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GUIDANCE FOR PUBLIC SERVICE EMPLOYEES DURING COVID-19

Last Updated: 5 May 2022
Last Reviewed: 3 May 2022

UCD as a Public Service Employer is required to adhere to all government directives/circulars in relation to working arrangements for Public Servants. Those of specific relevance currently are:

In light of changing circumstances, the documents and information available at these links are being regularly updated and provide you with the most up-to-date information from the Government on the COVID-19 Pandemic.

If you have a query, your first reference point should be to review information available at the above links.

UCD Specific FAQs for Employees during COVID-19

The purpose of the UCD FAQs is to address any queries that may be specific to UCD or may arise around UCD processes or procedures impacted by Covid-19. The FAQ document will be added to in the event of new queries being submitted to hrhelpdesk@ucd.ie or through the HR Partners/Employee Relations teams.

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1.1 Where are the guidelines with regard to return to campus working?

Please visit the Coronavirus (Covid-19) Advice and Information published on the UCD Safety, Insurance, Operational Risk & Compliance website.

1.2 What will happen if I have serious health concerns in respect of the teaching environment?

Line managers and Heads of School will be advised to treat staff concerns (case-by-case) in a flexible manner. The University will continue to be sympathetic in finding solutions to address all situations of concern as they arise. Talk concerns over with your manager or your HR Partner and together we will try to establish practical and reasonable solutions for a safe return to Teaching & Learning in UCD.

1.3 How will my return to on Campus Teaching and Learning be reviewed?

Arrangements have been made to review the practical experiences of people’s return to on campus delivery and a series of review sessions have been scheduled over the coming weeks to assess the actual returning experiences and potentially make further adjustments as may be appropriate.

Please visit the Return to on Campus Working section published on the UCD Safety, Insurance, Operational Risk & Compliance website.

UCD’s policy on remote working will be finalised following assessment of the current trial hybrid/remote working arrangements that apply up to the end of August 2022.

As per “Guidance and FAQs for Public Service Employers/Employees during Covid-19”, there is no special leave available for COVID-19 caring arrangements during this time. Any employee who wishes to avail of existing leave allowances during this time is entitled to have such requests considered by their line manager e.g. parental leave, annual leave etc.

Flexitime will continue to be treated in accordance with relevant Government directives. Currently, the normal operation of flexitime is temporarily suspended.

Flexi-time arrangements applies only in circumstances where employees are attending the employer’s work premises and are working their normal, pre-COVID work attendance patterns.

Any balances accrued by employees before the suspension of flexible working hours arrangements can continue to remain and be held over until the COVID-19 working arrangements are no longer in place.

UCD has a strong commitment to ensure that all employees have access to their annual leave entitlements in a clear and transparent manner. In support of this, the UMT has approved an addendum to the annual leave policy in response to COVID-19.

Taking time to switch off, by availing of time away from work, is very important for the overall wellbeing and health and safety of our employees. 

As outlined in the addendum, employees at their own discretion can decide how and when to take their leave, whether this is taken in a block or spread out over a number of weeks. Heads of School/Heads of Unit/Line Managers will be supportive and show flexibility to accommodate the leave request.

The UMT has agreed that similar to 2020, as it may not be feasible for all employees to avail of their full annual leave entitlement, they have authorised a maximum carry over of 10 days (pro rata for part-time employees) annual leave to be used by 31 August 2022.

New Annual Leave - Addendum to annual leave policy during COVID 19

8.1 Are there any changes to the UCD Sick Leave Procedures as a result of COVID-19?

  • Normal Procedures for notification of all absences due to illness should be followed (COVID or NON-COVID related).
  • In relation to Covid-19 absences some additional steps/forms have been introduced - see FAQs below for requirements.  
  • Please note that in order to avail of Covid-19 related Special Leave with Pay, you must complete the COVID 19 - Special Leave with pay form

8.2 When does Special Leave with Pay apply during Covid-19 in relation to sick leave?

Special Leave with Pay only applies in lieu of sick leave for COVID-19 when an employee is required to self-isolate, is displaying symptoms of COVID-19 and is either:

  1. awaiting a test result
  2. or had a positive PCR test/or a positive antigen test which has been registered on the HSE portal.

The HSE sets out the latest criteria for self-isolation on their website . In order to avail of special leave with pay evidence is required in the form of a PCR test result or antigen test result registered on the HSE portal. While public health advice no longer requires testing for certain groups, individuals can still access the HSE portal to register antigen test results. Special leave with pay for COVID-19 in all sectors does not apply in any other scenarios.

8.3 In the two scenarios above, is there a limit on the number of days of Special Leave with Pay?

Since 7 February 2022, in instances where an employee is symptomatic and subsequently has a confirmed case of COVID-19, special leave with pay may continue for up to 10 calendar days if necessary and where it is supported by a positive PCR test for COVID-19 or a positive antigen test registered on the HSE portal. If an employee is still unwell after 10 calendar days they will move to ordinary sick leave arrangements.

8.4 I am a staff member who has been advised by my GP to self-isolate, or I am awaiting testing / a diagnosis, is there anything I need to do?

In addition to following all the advice being issued by the HSE regarding self-isolation for those persons who are symptomatic / awaiting PCR test results, and you are unable to work, you are required to fill out the COVID 19 - Special Leave with pay form and send to your Line Manager 

Line Manager should confirm dates etc and email the form to the hrhelpdesk@ucd.ie  

8.5 I have received a positive PCR/antigen test result, what should I do?

Follow all the health advice issued to you upon diagnosis.

If you test positive for COVID-19 you should report your diagnosis to UCD either via this Google form (SIRC website) or by calling 01 716 7999 / ext. 7999. You will be asked to provide information about the nature of your testing and activities you have undertaken on campus in the 48hrs leading up to your test result (please report even if you have not been on campus). Staff are strongly encouraged to register their positive test result / diagnosis in order to facilitate the University in quantifying and managing Covid cases within the University community. 

If your positive diagnosis is by way of an antigen test, in order to avail of Special Leave with Pay, you must report your positive antigen test result online to the HSE.

You must update your Line Manager accordingly to confirm the diagnosis.

If you were already on Special Leave with Pay due to Self-Isolation, this will become Special Leave with Pay due to the COVID-19 diagnosis. Appropriate medical confirmation text message confirming positive PCR test result or confirmation of your registration of your positive antigen result to the HSE will be required retrospectively. This will be recorded locally as special leave with pay on your attendance record. The application of special leave with pay will apply for the required number of days up to a maximum of 10 as advised by the HSE/doctor. This period will not count as part of your sick leave record.  If the employee is still unwell after 10 days, they will move to ordinary sick leave arrangements.  For more detailed information see Government Guidance document, section 3 (3.1). If you are symptomatic but continue to work remotely, the above does not apply.

 

8.6 I am a Line Manager/HOS/Unit and one of my team has advised me that they have tested positive, what do I do?

  • Ensure your team member submits the appropriate medical confirmation retrospectively.
  • If Special Leave with Pay is applicable (maximum 10 days), ensure your team member completes the Special Leave with Pay Form and record the absence as special leave with pay on the employee’s attendance record and email form to hrhelpdesk@ucd.ie   
  • In the event that the sick leave extends beyond initial medical certification, ensure ongoing medical certification is received.  
  • If sick leave extends beyond 10 days, the absence should then be recorded as ordinary sick leave. 
  • Contact the Duty Manager on ext. 7999 / 01 716 7999 if the staff member concerned has not already done so.

In most cases, there is no need for you to take any further action.

8.7 If I am still unwell and unable to work after 10 days because of a confirmed case of COVID-19, do I revert to ordinary sick leave arrangements?

Yes.  Special Leave with pay only applies for up to a maximum of 10 days.

8.8 If I have tested positive for COVID-19 via a PCR test but feel well enough to work, or I am self-isolating because I have symptoms, can I work instead of availing of special leave with pay?

If feasible and agreeable to employee and employer, you may work remotely but you cannot attend the work premises.  You must follow medical and HSE advise relevant to your situation.

8.9 My PCR test was negative, what do I do?

This means that coronavirus (COVID-19) has not been found in your sample.

If you were tested because you had symptoms of coronavirus, you should continue to self-isolate until you have not had any symptoms for 48 hours. If your symptoms continue or get worse, phone your GP.  If you are unfit to work, this absence should be recorded as ordinary sick leave.

If you are 48 hours without symptoms, you can return to your normal activities however you must update your Line Manager in advance.  Relevant updates should be sent to UCD HR, by email to HRHelpdesk@ucd.ie,   This is to ensure that your HR record is accurate with regard to Covid Sick Leave vs Ordinary Sick Leave.

If you are unable to work remotely in the above scenario, the absence is recorded as ordinary sick leave from the date of the negative antigen result to the date of return to work.

8.10 My PCR test was negative, but I am feeling unwell, is this absence Special Leave with Pay, or normal sick leave?

If you were tested because you had symptoms of coronavirus, you should continue to self-isolate until you have not had any symptoms for 48 hours.

Special leave with pay will apply from the date of your absence up to the date of your negative PCR test result.  If you continue to be unwell following this date, and are unable to work remotely, normal sick leave rules apply.

8.11 My PCR test was negative, but I no longer feel unwell, but cannot return to work until I have not had any symptoms for 48 hours and I cannot work remotely.  Is this recorded as Special Leave with pay?

No.  If you are well, and symptoms have resolved, and you are awaiting the end of the 48-hour period - you may work from home/remain available for work for that period.    If remote working in your role is not feasible, then the assignment of work may be outside of your core duties.  Your Line Manager must liaise with you to identify suitable alternative work for you. In the scenario where no alternative work is available, the absence is recorded as ordinary sick leave.

9.1 What advice and supports are available for UCD 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 are taking action to limit its spread yourselves (regular hand washing, correct cough/sneeze etiquette, mask waring etc).

It is important for your mental wellbeing to keep in contact with friends and family; please do this via phone and online communications and avoid face-to-face interactions as much as possible.

The UCD Employee Assistance Service (EAS) is a 24/7 free and confidential support service designed to assist you in dealing more effectively with any personal or work-related problems you might be facing. The service is operated confidentially by Spectrum.Life.

The EAS offers access to a telephone helpline, available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year and can help you with a wide variety of problems. The fully qualified team of counsellors and experts are highly experienced in personal and work-related issues and can support anyone suffering with issues related, but not limited to:

  • Depression, anxiety, stress
  • Grief and bereavement
  • Addictions
  • Relationship and marital problems
  • Work stress and work-life balance issues
  • Workplace conflict and communication
  • Life transitions such as career progression or retirement

All services provided through the Spectrum Life EAS are done so in total confidence. The identity of individuals and personal details will always be protected by the Case Managers and their team of counsellors. This information will never be shared with or reported to UCD or management team or anyone else, without the employee’s clear consent.

To access the EAS directly:

  • Freephone 1800 814 243 (Ire)
  • WhatsApp & SMS: Text ‘Hi’ to 087 369 0010
  • Email: eap@spectrum.life

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

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

Please visit our Minding Your Mental Health and Wellbeing During the Covid-19 Crisis webpage.

9.3 How is UCD addressing challenges to advancing equality, diversity and inclusion and the increased risks of inequality affecting those within the groups protected by equality legislation arising during the period of COVID-19?

The University Management Team has approved a statement outlining the University’s approach to addressing equality, diversity and inclusion challenges arising from the pandemic which can be accessed here. This statement is a living document and will be enhanced as we continue to engage with the University community around these challenges and take action to address them.

10.1 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.

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

Under the current government recommendation to work from home to support national public health objectives, you 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 you are working from home during this period. If you have been working from home during this period you should make a claim directly to Revenue at the end of the year

10.3 In order to submit a request for a tax rebate in respect of E-Working, do I require a letter from UCD confirming remote working and the period involved?

An application for rebate can be made without a letter from your employer.  In the course of your application and your correspondence with Revenue, if they request a letter, you can email the request to HRHelpdesk@ucd.ie

11.2 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.

11.3 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.

12.1 What is the status of the Job Sizing Framework process?

The Job Sizing Framework continues to operate to the schedule published on the Job Sizing webpage.

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

The rolling Faculty Promotions process continues 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 noting that there is currently a delay in processing times due to a high volume of applications being received within a short time period. Any queries in relation to the Faculty Promotions process should be sent to promotions@ucd.ie.

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

To support colleagues at this time online training offerings will continue to be available. 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.

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

P4G is currently operating. P4G reviews are accessible through InfoHub, Human Resources, My Development Workspace and the eLearning module and other support materials are available on the P4G webpage.

12.5 I’m on probation what will happen?

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

13.1 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.