Questions and answers for HSC staff

Please note this page is currently being updated.

Staff from across Health and Social Care have pulled together to help tackle the COVID-19 (coronavirus) outbreak and continue to work tirelessly to ensure that our patients, clients, staff and public are as safe as possible. It is only through the ongoing teamwork of our HSC staff across our services that we will be able to tackle the spread of COVID-19 (coronavirus).

The following questions and answers are set out below to advise and guide staff regarding important employment related issues. The situation relating to COVID-19 (coronavirus) is continually evolving and therefore these questions and answers will be subject to ongoing review and amendment as appropriate.

Please note issues related to leave, pay and conditions are the responsibility of individual trusts/organisations and are hosted here for information only. Please contact your line manager if you have any queries.

Table of Contents

  1. GENERAL INFORMATION:
  2. 1. What is COVID-19 (coronavirus)?  (Updated November 2021)
  3. 2. Will the seasonal flu vaccine be available? (Updated November 2021)
  4. 3. How will the risk of COVID-19 be handled in the workplace? (Updated November 2021)
  5. 4. I have one or more symptoms of COVID-19 (coronavirus). What should I do? (Updated November 2021)
  6. 5. What happens if I am notified that I am a contact of a confirmed COVID-19 case in the community? (Updated November 2021)
  7. 6. If I have been notified that I am a contact of a confirmed COVID-19 case who is also a work colleague, what do I do? (Updated November 2021)
  8. 7. Someone I live with has COVID-19 or has symptoms of COVID-19. I don’t have any symptoms, can I come into work? (Updated November 2021)
  9. 8.  What is the role of lateral flow device (LFD) and lamp tests? (Updated November 2021)
  10. 9.  What do I do if I test positive on lateral flow device (LFD) test? (Updated November 2021)
  11. 10. What do I do if I test positive on a LAMP test? (Updated November 2021)
  12. 11. How do I arrange to have a COVID-19 antibody test carried out? (Updated November 2021)
  13. 12. Pregnancy in the workplace Updated October 2021
  14. 13. I have an underlying health condition, am I still required to be in work? (Updated November 2021)
  15. 14. I fall into the category of clinically extremely vulnerable, what is the current advice? (Updated November 2021)
  16. 15. I got the COVID-19 vaccine - does this mean I am no longer considered clinically extremely vulnerable and do not need to follow the guidance issued to clinically extremely vulnerable people? (Updated November 2021)
  17. 16. I am over 70 years old, should I still be coming into work? (Updated November 2021)
  18. 17. What steps are being taken to protect Black Asian Minority Ethnic (BAME) staff? (Updated November 2021)
  19. 19. How do I ensure I am protected if a patient or client is suspected of or confirmed as having contracted COVID-19 (coronavirus)?
  20. 20. Am I required to share or provide transport to clients/patients/student during the COVID pandemic? (Updated November 2021)
  21. ABSENCE – PROCESS AND PAY
  22. 21. Do I have to submit any documentation if I am absent from work due to having COVID-19 or due to someone in my household having COVID-19? (Updated November 2021)
  23. 22. Is there any change in the process for submitting fit notes (sick lines) for any other kind of sickness absence from work? (Updated November 2021)
  24. 23. What pay will I receive if I am absent from work due to COVID-19?  (Updated November 2021)
  25. 24. I am a bank worker – what will I be paid if I am absent due to COVID-19?  (Updated November 2021)
  26. 25. I am an agency worker – what will I be paid if absent due to COVID-19?  (Updated November 2021)
  27. 26. Will sick leave associated with COVID-19 affect my sickness record or my pay? (Updated November 2021)
  28. 27. I am on annual leave but have been advised to self-isolate at home, during the period when I would have been on annual leave. What happens to these annual leave days? (05/11/2020)
  29. TERMS AND CONDITIONS
  30. 28. How will my annual/statutory leave be affected by the ongoing arrangements at this time? (Updated November 2021)
  31. 29. Will I be paid overtime if I am part-time and work additional hours? (Updated November 2021)
  32. 30. I have applied for term time – will this be affected by COVID 19?  (Updated November 2021)
  33. 31. Are there contingency arrangements in place to ensure I get paid?  (Updated November 2021)
  34. 32. If I am not paid correctly on my normal pay day is there the ability to secure a payment outside of my next scheduled pay date (Updated November 2021)
  35. 33. Will my application for family leave be processed?  (Updated November 2021)
  36. 34. Are Agenda for Change Clustering/Reviews/Regradings being progressed?  (Updated November 2021)
  37. 35. I am working from home, can I claim costs associated with electricity, heat and broadband? (Updated November 2021)
  38. 36. What is the policy if staff do not adhere to COVID-19 Guidance? (Updated November 2021)
  39. WORKFORCE CAPACITY - REDEPLOYMENT, AND RETIREMENT
  40. 37. Am I likely to be redeployed? (Updated November 2021)
  41. 38. If I am to be redeployed I am worried about how I will know what to do in a different role. Will I receive training? (Updated November 2021)
  42. 39. If I, as a result of agreed temporary redeployment, am undertaking work of a lower band in another area, will my terms and conditions be protected and will I receive mileage expenses? (Updated November 2021)
  43. 40. If I, as a result of agreed temporary redeployment am required by the service to work during periods which attract enhancements will I receive payment at an enhanced rate for these periods? (Updated November 2021)
  44. 41. If I, as a result of an agreed temporary redeployment to another service have a different working pattern will I continue to attract the enhanced payments that I previously received.  (Updated November 2021)
  45. 42. If I am as a result of an agreed temporary redeployment working on another site managed by external organisation will I continue to be paid by my current Trust. (Updated November 2021)
  46. 43. As part of Covid-19 contingencies, I have returned to HSC employment having very recently retired. Am I able to work more than the 16 hours per week in the first four weeks following retirement? (Updated November 2021)
  47. CARING RESPONSIBILITIES - SCHOOLS AND CHILDCARE
  48. 44. Will flexible working arrangements be available to support my changing childcare responsibilities? (Updated November 2021)
  49. 45. What symptoms should I look out for in my child? (Updated November 2021)
  50. 46. My child is now showing symptoms of Covid-19. What should I do? (Updated November 2021)
  51. 47. Can I get my child tested if they are displaying COVID-19 symptoms? (Updated November 2021)
  52. 48. In school, someone in my child’s class has tested positive and my child has been identified as a close contact. What does this mean and can I still come to work? (Updated November 2021)
  53. 49. My child’s class/school or childcare setting is completely closed with little or no notice. What should I do? (Updated November 2021)
  54. 50. My child’s school has advised that my child has to self-isolate due to a COVID-19 issue in the school and I will also have to stay off work. Will I have to provide any verification of this to my manager? (Updated November 2021)
  55. 51. What are the arrangements for training, course, conferences during this period of time? (Updated November 2021)
  56. TRAVEL AND QUARANTINE
  57. 52. What are the travel regulations and restrictions in Northern Ireland currently? (Updated November 2021)
  58. 53. Can I go on holiday to another country? (Updated November 2021)
  59. VACCINATION FOR HSC STAFF
  60. 54. Am I eligible to get the COVID-19 vaccine? (Updated November 2021)
  61. 55. Can I get the vaccination during my working hours? (Updated November 2021)
  62. 56. What if I don’t have the time to get the vaccination during the working day? (Updated November 2021)
  63. 57. Will I get paid mileage if I have to drive to get the vaccination? (Updated November 2021)
  64. 58. If I go to get the vaccination outside my normal working hours, will my travel time be paid? (Updated November 2021)
  65. 59. What if I have side effects/become unwell following the vaccination, how will this be recorded? (Updated November 2021)
  66. 60. If I choose not to have the vaccination, will my employment be at risk? (Updated November 2021)
  67. 61. Do I have to disclose to my manager whether I have had the vaccination or not? (Updated November 2021)
  68. CURRENT STAFF VOLUNTEERING TO HELP AT THE VACCINATION CENTRE
  69. 62. What rate of payment will I get if I am offering to help out at the Vaccination Centre? (Updated November 2021)
  70. 63. What if I only have a Bank Contract, do I still get paid the appropriate rate for my bank work if I offer to help? (Updated November 2021)
  71. 64. Can I claim travel expenses if working in the Vaccination Centre? (Updated November 2021)
  72. 65. Can I claim travel time if working in the Vaccination Centre? (Updated November 2021)
  73. 66. I require training to be able to do the vaccination. Will this be paid? (Updated November 2021)
  74. 67. Does the COVID-19 Regional Flexible payment scheme apply to the hours done in the Vaccination Centre? (Updated November 2021)
  75. 68. Will I be paid an overtime rate once I have exceeded full time hours? (Updated November 2021)
  76. 69. Who will be responsible for authorising timesheets for work in the Vaccination Centre? (Updated November 2021)
  77. 70. When will I be paid? (Updated November 2021)
  78. WORKERS CONTRACTED THROUGH THE REGIONAL WORKFORCE APPEAL TO WORK AT THE VACCINATION CENTRE
  79. 71. I have applied for this through the regional workforce appeal to help with the vaccination. What rate will I be paid at? (Updated November 2021)
  80. 72. How many hours will I be contracted to undertake? (Updated November 2021)
  81. 73. When will I be paid? (Updated November 2021)
  82. 74. What will happen at the end of this work? (Updated November 2021)
  83. 75. Where is my vaccination centre? (Updated November 2021)
  84. 76. Do I need identification to get the vaccine? (Updated November 2021)
  85. 77. I am not a frontline worker, can I get the vaccine? (Updated November 2021)
  86. 78. I work for a voluntary sector/private sector delivering front line care, can I also get a vaccine? (Updated November 2021)
  87. 79. How do I get an appointment for the vaccine? (Updated November 2021)
  88. 80. If I get the vaccine will I have to stop working from home? (Updated November 2021)
  89. 81. Will staff receive a “certificate” or some other formal confirmation that they have been vaccinated? (Updated November 2021)
  90. 82. I have contact with people in eligible groups, should I let them know the vaccine is coming? (Updated November 2021)
  91. 83. Can I cancel my appointment? (Updated November 2021)

Back to top

GENERAL INFORMATION:

Back to top

1. What is COVID-19 (coronavirus)?  (Updated November 2021)

A coronavirus is a type of virus. COVID-19 is the disease caused by a strain of coronavirus called SARS-CoV-2. It was first discovered in December 2019, and in March 2020 the World Health Organisation declared a pandemic, which is currently ongoing.

COVID-19 can affect your lungs and airways. Everyone should do what they can to stop coronavirus spreading.

Commonly reported symptoms of COVID-19 include:

  • a high temperature – this means you feel hot to touch on your chest or back (you do not need to measure your temperature), or;
  • a new, continuous cough – this means coughing a lot for more than an hour, or three or more coughing episodes in 24 hours (if you usually have a cough, it may be worse than usual), or;
  • anosmia - the loss or a change in your normal sense of smell (it can also affect your sense of taste)

If you have any of these symptoms, you should self-isolate and book a PCR test.   Details on how to book a PCR test can be provided by your line manager.

Back to top

2. Will the seasonal flu vaccine be available? (Updated November 2021)

Flu vaccination offers the best protection against seasonal influenza (flu) and helps to protect health and social care workers and reduce the risk of passing infection on to others.

Flu vaccination is important because:

  • more people are likely to get flu this winter as fewer people will have built up natural immunity to it during the COVID-19 pandemic
  • if you get flu and COVID-19 at the same time, research shows you're more likely to be seriously ill

Getting vaccinated against flu and COVID-19 will provide protection for you and those around you for both these serious illnesses.

More information is available at:

The COVID-19 and flu vaccines can be given at the same time.

Flu and/or COVID-19 vaccinations can be obtained by health & social care workers through your employer or by booking online at https://covid-19.hscni.net/get-vaccinated/

Back to top

3. How will the risk of COVID-19 be handled in the workplace? (Updated November 2021)

Although restrictions are easing within the wider society, as Health and Social Care staff, we must continue to be vigilant within the work place to prevent the spread of COVID-19 to patients, colleagues and members of the public.

Employers and managers should conduct thorough risk assessments, in discussion with their staff to ensure the following measures are maintained within the workplace where the staff are otherwise unable to work from home:

  • Social distancing where possible. This may include spreading staff across any available offices, partitions, online meetings, alternative shift patterns, eg early morning or evening working, or weekend working.
  • Face coverings in shared spaces & when moving indoors
  • Adequate ventilation
  • Hand washing and/or sanitising facilities
  • Reduced use of communal items & areas
  • Regular cleaning of all areas & increased cleaning of frequently touched surfaces
  • Appropriate use of medical grade PPE when working with patients, residents or service users
  • COVID-19 testing for asymptomatic HSC staff using Lateral Flow Devices (LFDs)/LAMP is available in Northern Ireland. Participating in regular asymptomatic testing helps to reduce the risk of you spreading COVID-19 to colleagues and patients, and is strongly encouraged.
  • All staff are encouraged to have their COVID-19 vaccination

For more information see https://www.nidirect.gov.uk/articles/coronavirus-covid-19-staying-safe-work

 SYMPTOMS, SELF-ISOLATION AND CONTACT TRACING

Back to top

4. I have one or more symptoms of COVID-19 (coronavirus). What should I do? (Updated November 2021)

If you any of the following symptoms:

  • a high temperature – this means you feel hot to touch on your chest or back (you do not need to measure your temperature), or;
  • a new, continuous cough – this means coughing a lot for more than an hour, or three or more coughing episodes in 24 hours (if you usually have a cough, it may be worse than usual), or;
  • anosmia - the loss or a change in your normal sense of smell (it can also affect your sense of taste)

You must stay at home and book a PCR test. You must not go into work. You should contact your line manager as soon as possible to inform them. If you are in work when you develop symptoms, you should inform your line manager and go home as soon as possible, (ensuring you wear a face mask), to self-isolate and book a PCR test.  Staff will be informed by their line manager of local testing arrangements for COVID-19.

If you have symptoms, you must take a PCR test – lateral flow tests should only be used for people without symptoms.

Information on testing sites and how to book a test can be found at https://www.nidirect.gov.uk/articles/coronavirus-covid-19-testing

If you test positive for COVID-19 on a PCR test:

You should self-isolate for 10 days from either the date of the test or the date of symptom onset, irrespective of vaccination status. You should inform your line manager of your positive result.

You can leave self-isolation on day 11 provided you feel well enough and have been fever-free for 48 hours. A cough and/or anosmia (loss of or change in sense of smell or taste) may persist for several weeks in some people, even though the coronavirus infection has cleared. In general, you don’t need to continue to self-isolate for more than 10 days after your symptoms started if you have a persistent cough and/or change in smell or taste with no other symptoms, but you should discuss returning to work with your line manager, particularly if you work with patients who are at higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19.

If you test negative for COVID-19 on a PCR test:

If you test negative on PCR then you can end self-isolation and should inform your line manager of your negative result. However, if you have been identified as a close contact you will still need to follow the appropriate isolation requirements for your age & vaccination status, even if your PCR test is negative – please see question 6.

General Principles:

  • Where you can be facilitated to work from home you should do so. If this is not possible the absence should be recorded on HRPTS as special leave category ‘Risk Assessment (Paid)’.
  • Occupational Health advice is available as necessary.
  • Staff members who are asked to remain away from work due to health reasons should suffer no financial detriment.
  • Line managers should continue to submit timesheets for any enhancements and additional hours that a staff member would have worked had they been in work.
  • For certain settings, there may be additional return to work requirements for health care workers who have tested positive for COVID-19, e.g. those working with immunocompromised patients. Staff should discuss with their line manager.  

Leave will be recorded as special leave on HRPTS using special leave category ‘Public Serv Duties Paid’.

Occupational Health advice is available as necessary via your line manager

Back to top

5. What happens if I am notified that I am a contact of a confirmed COVID-19 case in the community? (Updated November 2021)

The Public Health Agency Contact Tracing Service aims to minimise community transmission of COVID-19, by identifying close contacts of anyone who tests positive for COVID-19 and giving them isolation and testing advice.

If you have been identified as a close contact of someone in the community who has COVID-19, you will be contacted by PHA Contact Tracing and/or sent an email or text message to that effect. If you are identified as a close contact you should follow the appropriate testing and self-isolation guidance based for your age & vaccination status. This guidance can be found at https://www.nidirect.gov.uk/articles/coronavirus-covid-19-self-isolating-and-close-contacts

It is important you notify your line manager as soon as possible so that a risk assessment can be undertaken to determine whether or not you can continue to attend work. Currently any health & social care workers identified as close contacts, should follow the Chief Medical Officer’s  ‘Updated policy for management of self-isolation of close contacts of COVID-19 cases who are fully vaccinated – additional safe guards for health and social care staff’ available at doh-hss-md-49-2021.pdf (health-ni.gov.uk)

You can find out more about close contacts and contact tracing here: https://www.publichealth.hscni.net/covid-19-coronavirus/testing-and-tracing-covid-19/contact-tracing-qas

Back to top

6. If I have been notified that I am a contact of a confirmed COVID-19 case who is also a work colleague, what do I do? (Updated November 2021)

If a colleague receives a positive COVID-19 test result and you are identified as a close contact, you will be contacted by your employer’s contact tracing team. You should follow the advice given regarding whether you need to stay off work and testing requirements.

 Your line manager (and occupational health if required) will undertake a risk assessment to determine whether or not you can continue to attend work, and any additional precautions, in line with the Chief Medical Officer’s  ‘Updated policy for management of self-isolation of close contacts of COVID-19 cases who are fully vaccinated – additional safe guards for health and social care staff’ available at doh-hss-md-49-2021.pdf (health-ni.gov.uk)

In health and social care settings, colleagues will generally not be deemed close contacts provided appropriate PPE is being worn and intact in accordance with current infection prevention and control guidance.

Following social distancing and using appropriate PPE decreases the likelihood of colleagues being identified as a close contacts and reduces the risk of transmission and outbreaks in the work place. This helps to ensure that patient safety and care is not compromised.

Health and social care workers identified as close contacts of a colleague should follow the appropriate isolation advice for wider community outside of work too, based on vaccination status, available at https://www.nidirect.gov.uk/articles/coronavirus-covid-19-self-isolating-and-close-contacts

Back to top

7. Someone I live with has COVID-19 or has symptoms of COVID-19. I don’t have any symptoms, can I come into work? (Updated November 2021)

If someone in your household has symptoms, they should self-isolate and book a PCR test as soon as possible. If you are a health and social care worker (HSCW), you should inform your line manager of this and are advised to isolate pending the results.

If your household member tests positive on PCR:

If a household contact tests positive, you should inform your line manager.

Those that work in health and social care should not go into work until 10 days have elapsed from the onset of symptoms in the positive household contact, even if fully vaccinated. This is due to the risk from ongoing exposure to the case in the household setting (see the Chief Medical Officer’s  ‘Updated policy for management of self-isolation of close contacts of COVID-19 cases who are fully vaccinated – additional safe guards for health and social care staff’ available at https://www.health-ni.gov.uk/sites/default/files/publications/health/doh-hss-59-2021.pdf)

However, you should discuss your individual circumstances with your line manager and occupational health if required. Some health and social care workers may be able to work from home.

If a household member tests positive, you and any other household members should also book a PCR test, to check if you also have COVID-19. If you have been advised to stay off work, you should continue to do so even if this is negative.

If you go on to develop symptoms, you should get another PCR test. If this test returns positive, you will need to self-isolate for a further 10 days from the onset of your symptoms.

If your household member tests negative on PCR:

In general, if your household member tests negative for COVID-19 on PCR, you can return to work.

If you go on to develop symptoms, you should stay at home and arrange to be tested (see question 5).

General Principles:

  • Where you can be facilitated to work from home you should do so. If this is not possible the absence should be recorded on HRPTS as special leave category ‘Risk Assessment (Paid)’.
  • Occupational Health advice is available as necessary.
  • Staff members who are asked to remain away from work due to health reasons should suffer no financial detriment.
  • Line managers should continue to submit timesheets for any enhancements and additional hours that a staff member would have worked had they been in work.
  • For certain settings, there may be additional return to work requirements for health care workers who have tested positive for COVID-19, e.g. those working with immunocompromised patients. Staff should discuss with their line manager.  

TESTING

Back to top

8.  What is the role of lateral flow device (LFD) and lamp tests? (Updated November 2021)

Many people can be infected with COVID-19 and able to spread it to others, even though they don’t have symptoms.

COVID-19 testing for asymptomatic HSC staff using Lateral Flow Devices (LFDs)/LAMP is available in Northern Ireland. Participating in regular asymptomatic testing helps to reduce the risk of you spreading COVID-19 to colleagues and patients, and is strongly encouraged. Even after being vaccinated, staff should continue to carry out regular asymptomatic testing.

LFDs can give a rapid result just 30 minutes after the test is self-administered, and staff are being asked to carry out the tests twice weekly.

More information is available at https://www.publichealth.hscni.net/covid-19-coronavirus/guidance-hsc-staff-healthcare-workers-and-care-providers/lateral-flow-testing

Your trust may also be participating in Loop-mediated isothermal amplification (LAMP) testing. LAMP tests are similar to PCR tests, but they use another method to amplify the genetic material in your sample LAMP testing requires staff to provide a fresh saliva sample that will be tested in a laboratory.  Samples must be dropped off in collection bins in designated areas.

Back to top

9.  What do I do if I test positive on lateral flow device (LFD) test? (Updated November 2021)

If your result is positive you need to register it (see link above) AND report any positive results to your line manager as soon as possible, and book a confirmatory PCR test. You should not go into work if you have a positive LFD test and should stay off work and self-isolate while you wait for the PCR result. Follow the advice in question 5 for what to do based on your PCR result.

Back to top

10. What do I do if I test positive on a LAMP test? (Updated November 2021)

You will be notified by text message of your lamp result and provided with instructions, including self-isolation if required.

Back to top

11. How do I arrange to have a COVID-19 antibody test carried out? (Updated November 2021)

Please see https://www.gov.uk/register-coronavirus-antibody-test for more information.

 

An antibody test can only tell you if it’s likely you’ve had COVID-19 before (or that you have been vaccinated).

 

An antibody test does not tell you:

  • if you’re protected from COVID-19
  • if you’re infected with COVID-19
  • if you can or cannot spread the virus to other people

 

Why take an antibody test

 

Taking an antibody test helps research to:

  • learn more about who’s had the virus and how it has spread
  • understand immunity to COVID-19 and the impact of new variants on how effective the vaccine is

 

EMPLOYEE CONCERNS AND PROTECTING EMPLOYEES IN ‘VULNERABLE’ GROUPS

Back to top

12. Pregnancy in the workplace Updated October 2021

In addition to the normal pregnant risk assessment, all pregnant women must also have a COVID-19 Risk Assessment carried out with their line manager. The Risk Assessments should be reviewed on a regular basis and again when the member of staff reaches 28 weeks pregnant. The Risk Assessment is being reviewed and will be available here shortly.

Employers have a responsibility to protect the overall health & safety of pregnant women who are working. These responsibilities are laid out in the Management of Health & Safety at Work Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2000. See the below links for full details:

 

Guidance overview:

Women who are less than 28 weeks pregnant

  • Pregnant women in their first or second trimester, that is under 28 weeks’ gestation, with no underlying health conditions, are advised to follow the guidance on social distancing in the same way as the general population and other colleagues.
  • This means they can continue to work, but avoid where possible, caring for patients with suspected or confirmed coronavirus infection, through the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) and risk assessment.
  • Some working environments, such as operating theatres, respiratory wards and intensive care/high dependency units, carry a higher risk for pregnant women of exposure to the virus and all healthcare workers in these settings are recommended to use appropriate PPE. Where possible, pregnant women are advised to avoid working in these areas with suspected or confirmed coronavirus patients.

Women who are more than 28 weeks pregnant:

  • For pregnant women in their third trimester, after 28 weeks’ gestation, and those at any stage of pregnancy with an underlying health conditions – such as heart or lung disease – a more precautionary approach is advised. This is because although pregnant women  are at no more risk of contracting the virus than any other non-pregnant person who is in similar health, pregnant women > 28 weeks gestation  have an increased risk of becoming severely ill and of pre-term birth if they contract COVID-19.
  • Women in this category should work from home where possible, avoid contact with anyone with symptoms of coronavirus, and significantly reduce unnecessary social contact.  Managers and staff may need to take a flexible approach to the nature of the work and duties to support homeworking if this is not something that their normal role facilities.
  • f the member of staff (more than 28 weeks pregnant) cannot work from home employers should seek opportunities for these individuals to work flexibly in a different capacity, to avoid roles where they are working directly with patients their Line Manager will undertake a Risk Assessment with them. It is essential that flexible and safe working arrangements are discussed and explored. Options may include undertaking telephone or videoconference consultations, working from home and/ or taking on administrative duties.
  • In the unlikely event that work in a suitable environment cannot be found, the woman should remain at home, not working, and will be recorded on full pay under COVID-19 special leave arrangements. She will continue to accrue annual and statutory leave entitlements. For these women, their maternity leave will then start at week 36 in accordance with Regulation 6(1)(b) of the Maternity and Parental Leave Regulations (Northern Ireland) 1999).
  • Please note: if a pregnant staff member is sick and not available for work, they will be recorded as being on sick leave for the duration of their sickness absence. If they remain sick at week 36 their maternity leave will commence in line with Regulation 6 (1)(b) outlined above. 
  • If following a risk assessment, the pregnant women requests to continue working in a patient facing role, the line manager should discuss the risks and if necessary seek further advice from Occupational Health. 

Risk assessments

Risk assessments must be conducted for all pregnant member of staff and reasonable measures should be considered to minimise the risk of exposure to the virus, including providing suitable alternative work on the same terms and condition.  Occupational Health advice can be sought if necessary. Guidance on risk assessments can be found below:

Vaccination

  • COVID-19 vaccines are recommended in pregnancy. Vaccination is the best way to protect against the known risks of COVID-19 in pregnancy for both women and babies, including admission of the woman to intensive care and premature birth of the baby
  • Women may wish to discuss the benefits and risks of having the vaccine with their healthcare professional and reach a joint decision based on individual circumstances. However, as for the non-pregnant population, pregnant women can receive a COVID-19 vaccine even if they have not had a discussion with a healthcare professional.
  • You should not stop breastfeeding in order to be vaccinated against COVID-19.
  • Women trying to become pregnant do not need to avoid pregnancy after vaccination and there is no evidence to suggest that COVID-19 vaccines will affect fertility.
  • Having a COVID-19 vaccine will not remove the requirement for employers to carry out a risk assessment for pregnant employees, which should follow the rules set out in this government guidance.

 

More information on COVID-19 vaccination in pregnancy is available at https://www.publichealth.hscni.net/publications/covid-19-vaccination-guide-women-who-are-pregnant-or-breastfeeding-and-translations

Further resources:

 

  • Maternity Action (UK’s maternity rights charity dedicated to promoting, protecting and enhancing the rights of all pregnant women, new mothers and their families to employment, social security and health care): https://maternityaction.org.uk/
Back to top

13. I have an underlying health condition, am I still required to be in work? (Updated November 2021)

Some people are considered to be ‘clinically extremely vulnerable’ or ‘vulnerable’ to COVID-19. Definitions of both are available at https://www.nidirect.gov.uk/articles/coronavirus-covid-19-definitions-clinically-extremely-vulnerable-and-vulnerable

If you fall into these categories, it is important you speak with your manager at the earliest opportunity as they will need to carry out a risk assessment to ensure your safety in the workplace.

The COVID-19 risk assessment has recently been updated to reflect the latest guidance and is designed to assist in evaluating risks and the identification of control measures to reduce risk within the workplace. If staff with underlying conditions can work from home they should do so.

Guidance for ‘clinically extremely vulnerable’ and ‘vulnerable’ people is available at https://www.nidirect.gov.uk/articles/coronavirus-covid-19-guidance-clinically-extremely-vulnerable-and-vulnerable-people

Back to top

14. I fall into the category of clinically extremely vulnerable, what is the current advice? (Updated November 2021)

The definition of clinically extremely vulnerable (CEV) is at https://www.nidirect.gov.uk/articles/coronavirus-covid-19-definitions-clinically-extremely-vulnerable-and-vulnerable

Guidance for individuals who are CEV, including a section on work, is available at https://www.nidirect.gov.uk/articles/coronavirus-covid-19-guidance-clinically-extremely-vulnerable-and-vulnerable-people

If you are CEV you should work from home where possible.  All line managers of staff who are CEV must discuss the new guidance and where the member of staff is returning to the workplace, they must undertake a new risk assessment with the staff member prior to their return to the workplace. This should ensure that the staff member is supported appropriately, with mitigation to protect them in the workplace. Further advice and guidance can be provided by either Occupational Health or Human Resources.

Note that this guidance applies to clinically extremely vulnerable staff only. Staff living in a household with someone who is clinically extremely vulnerable are not required to follow it, but should continue to stringently follow the guidance on social distancing, face coverings and hand hygiene.

Back to top

15. I got the COVID-19 vaccine - does this mean I am no longer considered clinically extremely vulnerable and do not need to follow the guidance issued to clinically extremely vulnerable people? (Updated November 2021)

The Government is advising that the advice issued to clinically extremely vulnerable people from the Chief Medical Officer remains unchanged, regardless of whether or not they have been vaccinated. This is because, while being fully vaccinated will significantly reduce your chance of becoming seriously ill with COVID-19, you can still catch & transmit the virus.

Whilst the risk assessment will record whether or not you have been vaccinated this will not impact on the outcome of the risk assessment that you should complete with your line manager. You must continue to follow guidance including social distancing, frequent hand washing and wearing a face covering.

Although restrictions are easing within the wider society, as Health and Social Care staff, we must continue to be vigilant within the work place to prevent the spread of Covid-19 to patients, colleagues and members of the public.

Back to top

16. I am over 70 years old, should I still be coming into work? (Updated November 2021)

Staff over 70 years of age are considered to be ‘vulnerable’ but not ‘clinically extremely vulnerable’ (unless defined as CEV by a separate health condition). Such individuals can attend the workplace providing a risk assessment has been carried out by the line manager and steps have been taken to mitigate risks of COVID in the workplace, such as the ability to social distance from colleagues, adequate ventilation, encouraging hand and respiratory hygiene and supplying the appropriate medical grade PPE if required, but should not work in areas or settings where there are known to be suspected or confirmed COVID-19 cases. Strict IPC measures should be practiced and appropriate PPE provided. You will be encouraged to be as open and honest as possible including discussing any concerns you may have about returning/remaining in work. An action plan will be completed to reduce risks within the workplace as far as reasonably practicable. Your manager may also seek further advice from Occupational Health. If staff over 70 years of age can work from home, they should do so. 

You are strongly encouraged to get the COVID-19 vaccine (including the booster dose) and seasonal influenza vaccines to protect yourself and others.

Health and Social Care Workers over the age of 70 can continue to work in the workplace as long as they practice strict hygiene measures but are not suitable for work in areas or settings where there are known to be suspected or confirmed COVID-19 cases.

Although restrictions are easing within the wider society, as Health and Social Care staff, we must continue to be vigilant within the work place to prevent the spread of Covid-19 to patients, colleagues and members of the public.

Back to top

17. What steps are being taken to protect Black Asian Minority Ethnic (BAME) staff? (Updated November 2021)

The evidence to date shows that those from a black, Asian & minority backgrounds are disproportionately impacted by COVID-19 with higher age & male sex also associated with more severe illness. See below resources for further details.

Employers should ensure all staff have access to all required PPE, including appropriate Fit Testing & PPE alternatives which are suitable for all religious dress practices. Any issues with inadequate PPE should be raised with the appropriate manager within the Trust & relevant professional body as necessary. All persons eligible for the COVID-19 (& flu vaccines) should book as soon as possible. See below for links to book these vaccines & also the PHA COVID-19 Vaccine FAQs.

COVID-19 testing for asymptomatic HSC staff using Lateral Flow Devices (LFDs)/LAMP is available in Northern Ireland. Participating in regular asymptomatic testing helps to reduce the risk of you spreading COVID-19 to colleagues and patients, and is strongly encouraged.

Employers should ensure a workplace culture where staff feel supported and empowered.

Resources:

18. I am afraid I might get infected with COVID-19 (coronavirus) and pass it on to someone in my home who is in a vulnerable category. Do I have to come into work? (Updated November 2021)

The HSC is mindful of the increased anxiety levels of staff during an outbreak and of staff being fearful of putting vulnerable members of their household at risk.

Although restrictions are easing within the wider society, as Health and Social Care staff, we must continue to be vigilant within the work place to prevent the spread of Covid-19 to patients, colleagues and members of the public.

You can find more information on how to help protect vulnerable people you live with at:

Staff who are concerned should have a conversation with their line manager to agree how they can be best supported to continue to work in these circumstances.  Managers can seek advice from Occupational Health as necessary.  

COVID-19 testing for asymptomatic HSC staff using Lateral Flow Devices (LFDs)/LAMP is available in Northern Ireland. Participating in regular asymptomatic testing helps to reduce the risk of you spreading COVID-19 to colleagues and patients, and is strongly encouraged.

Alternative accommodation options to support staff in these situations are available by contacting your employer. Staff advised that the provision of accommodation may be considered as a benefit in kind and have tax implications.

Back to top

19. How do I ensure I am protected if a patient or client is suspected of or confirmed as having contracted COVID-19 (coronavirus)?

A number of measures are in place to protect staff and minimise the risk of staff contracting COVID-19 when caring for patients.  Patients are asked to confirm they are symptom free when attending for routine appointments.  Rapid and routine testing is in place to provide additional safeguards in a designated services areas.  You will be fully briefed and trained on the use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and managers have a responsibility to ensure appropriate PPE is in place for you. Wearing of PPE is mandatory, however we appreciate it can be tiring for staff and therefore you and your manager should ensure that you receive adequate rest breaks to avoid fatigue. You must practise (and encourage others to practice) hand hygiene measures, and ensure you follow PHA guidance relating to ‘Catch it, Bin it, Kill it’.

If your patient, client or colleague receives a positive COVID-19 test result and you have not been wearing PPE or PPE has been breached, and following a risk assessment you are deemed to be a close contact, you will be contacted by your employer’s contact tracing team. In the event you are identified as a close contact you should follow the relevant close contact guidance, in addition to completing a risk assessment with Occupational Health:

COVID-19 testing for asymptomatic HSC staff using Lateral Flow Devices (LFDs)/LAMP is available in Northern Ireland. Participating in regular asymptomatic testing helps to reduce the risk of you spreading COVID-19 to colleagues and patients, and is strongly encouraged.

Back to top

20. Am I required to share or provide transport to clients/patients/student during the COVID pandemic? (Updated November 2021)

Current restrictions on car sharing do not apply when car sharing is necessary as part of your work as this is identified as being exempt under the Government guidelines.  Therefore you may still be required to provide transport to clients/patients/students if this normally falls within your job role.  However consideration should be given to what other options are available to avoid car sharing being required and you should ensure that car sharing takes place only when absolutely necessary.

Where you feel it is necessary to transport another individual in your vehicle as part of your role the PHA Standard operating procedure (SOP) for Health and Social Care staff car sharing for essential practice should be followed and you should speak to your line manager in advance of undertaking any such journey.  A risk assessment should be completed for each Department where car sharing is required for part of an employee’s job role.  A sample risk assessment is provided here. This should be used as a starting point and added to in order to address specific individual circumstances, referring to local arrangements for further guidance.

Staff should consider the following in advance of any journey taking place.

  • Cleaning all contact surfaces between journeys, including seatbelts, internal and external handles and other touch points.
  • A disposable fluid resistant mask should be worn by the driver and all passengers while in the car together.
  • Minimising the number of people in the car at any time.
  • Considering seating arrangements to maximise distance between people in the vehicle.
  • Facing away from each other.
  • Washing your hands or using sanitiser before and after your journey.  Hand sanitiser, antibacterial wipes, gloves and face masks / coverings will be provided to any staff required to share a car with someone as part of their work and these items should be carried in the car at all times.
  • Keeping windows open for ventilation.
  • If possible only travelling with the same individual or small group of people on regular journeys.

PHA have produced a flyer that advises people to avoid car sharing during COVID-19 but shows the steps to follow to reduce the spread of the virus for those who can't avoid car sharing: https://www.publichealth.hscni.net/publications/advice-car-sharing-english-and-translations

COVID-19 testing for asymptomatic HSC staff using Lateral Flow Devices (LFDs)/LAMP is available in Northern Ireland. Participating in regular asymptomatic testing helps to reduce the risk of you spreading COVID-19 to colleagues and patients, and is strongly encouraged.

Back to top

ABSENCE – PROCESS AND PAY

Back to top

21. Do I have to submit any documentation if I am absent from work due to having COVID-19 or due to someone in my household having COVID-19? (Updated November 2021)

If you are absent from work because you are sick or symptomatic due to COVID-19 you can submit a self-certificate to cover your absence. Most staff should be able to return to work within 10 days. We recognise however that some staff will feel unwell for a longer period of time and therefore if you remain absent after 10 days staff should then submit a GP fit note to cover the continued absence.

You can access self-certification forms here.

If you are absent from work because you are self-isolating as someone in the household has COVID–19, you do not need to submit a self-certificate to cover your absence.

For clarity, you will see on the PHE/PHA websites reference to visiting NHS111 online and the availability of an ‘isolation note’ for COVID-19 related absence.  HSC staff do not need to utilise this facility.

Back to top

22. Is there any change in the process for submitting fit notes (sick lines) for any other kind of sickness absence from work? (Updated November 2021)

No. All other sickness absence should follow the usual process, i.e. self-certificate for up to and including 7 days and a GP fit note for subsequent periods as per the local attendance management procedure.

Back to top

23. What pay will I receive if I am absent from work due to COVID-19?  (Updated November 2021)

Staff should receive the pay they would have received had they been in work.

Back to top

24. I am a bank worker – what will I be paid if I am absent due to COVID-19?  (Updated November 2021)

Bank workers should receive full pay whilst self-isolating/ off on COVID-19 related sick leave for all pre-booked bank shifts that they would have worked had they not had to self-isolate.

Consideration will be given to paying bank workers who regularly undertake shifts, but do not have pre-booked shifts, a 13 week average for a period of self-isolation/ sick leave due to COVID-19. This will be assessed on a case-by-case basis dependent on the individual arrangements of the bank worker. 

Back to top

25. I am an agency worker – what will I be paid if absent due to COVID-19?  (Updated November 2021)

Agency workers should discuss the arrangements for pay during periods of COVID-related absence with their agency. Managers should not sign off timesheets for periods when an agency worker is absent due to COVID-19.

Back to top

26. Will sick leave associated with COVID-19 affect my sickness record or my pay? (Updated November 2021)

No, in order to mitigate any risks of COVID-19 (coronavirus) spreading across the organisation it is important that staff with symptoms do not come into the workplace. Sickness absence related to COVID-19 (coronavirus) will not form part of any absence triggers, and will not be viewed as such in relation to a member of staff’s sickness absence record. Line managers will record COVID-19 (coronavirus) sickness as special leave category ‘Public Serv Duties Paid’ on HRPTS, but this is strictly to allow us to monitor and report on the impact of absence(s) across the organisation.

Line managers should continue to send in timesheets for any enhancements and additional hours that a staff member would have worked had they been in work.

Staff should receive their full pay, that is, the pay they would have received had they been at work.

Back to top

27. I am on annual leave but have been advised to self-isolate at home, during the period when I would have been on annual leave. What happens to these annual leave days? (05/11/2020)

If you have been advised to self-isolate (from contact tracing or due to a household member showing COVID-19 symptoms) and you are currently on annual leave, then your annual leave days are converted to COVID-19 special leave days, from the actual day you were advised to self-isolate (the entire annual leave period should not be considered as special leave), provided you have informed your manager immediately once you have been notified to self-isolate. Even if you are out of the workplace, you should still make direct contact with your manager. You must comply with the COVID-19 advice and isolate for the required duration.

You may wish to work from home during this period if you feel well enough to do so but must inform your manager of this.

Your manager will record your absence as COVID-19 special leave if you are not working from home and you can apply to use your annual leave days at another date

The same practice will apply to statutory holidays if you are required to self-isolate on any of these days but you must inform your manager at the time.

This does not apply if you are on annual leave and during this time you are required to take care of a dependent who is asymptomatic (eg child advised to self-isolate as a result of a school case). In this instance, your annual leave may remain if you so wish or alternatively, you may wish to convert your annual leave to working from home if that is a viable option (due to the nature of particular jobs, working from home is not always possible) or consider a blend of the below options:

  • Working from Home
  • Remaining on Annual Leave
  • Carer’s/Dependent’s leave
  • Change of shifts/hours/compressed hours/ working times/weekend work/ use of TOIL already worked up
  • Ability to take time off and work it back at a later stage (within a six month period)
  • Parental leave (unpaid) during this period.

You should discuss and agree this approach with your manager first.

Back to top

TERMS AND CONDITIONS

Back to top

28. How will my annual/statutory leave be affected by the ongoing arrangements at this time? (Updated November 2021)

The Voluntary Scheme for the Extra-Ordinary Payment of Unused Contractual Leave Entitlement has been developed in partnership, and following engagement with regional Trade Union colleagues, for staff unable to avail of leave in line with normal provisions due to service pressures.   The following extra-ordinary options in regards to outstanding leave can be facilitated.

Option 1: Carryover of leave into the next 2 leave years

Under the Government Guidelines, those staff who have not used all of their leave, or have had leave cancelled due to the pandemic, can carry forward their unused leave into the next 2 leave years. All leave carried forward must be taken by 31 March 2023. (further details are provided in the Voluntary Scheme for Unused Leave Document, para 1.4 – link below)

Option 2: Payment of Contractual Leave

Staff can voluntarily opt to receive payment for unused leave above the statutory minimum of 5.6 weeks. (See Appendix 1 in the Voluntary Scheme for Unused Leave Document for table of contractual leave entitlement – link below). Request for payment must be made to your line manager by 31 March 2021.

Option 3: Carryover and Payment of Contractual Leave

Staff can voluntarily opt to receive payment for some of their unused leave above the statutory minimum of 5.6 weeks and carry forward the remaining leave (for which a payment has not been made) into the next 2 years. All leave carried forward must be taken by 31 March 2023. (further details are provided in the Voluntary Scheme for Unused Leave Document – link below)

Please find attached for your information:

§  Details of the Voluntary Scheme for Unused Leave

§  Annual Leave Ready Reckoner 

§  Application Form 

§  Annual Leave FAQs 

Back to top

29. Will I be paid overtime if I am part-time and work additional hours? (Updated November 2021)

No. Part-time staff who work additional hours will be paid at plain time rates until their hours exceed standard hours of work, in line with their terms and conditions. (Standard hours of work: 37.5 hours per week for Agenda for Change, 40 hours per week for Medical and Dental)

Back to top

30. I have applied for term time – will this be affected by COVID 19?  (Updated November 2021)

For those staff have a permanent term time contract you will not be affected.

For those staff who apply for term time on a yearly basis you manager will discuss with you locally, this will be considered on a case by case basis, based on safe service need.

Back to top

31. Are there contingency arrangements in place to ensure I get paid?  (Updated November 2021)

Yes there are contingency plans in place which will be invoked if required should there be reduced capacity in the BSO Payroll Services Centre and/or HSC HR Departments to complete key pay processing.

Back to top

32. If I am not paid correctly on my normal pay day is there the ability to secure a payment outside of my next scheduled pay date (Updated November 2021)

There will be limited facility to process pay outside designated pay days. This facility will be reserved for staff members who will fall into financial hardship as a result of not being paid correctly. Staff should however be aware that there may be instances where adjustments will not be rectified until your next scheduled pay day.

Back to top

33. Will my application for family leave be processed?  (Updated November 2021)

Applications for maternity, adoption, paternity and shared parental leave will continue to be processed. 

Back to top

34. Are Agenda for Change Clustering/Reviews/Regradings being progressed?  (Updated November 2021)

Organisation surge planning may include the temporary standing down or reduction in some services to support the continuation of critical services, this may include a period of suspension of AFC processes to allow for critical work to be carried out. Such services are kept under review and reactivated as soon as possible in line with organisational arrangements.

Back to top

35. I am working from home, can I claim costs associated with electricity, heat and broadband? (Updated November 2021)

You may be able to claim tax relief for some of the bills you have to pay because you have to work at home on a regular basis. You cannot claim tax relief if you choose to work from home. From April 2020 the rate is up to £6 a week (£26 per month) to cover additional costs. For previous tax years the rate is £4 a week (£18 a month). You can only claim for things to do with your work, for example, business telephone calls or the extra cost of gas and electricity for your work area. You cannot claim for things that you use for both private and business use, for example, rent or broadband access.

Employees should seek guidance from HMRC as necessary - claims are made through a P87 form.

Back to top

36. What is the policy if staff do not adhere to COVID-19 Guidance? (Updated November 2021)

All staff from across Health and Social care have pulled together to help to respond to COVID-19. Staff have worked tirelessly in the most challenging circumstances to ensure patients, clients, service users and colleagues are as safe as possible.

Our learning from COVID-19 is we all must adhere to the NI Executive and Public Health guidance in all circumstances – both in our workplace and in our social/ personal life.

In the event that the organisation becomes aware that staff have not adhered to the Guidance, the circumstances will be reviewed, screened and in repeat and/or serious cases investigated under the Trust Disciplinary Policy.

More information on adherence to COVID-19 Guidance is available here.

Back to top

WORKFORCE CAPACITY - REDEPLOYMENT, AND RETIREMENT

Back to top

37. Am I likely to be redeployed? (Updated November 2021)

In accordance with contracts of employment, some staff will be required to redeploy and/or relocate to another service area within the Trust or to another HSC Trust to ensure the provision of essential services to our patients/clients, or to ensure HSC frontline staff are adequately supported to deliver health and social care in the most challenging of circumstances. Regulatory bodies have produced guidance for staff in these circumstances and these can be accessed from their websites.

Your personal and health circumstances will be taken into account, and our terms and conditions will be adhered to, including provision of excess mileage at business rate.

Responding to COVID-19 is necessitating the highest level of team working across our service, to ensure our patients, clients and staff are safely cared for. Working together continues to be more critical than ever before and the flexibility and co-operation of our staff is greatly appreciated.

Back to top

38. If I am to be redeployed I am worried about how I will know what to do in a different role. Will I receive training? (Updated November 2021)

Consideration will be given to what is reasonable redeployment and yes, necessary induction and where appropriate relevant training will take place to enable you to take on different duties, however please be assured that you will only be asked to take on tasks within your competence. Where you are working outside your normal role, you should be very mindful of the need to work within your scope of competence and not undertake work which you are not trained or competent to do.

Back to top

39. If I, as a result of agreed temporary redeployment, am undertaking work of a lower band in another area, will my terms and conditions be protected and will I receive mileage expenses? (Updated November 2021)

Yes, your terms and conditions will be protected if you work in another area during your contracted hours. Staff who are asked to change base on a temporary basis which results in extra daily travelling expenses can claim excess mileage at business rate in line with their terms and conditions.

Back to top

40. If I, as a result of agreed temporary redeployment am required by the service to work during periods which attract enhancements will I receive payment at an enhanced rate for these periods? (Updated November 2021)

Yes staff will be paid in line with their Terms and Conditions. 

Back to top

41. If I, as a result of an agreed temporary redeployment to another service have a different working pattern will I continue to attract the enhanced payments that I previously received.  (Updated November 2021)

Staff should suffer no financial detriment following a change in their working pattern. Payment should equate to what the staff member would have previously received.

Back to top

42. If I am as a result of an agreed temporary redeployment working on another site managed by external organisation will I continue to be paid by my current Trust. (Updated November 2021)

To support the regional HSCNI response to COVID-19 it may be necessary for staff to be deployed to work on other sites managed by an external organisation (e.g. another HSC Trust). Staff will remain on their current Trust’s payroll. Staff should suffer no financial detriment as a result of this redeployment.

Back to top

43. As part of Covid-19 contingencies, I have returned to HSC employment having very recently retired. Am I able to work more than the 16 hours per week in the first four weeks following retirement? (Updated November 2021)

The legislation announced on 17 March 2020 temporarily suspended the 16-hour rule which currently prevents staff who return to work after retirement from the HSC Pension Scheme from working more than 16 hours per week in the first four weeks after retirement. It will also temporarily suspend abatement for special class status holders in the 1995 section of the Scheme, as well as the requirement for staff in the 2008 Section and 2015 HSC Pension Scheme to reduce their pensionable pay by 10% if they elect to ‘draw down’ a portion of their benefits and continue working.

These measures will allow skilled and experienced staff who have recently retired from the HSC to return to work, and they will also allow retired staff who have already returned to work to increase their commitments if required, without having their pension benefits abated. This will provide valuable capacity to the HSC.

This suspension of this legislation will end on 31 March 2022

Back to top

CARING RESPONSIBILITIES - SCHOOLS AND CHILDCARE

Back to top

44. Will flexible working arrangements be available to support my changing childcare responsibilities? (Updated November 2021)

Given the challenges to providing safe and effective service delivery, in these unprecedented times, the HSC believes it is even more important than ever to support key workers to balance their commitments in work and their own caring responsibilities. Whilst this guidance relates primarily to child care, the same principles apply to any caring commitment for other dependents. 

We aim to do everything we can to support employees to work as flexibly as possible whilst caring for children i.e. remote or home working and/or flexible working patterns and offer as much flexibility, compassion and understanding as possible balanced with service support and delivery.

You are advised to speak to your line manager regarding flexible working options should you need to avail of them to enable you to meet your childcare responsibilities. One new way of supporting you is allowing you the flexibility to work extra hours now to use as Time Off in Lieu if needed in the future, if the service can facilitate this.  (If these additional hours are subsequently not needed to support you for caring responsibilities, then they can be paid or given as time back at a later stage in accordance with terms and conditions depending on service needs/ constraints).  Managers should monitor the amount of time owing being built up to ensure it is not excessive and that staff are adequately rested.   

Your organisation’s Human Resources Department may also be contacted for support on how best to support family and work commitments during these times.

Please see below for further information on advice in relation to schools and colleges.

www.nidirect.gov.uk/articles/coronavirus-covid-19-advice-schools-colleges-and-universities

Please see below a Link to a letter from the Chief Medical Officer to parents / carers of school children:

CMO Letter 

Back to top

45. What symptoms should I look out for in my child? (Updated November 2021)

At present the key COVID-19 symptoms to be aware of in children are the same as for adults:

  • A new continuous cough (this means coughing a lot for more than one hour or 3 or more coughing episodes in 24 hours)
  • Fever/high temperature over 37. 8oC (this temperature is before giving any medication to reduce the temperature e.g. paracetamol, ibuprofen or any other antipyretic)
  • loss of, or change in, sense of smell or taste

Please see NI Direct for any updates to the key symptoms. The UK senior clinicians continue to keep the symptoms for case definition under review and will continue to use evidence to adjust these if it becomes necessary.

If a young person or a child in your care develops any of the above symptoms, they should immediately stay at home, self-isolate and book at test. Follow the advice at https://www.nidirect.gov.uk/articles/coronavirus-covid-19-self-isolating-and-close-contacts

Back to top

46. My child is now showing symptoms of Covid-19. What should I do? (Updated November 2021)

It is critical that we all remain vigilant for the symptoms of COVID-19. If your child has one or more symptoms of COVID-19 should take the same approach as with any member of your household showing symptoms:

The child/young person with symptoms should self-isolate & book a PCR test. The school should be made aware and they should not attend school or other childcare/education settings.

If you are a health and social care worker, you should inform your line manager and are advised to isolate while awaiting the PCR result. Other household members should follow the advice at https://www.nidirect.gov.uk/articles/coronavirus-covid-19-self-isolating-and-close-contacts

For advice on what to do once the PCR result is available, see question 8.

Back to top

47. Can I get my child tested if they are displaying COVID-19 symptoms? (Updated November 2021)

Children with symptoms of COVID-19 should self-isolate and have a PCR test.

You should book a test as soon as possible online, https://www.nidirect.gov.uk/articles/coronavirus-covid-19-testing or by calling 119. The child should only leave your house to get tested and should stay at home until the PCR result is known. 

For advice on what to do once the PCR result is available, see question 8.

Back to top

48. In school, someone in my child’s class has tested positive and my child has been identified as a close contact. What does this mean and can I still come to work? (Updated November 2021)

Contact tracing within school settings is now undertaken by the PHA Contact Tracing Service.

If your child has been identified as a close contact of someone at school you will receive notification of this and the guidance they need to follow.  Isolation and testing advice for children who are identified as close contacts is available at https://www.nidirect.gov.uk/articles/coronavirus-covid-19-self-isolating-and-close-contacts

The rest of the household, provided they do not have any COVID-19 symptoms, do not need to self-isolate or seek PCR testing unless they have also been in contact with the person who has tested positive for COVID-19.

If your child goes on to test positive, follow the advice in question 8.

Back to top

49. My child’s class/school or childcare setting is completely closed with little or no notice. What should I do? (Updated November 2021)

As soon as you become aware of such a situation, you should alert your manager as soon as possible and discuss what options are available to you to enable you to remain in work if possible, while also providing childcare for your children.  

Your manager should take into account the fact there is little notice due to the criticality of the situation and do their best to support you in putting in place suitable childcare arrangements. However, if the child is of an age where he/she needs supervision and care, then parents will have to consider various flexible working options such as working from home, if possible.

It is recognised however that due to the nature of particular jobs, working from home is not always possible. Therefore a blend of the following options may be suited better to individual needs:

  • Carer’s/Dependent’s leave
  • Change of shifts/hours/compressed hours/ working times/weekend work/ use of TOIL already worked up
  • Ability to take time off and work it back at a later stage (within a six month period)
  • Parental leave (unpaid) during this period.
  • Use of Annual leave

You are advised to speak with your manager as soon as possible to see which of these options or which blend of options would be feasible, appropriate and how best this can be accommodated.

Your manager will be as flexible and innovative as they can in helping you deciding what options are best for you and the service you work in.

Back to top

50. My child’s school has advised that my child has to self-isolate due to a COVID-19 issue in the school and I will also have to stay off work. Will I have to provide any verification of this to my manager? (Updated November 2021)

The NI Contact Tracing Service or Schools team in PHA will communicate with parents if your child has been deemed a close contact and what actions are required to be taken.

You should provide any documentary evidence of such requests to your manager as soon as you are notified of this.

Back to top

51. What are the arrangements for training, course, conferences during this period of time? (Updated November 2021)

While Covid restrictions continue to ease, the threat of Covid-19 transmission remains prevalent. Staff should continue to be mindful of this threat and the need to protect themselves, the public and other staff when facilitating or attending courses, training and conferences as part of their role. 

With this in mind key principles to be adhered to include:

  • a need to continue to focus on the mandatory/essential training required to enable the upskilling/training of staff including doctors and dentists in regulated training programmes, those with named educational roles, those redeployed to new roles and new starts;
  • where events and training are non-essential, consideration should be given to the nature of the role and if there are any CPD requirements e.g. staff in training;
  • Digital or remote learning options should be provided where possible  and such training ensuring staff are given appropriate time and resources to enable them to attend and participate.
  • Where learning cannot be delivered remotely, to reduce risk when delivering or facilitating face to face sessions, these should adhere to social distancing guidelines. 
  • Where there is a mandatory practical element that cannot be delivered in any other way then the venue should be approved and appropriately risk assessed and Professional Education Leads must provide for appropriate PPE and infection prevention and control.
  • Work related travel and attendance at regional, national or international courses and conferences other than virtual events should be considered in line with up to date Government guidance on travel and must be approved before travel by the relevant Operational Assistant Director.

 

Staff attending face to face training:

  • must not attend face to face training if they feel unwell, have symptoms of Covid 19 or have been told they have been in recent contact of someone who has Covid 19.
  • are encouraged to undertake lateral flow/LAMP testing for all prior to attending, external training providers are also encouraged to do this also

 

Back to top

TRAVEL AND QUARANTINE

Back to top

52. What are the travel regulations and restrictions in Northern Ireland currently? (Updated November 2021)

Travel guidance for Northern Ireland is found at https://www.nidirect.gov.uk/information-and-services/coronavirus-covid-19/travel-advice-and-guidance 

Back to top

53. Can I go on holiday to another country? (Updated November 2021)

Staff must ensure that any travel that is being considered is in line with up to date Government guidance. This guidance can change at short notice, meaning that staff could be required to self-isolate on their return to Northern Ireland, which may leave them unable to attend the workplace. Staff should discuss any plans to travel to another country with their Line Manager, before making any arrangements.

Travel guidance for Northern Ireland is found at https://www.nidirect.gov.uk/information-and-services/coronavirus-covid-19/travel-advice-and-guidance 

Back to top

VACCINATION FOR HSC STAFF

Back to top

54. Am I eligible to get the COVID-19 vaccine? (Updated November 2021)

Healthcare workers have been eligible to get the COVID-19 vaccine since the start of the Northern Ireland COVID-19 vaccination roll out in December 2020.

Frontline healthcare workers are also currently eligible to receive their booster, provided 3 months has elapsed from their second dose.

If you are have not yet received your first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine you can still attend a community pharmacy. A full list of community pharmacies which are offering first doses can be found at the following link: https://www.nidirect.gov.uk/articles/get-covid-19-vaccination-northern-ireland

If you have not yet received your second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine you can attend a number of walk-in in vaccination clinics in order to do so. You can also attend a community pharmacy or any of the first dose clinics. A full list of clinics where you can receive your second dose can be found here: https://www.nidirect.gov.uk/articles/get-covid-19-vaccination-northern-ireland#toc-2

If three months have passed since your second dose you will be eligible for a booster dose as a frontline healthcare worker. Booster doses can be booked online via the Get Vaccination Portal: https://covid-19.hscni.net/get-vaccinated/

You can also book to receive your annual flu vaccine at the same time as your COVID booster via the link above.

If you have further queries about the COVID-19 vaccines such as safety, side effects, pregnancy, fertility, breast feeding, you can visit PHA’s Vaccine FAQ page, found here: https://www.publichealth.hscni.net/covid-19-coronavirus/northern-ireland-covid-19-vaccination-programme/covid-19-vaccination-programme

Back to top

55. Can I get the vaccination during my working hours? (Updated November 2021)

Yes, should a staff member wish to attend to get their vaccination they should discuss this with their manager to agree their attendance for vaccination during working hours (within the needs of the service) and staff are encouraged to avail of this as the preferred option. Staff should try to attend for their appointment at the most appropriate time during the day to cause minimum disruption to services. Line Managers will similarly facilitate attendance for the 2nd course of the vaccination within the up to 12 week period as required. 

Back to top

56. What if I don’t have the time to get the vaccination during the working day? (Updated November 2021)

Where it has not been possible to get a vaccination during your normal working hours and you have discussed this with your Line Manager, staff should attend their most convenient Community Pharmacy or Vaccination Clinic, at a time that suits. Staff will be credited with the time taken for this, up to a maximum of 2 hours (including travel time). If Staff are unable to take this accrued time within 3 months, they can request payment for the credited hours via their Line Manager. The hours will be paid at single rate. For staff who are on annual leave but wish to get the vaccination, they will be able to claim the credit for attending for vaccination. 

Back to top

57. Will I get paid mileage if I have to drive to get the vaccination? (Updated November 2021)

Yes, where staff have to travel to receive their vaccine at somewhere which is not their normal work base, or if they have had to travel to a centre outside their normal working hours, they will be paid the excess mileage incurred for this journey. Mileage will be paid at public transport rates.

In some cases HSC organisations may provide transport to shuttle staff to vaccination centres. Where this is available we would encourage staff to avail of this. 

Back to top

58. If I go to get the vaccination outside my normal working hours, will my travel time be paid? (Updated November 2021)

Yes, travel time will be paid as part of the time credited for your vaccination. This will be rounded to the nearest 15 mins in terms of your journey time. A maximum of 2 hours can be claimed (as per above).

Back to top

59. What if I have side effects/become unwell following the vaccination, how will this be recorded? (Updated November 2021)

In line with the PHA ‘Frequently Asked Questions’ (Question No. 27) Line Managers will record COVID-19 sickness (related to the vaccination) as special leave category ‘Public Serv Duties Paid’ on HRPTS

Back to top

60. If I choose not to have the vaccination, will my employment be at risk? (Updated November 2021)

Health and Social Care Staff are encouraged to have the COVID 19 Vaccine to protect themselves, their patients, clients, families, friends and wider community. If staff choose not to have the vaccination, their employment will not be at risk. In the event that their role involves working with those who are particularly at risk, the Line Manager may discuss this with the member of staff and revisit the COVID-19 Risk assessment for this work and explore options available if this is necessary. These discussions will be on an individual basis and support for managers will be available from HR and Occupational Health.

Back to top

61. Do I have to disclose to my manager whether I have had the vaccination or not? (Updated November 2021)

This information will be gathered as part of the recording of the details regarding the uptake of vaccinations at the relevant vaccination centres.  Whilst we appreciate that this vaccination is not mandatory, it is expected that staff disclose to their appropriate manager when they have received the vaccination. This also allows for the support of staff who have had the vaccination, in the event of any reactions to this.

Back to top

CURRENT STAFF VOLUNTEERING TO HELP AT THE VACCINATION CENTRE

Back to top

62. What rate of payment will I get if I am offering to help out at the Vaccination Centre? (Updated November 2021)

Staff will be paid in accordance with their Terms and Conditions and this will be based on substantive grade. If staff hold more than one substantive post (excluding bank) that have different banding, they will be paid the higher of these bands. Medical and Dental staff will be paid within existing terms and conditions for additional work.

Each HSC organisation has local arrangements for filling shifts in the Vaccination Centres.

Back to top

63. What if I only have a Bank Contract, do I still get paid the appropriate rate for my bank work if I offer to help? (Updated November 2021)

Yes, Staff will be paid according to the terms and conditions relevant to their Bank post for the Bank hours that they are being offered.  

Back to top

64. Can I claim travel expenses if working in the Vaccination Centre? (Updated November 2021)

Staff undertaking shifts as part of their normal contracted hours

Yes, staff will be reimbursed for miles travelled which are in excess of the home to work base (return journey) payable at standard rate.

Staff undertaking additional shifts outside of normal contracted hours

Yes, staff will be reimbursed for miles travelled from home to vaccination centre/community facilities (return journey) payable at reserve/ public transport rate.

Bank staff undertaking shifts

Yes, staff will be reimbursed for miles travelled from home to vaccination centre/community facilities (return journey) payable at reserve/ public transport rate.

Back to top

65. Can I claim travel time if working in the Vaccination Centre? (Updated November 2021)

For staff temporarily redeployed who spend longer travelling to their new base, the additional travelling time will be considered as part of their working day. This should be taken into consideration by managers when developing rotas/ shift patterns.

Where time cannot be provided as part of rota management, consideration may be given to payment and this will paid at plain time.

Back to top

66. I require training to be able to do the vaccination. Will this be paid? (Updated November 2021)

Yes, training will normally be required, which could be 2.5-17 hrs depending on Staff’s individual level of experience. Payment will be in line with 1 above.

Back to top

67. Does the COVID-19 Regional Flexible payment scheme apply to the hours done in the Vaccination Centre? (Updated November 2021)

As per current process, each Trust’s Executive Team will determine whether the Regional Flexible Payment Scheme will apply to shifts in the Vaccination Centre.

Back to top

68. Will I be paid an overtime rate once I have exceeded full time hours? (Updated November 2021)

Staff will be paid the appropriate rate according to their terms and conditions.

Back to top

69. Who will be responsible for authorising timesheets for work in the Vaccination Centre? (Updated November 2021)

The relevant managers in the Vaccination Centres will authorise/approve timesheets for the work undertaken and submit this information to BSO Payroll Service Centre for payment.

Back to top

70. When will I be paid? (Updated November 2021)

Payment for hours worked in the Vaccination Centres will be paid in arrears and according to your pay frequency.   

Back to top

WORKERS CONTRACTED THROUGH THE REGIONAL WORKFORCE APPEAL TO WORK AT THE VACCINATION CENTRE

Back to top

71. I have applied for this through the regional workforce appeal to help with the vaccination. What rate will I be paid at? (Updated November 2021)

Job Title

Band

Salary  (per annum, pro rate for part-time)

Receptionist

2

£18,005 - £19,337

Admin Support

3

£19,737 - £21,142

Senior Nursing Assistant

3

£19,737 - £21,142

Vaccinator

5

£24,907 - £30,615

Clinical Supervisor

6

£31,365 - £37,890

Lead Nurse

8A

£45,753 - £51,668

Medical / Dental

Sessional Rate

TBC

 

Back to top

72. How many hours will I be contracted to undertake? (Updated November 2021)

This will differ in each HSC organisation, according to the approach taken to filling of shifts in each Vaccination Centre.  The bank contracts may be zero hours or Staff may be contracted for a set number of hours and the hours may vary according to the available shifts in the Centre. 

Back to top

73. When will I be paid? (Updated November 2021)

Payment for hours worked in the Vaccination Centres will be paid in arrears according to your normal pay frequency.

Back to top

74. What will happen at the end of this work? (Updated November 2021)

This work is temporary and is being offered as part of the Trusts’ rapid response to the COVID-19 Pandemic and is for the purpose of supporting the roll out of the vaccine programme. This is by its nature very short term. Line Managers will inform staff in advance, when the contracts are likely to come to an end, in line with the completion of this phase of the project.

Back to top

75. Where is my vaccination centre? (Updated November 2021)

Seven Trust vaccination centres are being established for the staff vaccination process. Staff can book their vaccination at their most convenient centre. The locations are:

·         Belfast Trust – Royal Victoria Hospital, Belfast

·         South Eastern Trust – Ulster Hospital, Dundonald

·         Southern Trust – South Lake Leisure centre, Craigavon

·         Northern Trust – Tower Leisure Centre, Ballymena

·         Western Trust  -

o   Foyle Arena, Londonderry,

o   Omagh Leisure Centre, Omagh; and

o   Lakeland Forum, Enniskillen.

Mobile vaccination teams operating from these Trust centres will take the vaccine to residents and staff in all care homes across Northern Ireland.

Back to top

76. Do I need identification to get the vaccine? (Updated November 2021)

Yes, you will need your staff card and photographic ID. It would be helpful if you also brought your Health and Care number.

Back to top

77. I am not a frontline worker, can I get the vaccine? (Updated November 2021)

Everyone over the age of 18 years can book an appointment for the vaccine here: https://covid-19.hscni.net/get-vaccinated/

Back to top

78. I work for a voluntary sector/private sector delivering front line care, can I also get a vaccine? (Updated November 2021)

Everyone over the age of 18 years can book an appointment for the vaccine here: https://covid-19.hscni.net/get-vaccinated/

Back to top

79. How do I get an appointment for the vaccine? (Updated November 2021)

Everyone over the age of 18 years can book an appointment for the vaccine here: https://covid-19.hscni.net/get-vaccinated/

Back to top

80. If I get the vaccine will I have to stop working from home? (Updated November 2021)

The HSC safety measures in place to stop the spread of COVID-19 will continue during the vaccination programmes and until formally stood down.

Back to top

81. Will staff receive a “certificate” or some other formal confirmation that they have been vaccinated? (Updated November 2021)

HSC staff will receive formal confirmation that they have been vaccinated.

Back to top

82. I have contact with people in eligible groups, should I let them know the vaccine is coming? (Updated November 2021)

If you’re a doctor, nurse, care worker or in a patient-facing role, as well as being likely to prioritised for vaccination, you have an important role in offering information on vaccines to other people. People may seek reassurance that vaccines are safe and effective. As well as the information in this document, patient information will be shared with more detail on individual vaccines.

Back to top

83. Can I cancel my appointment? (Updated November 2021)

Yes you can cancel the appointment, but please allow as much notice as possible in the event that you have to cancel.

Back to top