Academic Year 2020/21 - Information for Staff

Information related to the Academic Year 2020/21 for Staff at Ulster University.

A sustained effort has been made right across the University to adapt to the circumstances presented by COVID-19, as our staff supported our students, and each other. Your continued feedback and commitment will be invaluable to our continued success.

We understand that adapting to remote working brought challenges for us all and whilst the return to campus will be welcome for some, it may also present different challenges, as many of you continue to juggle other responsibilities at home. We will be mindful of the concurrent challenges such as a phased return of schools or shielding considerations, as we move into our return phase.

Staff who can work from home will continue to do so until at least the end of August and after the summer, we will look to move to a phased, managed return of all staff within public health guidelines and with the health, safety and wellbeing of staff and students as our primary concern.

In order to actively plan for the return of some campus-based activities, there will be a safe, phased return to campus for some staff in early summer and our People & Culture team will be on hand to inform and support those colleagues through this transition.

As staff and students return to campus over time, so too will the required support services, staff and contractors come back on site. At all times, decisions regarding a return to campus working will be underpinned by a process of robust and regular risk assessment.

Please talk to your line manager, or Director, People and Culture or our Trade Unions with any further questions or concerns that you may have around the next phase. All further updated guidance and direction will be shared on these webpages, on Insight, and cascaded through faculty and departmental leadership teams.

What we have achieved so far, we have done as one University team and your participation and insights will be invaluable to our continued success. Together we will deliver a vibrant, inspiring and productive time for staff and students alike.

Your Questions Answered

  • How will the University ensure a safe working environment?

    The physical and mental health and safety of all our staff is our absolute priority. Our approach to planning for a return to campus working will be underpinned by robust and regular risk assessment to ensure risks have been identified and appropriate solutions are implemented to address them.

    Detailed work is currently taking place to plan for the return of staff to campus working in line with a safe working environment. Any decisions taken will be in line with guidance and directives produced by the NI Executive, Department of Health and Public Health Agency. As work progresses in this area, we will keep you updated.

    Please be assured that the University will take all necessary steps to ensure a safe working environment and staff will only be brought back onto campus when it is safe to do so.

  • How will it be decided which staff or teams return first to campus?

    In order to actively plan for the return of some campus-based activities, there will be a safe, phased return to campus for some staff in early summer and our People & Culture team will be on hand to inform and support those colleagues through this transition. This will be based on needs of the University to ensure continued operations and for staff in roles where working from home is not possible.

    There may also be some areas where home working has been possible up until now, but an earlier return to campus may be required in order to support essential University activities. Decisions on return to campus working will be based on a careful risk assessment, with solutions to address any risks identified.

    Any decisions taken will be in line with relevant Government guidance and only when the University is satisfied that appropriate solutions have been implemented to ensure a safe working environment. We will engage directly with the staff and teams involved, as our plans progress further.

  • What can I do if I am expected to return to campus, but my children are still not back to school?

    In planning for a safe return to campus working, the University will take into account developments within the Northern Ireland primary and post primary education system for the incoming school year.

    We recognise that some staff may have ongoing childcare dependencies before other support measures, such as nursery or after school care, are operational once again.

    Please discuss your individual circumstances with your line manager in the first instance, to ensure that they are aware of these and can plan accordingly.

  • What should I do if I have other caring responsibilities, or a family member in my home is shielding?

    What should I do if I have other caring responsibilities, or a family member in my home is shielding?

    Please discuss your individual circumstances with your line manager in the first instance, to ensure that they are aware of these and can plan accordingly. The University will follow all relevant clinical advice regarding staff shielding for themselves or their relatives.

    Our primary concern is the physical and mental health, safety and wellbeing of our students, staff, their families and the wider community. Nothing is more important.

    Additional helpful information in relation to shielding can be found at gov.uk

  • I would prefer to return to campus than continue to work at home; can I opt to come back earlier?

    In order to ensure a safe working environment for staff returning, it will be necessary to implement new ways of working and practices to facilitate social distancing.

    Based on current Government guidance, it is envisaged that staff numbers on campus will need to be limited.

    It is therefore expected that where staff can work from home they will continue to do so.

    Only staff in selected roles or business areas will return to working on campus earlier, where there is a clear operational need, or where the role cannot be carried out at home effectively.

    Where there is the case, consideration will be given to implementing solutions where staff can reduce their time spent on campus in order to complete their activities.

  • If I am required to work at home until well into next academic year, what support can I get for the purchase of home office equipment that I need to make my home working environment suitable?

    It is difficult to provide a definitive answer to this question as this will depend on the equipment required. In the first instance, please discuss with your line manager what equipment may be required, and the options available to you. Faculties and Departments will give due consideration to requests for additional equipment, where existing equipment cannot be taken home.

    Where relevant, you should complete a Display Screen Equipment (DSE) assessment which is available online via Blackboard.

    Select ‘computer workstation assessment and training course’ within Blackboard.

    If queries arise from completion of the assessment which you are unable to resolve, support is available from the Health, Safety and Wellbeing team, who can be contacted at:

    In some circumstances you may be able to access campus by completing the online request form, in order to collect equipment or materials that you could use at home for the period of continued home working.

    Go to the online request form

  • What facilities will be available on campus for those staff that return in the first phases?

    The University is looking to open facilities on campus as soon as it is safe to do so, in line with the appropriate public health guidance and restrictions.

    Our popular online programs and classes will continue to be available for sports members.

    For more information visit Sports Services.

    We are also working closely with our catering operators and the availability of facilities will be based on a careful risk assessment, with solutions to address any risks identified.