Questions and answers for HSC staff

 

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. Health, support and self-isolation:
  5. 3. My symptoms match those of COVID-19 (coronavirus). What should I do? (Updated 21/05/2020)
  6. 4. Will sick leave associated with COVID-19 affect my sickness record or my pay? (09/04/2020)
  7. 5. Someone I live with has COVID-19 or has symptoms of COVID-19. I don’t have any symptoms, can I come into work? (24/04/2020)
  8. 6. 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? (15/04/2020)
  9. 7. If I am pregnant, can I continue to work? (Updated 22/05/2020)
  10. 8. I have an underlying health condition, am I still required to be in work? (09/04/2020)
  11. 9. I am over 70 years old, should I still be coming into work? (09/04/2020)
  12. 10. What steps are being taken to protect Black Asian Minority Ethnic (BAME) staff? (New question 22/05/2020)
  13. 11. If I am not at work due to COVID-19 because I’m either over 70, pregnant, have an underlying condition or have received a shielding letter from my GP, do I need to submit either a self-certificate or a fit note (sick line)? (15/04/2020)
  14. 12. 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)
  15. 13. 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)
  16. 14. I have been in contact with a work colleague who is now self-isolating. I have no COVID-19 symptoms. What should I do? (Updated 18/05/2020)
  17. 15. Will the seasonal flu vaccine also be available? (09/04/2020)
  18. Caring responsibilities and leave:
  19. 16. What are the arrangements for schools to support HSC staff? (24/03/2020)
  20. 17. Are there any other arrangements to support HSC staff with childcare difficulties? (24/03/2020)
  21. 18. How will my annual/statutory leave be affected by the ongoing arrangements at this time? (04/05/2020)
  22. Social distancing in the workplace:
  23. 19. How will social distancing be handled in the workplace? (24/03/2020)
  24. Employee concerns, redeployment, pay, terms and conditions:
  25. 20. Can I refuse to provide services to a patient or client who has COVID-19 (coronavirus)? (09/04/2020)
  26. 21. How do I ensure I am protected if a patient or client is suspected of or confirmed as having contracted COVID-19 (coronavirus)? (Updated 18/05/2020)
  27. 22. Am I likely to be redeployed? (09/04/2020)
  28. 23. 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)
  29. 24. 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)
  30. 25. 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)
  31. 26. 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)    
  32. 27. 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)
  33. 28. Will I be paid overtime if I am part-time and work additional hours? (09/04/2020)
  34. 29. What pay will I receive if I am absent from work due to COVID-19?  (09/04/2020)
  35. 30. I am a bank worker – what will I be paid if I am absent due to COVID-19?  (09/04/2020)
  36. 31. I am an agency worker – what will I be paid if absent due to COVID-19?  (09/04/2020)
  37. 32. If I am stuck abroad due to a travel ban or quarantine and unable to return to work, will I be paid? (20/04/2020)
  38. 33. I have applied for term time – will this be affected by COVID 19?  (09/04/2020)
  39. 34. Are there contingency arrangements in place to ensure I get paid?  (09/04/2020)
  40. 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)
  41. 36. Will my application for family leave be processed?  (09/04/2020)
  42. 37. Are Agenda for Change Clustering/Reviews/Regradings being progressed?  (09/04/2020)
  43. 38. I am working from home, can I claim costs associated with electricity, heat and broadband? (New question 22/05/2020)
  44. Pensions:
  45. 39. 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)
  46. Travel:
  47. 40. What is the advice on travel to other countries? I have travel plans booked, what should I do? (09/04/2020)
  48. 41. I’ve recently returned from travelling outside of Northern Ireland, what should I do? (16/03/2020)
  49. Courses, training and conferences:
  50. 42. What are the arrangements for training, course, conferences during this period of time? (16/03/2020)

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General information:

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

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that are common across the world. 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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Health, support and self-isolation:

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3. My symptoms match those of COVID-19 (coronavirus). What should I do? (Updated 21/05/2020)

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 8 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 8, 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 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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4. 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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5. Someone I live with has COVID-19 or has symptoms of COVID-19. I don’t have any symptoms, can I come into work? (24/04/2020)

If someone you live with has been confirmed as having COVID-19 or has symptoms of COVID-19, you cannot come to work.  Even if you do not have any symptoms of COVID-19 (as per question 3) you must stay at home for 14 days.

Staff 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 

If someone you live with has symptoms of COVID-19, testing for COVID-19 of this individual can be arranged through your employer.  Your manager will be able to help you organise this. If the test is negative, this will enable you to return to work earlier than the 14 day self isolation period.  

Where you can be facilitated to work from home you should do so. Accommodation options can be discussed with your organisation. If this is not possible the absence this should be recorded on HRPTS as special leave category ‘Risk Assessment (Paid)’.

Occupational Health advice is available as necessary. 

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 should follow the stay at home guidance and arrange to be tested themselves. (See Question 3)

Staff members who are asked to remain away from work due to health reasons should suffer no financial detriment.

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.

The 14 day period starts from the day when the first person in the house became ill. If you develop symptoms you must stay at home for a further 7 days, regardless of what day you are on in the original 14 day isolation period.

You should contact your line manager by telephone if and when symptoms appear.

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6. 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? (15/04/2020)

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 1 to 2 weeks. We recognise however that some staff  will feel unwell for a longer period of time and therefore if you remain absent after 2 weeks 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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7. If I am pregnant, can I continue to work? (Updated 22/05/2020)

All pregnant women should have a risk assessment carried out with their line manager. 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

For pregnant women under 28 weeks, the RCOG guidance advises that “In light of the limited evidence, pregnant women of any gestation should be offered the choice of whether to work in direct patient-facing roles during the COVID-19 pandemic. This choice should be respected and supported by their employers”. The guidance also says that “where possible, pregnant women are advised to avoid working in these areas with patients with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 infection”. It goes on to say that pregnant women who choose to work in patient facing roles, after a risk assessment, prior to the third trimester of pregnancy, should be supported to do so by minimising risk of transmission through established methods. Occupational Health advice can be sought where necessary.

For pregnant women from 28 weeks’ gestation, or with underlying health conditions such as heart or lung disease at any gestation, a more precautionary approach is advised. Women in this category should be recommended to stay at home. Where working from home is an option, staff will be expected to undertake work as appropriate, and must remain contactable by their Line Manager as work becomes available. Managers will undertake a risk assessment for staff in this category.

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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8. I have an underlying health condition, am I still required to be in work? (09/04/2020)

The Strategic Clinical Advisory Cell, Department of Health, advice (27 March 2020) is that staff with underlying health conditions fall within two separate categories (1) those with underlying health conditions that present HIGHEST RISK factors for disease and (2) those with underlying health conditions that present RAISED RISK factors for disease.

Staff with underlying health conditions that present highest risk factors have been advised to rigorously follow shielding measures in order to keep themselves safe. This advice is at www.gov.uk/government/publications/guidance-on-shielding-and-protecting-extremely-vulnerable-persons-from-covid-19

Staff with these underlying conditions will be asked to work from home if possible; transferred to duties that could be undertaken at home; or asked to remain away from work (and must practise social distancing and/or self–isolation) until the outbreak has abated. If a staff member is unable to work from home, this will be recorded as a period of special leave. Staff members who are asked to remain away from work due to health reasons should suffer no financial detriment.  Staff should, however, remain contactable by the Line Manager and if work becomes available which can be undertaken by the member of staff from home this will be required.

Staff with underlying health conditions that present RAISED risk factors have been advised to stringently follow social distancing measures (see www.nidirect.gov.uk/articles/coronavirus-covid-19-staying-home-and-self-isolation ) and may be asked to self-isolate for up to 12 weeks dependent upon the nature of their underlying health condition. Some staff, with certain underlying health conditions, can continue to work as their condition does not require additional precautions beyond maintaining strict hygiene measures. This may include continued working in patient facing roles with confirmed or suspected COVID-19 patients.

In all circumstances managers will work closely with staff to understand the risks in relation to their condition(s), and how it affects their particular job role and duties, seeking Occupational Health advice if required.

A clear series of definitions of what constitutes ‘Underlying Health Conditions’ is detailed within the www.health-ni.gov.uk/publications/guidance-health-care-workers-underlying-health-conditions issued by the Strategic Clinical Advisory Cell, Department of Health, on 27 March 2020.

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9. I am over 70 years old, should I still be coming into work? (09/04/2020)

Members of staff who are over 70 years old, are required to stringently follow social distancing measures in order to keep themselves safe. This advice is at www.nidirect.gov.uk/articles/coronavirus-covid-19-advice-vulnerable-people

Staff will be asked to work from home if possible; transferred to duties that could be undertaken at home; or asked to remain away from work (and must practise social distancing and/or self –isolation) until the outbreak has abated. If a staff member is unable to work from home, this will be recorded as a period of special leave. Staff members who are asked to remain away from work due to health reasons should suffer no financial detriment.  Staff should, however, remain contactable by the Line Manager and if work becomes available which can be undertaken by the member of staff from home this will be required.

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10. What steps are being taken to protect Black Asian Minority Ethnic (BAME) staff? (New question 22/05/2020)

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 and precautionary measures.

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11. If I am not at work due to COVID-19 because I’m either over 70, pregnant, have an underlying condition or have received a shielding letter from my GP, do I need to submit either a self-certificate or a fit note (sick line)? (15/04/2020)

No. Where you are in one of these categories and following discussion with your manager are remaining at home, no certification is required as you are considered to be on special paid leave and coded on HRPTS as special leave category ‘Risk Assessment (Paid)’. 

If at all possible, you will be facilitated to work from home.  If you are working from home then you are ‘at work’ and not on special leave.

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

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12. 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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13. 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.gov.uk/government/publications/guidance-on-shielding-and-protecting-extremely-vulnerable-persons-from-covid-19

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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14. I have been in contact with a work colleague who is now self-isolating. I have no COVID-19 symptoms. What should I do? (Updated 18/05/2020)

Public health guidance on infection prevention and control suggests that individuals will not be infectious until the onset of symptoms. See www.gov.uk/government/publications/wuhan-novel-coronavirus-infection-prevention-and-control In this particular situation, you should only self-isolate if you or a member of your household have symptoms of COVID-19, a high temperature and/or a new continuous cough and/or a loss or changed sense of smell or taste. Otherwise you should continue to work. Keep following PHA guidance as normal (frequent, thorough hand washing and social distancing as far as possible).

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15. Will the seasonal flu vaccine also be available? (09/04/2020)

The HSC flu campaign concluded at the end of March.

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Caring responsibilities and leave:

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16. What are the arrangements for schools to support HSC staff? (24/03/2020)

The Department of Education has issued guidance to schools that they are to continue to facilitate those children who are vulnerable, or those children up to the end of Year 10, where a parent is critical to the Covid-19 response, who would otherwise have no option but to stay at home to ensure safe supervision of their children.

Everyone working in health and social care is defined as a key worker. Only one parent needs to be a key worker to be able to access this much needed school support. Only send your child to school if you have no other child care options, which should not be older grandparents/relatives.

Schools are in direct contact with parents/guardians, or visit www.education-ni.gov.uk/news/letter-minister-education-education-sector  

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17. Are there any other arrangements to support HSC staff with childcare difficulties? (24/03/2020)

The Department of Health has announced a new Home Childcarer Scheme to allow parents to have their children cared for in their own home. For the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic, a bespoke version of the approved home childcarer scheme has been set up which will enable key workers to be temporarily matched with one of their children’s current day care workers.

You can find out more at www.health-ni.gov.uk/publications/covid-19-approved-home-childcare-scheme

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18. How will my annual/statutory leave be affected by the ongoing arrangements at this time? (04/05/2020)

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.

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Social distancing in the workplace:

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19. 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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Employee concerns, redeployment, pay, terms and conditions:

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20. 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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21. How do I ensure I am protected if a patient or client is suspected of or confirmed as having contracted COVID-19 (coronavirus)? (Updated 18/05/2020)

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’.

Staff can remain at work following exposure without PPE to a patient or client who subsequently tests positive as long as they remain vigilant for symptoms of COVID-19 (a new continuous cough and/or high temperature and/or a loss or changed sense of smell or taste) for the 14 days following contact.

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22. 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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23. 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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24. 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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25. 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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26. 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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27. 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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28. 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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29. 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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30. 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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31. 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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32. If I am stuck abroad due to a travel ban or quarantine and unable to return to work, will I be paid? (20/04/2020)

Employers should explore your individual circumstances with you. Where staff are in quarantine, they should be treated as self-isolating and paid accordingly.

Where employers are satisfied an employee is stuck abroad due to COVID-19 and there is no reasonable prospect of them being able to return to work, special leave should be used.

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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 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?  (09/04/2020)

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

There will however be no facility to spread maternity or adoption pay over a set number of months.

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37. Are Agenda for Change Clustering/Reviews/Regradings being progressed?  (09/04/2020)

These will not be processed during this time.

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38. I am working from home, can I claim costs associated with electricity, heat and broadband? (New question 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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Pensions:

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39. 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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Travel:

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40. What is the advice on travel to other countries? I have travel plans booked, what should I do? (09/04/2020)

The HSC does not issue travel advice. Staff should refer to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) travel advice at www.gov.uk/guidance/travel-advice-novel-coronavirus

At date of publication (09/04/2020) the FCO has published the following Exceptional Travel Advisory Notice:

COVID-19 Exceptional Travel Advisory Notice

As countries respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, including travel and border restrictions, the FCO advises against all but essential international travel. Any country or area may restrict travel without notice. If you live in the UK and are currently travelling abroad, you are strongly advised to return now, where and while there are still commercial routes available. Many airlines are suspending flights and many airports are closing, preventing flights from leaving.

Staff must carefully consider any plans to travel. The situation remains changeable, there are no guarantees as to which countries may have restrictions or what procedures will be in place on returning to Northern Ireland.

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41. I’ve recently returned from travelling outside of Northern Ireland, what should I do? (16/03/2020)

You should carry on as normal unless you develop symptoms of COVID-19.

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Courses, training and conferences:

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42. What are the arrangements for training, course, conferences during this period of time? (16/03/2020)

There is an enormous amount of work going on within the HSC to help us plan and prepare for the surge of COVID-19 to ensure we can continue to provide essential services and care for patients and clients. With this in mind, to release staff to focus on this important planning and undertake relevant skills training, a number of decisions have been taken:

  • for the foreseeable future we will focus on the mandatory/essential training required to enable the upskilling/training of staff, new starts and returnees required to support essential service delivery during the COVID-19 period;
  • all other non-essential events and training will be stood down;
  • there will be no attendance at regional, national or international courses and conferences;

and

  • there should be no further work related travel booked outside of Northern Ireland, unless authorised by the relevant Director.

This will release staff to focus on the provision of safe, effective and high quality care during this challenging period.

 

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Downloads

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Principles for Annual leave during Covid period_1.pdf 290.2 KB