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COVID-19 FAQs for staff

Coronavirus FAQs for staff

How is the College coordinating the response to Covid-19?

Overall strategy for our response to the pandemic is determined by a Covid Gold group, consisting of the College Council and Chaired by the Vice-Master.  Implementation of that strategy is led by a Covid Silver group, chaired by the Domestic Bursar, which features a representative from all College departments and meets weekly. The Silver group's primary task is to discuss and plan the College's operational response to maintain the health and safety of students, staff, Fellows and visitors.

This structure has taken over from the initial Covid Committee which met daily on weekdays at the start of the lockdown period. It was chaired by Prof Ernest Laue, and included the Vice-Master, President, College Nurse, Senior Porter, Domestic Bursar, Head of Communications, Head of HR, Prof Miska (Tutor), and Prof Jiggins (Council).

Where can I find the latest information on the St John’s response to coronavirus?

Our Covid-19 Committee issues regular updates for students, staff and Fellows. They can be found on our website:

What have students been told?

Many students and Fellows have followed our advice to leave College if it is safe, practical and appropriate for them to do so. For a great number of our students, Cambridge is their home. Student Services and the President’s Office have asked everyone who remains in residence to notify them so we can plan the practical support and advice required.   

What is happening about events in College?

All events for the foreseeable future have been cancelled and no guest room bookings will be accepted until further notice. Students who remain in College are not allowed to bring guests on-site.

Is College still open?

The College is closed to tourists and visitors. It is open for students who are in residence, Fellows and staff who are working on-site. The Trinity Piece Gate, Queens' Road Gate and Forecourt Gate will all be locked until further notice.

The Great Gate entrance to the College is closed, and Cripps Porters’ Lodge will close each day at 4.30pm. Your College card will still give you access to Cripps as usual.

The gate by Cripps into Magdalene College is locked.

I fit the criteria of someone who is at increased risk of severe illness from coronavirus (Covid-19). What should I do?

If you are categorised as being either clinically extremely vulnerable or clinically vulnerable (in accordance with the government definitions), then you should work from home if you are able to do so.

If you are unable to work from home, your manager will have discussed this with you and you will have been placed on furlough leave. This approach remains unchanged until you are advised otherwise.

Please note, depending on the nature of your condition we may need to contact your GP at a later date for further guidance and advice.

If you do not wish to disclose your medical condition to your manager, you can contact HR.  Alternatively, you can contact the College Nurse in confidence for further advice.

I live with someone who is at increased risk from coronavirus (Covid-19). What should I do?

If you live with someone who is categorised as being either clinically extremely vulnerable or clinically vulnerable (in accordance with the government definitions), you should work from home if you are able to do so.

If you are unable to work from home you should discuss this with your manager and, depending on the nature of your role, it may be possible for you to be placed on furlough leave.

Please note that we will need you to provide evidence that a member of your household does indeed fall into one of these two categories.

Can I work from home?

The government is still encouraging staff to work from home wherever possible. In line with this guidance, those who are currently working from home should continue to do so until further notice, unless you are required to attend College for operational reasons, in which case you will be advised of this by your Head of Department.

If you are working from home, you need to complete a risk assessment and there are some guidance notes that you need to read which are available on HR Online.

I need to work on site. What is the College doing to ensure that it is safe for me to do so?

In line with the government guidance, Covid-19 risk assessments are being undertaken to ensure that we assess and minimise risk to all members of the College community and put in place measures to ensure that the College is ‘Covid-19 secure’.

These measures will include enhanced cleaning of communal areas and systems to ensure social distancing can be maintained wherever possible. The College has also ordered face coverings with the intention of supplying these to everyone on site. Further details of the measures the College intends to take will be shared with you in due course.

In addition to an overarching risk assessment, your Head of Department will also assess your specific department and this review will be shared with you and your comments sought. You may have ideas you wish to feed into this process either now or on reading the departmental review. If this is the case, please do contact your Head of Department. Your manager will also complete a brief induction with you on your return to work on the College site and part of this will include discussing the risk assessment for your area.

Heads of Department will have determined, alongside their College Officers, whose attendance at the College site is required. If you have any questions, please contact your Head of Department.

My manager has contacted me about being placed on furlough leave.  What does this mean?

The government has introduced a Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) in light of the impact of the ongoing pandemic. Employees who are not able to work effectively from home can be placed on furlough leave with businesses then being reimbursed for a proportion of their salary costs. 

College Officers have been working with their Heads of Departments to determine who from their areas should be placed on ‘furlough leave’ and these staff have been contacted by their managers and will receive a letter with further details of the scheme.

Those placed on furlough leave continue to receive your full pay on the 20th of the month in the usual way.

Being placed on furlough leave is absolutely no reflection on the value that the College places on your work. It is a reflection of the changing work needs of the College during the Covid-19 emergency and the nature of certain roles means they cannot be effectively done from home.

The scheme has been extended in its current form until the end of July.  If you are currently on furlough leave, you will remain so and your Head of Department will be in touch to advise you if and when the situation changes. From August until October the furlough scheme will continue but in a modified format and we do not have details on this as yet.

I am on furlough leave. Do I have to take annual leave?

We have been encouraging staff to take some time off as it is important for all of us to recuperate and recharge despite the current restrictions we all face. We have asked all staff to take at least 50% of their annual leave entitlement by 31 August 2020 regardless of whether they are currently still working on site, working from home, or on furlough leave and so your Head of Department will have been in touch with you about this.

Taking at least 50% of annual leave by the end of August means that staff will still have up to 50% of their leave to take in the final four months of the leave year. Please note that Bank Holidays and College closure days will be taken off your annual leave allowance in the usual way.  

The College intends to maintain the rule of a maximum carry-over of five days’ leave (pro rata for part-time staff) unless a member of staff has exceptional circumstances, for example related to coronavirus, that have made this impossible. Any exceptions will require the authorisation of the relevant Head of Department and College Officer and we would only expect this to apply to a small handful of roles across the College. 

Will I be getting any salary increases this year?

The increases to the Assistant staff pay spine, which were proposed as a result of a review into staff pay and were communicated at the staff briefing sessions earlier this year, will still be going ahead despite the current coronavirus pandemic and the significant loss of income suffered by the College as a result.

The changes that will be implemented include a 2% annual cost of living increase for Assistant staff on 1 August (or 1 May for those on Grade spine point 11 – Grade 1.2 and 2.1), an additional 2% increase across the entire pay spine on 1 October and an uplift to the grading structure which will specifically benefit the majority of Grade 1-4 members of staff, also on 1 October.

What facilities are open?

Indoor sports in College (squash and badminton), the gym and the free weights room are all closed until further notice. The Chapel, Library, Bar, JCR and SBR are closed. The Buttery (BDR) remain open for the moment (see below). Covid-19 Committee have agreed that Housekeeping will cease cleaning Fellows’ residential and office accommodation. The staff will be redeployed to increase the frequency of cleaning of heavily used and shared facilities e.g. toilets by the BDR.

Will we continue to be able to use the BDR?

The Buttery Dining Room will be open once a day from 12.30pm until 2pm, serving a hot meal for students, staff and Fellows. A limited cold meal and sandwich offer will also be available. The service will be take away only for all, aside from key staff who have nowhere else to eat.

There will be no dinner service. Sandwiches etc. will be available at lunchtime to take away for dinner, and they will also be delivered to the Porters’ Lodges for those working a late shift and for distribution to self-isolators where needed.

The schools are closed and I need to look after my children. What will happen about my pay?

Schools have been closed since 23 March 2020. The government confirmed that staff who are unable to work due to childcare responsibilities may be able to be placed on furlough leave under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, if appropriate. Where this has been agreed, the member of staff will have received a letter with further details of the scheme.

For those not on furlough leave, we would hope that employees will continue to share childcare responsibilities with their partners, if they have one, so that if they are required to attend work they can continue to do so. We would also hope that this is the case for those who are working from home. We do appreciate that some flexibility may be required, particularly for those with younger children. If you have concerns, do speak to your manager.

I travel to work on public transport. Can I still come in to work?

The government have advised that when travelling everyone (including critical workers) should continue to avoid public transport wherever possible. Where public transport travel is necessary, the government have advised that social distancing guidance must be followed rigorously. Staff who cannot work from home and need to travel to the College site, should instead choose to cycle, walk or drive, if possible, to minimise the number of people with whom they come into close contact.

The College has a cycle to work salary sacrifice scheme in place and we also provide access to secure cycle parking. Staff bicycles are registered with the Porters and can be parked at two conveniently accessible indoor storage facilities via a card entry system. We are also a member of Travel for Cambridgeshire (TfC) which offers a range of travel related discounts such as 10% off bicycles and accessories at certain stores. Further details can be found on HR Online.

There are a number of showers that can be used by staff who would like to cycle into work and these are located in the following areas:

  • 1 x 1st floor Forecourt Linen Room
  • 2 x Senior Guest Rooms ground floor E New Court
  • 3 x Senior Guest Rooms ground floor B New Court
  • 2 x ground floor I New Court 2 x each floor Junior Guest Rooms

If you wish to use a shower, please contact the Forecourt Porters’ Lodge to arrange collection of a key.

If you do not normally have a parking permit for College but wish to have one during this time, please contact Fiona Boston who will seek to allocate one to you if at all practicable.

What support is available for staff who feel anxious about family or friends who may be affected by coronavirus?

We recognise that many members of our staff may feel anxious and we are keen to provide support to them. The wellbeing page on HR Online sign-posts the options of support available including access to a 24/7 advice and counselling helpline for those who are in Simplyhealth, links to self-help guides available on the University counselling service page and contact details for others who can offer wellbeing support within the College such as the Chaplain.

For Easter term 2020, the University Counselling Service is only available to key workers. Staff members who are not in SimplyHealth or BUPA are able to seek support from the College Counsellor - email Susie Renshaw or contact her on 07593 139172.

What happens if a dependant or close relative of mine dies of coronavirus?

Compassionate leave will be granted to an employee whose dependant or close relative dies from coronavirus.

The details of the Compassionate Leave policy can be found in the staff handbook which is available on HR Online or you can contact HR for a copy.

How can I help?

·  Anyone who is able to help others is being encouraged to consider donating items or money to the Trussell Trust.

·  In Cambridge, food or financial donations can be made to Jimmy’s,  a charity that has been helping the homeless in the city for more than 20 years. 

·  The Red Hen Project is a small Cambridge based charity that works to support vulnerable families in the city. The charity has been providing food parcels to families in need during the lockdown.

·  Women’s Aid, a national charity, is concerned about the impact of coronavirus lockdown measures have on women and children and is encouraging donations as pressure on their services increase.

·  Supermarkets also have collection points for different charities and food banks.