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.
Download the StopCOVID NI App
Developed by the Department of Health, the Northern Ireland STOPCOVID NI app helps to speed up the process to identify people at risk of catching the virus and slow down its spread. Using the app along with existing public health measures will help the public to stay safe when they meet up, socialise, work or travel.
Symptoms and self-isolation
Further guidance for staff and line managers about developing symptoms at work and self-isolation is available at our Sharepoint Site
Be alert for the main symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19):
- a high temperature: this means a person feels hot to touch on the chest or back (there is no need to measure their temperature) or
- a new, continuous cough: this means coughing a lot for more than an hour, or three or more coughing episodes in 24 hours (if they usually have a cough, it may be worse than usual) or
- a loss or change to sense of smell or taste: this means they have noticed they cannot smell or taste anything, or things smell or taste different to normal.
Refer to the PHA symptom checker if in any doubt.
If you develop COVID19 Symptoms at work
- Inform your line manager without delay and arrange to leave for home straight away.
- Avoid touching anything unnecessarily.
- Cough or sneeze into a tissue and put it in a bin, or cough/sneeze into your arm.
- Put on a face covering if not already wearing one.
- Try to maintain a minimum of 2m social distance from others as you leave the campus.
When to self-isolate
You must stay at home and self-isolate when any of the following criteria are met:
- You have any symptoms of coronavirus
- You have tested positive for coronavirus
- You live with someone who has symptoms or has tested positive
- Someone in your support bubble has symptoms or has tested positive
- You have been told by Public Health Agency NI Test and Trace (either by phone or StopCOVIDNI App) that you have been in close contact with a person who has COVID19.
Who to inform if you need to self-isolate.
Please inform your line manager if you meet any of these criteria and are therefore self-isolating.
Guidance if you are returning to work after travelling
Take care to follow the travel guidance if you are entering or returning to the UK following travel. The regulations mean that you must self-isolate for 14 days if you return to Northern Ireland from a country outside the Common Travel Area (CTA) unless you are travelling from, or transiting through, a low to medium risk country that is exempt.
You may not have to self-isolate when you arrive in Northern Ireland if you're returning from certain countries.
The exemption details are continually reviewed in line with public health guidance.
If you’ve been abroad and you're required to self-isolate on your return from travel, you should:
- head straight home or to your accommodation which is the address you provided on the contact form.
- self-isolate in one place for the full 14 days
- not come onto campus for work
- not go into public areas
- not go shopping – ask friends or family for support, or use online delivery
- only use public transport if you've no other option and be sure to follow all guidance for public transport
Close contact reporting
Please complete the UU Close Contact online form to cover the 48 hours preceding the start of self-isolation, recording the following close contacts:
- a person who has been within 2 metres of you for more than 15 minutes
- a person who has travelled in a vehicle with you
- a person who has had face-to-face contact with you:
- being coughed on
- having a face-to-face conversation within one metre
- having skin-to-skin physical contact, or
- contact within one metre for one minute or longer
What is not considered Close Contact
- Keeping more than 2 metres away or short indirect contact such as passing in corridors.
- Being within 2 metres for longer than 15 minutes but with effective mitigations in place such as separated by a screen/partition or using PPE.
Once completed please retain this form and provide to the PHA if you subsequently test positive for COVID19.
What to do if you test positive for COVID19
Please inform your Line Manager and complete the University’s standard sickness absence form.
Line Managers will support you to complete the Close Contact form in relation to any recent attendance on campus and to collate University close contacts only. Confirmed close contacts within the University community will be contacted by the Employee Wellbeing or Student Wellbeing team and advised to self-isolate.
On confirmation of a positive diagnosis the University will liaise directly with the Public Health Agency and forward all collated information on close contacts within the Ulster University staff or student community.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Sport is an important part of University life and our external sports facilities and sports centres are now open again, operating within public health guidelines, and with additional cleaning in place.
You can find out more at our Sports Services FAQs page.
Our popular online programs and classes will continue to be available for sports members.
Our libraries are open from Monday 17 August, offering a reserve and collect service. Initial opening hours will be 10am to 4pm, Monday to Friday and library capacity and study spaces will be reduced in each library and will be monitored by library staff.
We have working closely with our catering operators and following careful risk assessment have re-opened catering provision on each campus.
Will staff be required to wear face coverings on campus?
To protect others and to support a safe University community for all, staff and students must wear a face covering on campus in general circulation spaces, social spaces, other enclosed spaces, e.g. toilets; retail units, lecture theatres and teaching spaces, practical classes, and any other area in our buildings where maintaining 2m social distancing is not possible. 2m social distancing must still be maintained in lecture theatres, teaching spaces and offices.
We will supply disposable and reusable face coverings for all staff and students, although you may wish to wear your own.
We recognise that there are circumstances, including medical reasons, that may make it difficult for people to wear a face covering and so we ask our University community to be respectful, and mindful that the reasons for not wearing a face covering may not always be visible.