FAQs for staff

 Last updated: Wednesday 09 June 2021, 12:00

This page is being regularly updated to reflect the latest advice from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), World Health Organisation (WHO) Public Health England (PHE) and other sources including local partners. 

Read the latest staff update

This page contains information including:

Questions for staff

Further FAQs relating to coronavirus symptoms, self-isolating and the test and trace process are available here

1) Questions relating to health and wellbeing UPDATED - 03 February 13:00

What should I do if I become unwell at work?
If you become unwell at work with coronavirus symptoms you should inform your manager as soon as possible and go home.  You should also arrange to have a test for coronavirus as soon as possible and inform your manager of the result.  If you should test positive you will be asked to provide information on where you have been in the workplace and (as far as you are able) who you have been in contact with. 

You should obtain an isolation note: https://111.nhs.uk/isolation-note/ unless you are well enough to work from home in which case one is not required. 

Further information about how to book a test if you have coronavirus symptoms is available on the NHS website

Further FAQs relating to coronavirus symptoms, self-isolating and the test and trace process are available here. 

I was previously shielding and I understand shielding is coming to an end?

The government has announced the end of shielding on 31st March 2021. Thereafter, if you can work from home you are advised to continue doing so.However, where is this is not possible, you can safely return to the University to work and you will be supported to do so. 

Prior to working on campus, you should speak to your manager about any measures which would assist your return.  If an Occupational Health referral took place in the Autumn term, there is no need for a further review to be undertaken, unless there have been any significant changes in the intervening period to your health which could impact on their risk in returning to campus. If significant changes have taken place then you should be referred to Occupational Health.

More information on the end of shielding provisions is available on the UK Government's website.

I have an underlying health condition and I am worried about attending work – what should I do?

 You should have a discussion with your line manager explaining your concerns about attending work. Together you can discuss measures to  support you feeling more confortable about attending work, together with any mitigating actions which may be required such as staggered start and end times etc. 

I have several health conditions which don’t seem to be accounted for on the government’s advice – what should I do?
If you are affected by a number of different underlying health conditions you may need advice from Occupational Health.  Your Line Manager or Supervisor can arrange this for you.

What support is there for staff who are worried about their wellbeing and Covid-19? 
Staff can access support through The University’s Employee Assistance Programme, provided by an external partner, Health Assured.

Health Assured provides a 24/7 helpline to access to counselling and their other services on offer to you, such as: 

  • stress and anxiety
  • Debt
  • Work
  • Lifestyle addictions
  • Relationships
  • Legal

Helpline phone access: 0800 028 0199

General health advice and information can also be accessed via a mobile app and the Health and Wellbeing Portal.

Find out more about accessing the Employee Assistance Programme.

The charity, Mind, has provided information and support in relation to coronavirus and your wellbeing.

Do employees who are self-isolating need to receive a self-isolation note from the government?
Those self-isolating can obtain a self-isolation note.  You will be self-isolating if you or someone in your household, or in your support bubble has symptoms of coronavirus, or if you have been advised via the NHS test and trace system (or via the University’s Test, Trace, Protect system) that you have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for coronavirus.   After discussion with your line manager, if you are able and well enough to work at home you should do so and in this scenario you will not be required to obtain a self-isolation note.     

I’m pregnant, what is the risk related to Covid-19?
Whilst being pregnant can change the way your body responds to viral and other infections, all the available evidence to date suggests that pregnant women are at no greater risk of becoming seriously unwell than other healthy adults if they get coronavirus.  For further information see: https://www.tommys.org/pregnancy-information/im-pregnant/pregnancy-and-coronavirus-information-pregnant-women

I’m pregnant.  Are there circumstances where I would have a greater risk of severe illness if I become infected with the coronavirus, and should I work from home?
Some pregnant women are at greater risk of becoming seriously unwell with coronavirus infection, these women includes those who are: 

  • Greater than 28 weeks gestation
  • Pregnant women from Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds
  • Women over the age of 35
  • Women who are overweight or obese
  • Women who have pre-existing underlying medical conditions, such as high blood pressure and diabetes

 If any of these apply to you, you should raise this with your line manager at your earliest convenience so that they can arrange an assessment with Occupational Health - see https://intranet.birmingham.ac.uk/hr/wellbeing/index.aspx for the relevant referral form.

Is there any general advice for pregnant women on staying safe?

• Follow the guidance on staying alert and safe (social distancing) and appropriate use of face coverings for the general public and clinically vulnerable people, including pregnant women (this guidance covers England only - if you live in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland, you should follow the specific advice in those parts of the UK)

• Keep mobile and hydrated to reduce the risk of blood clots in pregnancy

• Stay active with regular exercise, a healthy balanced diet, and folic acid and vitamin D supplementation to help support a healthy pregnancy

• Attend all of your pregnancy scans and antenatal appointments unless you are advised not to


• Contact your maternity team if you have concerns about the wellbeing of yourself or your unborn baby

What general advice would help me minimise my risk of catching Covid-19?

  • Wash hands regularly with soap and water for a minimum of 20 seconds.
  • Coughs and sneezes should be covered with a tissue and disposed of immediately (into your elbow if no tissue) followed by the washing of hands.
  • Wear a face-covering while on public transport (this is now a mandatory requirement) and inside buildings on campus where it is difficult to maintain social distancing. Maintain social distancing (of 2 metres) when greeting others, this includes avoiding shaking hands.
  • If working on campus, bring in your own refreshments.
  • If you are provided with PPE for any reason, including working in closer proximity than 2m, this should be worn and the information on putting on and taking off this PPE must be followed.
  • When using toilets, close the lid before flushing 

2) Questions relating to sick pay UPDATED - 30 March 10:30

Will I be paid whilst I am self-isolating?
The University will continue to pay people who are self-isolating due to the following reasons, but this will be kept under constant review:

  • Self-isolating due to testing positive for Covid-19
  • Self-isolating due to having symptoms of Covid-19
  • Self-isolating due to household member having symptoms of Covid-19
  • Self-isolating following notification by NHS Test and Trace
  • Self-isolating following notification by University Test, Trace and Protect

You should obtain a self-isolation note here. However, after discussion with your line manager, if you are able and well enough to work at home you should do so and in this scenario you will not be required to obtain a self-isolation note.

If a member of staff is self-isolating for any reasons other than those listed above, further advice should be sought from HR.

Will any Covid-19 related absence count towards my sick pay entitlement?
No, Covid-19 related absence will not count towards University sick pay entitlement but the University will keep this under constant review.

I am employed on Support Staff terms and conditions of employment and I am still on probation. Do I qualify for Sick Pay? 
Yes, although this situation will be reviewed on an ongoing basis. This is due to the fact that it seems probable that the country will be dealing with the coronavirus on a long term basis and absences for coronavirus may become “normal” rather than “exceptional”.

Will employees need to provide a fit note (sick note) for coronavirus-related absence?
Yes, from 14 September 2020 we will expect you to obtain a note  for coronavirus-related absences available here  However, after discussion with your line manager, if you are able and well enough to work at home you should do so and in this scenario you will not be required to obtain a self-isolation note.

I am due to start working at the University and have been told to self-isolate – will I still get paid?
Yes, your employment with the University will be effective from the date specified in your contract of employment. However you should liaise with your line manager to ensure that your details (and in particular your bank account details) are entered onto University systems to ensure payment can take place.  You should obtain a note for the absence available here  . However, after discussion with your line manager, if you are able and well enough to work at home you should do so and in this scenario you will not be required to obtain a self-isolation note.

How do I record my sickness absence related to Covid-19?
Please do not record this sickness absence in Core Systems. 
Instead you should advise your line manager of any Covid-19 related sickness absence and they will inform their designated point of contact. The University will be required to report to government bodies on absence related to Covid-19 so it is important this information is fed through in a timely manner.

Do I need to notify my manager if my reason for absence changes? 
Yes, if your Covid-19 related reason for absence changes because you have tested negative or positive you will need to contact your line manager and inform them of the change.  If you have attended the workplace in the last 48 hours prior to developing symptoms or being tested you will be asked to provide information on where you have been and (as far as you are able) who you have been in contact with.

The NHS Test and Trace service will also ask you to share information about your recent close contacts.

Should I report absence related to Covid-19 even if I am not due to work on that day?
Yes, you should inform your line manager of any Covid-19 related absence even if you are not due to work for some or all of that period. 

How should I report sickness absence that is unrelated to Covid-19?
If you have any sickness absence unrelated to Covid-19 symptoms and you are unable to work, please report this as you normally would to your line manager who can then record this on Core Systems. 

3) Questions relating to payslips UPDATED - 30 March, 10.30

I cannot access my payslip online and have a query about my pay. What should I do?
If you cannot access your payslip online, please check your bank account in the first instance to see whether your pay is as expected. If you have any concerns regarding your pay or think it appears incorrect, you can raise a query on the Payroll IT service desk.  If you don’t have access to the internet at home, you can call +44 (0)121 414 3030 to speak to a member of the Payroll team.  If your call cannot be answered, please leave a voicemail and a member of the Payroll team will contact you as soon as they can. 

4) Questions relating to employees working from home UPDATED - 30 March, 10:30

I am self-isolating – will I be asked to undertake work from home?
This depends on whether or not you feel well. If you are feeling well and self-isolating for precautionary reasons it is expected that where possible all efforts should be made for you to undertake some work remotely. This should be agreed between you and your line manager on a case by case basis.

6) Questions relating to school, childcare and support bubbles UPDATED - 30 March, 10:30

My child has been advised to self-isolate as a result of being in a school/early years childcare bubble. What does this mean?

If you have a child who is sent home due to being in a school/early years childcare bubble where someone in the bubble has tested positive your child will need to stay at home and isolate in line with NHS guidelines . Your child’s school/early years setting is likely to give you advice on this point but this is because it can take several days following contact with an infected person before an individual develops symptoms or the virus can be detected.  Your child should stay at home, including exercising within the home or garden (if you have one).

You should only book a test for your child if he/she also develops symptoms of coronavirus. There is no requirement or need to book a test if your child is self-isolating and does not have symptoms.

If my child is self-isolating as a result of being in a school/early years childcare bubble, do I and the rest of my household need to self-isolate?

If your child does not have symptoms, other people living in the household do not need to self-isolate but should continue to follow the general guidance.

If, however, your child does go on to develop symptoms, you should book a test for them as soon as possible.   All of your household members will need to begin self-isolating at home as soon as the symptoms appear and should continue to self-isolate until the test results are received.

Government advice does recognise how difficult it may be to follow social distancing advice when living with children but you should follow the social distancing guidance to the best of your ability.  Similarly, if any household members have significant conditions such as learning disabilities, autism or serious mental illness, please follow social distancing guidance to the best of your ability, while keeping yourself and those close to you safe and well, ideally in line with any existing care plans.

If you live with clinically vulnerable people or clinically extremely vulnerable people, the household member(s) self-isolating should stay away from them as much as possible, following this guidance

I am due to work on campus, but my child has been advised to self-isolate. Do I need to attend work?

If you have a child who is required to self-isolate because of a school/class/early years childcare setting closure you should try and make alternative arrangements for the care of your child in order to cover any required presence on campus.  Where possible and agreed, you may be able to work from home for the remaining period.  Where you cannot work from home, please discuss the situation with your line manager to discuss and agree whether any alternative working arrangements can be put in place so that you can fulfil your contractual requirements, whilst also balancing the need to care for your child if no other care arrangements can be put in place.

If your child is self-isolating because they themselves are displaying symptoms of coronavirus, you and the rest of the household should immediately self-isolate and book a test for your child as soon as possible. If your role enables you to work from home and you are well enough to do so, you should undertake work remotely, agreed between you and your line manager. Where you cannot work from home you should obtain a self-isolation note.

What is a support bubble?

A support bubble is a close support network between a household with only one adult in the home (known as a single-adult household) and one other household of any size. Once you form a support bubble, you should not change who is in your bubble. Further information about support bubbles can be found in the guidance for making a support bubble with another household.

Once you’re in a support bubble, you can think of yourself as being in a single household with people from the other household. It means you can have close contact with that household as if they were members of your own household. 

What is a childcare bubble?

The introduction of childcare bubbles was announced by the Government on 21 September 2020.

A childcare bubble is where someone in one household can provide informal (i.e. unpaid and unregistered) childcare to a child aged 13 or under in another household. This must occur on an exclusive basis – i.e. it should always be the same two households. The Government recommends that a childcare support bubble is formed with another household which lives locally wherever possible. This will help to prevent the virus spreading from an area where there might be a higher rate of infection to one where the rates may be lower.

You can continue to use early years and childcare settings, including childminders and providers offering before or after school clubs or other out-of-school settings for children. You can also continue to employ nannies – see guidance on working safely in other people’s homes.

Children of parents who are separated can continue to move between households.

7) Questions relating to employees taking annual leave UPDATED - 30 March, 10:30

Can I carry over unused annual leave to the next annual leave year?
The University took the decision, that on an exceptional basis, for the annual leave year 2019/20, staff were able to carry over a maximum of 10 days annual leave into the 2020/21 annual leave year, to be taken by the end of the 2020/21 annual leave year. The same provision (carrying over 10 days annual leave) has now extended to the 2021/2022 leave year.

I have bought additional annual leave which I cannot now use. What will happen to this?
Any bought additional annual leave which was unable to be taken in the 2019/20 annual leave year, was able to be carried over on an exceptional basis to the 2020/21 annual leave year. The same provision (carrying over 10 days annual leave) has now extended to the 2021/2022 leave year.

8) Questions relating to government advice on social distancing and self-isolation UPDATED - 30 March 10:30

Where can I find out more about social distancing?
Further information regarding social distancing is available on the government website.

Where can I find out more about self-isolation?
Further information regarding self-isolation is available on the government website and specific FAQs are detailed in the Test, Trace and Protect area of the University’s Covid-19 website, accessible here.

English is not my first language, where can I find translated information?
The government has a dedicated webpage where full, up to date information can be found regarding Covid-19 which has been translated into many languages.

9) Questions relating to Dubai UPDATED - 30 March, 10:30

I am a member of staff based at the UoB Dubai campus, does this all apply to me?
The UK and Dubai campus are working closely together but the in country situation is different. For up to date information on Dubai, please go to the Dubai FAQs.

10) Queries relating to sponsored employees/researchers  UPDATED - 30 March 10:30

If you are a sponsored employee/researcher with a query relating to your visa status please contact the HR Immigration Team via the HR Service Portal for further guidance.

11) Questions relating to apprenticeships UPDATED - 30 March 10:30

I am an apprentice – does the employee guidance apply to me?
Yes, as an apprentice you are an employee of the University and therefore the FAQs for employees refer to you.

Will my one to ones with the Apprenticeship Scheme Manager continue?
At least until June 2021, one to ones with the Apprenticeship Scheme Manager will not take place face to face. However, alternative arrangements have be made via teams. Please do your best to attend these meetings and update the Apprenticeship Scheme Manager if you are not able to attend.

What will happen to my off the job training?
All of our providers are now set up for remote delivery of your training. This should now be set up. If you do not have this information please contact the Apprenticeship Scheme Manager.

Because apprenticeship off the job training must then link in with what you do in the workplace there may still be a requirement for some apprentices to take a break in learning. Should this be required the Apprenticeship Scheme Manager will discuss this with you. If you feel that due to the circumstances you need a break in learning please discuss this with your line manager and the Apprenticeship Scheme Manager.

The Apprenticeship Scheme Manager will continue to pass on information to managers and apprentices as and when this is available.

What will happen to my end point assessment?
Any delay to this will be determined with your training provider and is under regular review on a case by case basis. The government have introduced a number of flexibilities to enable end point assessment to take place remotely and your training provider will discuss this with you no later than four months before the end of your apprenticeship.

I am an apprentice and have been furloughed. Do I have to go on a break in learning?
This will depend upon the course you are studying and will be determined on a case by case basis with your training provider, line manager and Apprenticeship Scheme Manager.

If you are not on a break in learning but are furloughed you are permitted to continue with any off the job training that does not have a direct benefit to the University. You may also continue to receive one to ones with the Apprenticeship Scheme Manager so long as these only focus on your wellbeing and off the job training.

12) Questions relating to Worklink UPDATED - 30 March, 10:30

Where can I find out more about Worklink queries related to Coronavirus? 
Worklink have a separate set of FAQs relating to contractual queries for their workers.

13) Questions relating to Furlough UPDATED - 30 March 10:30

I am an employee who has been furloughed. What is the impact of this on my contract and terms and conditions of employment?
You remain an employee of the University and there is no change to your terms and conditions of employment during the furlough period.

How long will furlough last? 
The length of your furlough period will be detailed in your letter confirming the arrangement. If there is any change to your furlough period, you will receive a further letter.

What pay will I receive whilst being furloughed?
Staff will continue to receive 100% of their regular pay through the payroll.  The University will reclaim 80% of your regular pay from the government. 

What comprises regular pay?
Regular pay includes your basic salary, and where applicable Compulsory Guaranteed Overtime and/or Compulsory Guaranteed Shift Pay. Your pay will be subject to the normal deductions for tax and national insurance and your pension contributions.

Can I still take annual leave whilst on furlough?
Yes, you can still take annual leave whilst you are furloughed. Please ensure that your line manager is aware if there are any periods whilst you are on furlough that you will be on annual leave.

What can I do whilst furloughed?
Whilst furloughed you cannot undertake any work for the University. Whilst furloughed, it is for you to decide how to spend your time.

Can I work for another employer?
Under the terms of the CJRS, there is nothing to prevent someone who has been furloughed from seeking secondary employment. However, as you remain an employee of the University and bound by your terms and conditions of employment, should you wish to seek secondary employment, you can only do so by complying with any authorisation process set out in your terms and conditions of employment. You must discuss and agree this with your Line Manager.

Can I undertake training whilst furloughed?
Yes, you can undertake some self-directed training whilst being furloughed eg. you could access LinkedIn learning.  However you cannot undertake any University directed training.

Can I volunteer whilst furloughed?
Yes, you can undertake volunteering whilst being furloughed.

14) Questions relating to face coverings UPDATED - 30 March, 10:30

The reasons for using face coverings
Coronavirus (COVID-19) usually spreads by droplets from coughs, sneezes and speaking. These droplets can also be picked up from surfaces, if you touch a surface and then your face without washing your hands first. This is why social distancing, regular hand hygiene, and covering coughs and sneezes is so important in controlling the spread of the virus1 along with “good ventilation of indoor spaces” which “will dilute and remove virus in the air.3

The best available scientific evidence is that, when used correctly, wearing a face covering may reduce the spread of coronavirus droplets in certain circumstances, helping to protect others.1

Because face coverings are mainly intended to protect others, not the wearer, from coronavirus (COVID-19) they are not a replacement for social distancing and regular hand washing.1

What is a face covering?
A face covering is something which safely covers the nose and mouth. The University has provided washable, branded face covering to every member of staff and student when they returned to campus in Semester 1 and you can buy reusable or single-use face coverings.2 Cloth face coverings and disposable face coverings work best is they are made with multiple layers (at least 2) and form a good fit around the face.  You may also use a  bandana, or religious garment but these must securely fit round the side of the face.1

Face coverings are not classified as PPE (personal protective equipment) which is used in a limited number of settings to protect wearers against hazards and risks1, such as in clinical settings, like a hospital, or in a small handful of other roles, for example, occupational health clinical services and for first aiders.2

Face coverings are instead largely intended to protect others, not the wearer, against the spread of infection because they cover the nose and mouth, which are the main confirmed sources of transmission of virus that causes coronavirus infection (COVID-19).1

What is a face visor?
Clear visors cover the face (and typically provide a barrier between the wearer and others from respiratory droplets caused by sneezing, coughing or speaking). They should cover the forehead, extend below the chin, and wrap around the side of the face. Both disposable and re-usable visors are available. Face visors or shields should not be worn as an alternative to face coverings.  They may protect against droplet spread in specific circumstances but are unlikely to be effective in preventing aerosol transmission when used without an additional face covering.  They should only be used after carrying out a risk assessment for the specific situation and should always be cleaned appropriately.

It is important to note that face coverings and visors represent one of the many mitigation measures in place and are not a replacement for the other ways of managing risk, such as social distancing and increasing hand and surface washing. 

For further information please see the links below:

  1. https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/face-coverings-when-to-wear-one-and-how-to-make-your-own/face-coverings-when-to-wear-one-and-how-to-make-your-own
  2. https://intranet.birmingham.ac.uk/staff/documents/staff/campus/21241-%e2%80%93-Social-distancing-general-guidance-%e2%80%93-A4-AW2-accessible.pdf
  3. https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/907587/s0643-nervtag-emg-role-aerosol-transmission-covid-19-sage-48.pdf
  4. https://www.gov.uk/guidance/working-safely-during-coronavirus-covid-19/close-contact-services


15) Questions relating to travelling abroad

Can I travel abroad for work purposes?

The current government advice is that people should avoid non-essential international travel to some countries and territories.  They have a webpage where you can check for any updates on the specific country.  In addition, some countries have closed their borders or restricted entry for UK travellers and countries may also bring in new rules at short notice.   You should take all the relevant advice into account and seek the agreement of your School or Budget Centre before deciding to travel.  The University does not support travel (other than on an exceptional basis after a risk assessment) to a red list or amber list country for work-related purposes at this time.

If I do go abroad to work will I need a Covid-9 test?

Requirements vary by country so you should check entry restrictions, testing, or quarantine requirements before travelling.  If you need a negative Covid-19 test to enter a country, you will be required to use a private provider, rather than the NHS Test and Trace service.  If you are not travelling from and to England you will also need to check the rules of other countries in the UK.

What happens on my return?

Green list countries

For countries on the green list you must take a Covid-19 test before you return, as well as book and pay for a day 2 covid test to be taken after arrival in England, and complete a passenger locator form. 

Amber list countries

If you have been in a country or territory on the amber list in the 10 days before you arrive in England you must take a covid-19 test before travelling, book and pay for day 2 and day 8 covid-19 travel tests and complete a passenger locator form.   In addition you will need to quarantine at home or in the place you are staying for 10 days.  Further details are available on the government website.

Red list countries

If you have been in a country or territory on the red list in the 10 days before you arrive in England you will only be allowed to enter if you are a British or Irish National, or you have residence rights in the UK.   Even if you have had both covid vaccinations you will need to take a covid-19 test before travelling, and book a quarantine hotel package, including 2 covid-19 tests, and complete a passenger locator form.  Further details are available on the government website.

I have a holiday booked abroad in a country which is on the amber list?

Government advice is that people should not travel to amber list countries for non-essential reasons.  However, we appreciate that people may have pre-booked holidays to amber list countries where holiday companies are still sending clients.  If you do have a pre-booked holiday to an amber list country and decide to travel you will be required to take a covid-19 test before returning and will also need to quarantine at home for 10 days.  Schools and Budget Centres may be able to facilitate some or all of that period as working from home but where this is not possible staff may need to take unpaid leave or additional annual leave to cover the quarantine period.

What happens if I test positive while I am away?

You will need to follow local advice on quarantine.  If this means you are likely to miss your return to work date you should let your line manager know.  You must also quarantine following the rules set out for England if you test positive on your return. You will also need to quarantine if NHS Test and Trace informs you that you travelled to England with someone else who has tested positive for covid-19.

Questions for line managers

1) Questions relating to return to campus conversations UPDATED - 30 March 10:30

What should I do if during a return to campus discussion, the staff member raises EDI related concerns?
It is important that any concerns regarding a return to working on campus, whatever those concerns may be related to or arise from, are discussed between the line manager and staff member. The return to campus discussion provides a confidential framework where both parties can talk through any concerns and put in place mitigating actions or measures where appropriate and agreed.

The line manager plays a key role in providing information and reassurance to the member of staff in order to facilitate and assist a return to the workplace. Further support is available from HR and Occupational Health (for any health related concerns).

The Guidance on Working on campus and working at home April-June 2021 outlines the role of the manager and sets out a number of groups of staff who may have concerns about the return to working on campus.  It also sets out the considerations that should be taken into account so is a good source of information for managers.

There are generic measures which it may be helpful to implement in order to assist a return to working on campus, which may be helpful in addressing a number of concerns:

  • Follow the Guidance on working on campus and working from home April- June 2021 in respect of groups identified
  • Be vigilant in supporting a Covid-safe workplace
  • Where possible, allow flexibility in working hours – this may be requested for a variety of reasons, for example, caring responsibilities, travelling limitations or to allow time for prayer
  • Discuss and where appropriate, have a blended approach to presence on campus during Autumn term – and review
  • Identify any other reasonable measures you can put in place with your member of staff
  • Review existing PEEPs and reasonable adjustments agreements – change as appropriate
  • Note the University continues to support staff through full pay in situations such as local lockdowns, and with full sick pay if they contract Covid-19
  • Flag up to staff that we now have the Sunflower scheme if they wish to do so. However, please note that this is not mandatory and there are some staff who are unable to wear a covering, who may choose not to wear a sunflower lanyard

If there are specific concerns which will not be addressed by the measures mentioned above, advice and guidance should be sought from HR who can work with both the line manager and staff member in order to assist with any required return to campus.

2) Questions relating to sick pay and payment for members of staff during self-isolation UPDATED - 30 March, 10:00

Please refer to the sick pay section outlined in the staff FAQs.  

3) Questions relating to recording staff sickness absence relating to Covid-19 UPDATED - 30 March, 10:00

Will absence from work be recorded?
Yes the University will need to keep a record of absence related to Covid-19, including absences related to self-isolation, where the individual is unable or too unwell to work from home. However absences related to the virus will be discounted for the purposes of absence management, however, this position will be kept under ongoing review.

How do I record Covid-19 related absence for members of staff in my team?
Please do not record this absence in Core Systems.
 Instead you should provide this information to the designated point of contact within your College/Department as soon as possible. The University will be required to report to government bodies on absence related to Covid-19 so it is important this information is fed through in a timely manner.

What is the key information I need to collect if a member of staff contacts me to report a Covid-19 related absence?
If the individual is not well enough to work, or cannot work from home, please ensure that the HR Covid-19 Absence Tracker is completed. If a staff member reports that they have symptoms of Covid-19, please ensure that the Line Manager guide for managing suspected cases is adhered to.

Do I need to report changes in the reason for absence? 
Yes, if the Covid-19 related reason for absence changes because of suspected or confirmed coronavirus you need to report this to your designated point of contact as soon as possible.  

4) Questions relating to wellbeing UPDATED - 30 March, 10:00

For questions relating to wellbeing and those members of staff with underlying health conditions, please refer to the Wellbeing section of the staff FAQs.

5) Questions relating to annual leave UPDATED - 30 March, 10:00

Please refer to the annual leave section of the staff FAQs for further details.

6) Questions relating to supporting staff in the Summer term UPDATED - 30 March 10:30

What can I do to support my staff returning to work on campus?
The University is required to take reasonably practicable steps to protect staff and therefore you should ask your staff who are returning if they have any concerns and the Return to Campus Discussion form should be completed. This will detail any agreed adjustments to their work, working pattern, or working environment.  If the individual has concerns, these should be discussed and any mitigating actions agreed and recorded. 

If the member of staff was previously shielding, an Occupational Health assessment took place in the Autumn term, and there are no significant differences to their health, there is no need for a further review to be undertaken. If significant changes have taken place then you should refer them, after discussion, to Occupational Health. 

Assistance is also available from your HR Advisory team.

What is my role in supporting my staff back to working on campus?
You have an important role in discussing the return to working on campus with your staff before they return. This is so that you can identify whether staff have concerns about returning, particularly where these are linked to health issues which may raise their level of risk. Where there is a potential of increased risk you also have an important role in identifying and documenting the plan to mitigate these risks, by discussing and agreeing these with your member of staff.

How do I have the conversation with staff returning to work on campus?
You will need to give staff time to express their feelings about returning to campus. Some staff will have faced their own health issues during the pandemic, or bereavement amongst friends or family.  Staff who have underlying health conditions or who are from an ethnic minority background or who are older may feel particularly anxious about a return. Therefore, a sensitive conversation which gives staff time to talk and for you to listen is particularly important. Open questions such as “how have you been during the lockdown” and “how are you feeling about returning to work on campus” may help kickstart the conversation. The key is asking how they are, whether they have any anxieties and discussing how these may be overcome. You should also be aware that their anxieties may lie beyond themselves and be for their family or friends, or others who they live with.

Questions relating to the period April to June 2021

1) Can I come on to campus to have a meeting with someone who is working back on campus? UPDATED - 30 March 11:00

No, not at the moment.  Only those staff who are authorised to be on campus to work during the current Phase of operations are allowed on campus. For the time being you will have to continue with virtual meetings on Zoom or Microsoft Teams.

2) What is being done to ensure campus complies with government regulations? UPDATED - 30 March, 11:00

As before, the University is ensuring buildings are safe by carrying out inspections and reviewing risk assessments.  Covid-safe measures are in place and should be followed at all times. 

3) How will you make sure staff who are on campus are safe? UPDATED - 30 March, 11:00

The University will review  individual building risk assessments prior to buildings being occupied again and will then review on an ongoing basis. As part of these assessments, the University has taken into account all Government guidance in respect of measures which should be adopted in different workplace settings and the University has put in place measures to ensure that staff feel as safe and protected as they possibly can whilst on campus.

4) Will I have to wear a face mask/face covering on campus? UPDATED - 30 March 11:00

While the use of face coverings when outside is a personal choice, the wearing of face coverings is mandatory inside all University buildings at all times except where there is reasonable justification for not wearing them eg in single occupancy rooms, where it impacts on teaching and learning activities or the ability to undertake strenuous or practical activities including participating in sports.


There are some buildings/locations (such as labs and corridors) where 1m+ social distancing means face coverings are required as one of a number of important mitigating factors. In these circumstances, the requirement to wear face coverings as a mitigation will be determined as part of the local risk assessment for the building/workspace in question and this requirement will be communicated to the staff, students and visitors that use those buildings. We will continue to monitor government guidance on face coverings and update this policy as appropriate.

5) What social distancing measures are being maintained on campus? UPDATED - 30 March 11:00

The University is putting in place the following measures to enforce social distancing as much as possible: changing entry and exit points of buildings to manage the flow of people accessing buildings; marking 2m intervals in heavily used thoroughfares, ensuring desks are spaced 2m apart and also restricting the number of people in the workplace at any one time. 

6) How will the University make sure that shared spaces like kitchens, toilets, stairs and lifts are safe for staff to use? UPDATED - 30 March, 11:00

The University will ensure that shared spaces are cleaned thoroughly and regularly throughout the day. Furthermore, hand sanitiser and cleaning wipes will be available, should staff wish to clean any surfaces themselves prior to using them. These spaces will form part of the on-going review of risk assessments.

7) I rely on public transport to travel to campus and am anxious about having to catch the bus/train to get to work. UPDATED - 30 March, 11:00

Please speak to your line manager in the first instance. The University will support staff wherever possible to try travelling at different times of the day to avoid peak hours and to ensure that staff are as comfortable as they can be using public transport. Information regarding public transport and social distancing measures etc. will be updated on the staff intranet site.

8) Do employees who are self-isolating have a letter from the government? UPDATED - 30 March, 11:00

Please see questions in the section relating to Health and Wellbeing. 

9) Does the University require employees who have an underlying health condition to come onto campus? UPDATED - 30 March, 11:00

Please see questions in the section relating to Health and Wellbeing. 

10) Will the University still pay sick pay whilst an employee is self-isolating? UPDATED - 30 March, 11:00

Please see section relating to sick pay.

11) Will Covid-19 related absence count towards University sick pay entitlement? UPDATED - 30 March, 11:00

Please see section relating to sick pay.

12) Will Support Staff on probation get sick pay if they're on Covid-19 related sick leave? UPDATED - 30 March, 11:00

Please see section relating to sick pay.

13) Will employees need to provide a fit note (sick note) for coronavirus related absence? UPDATED - 30 March 11:00

Please see section relating to sick pay.

14) What’s happening with campus parking charges and how will I get a refund? UPDATED - 30 March, 11:00

Campus parking charges are currently suspended.  Any staff member who is being charged via the Fixed Fee payment scheme can apply for a refund from April 2020 once they have returned to campus.

The link for this is https://bham.onlinesurveys.ac.uk/car-parking-refunds-2

15) What measures can the University take to help my return to campus? UPDATED - 30 March, 11:00

Managers can agree arrangements such as: 

  • Work being organised to limit the number of work contacts staff will have during the day
  • Staggering start and end times to reduce footfall at the start and end of the working day
  • Relocating workplace
  • Walking or cycling to work (and possibly adjusting hours to accommodate this)
  • Avoiding common areas such as kitchens
  • Encouraging the use of face coverings inside of inside buildings where it is difficult to maintain social distancing. There are some buildings/locations (such as labs and corridors) where 1m+ social distancing means face coverings would be required as one of a number of important mitigating factors
  • Reducing the size of the group you usually work in
  • Providing a single office as appropriate 

16) What do I do if my child is sent home from school in a class or year ‘bubble’ and I don’t have other childcare?UPDATED - 30 March 11:00

If a member of staff has a child who is required to self-isolate because of a school/class closure we would expect them to try to make alternative arrangements in order to cover any required presence on campus and to work from home, if possible, for the remaining period.  

17) What is the government roadmap? 

The government has set out a four stage roadmap out of the national lockdown.  Each step lasts for five weeks in order to give the government time to assess the impact before moving to the next step.  Most of the provisions are around opening up of retail, sports, and meeting with friends and families rather than work provisions.  The important date to note is that the “stay at home” order is being lifted on 29 March 2021.  More information is available here.


18) What will happen in the Summer Term?

In the expectation that more students will be allowed to return to campus after Easter and that some face to face teaching for all students will take place, more staff are likely to need to be on campus, either to carry out face to face teaching or support staff and student activities and services on campus.  Full details are available in the Working on Campus and Working at Home guidance April – June 2021, available here.

19) I am anxious about returning to work before I am vaccinated 

An individual’s requirement to work on campus should be determined based on an assessment of their role and whether that is critical to be performed on campus, not by an individual’s vaccination status.   This is because it will be some time before all adults are vaccinated and some people may not be able to be vaccinated (eg the vaccines are not licensed for use on pregnant women at present) or choose not to be.

The University takes the health and safety of its staff and students extremely seriously and has invested considerable time and resource in ensuring that campus is Covid-secure. Any staff who are required to return to work on campus should discuss any concerns they have about doing so with their line manager.



20) Can Occupational Health give me a covid vaccination or help me get the vaccine? 

No – the vaccination programme is NHS-led and employers are not in a position to offer the vaccine or intervene to try and get appointments for staff. The order in which people are being vaccinated is set out by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation.


21) I am living in an area where surge testing is taking place- what do I do?

Any staff member living in an area identified for surge testing should take the following actions:

  • Seek clarification from their local Council’s webpage, which will have a postcode checker to identify whether their address is confirmed as an area subject to surge testing
  • Alert their line manager that their postcode is subject to surge testing
  • Follow Council advice for getting tested – it should be noted that whilst the tests being conducted in surge testing areas are PCR tests, they may also be referred to as “symptom-free variant Covid test”, or similar – these are not the lateral flow tests used for an immediate result and staff will need to wait up to a few days for a test result
  • Staff should work from home, or where that is not possible, to remain at home and not travel to campus
  • Take a test as advised by their Council and critical workers should only return to campus once they have been tested within their local area and their test has been confirmed as negative

22) Can I have paid time off to go and get vaccinated?

The University wants to encourage staff to receive the Covid vaccination when offered and therefore reasonable paid time off work will be given to attend vaccination appointments – this time will not need to be made up.

Staff should try and book a vaccination appointment to minimise disruption to the working day as far as possible. However, the University appreciates that the organisation of the vaccination programme differs significantly across the country and therefore there may not always be an option on when a vaccination is booked.


23) What if I have a reaction to the vaccine and am not able to work? 

As with the flu vaccination, it is common for people to experience some mild side effects from the Covid-19 vaccination. Normally, any adverse reaction to a vaccine which meant that an individual was not fit enough to work would be treated as sickness absence. If an individual experiences any adverse side effects from the Covid-19 vaccination to the extent that they are not fit enough to attend work (whether on campus or remotely), they should follow their normal absence reporting procedures. In order to support staff in receiving their Covid vaccination, any Covid-19 vaccination related absences lasting for up to 1 day will be exempt from being counted for sick pay and reporting purposes. Any vaccination related absences exceeding 1 day will, however, be recorded as sickness absence.


24) What is lateral flow testing and how do I access it?

Staff working regularly on campus should ensure that they access lateral flow testing, ideally twice a week depending on how frequently they are on campus. This type of test is very good at identifying people who have high levels of the virus and are infectious on the day, and is most effective when you get tested regularly, at least once a week, or twice a week if you are on campus more often. Regular lateral flow testing, when combined with following government guidance, will allow us to mitigate the risk of transmission, and therefore it’s really important that staff who are returning to campus get tested at least once a week, or twice a week if they are on campus frequently. 

Questions relating to Ventilation and Coronavirus 

1) What is the University's approach to ventilation?

Put simply, we use mechanical ventilation or natural ventilation and sometimes a combination of the two to maximise the fresh air available.

2) Is this a recognised approach?

The core strategy is based on ‘CIBSE Covid-19 Ventilation Guidance’ (Version 4 - October 2020) REHVA guidance, HSE guidance and other recognised industry guidance. The key actions for each building/space can be summarised as:

  • Maximise fresh air ventilation (natural and or mechanical) whilst maintaining security.
  • Run mechanical ventilation at higher volume flow rate for longer periods where possible.
  • Avoid recirculation/transfer of air from one room to another unless this is the only way of providing adequately high ventilation to all occupied rooms.
  • Recirculation of air within a single room where this is complemented by an outdoor air supply is acceptable (eg Fan coil units (FCU) and Air-conditioning (A/C) supplied by fresh air AHUs)
  • Minimise recirculation and crossover heat recovery of air unless this is the only way of providing adequately high ventilation to all occupied rooms. (Noting that in peak heating months that the recirculated air will need to increase to prevent total loss of air handler equipment).
  • Toilet extracts are full extract 24/7 where possible.
  • Where possible occupants can supplement mechanical ventilation with window-opening (but this might affect the heating and cooling and not be achievable during peak heating/cooling demand).

This guidance is constantly under review as SARS-CoV2 transmission routes become more clearly defined, and any updated recommendations will be assessed and implemented where relevant to University of Birmingham systems.

3) What rate of fresh air can I expect?

This is a really difficult question to answer since it depends on a number of factors. However, in mechanically ventilated spaces 10 litres per second per person (10 l/s/p) can be achieved based on non-covid occupancy limits. Given the current measures we have in place to ensure a covid secure environment (i.e., we have reduced occupancy limits considerably) then the actual figure will be much greater.

4) Why does the University not declare a higher flow rate than 10 l/s/p?

Hopefully, there will eventually come a time when we increase the occupancy limits and to avoid any misunderstandings we have chosen to declare a rate that is compliant with accepted guidance now. (NB no increases in occupancy limits are currently planned.)

5) Why does the available air per person change with the occupancy of the space?

The simple answer is the mechanical air flow rate does not change, so the fewer people that are in a space the more air there is available per person.

6) What is the rate in naturally ventilated spaces?

Once again, this is a really difficult question to answer since it depends on a number of factors. However, we are confident that where there is no mechanical ventilation if the windows and doors remain open (see below), then the space will be appropriately purged.

7) What do I need to do when entering a naturally ventilated space?

When you enter any naturally ventilated space you should open sufficient windows at balanced locations to ensure there is good air mix. If more people will be joining you or the room was heavily occupied before open more windows and consider if it’s safe to prop open the door (never wedge open a fire door). When you finish in a space ensure someone can stay back and close the windows or refer to the building risk assessment to see what is planned.

8) What is Purging and why is it done?

Purging is allowing the air flow to continue into a space after it has been used. This helps a space recover to a better air quality level and dilutes or removes air borne contamination.

9) How are mechanically ventilated spaces purged?

We purge the space by allowing the air supply to over run in the space for several hours after it has finished being used.

10) What is the over run time on a mechanical ventilation system?

The guidance states that we should over run the ventilation by two to three hours of first and last occupancy. So this is our minimum setting. However, there are several systems that we leave on from last use to the next first-day’s occupancy.

11) I don’t think the ventilation is right in the space I am in, what should I do?

Teaching spaces have already been fully assessed for ventilation, but something may have changed. In the first instance talking to the Building Manager or the operational team will help. If needed they can then call Estates and they will review the room and ventilation. Ideally they will confirm that all is okay, but if needed we will make changes to ensure there is balance between the ventilation and occupancy.

12) How can you be sure of the ventilation rates?

In addition to measuring the actual ventilation rates in a number of spaces we also measure Carbon Dioxide (CO2) levels.

13) Why are Carbon Dioxide (CO2) levels measured and not oxygen?

We do this to understand the air quality. Our atmosphere is made up of about 20.9% oxygen. When there is insufficient fresh air in a space the oxygen level will decrease and the carbon dioxide levels increase. However, it’s more practical and accurate to measure the carbon dioxide level than oxygen levels. 

14) What do CO2 Figures mean?

CO2 is measured in parts per million (ppm) of air. Basically the lower the number the better the air quality. Normal background concentration in outdoor ambient air is about 400 ppm.

Typical indoor spaces are 400 to 1,000 ppm. Figures over 2,000 ppm need action to improve air flow and prevent issues such as, drowsiness and headaches. The Workplace Exposure Limits (WEL) for CO2 are 5,000 ppm for Long-term exposure limit (8-hr reference period) and 15,000 ppm for Short-term exposure limit (15 minute reference period).

15) In relation to Covid, is there a recommended maximum CO2 level?

The simple answer is no, because there is no specific good Covid-19 evidence relating to CO2 levels. However, when we correlate supply air rate to CO2 concentration. This applies in the case of long time occupancy, so often 800 ppm are considered as an indicator of good ventilation and indoor air quality. However, as noted above, we aim for 400 ppm (i.e., a higher quality).

16) Where fitted what are the CO2 sensors set to achieve?

We currently set the sensors to aim to achieve 400ppm (parts per million) which is the equivalent to outside air.

17) There are more people in a space than allowed what should I do?

Please do not enter the space unless and inform Security, the Building Manager, Safety Marshal and or operational team.

18)  Are there any spaces with poor ventilation?

In completing assessments of spaces we have identified two spaces where the ventilation does not meet the standards we would like to achieve and as a result their use has been restricted. With the exception of these two spaces, all teaching and working spaces have satisfactory ventilation from either natural or mechanical means. 

19)  What happens if a space has poor ventilation?

Most teaching and working spaces have satisfactory ventilation from either natural or mechanical means. When completing assessments of spaces if we find any spaces that have poor ventilation they are restricted in their use through the relevant building risk assessment and managers of the space.

20) Where can I get further guidance on the documents used by Estates?

The core strategy is  based on ‘CIBSE Covid-19 Ventilation Guidance’, REHVA guidance, HSE guidance, Government and other relevant industry guidance. The guidance is constantly under review by the University’s Estates, as SARS-CoV2 transmission routes become more clearly defined, and any updated recommendations assessed and implemented where relevant to University systems. 

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