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? (04/02/2021)
  5. 4. How will social distancing be handled in the workplace? (04/02/2020)
  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? (UPDATED 29/04/2021)
  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? (11/03/2021)
  14. EMPLOYEE CONCERNS AND PROTECTING EMPLOYEES IN ‘VULNERABLE’ GROUPS
  15. 11. If I am pregnant, can I continue to work? (UPDATED 12/04/21)
  16. 12. What do I need to do as a manager of someone who is pregnant? (UPDATED 12/04/2021)
  17. 13. I have an underlying health condition, am I still required to be in work? (22/01/2021)
  18. 14. I fall into the category of clinically extremely vulnerable, what is the current advice? (QUESTION UPDATED 08/04/2021)
  19. 15. 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? (22/01/2021)
  20. 16. 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? (22/01/2021)
  21. 17. I am over 70 years old, should I still be coming into work? (22/01/2021)
  22. 18. What steps are being taken to protect Black Asian Minority Ethnic (BAME) staff? (22/01/2021)
  23. 19. 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)      
  24. 20. 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)
  25. 21. Can I refuse to provide services to a patient or client who has COVID-19 (coronavirus)? (09/04/2020)
  26. 22. 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)
  27. 23. Am I required to share or provide transport to clients/patients/student during the COVID pandemic? (UPDATED 28/01/2021)
  28. ABSENCE – PROCESS AND PAY
  29. 24. 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)
  30. 25. 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)
  31. 26. What pay will I receive if I am absent from work due to COVID-19?  (09/04/2020)
  32. 27. I am a bank worker – what will I be paid if I am absent due to COVID-19?  (09/04/2020)
  33. 28. I am an agency worker – what will I be paid if absent due to COVID-19?  (09/04/2020)
  34. 29. Will sick leave associated with COVID-19 affect my sickness record or my pay? (09/04/2020)
  35. 30. 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)
  36. TERMS AND CONDITIONS
  37. 31. How will my annual/statutory leave be affected by the ongoing arrangements at this time? (UPDATED 23/03/2021)
  38. 32. Will I be paid overtime if I am part-time and work additional hours? (09/04/2020)
  39. 33. I have applied for term time – will this be affected by COVID 19?  (09/04/2020)
  40. 34. Are there contingency arrangements in place to ensure I get paid?  (09/04/2020)
  41. 35. 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)
  42. 36. Will my application for family leave be processed?  (10/07/2020)
  43. 37. Are Agenda for Change Clustering/Reviews/Regradings being progressed?  (04/02/2021)
  44. 38. I am working from home, can I claim costs associated with electricity, heat and broadband? (22/05/2020)
  45. 39. What is the policy if staff do not adhere to COVID-19 Guidance? (22/12/2020)
  46. WORKFORCE CAPACITY - REDEPLOYMENT, AND RETIREMENT
  47. 40. Am I likely to be redeployed? (09/04/2020)
  48. 41. 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)
  49. 42. 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)
  50. 43. 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)
  51. 44. 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)    
  52. 45. 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)
  53. 46. 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)
  54. CARING RESPONSIBILITIES - SCHOOLS AND CHILDCARE
  55. 47. Will flexible working arrangements be available to support my changing childcare responsibilities? (17/09/2020)
  56. 48. What symptoms should I look out for in my child? (17/09/2020)
  57. 49. My child is now showing symptoms of Covid-19. What should I do? (17/09/2020)
  58. 50. Can I get my child tested if they are displaying COVID-19 symptoms? (17/09/2020)
  59. 51. 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)
  60. 52. My child’s class/school or childcare setting is completely closed with little or no notice. What should I do? (15/10/2020)
  61. 53. 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)
  62. COURSES, TRAINING AND CONFERENCES
  63. 54. What are the arrangements for training, course, conferences during this period of time? (UPDATED 28/06/2021)
  64. TRAVEL AND QUARANTINE
  65. 55. What are the quarantine arrangements in Northern Ireland currently?
  66. 56. Can I go on holiday to another country? (UPDATED 25/05/2021)
  67. VACCINATION FOR HSC STAFF
  68. 57. When is the projected rollout of the vaccine for HSC staff? (NEW QUESTION 20/01/2021)
  69. 58. Can I get the vaccination during my working hours? (NEW QUESTION 20/01/2021)
  70. 59. What if I don’t have the time to get the vaccination during the working day? (NEW QUESTION 20/01/2021)
  71. 60. Will I get paid mileage if I have to drive to get the vaccination? (NEW QUESTION 20/01/2021)
  72. 61. If I go to get the vaccination outside my normal working hours, will my travel time be paid? (NEW QUESTION 20/01/2021)
  73. 62. What if I have side effects/become unwell following the vaccination, how will this be recorded? (20/01/2021)
  74. 63. If I choose not to have the vaccination, will my employment be at risk? (NEW QUESTION 20/01/2021)
  75. 64. Do I have to disclose to my manager whether I have had the vaccination or not? (NEW QUESTION 20/01/2021)
  76. CURRENT STAFF VOLUNTEERING TO HELP AT THE VACCINATION CENTRE
  77. 65. What rate of payment will I get if I am offering to help out at the Vaccination Centre? (NEW QUESTION 20/01/2021)
  78. 66. 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)
  79. 67. Can I claim travel expenses if working in the Vaccination Centre? (NEW QUESTION 20/01/2021)
  80. 68. Can I claim travel time if working in the Vaccination Centre? (NEW QUESTION 20/01/2021)
  81. 69. I require training to be able to do the vaccination. Will this be paid? (NEW QUESTION 20/01/2021)
  82. 70. Does the COVID-19 Regional Flexible payment scheme apply to the hours done in the Vaccination Centre? (NEW QUESTION 20/01/2021)
  83. 71. Will I be paid an overtime rate once I have exceeded full time hours? (NEW QUESTION 20/01/2021)
  84. 72. Who will be responsible for authorising timesheets for work in the Vaccination Centre? (NEW QUESTION 20/01/2021)
  85. 73. When will I be paid? (NEW QUESTION 20/01/2021)
  86. WORKERS CONTRACTED THROUGH THE REGIONAL WORKFORCE APPEAL TO WORK AT THE VACCINATION CENTRE
  87. 74. 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)
  88. 75. How many hours will I be contracted to undertake? (NEW QUESTION 20/01/2021)
  89. 76. When will I be paid? (NEW QUESTION 20/01/2021)
  90. 77. What will happen at the end of this work? (NEW QUESTION 20/01/2021)
  91. 78. Where is my vaccination centre? (NEW QUESTION 20/01/2021)
  92. 79. Do I need identification to get the vaccine? (NEW QUESTION 20/01/2021)
  93. 80. I am not a frontline worker, can I get the vaccine? (NEW QUESTION 20/01/2021)
  94. 81. I work for a voluntary sector/private sector delivering front line care, can I also get a vaccine? (NEW QUESTION 20/01/2021)
  95. 82. How do I get an appointment for the vaccine? (NEW QUESTION 20/01/2021)
  96. 83. If I get the vaccine will I have to stop working from home? (NEW QUESTION 20/01/2021)
  97. 84. Will staff receive a “certificate” or some other formal confirmation that they have been vaccinated? (NEW QUESTION 20/01/2021)
  98. 85. I have contact with people in eligible groups, should I let them know the vaccine is coming? (NEW QUESTION 20/01/2021)
  99. 86. 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 a number of mild symptoms including loss of taste/smell, 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. Additionally a new variant of this virus has now begun to emerge. 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? (04/02/2021)

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 be offered a flu vaccination. 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.

Participating community pharmacies across Northern Ireland continue to be able to provide flu vaccinations for all staff.  The list of participating pharmacies in your area can be obtained by visiting: http://www.hscbusiness.hscni.net/services/3061.htm  

Staff should be aware that a period of 7 days is required between receiving the flu vaccination and the Covid 19 vaccination.

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4. How will social distancing be handled in the workplace? (04/02/2020)

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. Managers should ensure that risk assessments are undertaken as appropriate.

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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 and testing 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? (UPDATED 29/04/2021)

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. 

From April 19 close contacts will also get a code and be asked to book a test at a drive through or walk through site. You should book this test as soon as possible. If this test is positive the PHA will contact you to give you advice and ask you about your own contacts. If this test is negative you must continue to isolate until your ten days are complete. By testing all close contacts we will find more people with the virus and learn more about how the disease progresses.

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. If you are identified as a close contact in work you should book a PCR test with the Trust testing team. If this test is negative you must continue to isolate until your ten days are complete. By testing all close contacts we will find more people with the virus and learn more about how the disease progresses.

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 and they must book a PCR 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? (11/03/2021)

Post vaccination antibody testing is not available. National policy and guidance on post vaccination antibody testing is awaited.

All HSC staff can still participate in the SIREN nationwide study which looks at COVID-19 immunity in HCW and reinfection.

SIREN requires participants to enrol in a study and provide fortnightly swabs and monthly blood samples.  The study period is one year.

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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? (UPDATED 12/04/21)

All pregnant women must have a COVID-19 Risk Assessment carried out with their line manager. The Risk Assessments should be reviewed on a regular basis and again when the member of staff reaches 28 weeks pregnant. The link to the risk assessment template can be found by clicking here.

The ‘Royal College of Obstetricians & Gynecologists, Royal College of Midwives and Faculty of Occupational Medicine’ (RCOG) have recently updated their advice for employers and pregnant healthcare workers, as per update links below:

In summary, RCOG advice is as follows:

  • Women who are less than 28 weeks pregnant, should practice social distancing but can continue working in a patient-facing role, provided the necessary precautions are taken.

  • Women who are more than 28 weeks pregnant, or have underlying health conditions, should avoid direct patient contact.

Women who are less than 28 weeks pregnant

Pregnant women in their first or second trimester, that is under 28 weeks’ gestation, with no underlying health conditions, are advised to follow the guidance on social distancing in the same way as the general population and other colleagues.

This means they can continue to work, but avoid where possible, caring for patients with suspected or confirmed coronavirus infection, through the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) and risk assessment.

Some working environments, such as operating theatres, respiratory wards and intensive care/high dependency units, carry a higher risk for pregnant women of exposure to the virus and all healthcare workers in these settings are recommended to use appropriate PPE. Where possible, pregnant women are advised to avoid working in these areas with suspected or confirmed coronavirus patients.

Women who are more than 28 weeks pregnant

For pregnant women in their third trimester, after 28 weeks’ gestation, and those at any stage of pregnancy with an underlying health conditions – such as heart or lung disease – a more precautionary approach is advised. This is because although pregnant women  are at no more risk of contracting the virus than any other non-pregnant person who is in similar health, pregnant women > 28 weeks gestation  have an increased risk of becoming severely ill and of pre-term birth if they contract COVID-19. 

 

DoH Guidance Coronavirus (COVID-19): Advice for Pregnant Employees 29 March 2021 https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-advice-for-pregnant-employees/coronavirus-covid-19-advice-for-pregnant-employees

Women in this category should work from home where possible, avoid contact with anyone with symptoms of coronavirus, and significantly reduce unnecessary social contact. Employers should seek opportunities for these individuals to work flexibly in a different capacity, to avoid roles where they are working directly with patients.

If the member of staff (more than 28 weeks pregnant)  cannot work from home, their Line Manager will undertake a Risk Assessment with them. It is essential that flexible and safe working arrangements are discussed and explored. Options may include undertaking telephone or videoconference consultations, working from home and/ or taking on administrative duties. 

If following a risk assessment, the pregnant women requests to continue working in a patient facing role, the line manager should discuss the risks and if necessary seek further advice from Occupational Health.  

Risk assessments

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

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.  

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12. What do I need to do as a manager of someone who is pregnant? (UPDATED 12/04/2021)

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 is 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 and HR advice can be sought if necessary.

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 with the member of staff and must be reviewed prior to the 28 week period (24 weeks if feasible) and review / update the risk assessment.

Pregnant women under 28 weeks gestation with no underlying health conditions should practice social distancing but can continue working in a patient-facing role, provided a risk assessment is carried out and the necessary precautions are taken.

This means they can continue to work but avoid, where possible, caring for patients with suspected or confirmed coronavirus infection, through the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) and risk assessment.

Some working environments, such as operating theatres, respiratory wards and intensive care/high dependency units, carry a higher risk for pregnant women of exposure to the virus and all healthcare workers in these settings are recommended to use appropriate PPE. Where possible, pregnant women are advised to avoid working in these areas with suspected or confirmed coronavirus patients.

Pregnant women who are more than 28 weeks pregnant, or have underlying health conditions

For pregnant women in their third trimester, after 28 weeks’ gestation, and those at any stage of pregnancy with an underlying health conditions – such as heart or lung disease – a more precautionary approach is advised. This is because although pregnant women  are at no more risk of contracting the virus than any other non-pregnant person who is in similar health, pregnant women > 28 weeks gestation  have an increased risk of becoming severely ill and of pre-term birth if they contract COVID-19. 

Women in this category should work from home where possible, avoid contact with anyone with symptoms of coronavirus, and significantly reduce unnecessary social contact. If the member of staff cannot work from home, their Line Manager will undertake a Risk Assessment with them.

Managers should seek opportunities for these individuals to work flexibly in a different capacity but to avoid roles where they are working directly with patients. 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 explored including remote working, undertaking telephone or videoconference consultations and/or taking on administrative duties.  Managers should discuss these options with the staff member during a review of the risk assessment.

Strict adherence to social distancing, infection prevention control advice regarding hand hygiene and appropriate PPE must be ensured.

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 / not found suitable work in the workplace

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 work from home, or in the unlikely event that work in a suitable environment cannot be found, 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. I have an underlying health condition, am I still required to be in work? (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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14. I fall into the category of clinically extremely vulnerable, what is the current advice? (QUESTION UPDATED 08/04/2021)

For a definition of CEV, please follow this link Clinically Extremely Vulnerable (CEV)

With effect from 12 April 2021 the current advice is that CEV staff who have been at home and who are not able to do their work from home, will be able to return to the workplace. Those staff who fall into the CEV category and are able to do their work from home, should continue to do this.

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

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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15. 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? (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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16. 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? (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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17. I am over 70 years old, should I still be coming into work? (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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18. What steps are being taken to protect Black Asian Minority Ethnic (BAME) staff? (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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19. 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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20. 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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21. 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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22. 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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23. Am I required to share or provide transport to clients/patients/student during the COVID pandemic? (UPDATED 28/01/2021)

Current restrictions on car sharing do not apply when car sharing is necessary as part of your work as this is identified as being exempt under the Government guidelines.   Therefore you may still be required to provide transport to clients/patients/students if this normally falls within your job role.  However consideration should be given to what other options are available to avoid car sharing being required and you should ensure that car sharing takes place only when absolutely necessary.  Where you feel it is necessary to transport another individual in your vehicle as part of your role the PHA Standard operating procedure (SOP) for Health and Social Care staff car sharing for essential practice should be followed and you should speak to your line manager in advance of undertaking any such journey.  A risk assessment should be completed for each Department where car sharing is required for part of an employee’s job role.  A sample risk assessment is provided here. This should be used as a starting point and added to in order to address specific individual circumstances, referring to local arrangements for further guidance. 

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

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

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24. 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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25. 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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26. 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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27. 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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28. 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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29. 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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30. 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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31. How will my annual/statutory leave be affected by the ongoing arrangements at this time? (UPDATED 23/03/2021)

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

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

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

Option 2: Payment of Contractual Leave

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

Option 3: Carryover and Payment of Contractual Leave

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

Please find attached for your information:

§  Details of the Voluntary Scheme for Unused Leave

§  Annual Leave Ready Reckoner 

§  Application Form 

§  Annual Leave FAQs 

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32. 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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33. 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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34. 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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35. 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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36. 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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37. Are Agenda for Change Clustering/Reviews/Regradings being progressed?  (04/02/2021)

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

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38. 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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39. 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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40. 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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41. 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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42. 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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43. 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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44. 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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45. 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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46. 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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47. 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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48. 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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49. 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 until the result of the test is known. If the test result is positive, the household should self-isolate for 10 days and all household contacts should book a PCR test. If the result is negative, the household can end isolation.

    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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50. 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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51. 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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52. 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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53. 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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COURSES, TRAINING AND CONFERENCES

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54. What are the arrangements for training, course, conferences during this period of time? (UPDATED 28/06/2021)

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 e.g. staff in training;

· any training needs to adhere to social distancing guidelines or should be delivered virtually.  Where there is a mandatory practical element that cannot be delivered in any other way then the venue should be appropriately risk assessed and Professional Education Leads must provide for appropriate PPE and infection prevention and control; 

and

  • Work related travel and attendance at regional, national or international courses and conferences other than virtual events should be considered in line with up to date Government guidance on travel. This guidance can change at short notice, meaning that staff could be required to self-isolate on their return to Northern Ireland, which may leave them unable to attend the workplace. Staff should discuss any plans and seek approval to attend such events involving travel outside of Northern Ireland with their Line Manager before making any arrangements.
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TRAVEL AND QUARANTINE

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55. What are the quarantine arrangements in Northern Ireland currently?

Travel guidance for Northern Ireland is found at www.nidirect.gov.uk/articles/coronavirus-covid-19-travel-advice.

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56. Can I go on holiday to another country? (UPDATED 25/05/2021)

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

Current travel guidance for Northern Ireland is found at www.nidirect.gov.uk/articles/coronavirus-covid-19-travel-advice

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VACCINATION FOR HSC STAFF

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57. 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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58. 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 the up to 12 week period as required. 

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59. 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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60. 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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61. 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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62. What if I have side effects/become unwell following the vaccination, how will this be recorded? (20/01/2021)

In line with the PHA ‘Frequently Asked Questions’ (Question No. 30) 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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63. 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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64. 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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65. 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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66. 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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67. 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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68. 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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69. 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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70. 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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71. 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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72. 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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73. 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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74. 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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75. 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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76. 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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77. 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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78. 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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79. 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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80. I am not a frontline worker, can I get the vaccine? (NEW QUESTION 20/01/2021)

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

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

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

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

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

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83. 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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84. 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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85. 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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86. 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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