individual circumstances, urgent queries and demands on teams and departments will vary and require action. We know that many are involved in online post offer visit days and recruitment activities, and that hard work is underway for online teaching at the start of term. And, of course, essential services need to continue.

In these cases, I ask that you work with your line managers to ensure that if you cannot take the additional days on Wednesday 8 April and Thursday 9 April, that you use these days flexibly over the coming weeks. I do want you to factor in a valuable break as soon as you can. This will play a vital part in supporting your health and wellbeing.

These two extra days are in addition to our previous announcement about extending the ‘carry over’ of unused allowance, from 5 days in the current policy to up to 10 days. Further details of our policy and new government guidance, to help you plan your annual leave, will be published by HR shortly.

Balancing workloads

We also know that, as an organisation, we need to adapt our approach and reassess our priorities. Today had originally marked the planned launch of the next consultation phase in our strategic vision - the development of which we know needs to pause, as we instead respond and plan for the immediate and long-term impact of COVID-19.

I have been working with senior colleagues across the University to consider other streams of work which we might postpone, slim down or re-prioritise so that we can enable our staff to manage the additional pressures that they currently face. This work will be completed and shared with you soon via Heads of Academic and Professional Service departments.

The current situation has led to intense activity. We know that not all work has been evenly balanced, with some teams having very significant demands made of them, and some having fewer pressure points. As we have time in the coming weeks to look up from the immediate situation, we have an opportunity to think about this and we will be looking carefully at how we can best balance out workload more evenly and on a more sustainable basis. I know many of you have offered to pick up work to support busier departments, and this is really valued.

Once again, thank you for your commitment and outstanding effort. How you’ve managed to adapt, and what everyone has managed to achieve in such an incredibly tight timeframe, really is exceptional.

Best wishes


Professor Charlie Jeffery