Covid-19 Staff Update - route map and return to campus update

Covid-19 Staff Update - route map and return to campus update

Staff update - July 03 2020

The Scottish Government this week published its guidance for universities, guidance for laboratories and research facilities and updated Phase 2 guidance on staying safe and protecting others.

Physical distancing

Yesterday the Scottish Government also confirmed that two metres will remain the default physical distancing requirement for the current Phase 2 and also Phase 3 of the route map (the move to which may be announced at the next review next Thursday). The Government did, however, indicate that it intends to make exceptions to this two-metre requirement for a limited number of sectors and settings, following agreement of appropriate and necessary mitigating measures. Discussions between the Higher Education sector and Scottish Government are under way and we expect to hear in the next week or two whether universities will be granted an exemption to the two-metre requirement with mitigating measures.

In the meantime, we continue to plan to adapt our teaching spaces for use subject both to two-metre and one-metre distancing. You can view and comment on those plans here.

Face coverings

While we have been making plans for both two-metre and one-metre distancing, our working assumption is that in due course the University may be able to operate with one-metre distancing for some activities, potentially including teaching, but almost certainly with a requirement for face coverings alongside a range of hygiene measures. Our current guidance to staff, in line with Scottish Government guidance, is that, while not mandatory, you should wear a face covering in enclosed spaces where physical distancing is more difficult and where there is a risk of close contact with other people. The University has ordered sufficient face coverings to be able to provide all staff and students with two three-ply fabric reusable face coverings.

Fieldwork

The Campus Planning Group this week also considered guidance for the resumption of fieldwork by staff and PhD students. While some fieldwork can now resume, and we expect requests to conduct fieldwork to increase with the lifting from today of the five-mile travel distance limit, a cautious approach will be adopted. Fieldwork is only permitted at the moment by staff and research students where it is deemed essential and must be done now.

Anyone wishing to conduct fieldwork will require school-led approval. A Covid-19 risk assessment in addition to a standard field risk assessment will need to be carried out prior to any fieldwork activity. Consideration will be given to the possibility of allowing essential fieldwork activity by Masters and final year undergraduate students in due course. FAQs on fieldwork will be added to the Coronavirus FAQs in the next few days.

Recent indications suggest that research/fieldwork involving human participants may not be possible until Phase 4 of the route map. We will update our guidance when further information becomes available.

Homeworking and returning to work

Working from home continues to be the expectation for all staff except key workers and those returning to campus in the coming weeks as lab research begins to resume. We are often asked when office-based staff might be able to return to working on campus. The Scottish Government route map is clear that this will not be until Phase 4, so may unfortunately be some way off yet.

Our primary concern is to ensure the ongoing health, safety and wellbeing of staff. Staff guidance and information on support is available here. This covers a range of topics for staff who are continuing to work from home and those where consideration is being given to a return to on-campus working.

The staff guidance includes important information about the return to work process including discussions that must take place between staff and line managers before any return is agreed. These are designed to take account of the fact that the circumstances of some staff may mean a return to on-campus working is not possible at this time.

For staff where it is agreed there will be a return to on-campus working, information about the support and guidance available will also be provided. This will include a re-induction/e-learning pack to make you aware of changes on campus to ensure safe working.   

As the situation continues to evolve, we will update the FAQs as appropriate.  If you have suggestions about information that should be included in these please contact hr@abdn.ac.uk.

Finally, amidst all the planning for return of some staff to campus, we remain as conscious as ever of the complex ongoing impacts of the pandemic on staff. This week the Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Committee had a rich discussion of the impact of the pandemic on a range of staff groups, recognising that those impacts will be both short and longer term. Next Thursday, a new Workload Review Group will begin to consider current working arrangements and demands arising as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic and their impact on workload, as part of a longer-term review of the workload planning process across the University.

Please continue to look after yourself and each other, and stay well. With the exception of Thursday and Friday next week, Karl will be taking a few weeks of annual leave, during which time Debbie will chair the Campus Planning Group and keep you updated on its work.

Best wishes

Karl and Debbie

 

Professor Karl Leydecker

Senior Vice-Principal

 

Debbie Dyker

Acting Director of Operations

 

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