Questions and answers for HSC staff

Staff from across Health and Social Care have pulled together to help tackle the COVID-19 (coronavirus) outbreak preparations 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.

Table of Contents

  1. GENERAL INFORMATION:
  2. 1. What is COVID-19(coronavirus)? (24/03/2020)
  3. 2. What do I need to be aware of in relation to patient/client confidentiality and COVID-19? (16/03/2020)
  4. 3. Will the seasonal flu vaccine be available? (27/08/2020)
  5. 4. How will social distancing be handled in the workplace? (24/03/2020)
  6. SYMPTOMS, SELF-ISOLATION AND CONTACT TRACING
  7. 5. My symptoms match those of COVID-19 (coronavirus). What should I do? (30/07/2020)
  8. 6. What happens if I am notified that I am a contact of a confirmed COVID-19 case in the community? (04/09/2020)
  9. 7. What 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? (04/09/2020)
  10. 8. Someone I live with has COVID-19 or has symptoms of COVID-19. I don’t have any symptoms, can I come into work? (04/12/2020)
  11. 9. I have received communication that I am a contact in relation to a COVID-19 positive case. Do I have to provide verification of this to my manager? (19/10/2020)
  12. TESTING
  13. 10. How do I arrange to have a COVID-19 antibody test carried out? (27/08/2020)
  14. EMPLOYEE CONCERNS AND PROTECTING EMPLOYEES IN ‘VULNERABLE’ GROUPS
  15. 11. If I am pregnant, can I continue to work? (04/11/2020)
  16. 12. I am now 28 weeks pregnant, does this change how I can work? (04/11/2020)
  17. 13. What do I need to do as a manager of someone who is pregnant? (30/10/2020)
  18. 14. I have an underlying health condition, am I still required to be in work? (UPDATED 22/01/2021)
  19. 15. I fall into the category of clinically extremely vulnerable and have received a letter stating that I am clinically extremely vulnerable and should remain at home from 26 December 2020. (NEW QUESTION 22/01/2021)
  20. 16. If I am considered clinically extremely vulnerable and cannot work from home due to the nature of my job role how will I be paid? (NEW QUESTION 22/01/2021)
  21. 17. 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? (NEW QUESTION 22/01/2021)
  22. 18. I am over 70 years old, should I still be coming into work? (UPDATED 22/01/2021)
  23. 19. What steps are being taken to protect Black Asian Minority Ethnic (BAME) staff? (UPDATED 22/01/2021)
  24. 20. Where a risk assessment is completed and it is deemed that the staff member should be offered an alternative post on a temporary basis due to Covid-19, which does not have on-call or the same level of unsocial hours etc, are earnings protected? (15/10/2020)      
  25. 21. 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? (15/04/2020)
  26. 22. Can I refuse to provide services to a patient or client who has COVID-19 (coronavirus)? (09/04/2020)
  27. 23. How do I ensure I am protected if a patient or client is suspected of or confirmed as having contracted COVID-19 (coronavirus)? (06/09/2020)
  28. 24. Am I required to share or provide transport to clients/patients/student during the COVID pandemic? (22/12/2020)
  29. ABSENCE – PROCESS AND PAY
  30. 25. 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? (15/10/2020)
  31. 26. Is there any change in the process for submitting fit notes (sick lines) for any other kind of sickness absence from work? (15/04/2020)
  32. 27. What pay will I receive if I am absent from work due to COVID-19?  (09/04/2020)
  33. 28. I am a bank worker – what will I be paid if I am absent due to COVID-19?  (09/04/2020)
  34. 29. I am an agency worker – what will I be paid if absent due to COVID-19?  (09/04/2020)
  35. 30. Will sick leave associated with COVID-19 affect my sickness record or my pay? (09/04/2020)
  36. 31. 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)
  37. TERMS AND CONDITIONS
  38. 32. How will my annual/statutory leave be affected by the ongoing arrangements at this time? (24/06/2020)
  39. 33. Will I be paid overtime if I am part-time and work additional hours? (09/04/2020)
  40. 34. I have applied for term time – will this be affected by COVID 19?  (09/04/2020)
  41. 35. Are there contingency arrangements in place to ensure I get paid?  (09/04/2020)
  42. 36. 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 (09/04/2020)
  43. 37. Will my application for family leave be processed?  (10/07/2020)
  44. 38. Are Agenda for Change Clustering/Reviews/Regradings being progressed?  (08/10/2020)
  45. 39. I am working from home, can I claim costs associated with electricity, heat and broadband? (22/05/2020)
  46. 40. What is the policy if staff do not adhere to COVID-19 Guidance? (22/12/2020)
  47. WORKFORCE CAPACITY - REDEPLOYMENT, AND RETIREMENT
  48. 41. Am I likely to be redeployed? (09/04/2020)
  49. 42. 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? (09/03/2020)
  50. 43. 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? (09/04/2020)
  51. 44. 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? (09/04/2020)
  52. 45. 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.  (09/04/2020)    
  53. 46. 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.  (09/04/2020)
  54. 47. 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? (24/03/2020)
  55. CARING RESPONSIBILITIES - SCHOOLS AND CHILDCARE
  56. 48. Will flexible working arrangements be available to support my changing childcare responsibilities? (17/09/2020)
  57. 49. What symptoms should I look out for in my child? (17/09/2020)
  58. 50. My child is now showing symptoms of Covid-19. What should I do? (17/09/2020)
  59. 51. Can I get my child tested if they are displaying COVID-19 symptoms? (17/09/2020)
  60. 52. In school, my child’s class is considered a ‘protective bubble’ and one of the other students in that bubble is now COVID-19 positive. My child is not displaying any COVID-19 symptoms but has been sent home to self-isolate for 10 days. What does this mean and can I still come to work? (17/09/2020)
  61. 53. My child’s class/school or childcare setting is completely closed with little or no notice. What should I do? (15/10/2020)
  62. 54. 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 self-isolate. Will I have to provide any verification of this to my manager? (19/10/2020)
  63. 55. Can my child still attend school given the recent announcement by the Executive that children should remain at home and not attend school wherever possible? (15/01/2021)
  64. COURSES, TRAINING AND CONFERENCES
  65. 56. What are the arrangements for training, course, conferences during this period of time? (07/07/2020)
  66. TRAVEL AND QUARANTINE
  67. 57. What are the quarantine arrangements in Northern Ireland currently? (04/09/2020)
  68. 58. Can I go on holiday to a country not on the country exemption list? (04/09/2020)
  69. VACCINATION FOR HSC STAFF
  70. 59. When is the projected rollout of the vaccine for HSC staff? (NEW QUESTION 20/01/2021)
  71. 60. Can I get the vaccination during my working hours? (NEW QUESTION 20/01/2021)
  72. 61. What if I don’t have the time to get the vaccination during the working day? (NEW QUESTION 20/01/2021)
  73. 62. Will I get paid mileage if I have to drive to get the vaccination? (NEW QUESTION 20/01/2021)
  74. 63. If I go to get the vaccination outside my normal working hours, will my travel time be paid? (NEW QUESTION 20/01/2021)
  75. 64. What if I have side effects/become unwell following the vaccination, how will this be recorded? (NEW QUESTION 20/01/2021)
  76. 65. If I choose not to have the vaccination, will my employment be at risk? (NEW QUESTION 20/01/2021)
  77. 66. Do I have to disclose to my manager whether I have had the vaccination or not? (NEW QUESTION 20/01/2021)
  78. CURRENT STAFF VOLUNTEERING TO HELP AT THE VACCINATION CENTRE
  79. 67. What rate of payment will I get if I am offering to help out at the Vaccination Centre? (NEW QUESTION 20/01/2021)
  80. 68. 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? (NEW QUESTION 20/01/2021)
  81. 69. Can I claim travel expenses if working in the Vaccination Centre? (NEW QUESTION 20/01/2021)
  82. 70. Can I claim travel time if working in the Vaccination Centre? (NEW QUESTION 20/01/2021)
  83. 71. I require training to be able to do the vaccination. Will this be paid? (NEW QUESTION 20/01/2021)
  84. 72. Does the COVID-19 Regional Flexible payment scheme apply to the hours done in the Vaccination Centre? (NEW QUESTION 20/01/2021)
  85. 73. Will I be paid an overtime rate once I have exceeded full time hours? (NEW QUESTION 20/01/2021)
  86. 74. Who will be responsible for authorising timesheets for work in the Vaccination Centre? (NEW QUESTION 20/01/2021)
  87. 75. When will I be paid? (NEW QUESTION 20/01/2021)
  88. WORKERS CONTRACTED THROUGH THE REGIONAL WORKFORCE APPEAL TO WORK AT THE VACCINATION CENTRE
  89. 76. I have applied for this through the regional workforce appeal to help with the vaccination. What rate will I be paid at? (NEW QUESTION 20/01/2021)
  90. 77. How many hours will I be contracted to undertake? (NEW QUESTION 20/01/2021)
  91. 78. When will I be paid? (NEW QUESTION 20/01/2021)
  92. 79. What will happen at the end of this work? (NEW QUESTION 20/01/2021)
  93. 80. Where is my vaccination centre? (NEW QUESTION 20/01/2021)
  94. 81. Do I need identification to get the vaccine? (NEW QUESTION 20/01/2021)
  95. 82. I am not a frontline worker, can I get the vaccine? (NEW QUESTION 20/01/2021)
  96. 83. I work for a voluntary sector/private sector delivering front line care, can I also get a vaccine? (NEW QUESTION 20/01/2021)
  97. 84. How do I get an appointment for the vaccine? (NEW QUESTION 20/01/2021)
  98. 85. If I get the vaccine will I have to stop working from home? (NEW QUESTION 20/01/2021)
  99. 86. Will staff receive a “certificate” or some other formal confirmation that they have been vaccinated? (NEW QUESTION 20/01/2021)
  100. 87. I have contact with people in eligible groups, should I let them know the vaccine is coming? (NEW QUESTION 20/01/2021)
  101. 88. Can I cancel my appointment? (NEW QUESTION 20/01/2021)

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GENERAL INFORMATION:

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1. What is COVID-19(coronavirus)? (24/03/2020)

 These viruses can cause mild symptoms ranging from a fever and cough to more serious conditions such as severe pneumonia, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties.

In December 2019, a new strain of coronavirus (COVID-19) was first identified in Wuhan City, Hubei, China. This virus has now spread to other countries. The UK Chief Medical Officers have declared the risk to the public to be high, but for most people, COVID-19 (coronavirus) will be a mild illness.

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2. What do I need to be aware of in relation to patient/client confidentiality and COVID-19? (16/03/2020)

The usual strict staff obligations in respect of patient/client confidentiality apply in the context of possible or confirmed diagnosis of COVID-19 (coronavirus). This duty extends to protecting the confidentiality of staff who are being treated as possible or confirmed COVID-19 (coronavirus) patients.

However, under The Public Health Act (Northern Ireland) Doctors in Northern Ireland have a statutory duty to notify the Director of Public Health if they are aware that or have reasonable grounds to suspect that a patient is suffering from one of the notifiable diseases. COVID-19 is now designated as a notifiable disease.

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3. Will the seasonal flu vaccine be available? (27/08/2020)

Flu vaccination offers the best protection against seasonal influenza (flu). Given the risk of flu and COVID-19 co-circulating, all frontline health and social care staff should receive a flu vaccination this year. Annual flu vaccination programmes normally commence early October and consideration has been given to ensure staff can easily and safely access vaccination clinics. Further information will be provided by individual HSC organisations.

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4. How will social distancing be handled in the workplace? (24/03/2020)

Managers should work with their staff to put in place social distancing in office environments to ensure staff can remain 2 metres apart. This may include spreading staff across any available offices or alternative shift patterns, eg early morning or evening working, or weekend working. 

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SYMPTOMS, SELF-ISOLATION AND CONTACT TRACING

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5. My symptoms match those of COVID-19 (coronavirus). What should I do? (30/07/2020)

You must not come into work under any circumstances. Anyone with a new, continuous cough and/or high temperature and/or a loss or changed sense of smell or taste MUST self-isolate at home and follow the stay at home guidance at www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-stay-at-home-guidance/stay-at-home-guidance-for-households-with-possible-coronavirus-covid-19-infection.

Since the publication of the guidance above, local arrangements for staff testing have now been introduced as a priority to protect HSC staff.

Staff must contact their manager as soon as they are symptomatic. If this occurs at work, staff should self-isolate and immediately telephone their manager before they go home. Staff will be advised of local testing arrangements for COVID-19 by 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.

If the test for COVID-19 is positive:

You can return to work on day 11 if you have had clinical improvement and have not had a temperature for 48 hours.  If a cough or a loss and/or changed sense of smell or taste is the only persistent symptom on day 11, you can still return to work (post-viral cough is known to persist for several weeks in some cases). Government guidance on returning to work can be found here.

The Public Health Agency have commenced contact tracing. If your test for COVID-19 is positive a representative from Public Health Agency will contact you by telephone to obtain details of recent household and community contacts you have had and also provide advice on any requirements for self–isolation amongst your household contacts.  If, as a consequence, you are advised by Public Health to self-isolate for 10 days you must do so. It is important you notify your line manager and Occupational Health as soon as possible.

If the test for COVID-19 is negative:

You can return to work, following discussion with your line manager and appropriate risk assessment, provided you feel well enough to do so and have not had a temperature for 48 hours.

You should keep in regular contact with your line manager. 

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6. What happens if I am notified that I am a contact of a confirmed COVID-19 case in the community? (04/09/2020)

The Public Health Agency has established a contact tracing service to minimise community (outside of HSC settings) transmission of COVID-19. It is designed to ensure that anyone who develops symptoms of COVID-19 can quickly be tested to find out if they have the virus. It also helps to trace close recent contacts of anyone who tests positive for COVID-19 and, if necessary, notify them that they should self-isolate at home to help stop the spread of the virus.

If you have had close recent contact with someone in the community who has COVID-19, you will be contacted by a representative from the Public Health Agency. If as a consequence you are advised by Public Health to self-isolate for 10 days you must do so. It is important you notify your line manager and Occupational Health as soon as possible. Where you can be facilitated to work from home you should do so. 

Note that those who have been identified as a close contact of a confirmed case or who are required to quarantine following their return from a higher risk country must continue to self-isolate even if they receive a negative test result when they were not displaying any symptoms.

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7. What 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? (04/09/2020)

If your colleague received a positive COVID-19 test result and following a risk assessment you are deemed to be a close contact, you will be contacted by your employer’s contact tracing team. The same guidance applies as if you are named as a community contact. Close contact excludes circumstances where PPE is being worn in accordance with current guidance on infection prevention and control. If you are advised to self-isolate for 10 days you must do so. It is important you notify your line manager and Occupational Health as soon as possible. Where you can be facilitated to work from home you should do so.

This highlights the need for social distancing in the workplace. If you do not follow social distancing, it increases the likelihood of a colleague being named as a contact and more people from your team potentially having to self-isolate. This could have a significant impact on patient safety and care.

Note that those who have been identified as a close contact of a confirmed case or who are required to quarantine following their return from a higher risk country must continue to self-isolate even if they receive a negative test result.

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8. Someone I live with has COVID-19 or has symptoms of COVID-19. I don’t have any symptoms, can I come into work? (04/12/2020)

Scenarios:

Positive test of your household member:

 

If you or a person you live with is symptomatic and has a positive test (or asymptomatic and test positive with no previous history of COVID-19) they are confirmed as a COVID case and have to self-isolate for 10 days from the onset of symptoms, or the test date if asymptomatic.

Testing for COVID-19 of symptomatic family members can be arranged through your employer or though https://www.publichealth.hscni.net/covid-19-coronavirus/testing-and-tracing-covid-19/testing-covid-19.  Your manager will be able to help you organise this.

The immediate household members of the person who has tested positive must self-isolate until 10 days after the onset of symptoms or positive test. If any of these people develop symptoms, that person should seek a test. In the event of a positive result, their clock restarts to the date of onset of symptoms and they have to self-isolate for a further 10 days. NB - this has no impact on the end of self-isolation for the initial positive case, or remaining asymptomatic household members. The initial case will isolate from 10 days of symptoms onset or test date if asymptomatic, and remaining asymptomatic household members will complete their initial 10-day isolation period and can then return to normal activities. 

Staff who are confirmed cases, or required to isolate, should contact their line manager by telephone and must follow the stay at home guidance at:

www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-stay-at-home-guidance/stay-at-home-guidance-for-households-with-possible-coronavirus-covid-19-infection

Household member is symptomatic but has a negative test

If someone you live with has had symptoms of COVID-19 and subsequently has a negative test, they are deemed negative for COVID-19, although where there is strong clinical suspicion of COVID-19, they may be advised by their doctor to self-isolate, in which case the household isolation advice above applies. They and their household contacts can return to normal activities provided a) they have had no temperature for 48 hours; b) feel well enough; and c) their household contacts remain asymptomatic.

If, following a negative test result of a household member, a HSC worker who has returned to work starts showing symptoms of COVID-19, they and their household contacts should follow the stay at home guidance and they should arrange to be tested themselves. (See Question 5).

Household member is asymptomatic with positive test, and subsequently becomes symptomatic

If someone you live with is asymptomatic with a positive test, and they subsequently develop symptoms during the 10 day isolation period, their clock resets and they must begin a new 10 self-isolation period from the date of onset of symptoms. This does not impact on the isolation period of other asymptomatic household members.  

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.

Anyone who has been identified as a close contact of a confirmed case, or who are required to quarantine following their return from a higher risk country, must continue to self-isolate, even if they receive a negative test result.

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.   

 

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9. I have received communication that I am a contact in relation to a COVID-19 positive case. Do I have to provide verification of this to my manager? (19/10/2020)

Where you have confirmation of this, e.g. via written communication or via the STOPCOVIDNI App, you should provide evidence of this to your manager as soon as you are notified.  If you have not provided this information,  it will be reasonable for your manager to ask to see this for recording purposes and you must provide it when asked.

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TESTING

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10. How do I arrange to have a COVID-19 antibody test carried out? (27/08/2020)

COVID-19 antibody testing can inform individuals whether they have been exposed to the COVID-19 virus. A positive antibody test demonstrates that an individual has developed antibodies to the virus. It is important to note that, as COVID-19 is a new disease, there is currently insufficient evidence to know how long an antibody test lasts, nor whether having antibodies means individuals can’t be infected again or transmit the virus to others.

To arrange a test you will need to complete a brief questionnaire and then have a blood sample taken. Each Trust has different arrangementsPlease refer to Trust communications and protocols to arrange testing.

 

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EMPLOYEE CONCERNS AND PROTECTING EMPLOYEES IN ‘VULNERABLE’ GROUPS

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11. If I am pregnant, can I continue to work? (04/11/2020)

All pregnant women must have a risk assessment carried out with their line manager. Risk assessments should be reviewed on a regular basis. The link to this risk assessment can be found by clicking here.

The Royal College of Obstetricians & Gynaecologists (RCOG) guidance, ‘Coronavirus (COVID-19) Infection in Pregnancy, Information for Healthcare Professionals’, can be found at: www.rcog.org.uk/en/guidelines-research-services/guidelines/coronavirus-pregnancy

In addition to this guidance, the RCOG have provided further information in relation to ‘Occupational health advice for employers and pregnant women during the COVID-19 pandemic’. This can be found at www.rcog.org.uk/en/guidelines-research-services/guidelines/coronavirus-pregnancy

The Royal College of Obstetricians & Gynecologists, Royal College of Midwives and Faculty of Occupational Medicine updated their occupational health advice for employers and pregnant women on 09 September 2020 and issued a joint statement to advise;

Pregnant women of any gestation are at no more risk of contracting the virus than any other non-pregnant person who is in similar health

For those women who are 28 weeks pregnant and beyond, there is an increased risk of becoming severely ill should you contract COVID-19 (this is true of any viral illness contracted, such as flu).

Pregnant women have been included in the list of people at moderate risk as a precaution.  A risk assessment must be conducted 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.

Further specific FAQs have been developed by the Department of Health Clinical Cell to further advise and inform new and expectant mothers – these are available by clicking here.  

Pregnant women under 28 weeks’ gestation

Pregnant women under 28 weeks gestation with no underlying health conditions can continue to work if the risk assessment confirms that it is safe for them to do so. Risk assessments should be reviewed on a regular basis.

A pregnant woman under 28 weeks gestation may continue to work in a patient facing role if the risk assessment confirms that it is safe for them to do so. It is essential that infection prevention control advice regarding hand hygiene and appropriate PPE are strictly adhered to. Risk assessments should be reviewed on a regular basis.

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12. I am now 28 weeks pregnant, does this change how I can work? (04/11/2020)

For pregnant women from 28 weeks’ gestation, or with underlying health conditions such as heart or lung disease, and/or from a BAME background who contract COVID-19 at any gestation, there is an increased risk of becoming seriously ill (this is true of any viral illness contracted including flu). Pregnant women more than 28 weeks’ gestation should therefore be particularly attentive to social distancing.

If following a risk assessment the pregnant woman chooses to attend work, it is essential that 

flexible and safe working arrangements are discussed and agreed with their line manager. Options may include undertaking telephone or videoconference consultations, working from home and/ or taking on administrative duties. 

It is recommended that pregnant women over 28 weeks gestation avoid patient facing roles and work in a non-clinical environment where a workplace assessment has taken place to ensure the risks from COVID-19 are managed as far as reasonably practicable.  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.

Pregnant staff over 28 weeks gestation and unable to work from home

If following a risk assessment, a pregnant woman, from 28 weeks gestation, or with underlying health conditions such as heart or lung disease, and/or from a BAME background, is unable to remain at work or be facilitated to  work from home, she 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.  

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13. What do I need to do as a manager of someone who is pregnant? (30/10/2020)

As soon as a staff member informs you they are pregnant you should conduct - New and Expectant Mothers risk assessment and a specific COVID-19  risk assessment. It will be important to consider reasonable measures to minimise the risk of exposure to the virus, including providing suitable alternative work on the same terms and conditions.  Occupational Health advice can be sought if necessary.

Pregnant women under 28 weeks gestation with no underlying health conditions can continue to work if the risk assessment advises that it is safe for them to do so. If a pregnant woman wishes to continue in a patient facing role and the risk assessments support her decision to do so, her line manager should support her decision ensuring that all precautionary measures are in place.

(NOTE Pregnant women of any gestation should not be required to continue working if this is not supported by the risk assessment.  This risk assessment must be regularly reviewed).

Pregnant women after 28 weeks gestation or with underlying health conditions at any gestation

The manager and staff member must meet prior to the 28 week period (24 weeks if feasible) and review the risk assessment.

For pregnant women after 28 weeks’ gestation, or with underlying health conditions such as heart or lung disease at any gestation, they should be advised to work from home where possible and avoid direct patient contact.

Bearing in mind the skills of our staff and the importance of the availability of those skills to our patients and clients, flexible working arrangements should be considered including remote working, undertaking telephone or videoconference consultations and/or taking on administrative duties.  The manager should discuss these options with the staff member during a review of the risk assessment. If a pregnant woman who is over 28 weeks gestation with or without underlying health conditions is unable to be facilitated to work remotely from home and chooses to remain at home, she should remain at home not working and the manager should record this as full pay under special leave arrangements. Maternity leave for these women will commence at week 36.

However if the staff member chooses to continue in the workplace it will be important to ensure they avoid patient facing roles. A workplace assessment must be undertaken  to ensure the risks from COVID-19 are managed as far as reasonably practicable. Strict adherence to social distancing, infection prevention control advice regarding hand hygiene and appropriate PPE must be ensured.

Pregnant women after 28 weeks gestation or with underlying health conditions at any gestation who are already at home and not working

Managers are asked to make contact with these staff to discuss options as above. If the staff member chooses to return to the workplace it will be important to ensure they avoid patient facing roles. A workplace assessment must be undertaken  to ensure the risks from COVID-19 are managed as far as reasonably practicable. Strict adherence to social distancing, infection prevention control advice regarding hand hygiene and appropriate PPE must be ensured.

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14. I have an underlying health condition, am I still required to be in work? (UPDATED 22/01/2021)

Some people are considered to be ‘vulnerable’ or ‘clinically extremely vulnerable’ in relation to Covid-19. Please see these definitions. 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. 

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15. I fall into the category of clinically extremely vulnerable and have received a letter stating that I am clinically extremely vulnerable and should remain at home from 26 December 2020. (NEW QUESTION 22/01/2021)

For a definition of CEV, please follow this link Clinically Extremely Vulnerable (CEV).  Until now, CEV people had been advised that they should work from home if possible, but that it is safe to attend work if proper measures to ensure social distancing are in place.

From 26 December CEV people who are working and are able to do so from home are advised not to attend the workplace. However, it is important to note that this is advice only; people are free to make their own judgements about whether or not they should attend work, depending on the COVID security of their working environment. All line managers of staff who are CEV must discuss and update their risk assessment with the staff member and review the COVID security of the environment (link to new RA). Further advice and guidance can be provided by either Occupational Health or Human Resources.

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

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16. If I am considered clinically extremely vulnerable and cannot work from home due to the nature of my job role how will I be paid? (NEW QUESTION 22/01/2021)

If you are unable to work from home due to the nature of your job role, you may be asked to carry out alternative duties that can be facilitated at home.  You should discuss what alternative duties may be appropriate with your line manager in the first instance.  Where this is not possible this will be recorded as special paid leave and coded on HRPTS  as special leave category ‘Risk Assessment (Paid) and will continue to receive your normal pay.

If you have received one of the ‘CEV’ letters, that letter serves as your ‘cover’ for special leave. 

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17. 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? (NEW QUESTION 22/01/2021)

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 a full course of the vaccine will reduce your chance of becoming seriously ill with Covid-19, we do not yet know whether it will stop you from catching and passing on 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.

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18. I am over 70 years old, should I still be coming into work? (UPDATED 22/01/2021)

In the same way that staff who had been “shielding” can return to the workplace from 01 August 2020, staff who are over 70 years of age who have been away from the workplace, can return to the workplace providing a risk assessment has been carried out by the line manager and their place of work is COVID-19 safe. 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.  

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.

Each organisation has arrangements in place to administer the COVID vaccine to its staff and you are strongly encouraged to avail of these arrangements in order to protect yourself.

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19. What steps are being taken to protect Black Asian Minority Ethnic (BAME) staff? (UPDATED 22/01/2021)

A UK level inquiry has been launched to understand why people from BAME backgrounds appear to be disproportionately affected by coronavirus. There is as yet no UK or local guidance on whether BAME staff are vulnerable to more severe COVID-19. At present we are presuming there is vulnerability because of data observed. This is a precautionary step.

Please click here for more information on employer responsibilities, precautionary measures and a risk assessment.

Each organisation has arrangements in place to administer the COVID vaccine to its staff and you are strongly encouraged to avail of these arrangements in order to protect yourself.

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20. Where a risk assessment is completed and it is deemed that the staff member should be offered an alternative post on a temporary basis due to Covid-19, which does not have on-call or the same level of unsocial hours etc, are earnings protected? (15/10/2020)      

Where a staff member cannot work in their substantive role following a completed risk assessment, they should be offered a suitable alternative role on a temporary basis. The staff member should experience no financial detriment. Therefore their pay should be based on an average payment of the preceding 12 weeks prior to their temporary redeployment. The redeployment should be kept under continual review.

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21. 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? (15/04/2020)

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.

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

www.nidirect.gov.uk/articles/coronavirus-covid-19-advice-vulnerable-people

If you live with an extremely vulnerable person you should follow the guidance at www.nidirect.gov.uk/articles/guidance-shielding-extremely-vulnerable-people

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.   

Alternative accommodation options to support staff in these situations are available by contacting your employer.

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22. Can I refuse to provide services to a patient or client who has COVID-19 (coronavirus)? (09/04/2020)

The HSC takes very seriously the health of its staff. If you do not fall into any of the higher risk categories you are generally expected to undertake your normal duties, taking all precautions as specified in relation to infection control measures. Staff working in areas likely to require the provision of services to COVID-19 positive patients or clients should discuss any such concerns with their line manager on a general basis rather than waiting for a request which can often be prompted by an immediate service need arising in the out of hours period when the line manager and Occupational Health advice may not be available.

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23. How do I ensure I am protected if a patient or client is suspected of or confirmed as having contracted COVID-19 (coronavirus)? (06/09/2020)

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 role model 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. 

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24. Am I required to share or provide transport to clients/patients/student during the COVID pandemic? (22/12/2020)

A: 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.
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ABSENCE – PROCESS AND PAY

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25. 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? (15/10/2020)

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.

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26. Is there any change in the process for submitting fit notes (sick lines) for any other kind of sickness absence from work? (15/04/2020)

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.

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27. What pay will I receive if I am absent from work due to COVID-19?  (09/04/2020)

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

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28. I am a bank worker – what will I be paid if I am absent due to COVID-19?  (09/04/2020)

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. 

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29. I am an agency worker – what will I be paid if absent due to COVID-19?  (09/04/2020)

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.

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30. Will sick leave associated with COVID-19 affect my sickness record or my pay? (09/04/2020)

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.

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31. 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.

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TERMS AND CONDITIONS

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32. How will my annual/statutory leave be affected by the ongoing arrangements at this time? (24/06/2020)

The health and wellbeing of our staff remains a high priority for the HSC. Staff rest and recuperation at this time is vital and we must ensure that staff have enough rest in order to maintain their own physical and mental wellbeing. This applies equally to staff working from home.

The HSC acknowledges the significant impact of service demands on staff, particularly in these unprecedented timesFortunately, to date, the surge has not impacted as expected across all services. As part of surge planning, staff have, to date, been asked to be flexible in terms of leave/statutory leave arrangements and some staff have agreed to postpone their annual leave until a later date. We wish to thank staff for their flexibility and understanding in this regard. 

Given that the pandemic is anticipated to continue for a number of months, a range of general guiding principles for annual/statutory leave have been developed to address a number of situations regarding leave. Please click here.   

Managers and staff are asked to consider these regionally agreed guiding principles and manage annual/statutory leave appropriately, ensuring a balance between staff health and wellbeing and critical service need during this time. 

Please note, for those staff who are shielding, they will continue to accrue annual leave/public holidays, as per their contractual entitlements, from the date the period of shielding commenced. Staff who are working from home while shielding are encouraged to take leave to ensure they have some rest and down time. For those not able to work whilst shielding, accrued leave can be taken, by agreement, on return to work, subject to the needs of the service. COVID-19 carry forward leave arrangements will also apply to those shielding.

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33. Will I be paid overtime if I am part-time and work additional hours? (09/04/2020)

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)

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34. I have applied for term time – will this be affected by COVID 19?  (09/04/2020)

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.

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35. Are there contingency arrangements in place to ensure I get paid?  (09/04/2020)

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.

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36. 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 (09/04/2020)

There will be limited facility to process pay outside designated pay days This facility will be reserved for staff members who have received no pay. In most instances any adjustments will not be rectified until your next scheduled pay day.

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37. Will my application for family leave be processed?  (10/07/2020)

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

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38. Are Agenda for Change Clustering/Reviews/Regradings being progressed?  (08/10/2020)

Following a period of suspension of AFC processes due to COVID-19, organisations are now beginning to re-activate AFC processes, ensuring that COVID restrictions, such as social distancing, are maintained. Although the work has recommenced in most areas we would ask that individuals are patient as there is a backlog of work to be progressed so delays are inevitable.

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39. I am working from home, can I claim costs associated with electricity, heat and broadband? (22/05/2020)

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.

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40. What is the policy if staff do not adhere to COVID-19 Guidance? (22/12/2020)

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.

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WORKFORCE CAPACITY - REDEPLOYMENT, AND RETIREMENT

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41. Am I likely to be redeployed? (09/04/2020)

We are already seeing a scaling back of a number of services to ensure we are able to plan robustly for the outbreak. It is inevitable that only essential services will be provided in the days and weeks ahead, and therefore some services will be suspended. 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 are producing guidance for staff in these circumstances and 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 already necessitating the highest level of team working across our service, to ensure our patients, clients and staff are safely cared for. Working together will be more critical than ever before.

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42. 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? (09/03/2020)

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.

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43. 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? (09/04/2020)

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.

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44. 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? (09/04/2020)

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

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45. 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.  (09/04/2020)    

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.

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46. 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.  (09/04/2020)

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.

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47. 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? (24/03/2020)

The legislation announced on 17 March 2020 temporarily suspends 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.

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CARING RESPONSIBILITIES - SCHOOLS AND CHILDCARE

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48. Will flexible working arrangements be available to support my changing childcare responsibilities? (17/09/2020)

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

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49. What symptoms should I look out for in my child? (17/09/2020)

The key COVID-19 Symptoms to be aware of are:

  • 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 here 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 you must follow the Public Health Agency guidance in relation to COVID-19, see www.publichealth.hscni.net/covid-19-coronavirus.

If displaying any of the above symptoms, you must get tested for Covid-19.

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50. My child is now showing symptoms of Covid-19. What should I do? (17/09/2020)

It is critical that we all remain vigilant for the symptoms of COVID-19 and you need to know what actions to take if your child develops symptoms of COVID-19.

You should take the same approach as with any member of your household showing symptoms of COVID-19:

  • The person with symptoms should be tested.
  • Everyone in the household should self-isolate for 10 days.
  • The 10 day period starts from the day when the first person (child) in the house becomes ill.
  • If anyone else in the household develops symptoms, they can arrange to be tested. If their test is positive, they need to self-isolate for 10 days.

People who receive a negative test can stop isolating as long as:

  • everyone they live with who has symptoms of COVID-19 has tested negative – you all need to keep self-isolating if someone in your household tests positive, or develops symptoms of COVID-19 and has not been tested;
  • You feel well enough, and have not had a raised temperature for at least 48 hours.
  • You are not a close contact of a confirmed case.

If your child is showing symptoms for COVID-19 and requires to be tested, this can be arranged through your employer’s local testing arrangements.

Please refer to the PHA FAQS for more information on symptoms and what action to take on the PHA Website - COVID-19 Symptoms .

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51. Can I get my child tested if they are displaying COVID-19 symptoms? (17/09/2020)

Children with symptoms of COVID-19 can be tested. They should not be tested unless they have symptoms. 

You should book a test as soon as possible through your local Trust/HSC Organisation testing arrangements, which covers testing of family members or via the details on the PHA website. You should only leave your house to get tested and you should stay at home until you get the test result. 

If your child has symptoms, the whole household should be self-isolating and you must only leave the house in the event of an emergency or to travel to be tested. You must not have visitors to the house.

If your child’s test result is negative after they were displaying COVID-19 symptoms and they have not had a temperature for 48 hours, this will enable you to return to work earlier than the 10 day isolation period i.e. an immediate return to work (provided you are not displaying any COVID-like symptoms yourself).

Note - If your child is a close contact of a positive case but has a COVID-19 test which is negative, or you have been advised by the PHA through the contact tracing team that your child needs to self-isolate, then your child must still isolate for the 10 day incubation period as COVID-19 symptoms may appear in any of those 10 days. 

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52. In school, my child’s class is considered a ‘protective bubble’ and one of the other students in that bubble is now COVID-19 positive. My child is not displaying any COVID-19 symptoms but has been sent home to self-isolate for 10 days. What does this mean and can I still come to work? (17/09/2020)

Children who are within a bubble may be sent home from school when another child in that bubble has received a positive COVID-19 test result if they have been determined to be a close contact following a risk assessment by the school or the PHA. The child must then self-isolate for 10 days. 

The rest of the household do not need to self-isolate unless they have also been in contact with the person who has tested positive for COVID-19.  PHA guidance states that only symptomatic children should be tested.

If your child is not symptomatic but is required to isolate for 10 days due to contact with the person who tested positive for COVID-19, then the rest of the household including parents/guardians do not need to isolate (unless they have also been in contact with the person who tested positive) and can continue to attend work.

Isolation of the whole household would only happen if the child or another member of the household becomes symptomatic or tests positive for COVID-19.

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53. My child’s class/school or childcare setting is completely closed with little or no notice. What should I do? (15/10/2020)

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 and most appropriate, how best this can be accommodated and consider what other flexible, temporary working arrangements could be availed of, such as compressed hours, evening or weekend work such as different hours or work patterns may also help facilitate childcare support.

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.

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54. 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 self-isolate. Will I have to provide any verification of this to my manager? (19/10/2020)

It is anticipated that schools will communicate with parents regarding such issues by letter or email. You should provide any documentary evidence of such requests to your manager as soon as you are notified of this. If you have not provided this information,  it will be reasonable for your manager to ask to see this for recording purposes and you must provide it when asked.

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55. Can my child still attend school given the recent announcement by the Executive that children should remain at home and not attend school wherever possible? (15/01/2021)

Schools are currently closed but continue to provide supervised access for those children whose parents are critical to the Covid-19 response that cannot be safely cared for at home. Any parent or guardian who works for a Health and Social Care (HSC) Organisation is defined as being critical to the Covid-19 response. HSC staff who have children of school age can continue to send their children to school to allow them to attend work. Only one parent needs to be a key worker to meet the requirement for your child to continue to attend school.

Many parents working in HSC may still be able to ensure their child is kept at home whenever they are at work, i.e. with another parent or responsible household member, and every child who can be safely cared for at home should be. 

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COURSES, TRAINING AND CONFERENCES

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56. What are the arrangements for training, course, conferences during this period of time? (07/07/2020)

Following the enormous work of organisations in response to COVID-19, there continues to be a significant amount of work going on within the HSC in order to deliver on plans to rebuild and restart services. Rebuilding of services will be significantly constrained by the continuing threat from COVID-19 and the need to protect the public and staff from the virus.

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 to include doctors and dentists in regulated training programmes, those with named educational roles, those redeployed to new roles and new starts;
  • for all other non-essential events and training consideration should be given to the role and any CPD requirements eg staff in training;
  • any training needs to adhere to social distancing guidelines or should now be delivered virtually.  Where there is a mandatory practical element that cannot be delivered in any other way then Professional Education Leads must provide for appropriate PPE and infection prevention and control; 

and

  • there will be no attendance at regional, national or international courses and conferences other than virtual events except where the course is a mandatory component of regulated training;
  • there should be no further work related travel booked outside of Northern Ireland, unless authorised by the relevant Director.
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TRAVEL AND QUARANTINE

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57. What are the quarantine arrangements in Northern Ireland currently? (04/09/2020)

Travel guidance for Northern Ireland is found at www.nidirect.gov.uk/articles/coronavirus-covid-19-travel-advice. You must self-isolate for 10 days if you return to Northern Ireland from a country outside the Common Travel Area (CTA) unless you are travelling from, or transiting through, a low to medium risk country that is exempt.

The CTA includes the following places, and only applies if you were there for 10 days or more:

  • England, Scotland and Wales
  • the Republic of Ireland
  • the Channel Islands
  • the Isle of Man

If you have been in the CTA for the last 10 days before entering Northern Ireland you do not need to complete the form or self-isolate.

Exemption rules

  • Country exemptions

From 10 July 2020 you may not have to self-isolate when you arrive in Northern Ireland, if you are returning from certain countries. This list is continually under review and self-isolation requirements could be reintroduced at any time for public health reasons. It is therefore recommended that you review this list if you plan to book any holidays.

You will need to self-isolate if you were in, or if you transited through, a country that is not on the list in the 10 days before your return to the Common Travel Area.

This applies to all travel to Northern Ireland, by train, ferry, coach, air or any other route. It also applies regardless of how you have arrived in Northern Ireland – directly, via Ireland, or via another UK region.

Note that those who have been identified as a close contact of a confirmed case or who are required to quarantine following their return from a higher risk country must continue to self-isolate even if they receive a negative test result.

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58. Can I go on holiday to a country not on the country exemption list? (04/09/2020)

Staff must be mindful that countries not on the exemption list are deemed to be higher risk in the context of coronavirus transmission. If the country is not on the list of exempted countries, there will be a requirement to self-isolate on re-entry to the UK. 

Accordingly, overseas travel should not be booked before an employee has agreed the duration of the leave required with their employer to ensure that they can comply with the self-isolation measures on their return to the UK from that country. Given that the list of countries can change rapidly, it is vital that staff contact their manager to discuss the situation as soon as they are aware that self –isolation will apply on their return home from holiday.    

Staff must advise their manager of the destination of their trip and comply with all self-isolation requirements on their return to ensure others are not placed at risk.  Knowingly failing to adhere to self-isolation requirements will be considered a very serious matter by your employer may lead to disciplinary action. Staff should be aware that under the Health Protection (Coronavirus, International Travel) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2020 they may be subject to a £1000 fine which could be payable if you leave the location where you are self-isolating.   

When considering a request for leave, managers should ensure they apply their decision making fairly and that it is reasonable in relation to individual circumstances with due regard for equality considerations. 

Options to consider for how the quarantine period could be treated may include:

  • The use of appropriate paid or unpaid leave to cover the quarantine period, eg:
    - take additional paid annual leave (from normal leave allowance)
    - take unpaid leave
    - a combination of the above (paid/unpaid);
  • whether the employee is able to work from home;
  • making up some or all of the 10 days’ leave over a period of time through working additional hours/shifts over their normal contracted hours.

There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this issue so for those employees who cannot work from home during quarantine, employers could consider using a combination of some or all of the different types of leave options shown above and give sympathetic consideration to certain circumstances which could include an employee who has extenuating circumstances, such as a family funeral abroad.

Note that those who have been identified as a close contact of a confirmed case or who are required to quarantine following their return from a higher risk country must continue to self-isolate even if they receive a negative test result.

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VACCINATION FOR HSC STAFF

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59. When is the projected rollout of the vaccine for HSC staff? (NEW QUESTION 20/01/2021)

Everyone over the age of 18 years will ultimately be offered a COVID-19 vaccination in Northern Ireland.

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) are the independent experts who advise the Government on which vaccine/s the UK should use and provide advice on who should be offered the vaccination first.

JCVI guidance has identified the first priority groups to be care home residents and staff, health and social care workers and those over 80 years of age who will be offered the vaccine first.

It is anticipated that further priority groups based on age and clinical vulnerability factors will be added to those eligible to receive the new COVID-19 vaccinations as supplies increase in 2021.

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60. Can I get the vaccination during my working hours? (NEW QUESTION 20/01/2021)

Yes, staff should work with managers 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 will book appointment times in advance and should try to take appointments at the most appropriate times during the day, to cause minimum disruption to services. Line Managers will similarly facilitate attendance for the 2nd course of the vaccination within 21 day period as required. 

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61. What if I don’t have the time to get the vaccination during the working day? (NEW QUESTION 20/01/2021)

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 vaccination centre, 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. 

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62. Will I get paid mileage if I have to drive to get the vaccination? (NEW QUESTION 20/01/2021)

Yes, where staff have to travel to the vaccination centre which is not at 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. 

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63. If I go to get the vaccination outside my normal working hours, will my travel time be paid? (NEW QUESTION 20/01/2021)

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).

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64. What if I have side effects/become unwell following the vaccination, how will this be recorded? (NEW QUESTION 20/01/2021)

In line with the PHA ‘Frequently Asked Questions’ (Question No. 26) Line Managers will record COVID-19 sickness (related to the vaccination) as special leave category ‘Public Serv Duties Paid’ on HRPTS

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65. If I choose not to have the vaccination, will my employment be at risk? (NEW QUESTION 20/01/2021)

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 Manger 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. This may include short term or further redeployment which would be in line with a review of relevant COVID-19 risk assessment. These discussions will be on an individual basis and support for managers will be available from HR and Occupational Health.

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66. Do I have to disclose to my manager whether I have had the vaccination or not? (NEW QUESTION 20/01/2021)

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.

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CURRENT STAFF VOLUNTEERING TO HELP AT THE VACCINATION CENTRE

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67. What rate of payment will I get if I am offering to help out at the Vaccination Centre? (NEW QUESTION 20/01/2021)

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.

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68. 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? (NEW QUESTION 20/01/2021)

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.  

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69. Can I claim travel expenses if working in the Vaccination Centre? (NEW QUESTION 20/01/2021)

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.

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70. Can I claim travel time if working in the Vaccination Centre? (NEW QUESTION 20/01/2021)

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.

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71. I require training to be able to do the vaccination. Will this be paid? (NEW QUESTION 20/01/2021)

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.

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72. Does the COVID-19 Regional Flexible payment scheme apply to the hours done in the Vaccination Centre? (NEW QUESTION 20/01/2021)

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.

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73. Will I be paid an overtime rate once I have exceeded full time hours? (NEW QUESTION 20/01/2021)

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

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74. Who will be responsible for authorising timesheets for work in the Vaccination Centre? (NEW QUESTION 20/01/2021)

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.

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75. When will I be paid? (NEW QUESTION 20/01/2021)

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

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

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76. I have applied for this through the regional workforce appeal to help with the vaccination. What rate will I be paid at? (NEW QUESTION 20/01/2021)

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

 

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77. How many hours will I be contracted to undertake? (NEW QUESTION 20/01/2021)

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. 

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78. When will I be paid? (NEW QUESTION 20/01/2021)

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

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79. What will happen at the end of this work? (NEW QUESTION 20/01/2021)

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.

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80. Where is my vaccination centre? (NEW QUESTION 20/01/2021)

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.

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81. Do I need identification to get the vaccine? (NEW QUESTION 20/01/2021)

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

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82. I am not a frontline worker, can I get the vaccine? (NEW QUESTION 20/01/2021)

Everyone over the age of 18 years will ultimately be offered a COVID-19 vaccination in Northern Ireland.

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) are the independent experts who advise the Government on which vaccine/s the UK should use and provide advice on who should be offered the vaccination first.

JCVI guidance has identified the first priority groups to be care home residents and frontline health and social care workers who will be offered the vaccine in 2020.

It is anticipated that further priority groups based on age and clinical vulnerability factors will be added to those eligible to receive the new COVID-19 vaccinations as supplies increase in 2021.

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83. I work for a voluntary sector/private sector delivering front line care, can I also get a vaccine? (NEW QUESTION 20/01/2021)

Yes, and this will be communicated with you as soon as possible.

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84. How do I get an appointment for the vaccine? (NEW QUESTION 20/01/2021)

HSC Trusts will inform staff who are in the early deployment groups and encourage them to book their vaccinations through a digital booking platform.

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85. If I get the vaccine will I have to stop working from home? (NEW QUESTION 20/01/2021)

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

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86. Will staff receive a “certificate” or some other formal confirmation that they have been vaccinated? (NEW QUESTION 20/01/2021)

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

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87. I have contact with people in eligible groups, should I let them know the vaccine is coming? (NEW QUESTION 20/01/2021)

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.

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88. Can I cancel my appointment? (NEW QUESTION 20/01/2021)

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

 

 

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