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COVID-19 Frequently Asked Questions

Last Updated: 27 May 2020
Last Reviewed: 27 May 2020

 

The following FAQs have been developed following the issuing of a COVID-19 FAQ document by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform (DPER) on 16th March 2020. These FAQs have been adapted from the DPER guidelines specifically for UCD

The FAQs also cover queries that have been received to date via the HR Helpdesk/HR Partners/Employee Relations teamsThe FAQs webpage will be added to as required, following UMT member approval.  It is important that line managers and employees refer to these FAQs regularly as it is likely to be updated subject to expert public health advice, Government advice or UMT decisions , in light of changing circumstances on COVID-19.

 

As of 18 May 2020 and in line with Government guidelines, UCD is embarking on a phased return to work on campus. The Return to Campus Working COVID-19 Response Plan provides all employees and researchers with details of the steps that are necessary to minimise the risk from COVID-19 during the return to campus working, and applies to those as they return to campus in line with the Government’s phased roadmap.

If there are questions not answered below please email the hrhelpdesk@ucd.ie

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UPDATED 1.1 What advice and supports are available for employees?

This is an exceptional and unprecedented crisis that the country is facing.  As a UCD employee, your health and safety and that of our wider community is our primary concern.

We appreciate that you are all aware of the health implications of COVID-19, and at this stage, are taking action to limit its spread yourselves.  To restate the advice from the government and HSE, stay at home to the greatest extent possible, when you have to leave your home please follow the guidelines around social distancing, maintaining a distance of at least 2 metres between yourself and other people.

It is important for your mental wellbeing to keep in contact with friends and family; please do this via phone and online communications.

Where you are experiencing difficulties, our Employee Assistance Service (EAS), operated by Inspire Workplaces, is a completely free, confidential service for UCD employees and their immediate families (those living at home with them who are 18 years of age and older). You can avail of emotional support and counselling services where required by calling free and in confidence 24/7, 365 days a year – 1800 817 435.  The Employee Assistance Service also offer a wide range of supports via their online hub.

You can find information on how to access this hub on the HR Intranet (UCD Connect username and password required). 
There are many great tools available on this hub, including guided self-assessment, self-help courses and digital intervention tools, a wellbeing database and information library, as well as a mood tracker.

The EAP also includes access to counselling sessions which in the current situation can be availed of remotely through phone/web-based counselling.

The HSE also provides advice on looking after your mental health.

UPDATED 1.2 How can I support my mental health and wellbeing and that of my family during this time?

The following are some tips and advice to support your mental health and wellbeing:

  • Build-in time for activities you enjoy (self-care) like reading a book, taking a bath, listening to music, drawing/painting or other creative activities, or going for a walk (observing social distancing and 2km limit from your home). Even just a few minutes a day consciously spend on self-care can make a big difference.
  • Consider limiting your time on social media and/or consuming news.
  • Continue/implement healthy eating and sleeping habits.
  • Stay connected with friends and family through phone calls/video chats/text messages, etc.

The following are some tips and advice to support your mental health and wellbeing.

You can find more information on how to take care of your own mental health and wellbeing and that of family members (e.g. children, elderly parents) during Covid-19 on the WHO website.

UPDATED 2.1 How does the Government’s roadmap for COVID-19 impact my work arrangements?

The principle that ‘those employees that can work from home should continue to do so’, and ‘those persons in an at risk group should continue to work from home’, still applies until otherwise advised.

As of 18 May 2020 and in line with Government guidelines, UCD is embarking on a phased return to work on campus. The Return to Campus Working COVID-19 Response Plan provides all employees and researchers with details of the steps that are necessary to minimise the risk from COVID-19 during the return to campus working, and applies to any persons as they return to campus in line with the Government’s phased roadmap.

2.2 What are flexible working arrangements?

Where you can work from home, this should be facilitated to the maximum extent possible. As part of UCD’s contingency planning, Heads of School/Unit/line managers have been asked to take steps to increase the scope of remote working and all opportunities and flexibilities should be considered to help make this happen.

2.3 What happens if I do not have the facility to work from home?

Though all efforts will be made to assist and facilitate employees to work from home, it is recognised that in limited situations, this may not be practically possible.  If an employee believes that working from home is not possible, they should discuss this in the first instance with their line manager.  An assessment of the employee’s work activities will be carried out by the manager to ascertain if it is possible to allocate alternative work activities to the employee to overcome whatever restrictions exist. 

It is expected that employees will fully cooperate with such an assessment and engage with their manager to identify constructive solutions to existing challenges.  If their work does not require them to have a physical presence on our campuses, they will be designated as working from home for the time being.

It is expected that employees will continue to engage with the University on identifying practical solutions to facilitate meaningful work. It is also expected that line managers maintain continuous contact with employees to ensure they are heard and that they have an opportunity to make a contribution to the work carried out within their school/unit. It is also recognised that our health service continues to come under increasing pressure and all organisations across the public sector may be called upon to mobilise resources, expertise and skillsets to support our country in this time of national need.  We will be guided by the Government in this instance and will work together to support any specific measures arising.

UPDATED  2.4 How will I be supported whilst working from home?

Where employees can work from home, this should be facilitated to the maximum extent feasible.  Steps should be taken to increase the scope for remote working and all opportunities and flexibilities need to be considered. The UCD SIRC office has produced useful guidelines on working from home. (UCD Connect username and password required)

The Remote Working during COVID-19 Outbreak Policy is an emergency policy developed to provide guidance and information on available supports during the Covid-19 outbreak. The policy provides further information on working hours and flexibility, managing absences related to COVID-19, mental health and wellbeing, health and safety and data security.

The Data Protection Commission have also issued useful guidance on protecting personal data when working remotely.

When agreeing working from home arrangements with employees, managers should be cognisant of how these arrangements can support employees to manage caring responsibilities at home (including facilitating shared caring arrangements with a partner) and other responsibilities brought about by this crisis.  This is particularly the case now where schools and creches have been closed and children need to be cared for and schooled from home.  In addition, many of us have elderly or at-risk relatives that require support during these challenging times.

It is important that managers and employees maintain consistent lines of communication during the period of closure utilising whatever technological supports are available to them.  A kind and reasonable approach should be taken in all circumstances.

Working at home will also involve establishing routines.  Routines are likely to be different to when you are working on campus and you should plan your working day accordingly.  While employees will be checking their emails regularly, it is suggested that you switch on your out of office and include a message along the following lines - From 13 March UCD, in response to the challenges of the novel coronavirus, UCD moved to a work from home/teaching at a distance mode.  Please be patient should any delays occur in responding to emails.

2.5 Can I be requested to work in a different role whilst remote working?

Employees may be asked on a temporary basis to work in a different role, in order to meet critical work needs. This will also apply in situations where remote working does not appear to be initially practicable but where temporary assignment to other duties would more effectively facilitate home working. The University will provide all necessary supports where this is deemed to be practicable.  Being asked to work in a different role will only occur after consultation in advance of any change in role taking place.

2.6 My children’s creche/school is closed and I have no access to alternative child care. It will be challenging for me to fulfil all my normal duties in these circumstances. Will I be paid my salary?

As per the President Bulletin (25/03/2020) the UMT would encourage you to work with your line manager or head of school to ensure that arrangements are in place to enable you to continue to undertake your role. It is recognised that this is an extremely difficult time for everyone and that some colleagues have caring responsibilities which mean they are unable to fulfil their normal duties during this time. In this scenario, you must discuss the situation with your line manager or head of school to endeavour to identify other flexible working options that might allow you to carry out some duties in addition to home working arrangements. Some examples of these arrangements could include sharing caring arrangements with partner, doing work outside of normal working hours etc. These measures will help to keep employees working while they are also managing caring responsibilities. We realise that colleagues who are caring for young children or elderly parents/relations during this time will not be able to commit as much time to their role as they would normally, and if you are in this situation you should not be concerned – allowances will be made for you and you will not be disadvantaged.

New 2.7 Due to COVID-19 restrictions, and the requirement for me to work from home, will UCD be paying me the €3.20 per day allowance which Revenue allows an employer to pay to employees who satisfy the conditions for the relief, without deducting PAYE, PRSI, or USC?

No UCD will not be making this payment. The HEA has confirmed to UCD  that the payment is not to be made to public sector employees.

 

New 2.8 Due to the COVID-19 restrictions, am I eligible to claim tax relief on expenses like light, heat, telephone and internet usage?

You may be eligible for the relief and should make a claim directly to Revenue at the end of the year.

New 2.9 How can I claim tax relief for working from home due to COVID-19 restrictions?

E-Working expenses can be claimed by completing an Income Tax return at the end of the tax year. Your 2020 tax return can be made from Jan 2021.  An employee who believes they may be eligible for the tax relief should complete the relevant form on the Revenue website as follows:

 

  • sign into revenue.ie and log in to myaccount
  • click on ‘Review your tax’ link in PAYE Services;
  • select the Income Tax return for the relevant tax year;
  • select ‘Other PAYE Expenses’ in the ‘Tax Credits and Reliefs’ page and insert the amount of expense at the ‘Amount Claimed’ section.

 

As a claim may be selected by Revenue for future examination, all documentation relating to a claim and the basis of calculation, should be retained for a period of six years from the end of the tax year to which the claim relates. 

 

New 2.10 What conditions must be met in order for me to be eligible to claim tax relief for working from home due to COVID-19 restrictions?

Under normal conditions, Revenue only permit tax relief for such expenses when the following conditions are satisfied

 

  • There must be a formal agreement in place between the employer and the employee under which the employee is required to work from home.
  • An employee is required to perform substantive duties of the employment at home: and 
  • An employee is required to work for substantive periods at home.

 

 

 

Under the current government recommendation to work from home to support national public health objectives, employees should be able to claim tax relief for the duration of the period for which this recommendation is in place without the need for a formal agreement, provided they are working from home during this period.

New 2.11 How much can I claim when working from home due to COVID-19 restrictions?

Your refund of tax is based on the following:  

 

  • How many days you worked from home
  • The cost of the expenses
  • Revenue’s agreed rate for calculating the cost of running a home office

Revenue’s rate for the cost of running a home office is 10% of the total cost. This means that you can claim 10% of the total amount of allowable utility bills against your taxes. This is only available for the days that you work from home. This does not include times you may have brought work home to do outside your normal working hours.  Further information is available in Revenue’s e-Working and Tax manual

3.1 I am a staff member awaiting testing / a diagnosis, is there anything I need to do?

Please follow the advice being issued by the HSE regarding self-isolation for those persons who are symptomatic / awaiting test results.

If you have not already done so consider informing your closest contacts (i.e. housemates and partner) that you are being tested and advise them to ensure that they adhere to strict social distancing protocols (information on social distancing can be found on the HSE website.

You may also wish to inform close contacts (persons who you have had more than 15 minutes face to face contact with / have shared a room with for more than 2hrs in the 48hrs prior to your symptoms developing / since you have developed symptoms) who you are aware fall into a vulnerable group (see HSE website for details of vulnerable groups). If you are aware that one of your colleagues falls into a vulnerable group and you have had close contact with them in the 48hrs prior to your symptoms developing / since you have developed symptoms then you may wish to inform your Line Manager who can then confidentially advise said colleague.

3.2 I have received a positive diagnosis, what should I do?

Follow the health advice issued to you upon diagnosis. The HSE will begin contact tracing to inform your close contacts and you should provide them with all of the information that they need. To speed up this process you should consider informing your closest contacts (housemate and partner) of your positive diagnosis and advise them to restrict their movements until they are contacted by the HSE (see HSE website for information on how to restrict movements).

You may also wish to inform close contacts (persons who you have had more than 15 minutes face to face contact with / have shared a room with for more than 2hrs in the 48hrs prior to your symptoms developing / since you have developed symptoms) who you are aware fall into a vulnerable group (see HSE website for details of vulnerable groups). If you are aware that one of your colleagues falls into a vulnerable group and you have had close contact with them in the 48hrs prior to your symptoms developing / since you have developed symptoms then you may wish to inform your Line Manager who can then confidentially advise said colleague.

If you are medically diagnosed with COVID-19 you must inform your line manager and you will be placed on special leave with pay and this period will not count as part of your sick leave record. The application of special leave with pay will apply for the number of days advised by the HSE/doctor. Appropriate medical confirmation of a diagnosis of COVID-19 will be required retrospectively. This will be recorded locally as special leave with pay on your attendance record.

3.3 I am a Line Manager and one of my staff has informed me that they are awaiting testing / test results, do I need to do anything?

In most cases, there is no need for you to take any further action if you are made aware of a staff member awaiting testing /a test result.

If however, the staff member informs you that they have had close contact with a colleague or student who falls into a vulnerable group, or you are aware that the staff member has had contact with a colleague or student who falls into a vulnerable group, you should contact that staff member or student and advise them of their possible direct contact with a potential case and advise them to adhere to HSE advice (see HSE website for details of vulnerable groups).

Once you have made that initial contact you should then provide the vulnerable person with a final outcome of the testing once known.

Such contacts must be done on a strictly anonymised basis, the name of the person being tested should never be made known to any other parties.

You need to also:

  • Ensure your colleague submits the appropriate medical confirmation retrospectively.
  • Record the absence as special leave with pay on the employee’s attendance records.

4.1 What happens if I am medically advised to self – isolate whilst working from home?

If you are already working from home and are advised by your GP/HSE to self-isolate but have not developed any symptoms associated with Covid 19, you should, if practically possible, continue to work from home. If arising from the need to self -isolate, you are unable to continue working from home, then you will qualify for special leave with pay. In order to avail of special leave with pay, you should download the Covid-19 Special Leave with Pay for Self-Isolation - Self Declaration Form, complete and return soft copy to HRhelpdesk@ucd.ie.

4.2 What happens if I contract COVID-19 whilst working from home?

If you are already working from home and subsequently fall ill with COVID-19, special leave with pay will apply however, you are required to follow the normal sick leave procedure in relation to contact with your line manager etc. In order to avail of special leave with pay you should submit a copy of a medical certificate/GP or HSE note confirming your diagnosis of Covid-19 by email to your Line Manager, copying HRhelpdesk@ucd.ie 

4.3 I have been diagnosed with COVID-19 and it has been confirmed that I am on special leave with pay.  Will this leave be counted as paid sick leave in the event I have any further sick leave absences (non Covid-19 related) at a future date?

No.  We have received direction from the Government that Special Leave with pay resulting from the current outbreak of Covid-19 will not impact sick leave entitlements at a future date.

UPDATED 5.1 I’m a casual/hourly paid employee, will I be paid?

UMT (University Management Team) have agreed that casual/hourly paid employees who are scheduled to work during the third trimester will be paid. As the University reopens the campus in line with the Government phased roadmap, normal work arrangements will apply and payments will be made only for completed work.

Time sheets should be submitted by Claimants and approved by Managers in line with normal procedures through the Employee Self Service (ESS) system as per existing deadlines available on the HR website.

5.2 Will tutors be expected to teach hours originally contracted for, perhaps in an online or other format?

Tutors will be paid if already scheduled and this will also apply if their work moves to an online format.

5.3 If tutors are not required to teach further this semester, will they still be paid?

If they were originally scheduled but are no longer required, then they would be paid. If they were not scheduled to teach this semester - they wouldn’t be paid.

5.4 If a tutor cannot teach online because they don't have adequate Internet facilities or a suitable laptop, will they lose their entitlement to reimbursement for contracted classes?

If they can’t teach because they don’t have a laptop or related equipment, facilities can be made available so that they can teach online.

5.5 If a tutor needs to cover for faculty at short notice due to sickness, bereavement, or self-isolation, will they be compensated for preparation time as well as class time?

If the tutor is to provide cover for a sick faculty member, and additional work is required, they will be compensated for this as appropriate.

5.6 Will tutors be able to receive support for materials they may need specially to deliver teaching online, but do not already possess - e.g. an audio headset, a webcam?

Facilities can be made available so that they can teach online.

6.1 What is the status of the Job Sizing Framework process in light of the current circumstances?

The Job Sizing Framework will continue to operate to the schedule published under the ‘Timelines’ tab on the JSF Intranet with the Job Sizing Committee meetings taking place by Zoom. In recognition of the complexity that current working arrangements and the general environment present and that it may not be possible for line managers to submit an application by the originally targeted closing date for that grade, applications will now be accepted after that date.  For example, if an application for a current SEA cannot be submitted by 7th April, it can be considered at any of the future scheduled meetings. Any queries in relation to the Job Sizing Framework process should be sent to jsf@ucd.ie.

6.2 What is the status of the Faculty Promotions process in light of the current circumstances?

The rolling Faculty Promotions process will continue to operate as normal with meetings of the Faculty Promotions Committee running to the current schedule and taking place by Zoom. Applications can continue to be submitted on a rolling basis. Any queries in relation to the Faculty Promotions process should be sent to promotion@ucd.ie.

6.3 What is the situation in relation to scheduled classroom-based training courses?

To comply with the various health advisories all classroom-based training scheduled until 14th May 2020 is cancelled and we will continue to review the situation in line with health advisories. Once we are in a position to reschedule these courses priority will be given to those who were booked to attend prior to the cancellation.

6.4 Are there any online learning and development resources available currently?

To support colleagues at this time we have accelerated the availability of online training offerings. There are a number of resources which can be accessed via the HR People and Organisation Development website include eLearning modules, webinars and other support materials. To maximise the availability of online supports we will continue to add to these over the coming weeks as we engage with our training providers. Where possible we will review courses that would have been classroom-based to identify if these can be made available via an online platform.

6.5 What is the status of P4G in light of the current circumstances?

In recognition of the challenges of the current environment the UMT decided to pause the P4G development process from 25th March 2020 until the public health emergency is over (ref. Presidents Bulletin #268).

P4G reviews remain accessible through InfoHub, Human Resources, My Development Workspace. The eLearning module remains available on the P4G webpage and face to face training will be rescheduled and communicated at the appropriate time.

6.6 I’m on probation what will happen?

Normal probationary processes still apply and you should discuss this with your manager.

7.1 I have already requested leave e.g. annual leave/parental leave/shorter work year (SWY) Leave/unpaid leave before the Taoiseach’s announcement on March 12th. Will this still be recorded as leave - annual/parental/SWY/unpaid leave?

Some employees may wish to continue with their leave approved prior to the Taoiseach’s announcement on March 12th. If you wish to change the dates of your leave, please advise your line manager.

In the case of parental leave, SWY leave and unpaid leave you need to notify HR Operations by email (hrhelpdesk@ucd.ie), copied to your line manager, that you wish to cancel the Leave. In due course, you would then need to submit a new application signed by your line manager for revised dates.

7.2 I am on the Flexi-Clock/Flexi-Time system. How is this recorded while the campus is closed?

All those on flexi-time will have standard daily hours recorded as ‘1043 – WFH Campus Closure’. This ensures that an employee is not negatively affected should they be unable to work-up a full day due to circumstances out of their control.  In this instance, employees will not have to clock in/out.  However, where it is appropriate for some employees to continue to clock in/out the flexitime administrator can override and record/approve as appropriate.

Annual leave and all other leaves will continue to be recorded as usual.

7.2.1 I am on the Flexi-Clock/Flexi-Time system. Can I take a flexi-day per month?

No, all those on flexi-time will have standard weekly hours recorded so that there is no build-up of flexi-days during the current COVID-19 crisis. Only in exceptional circumstances and on a pre-agreed basis where an individual has worked over and above their standard weekly hours, will a Head of School/Unit/Line Manager sign off on additional hours.

7.3 What is the legal basis for processing employee data in relation to COVID-19?

Civil and Public Service employers are obliged to provide a safe workplace, which may include the processing of health data in order to ensure that safety. Articles 6(1)(c), Articles 9(2)(b) and (g), along with section 53 of the Data Protection Act, 2018 (which permits the processing of special categories of personal data for purposes of public interest in the area of public health) will likely be the most appropriate legal bases for processing this data. For further information please visit the Data Protection Commission website.

7.4 I am on sabbatical but want to now postpone it.  What do I do?

Sabbaticals that are already underway cannot be rescinded by Heads of School.   Analysis is currently being conducted to see if there are knock on implications (i.e. a replacement has been contracted to take on faculty related work).  This analysis is being carried out at a School level facilitated by HR.  Issues that arise need to be brought to the attention of the College Principal for consideration.

7.5 I am due to go on sabbatical next semester but now want to postpone.  What do I do?

For sabbaticals in train for next semester, these can be rearranged on the understanding that teaching commitments are reassigned to the individual who was due to go on sabbatical and no teaching replacement contracts have been issued. You should discuss and agree any changes with your Head of School.

7.6 How does annual leave operate during the current COVID-19 crisis?

Annual leave is still taken by agreement with the Head of School/Unit/Line Manager.  All employees should be encouraged to take regular annual leave during the COVID-19 crisis as it allows them to step back from a situation where they might feel like “they are always on” and  would further benefit their mental health.  Line managers should actively encourage their teams to take their leave as appropriate.