Please note that the coronavirus (COVID-19) situation is developing quickly and information will be updated with the latest guidance.

If you have any further concerns, a general enquiries email account has been set up for staff and members: COVID19enquiries@wirral.gov.uk

Occupational Health Service guidance is also available.

General staff

Last updated 16 April 2020

Can I work from home?

All staff who are able to work at home should now do so until further notice.

Whilst some staff may continue carrying out their usual duties, some areas may be re-prioritised as part of the council’s wider preparations to focus resources and staff on to the most critical services relied upon by residents. The council has a crucial role to play in safeguarding some of the most vulnerable people in society and all staff will play a vital part in this

We will periodically ask for volunteers to ensure we can continue to deliver critical services. Unless you volunteer, you will not be instructed to undertake different duties unless it is safe and reasonable to do so taking into account the nature of your current role, duties, pay and personal circumstances.

I have an underlying medical condition what should I do?

Our priority remains the health, welfare and safety of our staff and the community we serve. We are continuing to follow guidance issued by Public Health England. This is being updated almost daily at www.nhs.uk/coronavirus. In line with the latest Government instructions we should all now be practicing social distancing and working at home if possible.

The NHS are advising those who are at increased risk of severe illness from coronavirus (COVID-19) to be particularly stringent in following social distancing measures.

This group includes those who are:

  • aged 70 or older (regardless of medical conditions)
  • under 70 with an underlying health condition listed below, that is, anyone instructed to get a flu jab as an adult each year on medical grounds:
    • chronic (long-term) respiratory diseases, such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), emphysema or bronchitis 
    • chronic heart disease, such as heart failure chronic kidney disease
    • chronic liver disease, such as hepatitis 
    • chronic neurological conditions, such as Parkinson’s disease, motor neurone disease, multiple sclerosis (MS), a learning disability or cerebral palsy
    • diabetes
    • problems with your spleen – for example, sickle cell disease or if you have had your spleen removed
    • a weakened immune system as the result of conditions such as HIV and AIDS, or medicines such as steroid tablets or chemotherapy 
    • being seriously overweight (a body mass index (BMI) of 40 or above
  • those who are pregnant

Note: there are some clinical conditions which put people at even higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19. If you are in this category, we are advised that next week NHS England will directly contact you with advice of the more stringent measures you should take in order to keep yourself and others safe.

For now, you should rigorously follow the social distancing advice in full, outlined below.

People falling into this group are those who may be at particular risk due to complex health problems such as:

  • People who have received an organ transplant and remain on ongoing immunosuppression medication
  • People with cancer who are undergoing active chemotherapy or radiotherapy
  • People with cancers of the blood or bone marrow such as leukaemia who are at any stage of treatment
  • People with severe chest conditions such as cystic fibrosis or severe asthma (requiring hospital admissions or courses of steroid tablets)
  • People with severe diseases of body systems, such as severe kidney disease (dialysis)

If it is not possible to work at home, employees need to discuss options with their line manager. However, if you have an underlying health condition described by the Public Health guidance, you will not be asked to undertake a role or duties in the office or community. 

I live alone and I have symptoms of coronavirus illness, what should I do?

If you live alone and you have symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19), such as a fever or a new continuous cough, stay at home for seven days from when your symptoms started. However, as Public Health advice is changing regularly, you should check the latest advice.

I live with others and me or one of them has symptoms what should I do?

The latest advice from Public Health England (18 March), specified that:

  • if you live with others and you are the first in the household to have symptoms of coronavirus, then you must stay at home for 7 days, but all other household members who remain well must stay at home and not leave the house for 14 days. The 14-day period starts from the day when the first person in the house became ill. 
  • for anyone else in the household who starts displaying symptoms, they need to stay at home for 7 days from when the symptoms appeared, regardless of what day they are on in the original 14 day isolation period. 
  • it is likely that people living within a household will infect each other or be infected already. Staying at home for 14 days will greatly reduce the overall amount of infection the household could pass on to others in the community
  • if you can, move any vulnerable individuals (such as the elderly and those with underlying health conditions) out of your home, to stay with friends or family for the duration of the home isolation period
  • if you cannot move vulnerable people out of your home, stay away from them as much as possible
  • if you have coronavirus symptoms:
    • do not go to a GP surgery, pharmacy or hospital
    • you do not need to contact 111 to tell them you’re staying at home
    • testing for coronavirus is not needed if you’re staying at home
    • plan ahead and ask others for help to ensure that you can successfully stay at home and consider what can be done for vulnerable people in the household
    • ask your employer, friends and family to help you to get the things you need to stay at home
    • wash your hands regularly for 20 seconds, each time using soap and water, or use hand sanitiser
    • if you feel you cannot cope with your symptoms at home, or your condition gets worse, or your symptoms do not get better after 7 days, then use the NHS 111 online coronavirus service. If you do not have internet access, call NHS 111. For a medical emergency dial 999

However, as Public Health advice is changing regularly, you should check the latest advice.

Should I do anything to prepare my family in light of COVID-19?

Public Health England suggests that some of the ways in which you could prepare include:

  • talk to your neighbours and family and exchange phone numbers of household contacts
  • consider and plan for those in your home who are considered vulnerable
  • create a contact list with phone numbers of neighbours, schools, employer, chemist, NHS 111
  • set up online shopping accounts if possible

I live with someone who has been advised to self-isolate because they are in a vulnerable group or have an underlying medical condition? Do I also need to self-isolate?

The current Public Health advice is that there is no requirement for you to also self-isolate unless you and/or someone in your house is displaying symptoms.  

Additionally, social distancing measures are now recommended to reduce the social interaction between people. This will help reduce the transmission of coronavirus (COVID-19).

They are:

  • Avoid contact with someone who is displaying symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19). These symptoms include high temperature and/or new and continuous cough
  • Avoid non-essential use of public transport, varying your travel times to avoid rush hour, when possible
  • Work from home, where possible. 
  • Avoid large gatherings, and gatherings in smaller public spaces such as pubs, cinemas, restaurants, theatres, bars, clubs
  • Avoid gatherings with friends and family. Keep in touch using remote technology such as phone, internet, and social media
  • Use telephone or online services to contact your GP or other essential services

Will I get paid as normal if my service is closed and I am unable to work at home?

Yes. We are doing our very best to ensure that no member of staff is worse off through a situation that is not of their making.

You will be paid in full until further notice. We would however ask that you do what you can, when you can, however little this is - it all helps. We will periodically be asking for volunteers to ensure we can continue to run critical services which our residents depend on. Thank you.

I normally work weekends or nights and attract enhancements – will I be paid as normal if my service is closed?

Yes. As part of this, if you are contacted to work at the weekend or nights we may ask you to support any priority work needed.

I am a casual or sessional worker – what will happen with my pay?

If you are a ‘regular’ casual worker, the council will continue to pay you. This will be based on the average weekly hours you have worked over 12 months. We will ask services to check this as far as possible.

I work different hours each week depending on service demands etc – how will my pay be calculated?

Your pay will be based on an average weekly hours you have worked over 12 months.

I have had a letter from the GP/NHS advising that I should be shielded for 12 weeks. Will I still be paid?

Yes.

I am due to work some Keeping in Touch days prior to returning to work. What is the position?

If your job is suitable for homeworking you should continue to do the KIT days as planned. Please speak with your manager to arrange this. It may be possible do some e-learning or catch up on policy changes. You could also try to plan your days to join team meetings and catch up with colleagues. You should submit your claim for payments via your manager in accordance with the normal process.

If your job is not suitable for homeworking, please submit your claim for payment for the days that you were due to work to your manager in accordance with the normal process. The council would not want to financially disadvantage you at this time if you had anticipated payment for doing this work. However, as you have not worked them, the KIT days should be ‘banked’ and, where possible, we would ask that you undertake the work at a later date. 

Annual leave

Can I take pre-booked annual leave if I am in a critical service?

Your manager will advise you on whether the leave can still be taken. This will depend on staffing levels. We may ask you to cancel your leave to ensure that these critical services can run safely during this period.

Can I take pre-booked leave if I am in a non-critical service?

Your manager will advise you on whether the leave can still be honoured. This will depend on staffing levels across critical services and other plans the council is making to focus resources and staff on to the most critical services relied upon by residents. We may ask you to undertake a different role in a critical service. However, in doing this we will consider pre-booked leave.

Can I carry forward more than five days of annual leave?

Yes. The council will agree to requests to carry over more than 5 days leave for 2019-20.

We understand that holiday plans may have changed in light of current events. However, time off is important for wellbeing so as far as possible, we ask that you take your annual leave as usual. For some roles, if there are staff shortages, you may be asked to cancel or postpone leave to ensure we can continue to deliver our most critical services.  Flexibility which goes both ways will be important.

I had annual leave booked for a holiday that I can now not go on. Can I cancel my leave?

You should discuss with your manager as this depends on a number of factors such as maintaining our ability to cover critical services. If possible, you should take your leave as usual. This is important for wellbeing and mental health and it is also important that all staff do not take their annual leave at the same time during a condensed period once social distancing measures have been lifted. This would impact on service delivery and on residents.

Therefore whilst we will be flexible as possible in allowing leave to be changed or cancelled, we would appeal to you to do the right thing and use your leave allowance as you usually would – particularly if you work in a service which has temporarily closed, and you at home on full pay without other work to undertake. Thank you.

I had annual leave booked but I am now working from home, can I cancel my leave?

You should discuss with your manager as this depends on a number of factors such as maintaining our ability to cover critical services. If possible, you should take your leave as usual. This is important for wellbeing and mental health and it is also important that all staff do not take their annual leave at the same time during a condensed period once social distancing measures have been lifted. This would impact on service delivery and on residents. Therefore, whilst we will be flexible as possible in allowing leave to be changed or cancelled, we would appeal to you to do the right thing and use your leave allowance as you usually would. 

I am working from home but in a self-isolation category, can I cancel my leave?

You should discuss with your manager as this depends on a number of factors such as maintaining our ability to cover critical services. If possible, you should take your leave as usual. This is important for wellbeing and mental health and it is also important that all staff do not take their annual leave at the same time during a condensed period once social distancing measures have been lifted. This would impact on service delivery and on residents. Therefore, whilst we will be flexible as possible in allowing leave to be changed or cancelled, we would appeal to you to do the right thing and use your leave allowance as you usually would. 

If you become ill during the self-isolation period then you should cancel the leave from the day you became ill and advise your manager that you are sick so that this can be recorded as sick leave as per the usual process.

If I become ill, can I cancel my leave?

Yes, if you are ill, this should be recorded as sickness. If you have annual leave booked, this should be cancelled from the day you became sick, you should contact your manager to advise them that you are sick so that this can be recorded as sick leave as per the usual process.

I am working from home but have caring responsibilities, can I book annual leave?

If you are working at home but are unable to work due to caring responsibilities, we would ask that you take some annual leave, as you usually would during this period. We do not expect for you to use all your annual leave and appreciate that on the days you are working, you may not be able to do as much as you ordinarily would. We would however ask that you do what you can, when you can, however little this is – it all helps.

Your manager can work through with you the anticipated level of work you can realistically do whilst managing caring responsibilities, and whether some leave can be used to support work life balance.  

If you have caring responsibilities but are in a critical/key role, and you are able to arrange for somebody else to cover those responsibilities or arrange for childcare, we would ask that you work (which might be from home) and do not book leave unless agreed by your manager. This is to ensure we can continue to deliver critical services. Please note school’s remain open for the children of key workers, but you are not obliged to use this facility.

I am working from home but in a self-isolation category, can I book leave?

If you are self-isolating but are not sick and are able to work from home, then you should continue to work as normal as far as possible. If you wish to use annual leave you should discuss this with your manager and request leave as per the usual processes.

I am pregnant and I am therefore self-isolating for 12 weeks, can I use annual leave before going on maternity leave?

If you are self-isolating but are not sick and are able to work from home before going on maternity leave, then you should continue to work as normal as far as possible. If you wish to use annual leave before going on maternity leave, you should discuss this with your manager and request leave as per the usual processes.

Childcare

Myself (or my partner) are not key workers and we have a childcare problem arising from schools being partially closed. My job is not suitable for homeworking.

Although it is difficult to work from home while looking after children, we would ask that you simply give us what you can in these very difficult circumstances. Staff can work flexibly, including outside of core working hours. The safety and welfare of your children is of course a priority and should come first.

We are aware that many staff will be working at home when they would not otherwise do so, in some cases balancing childcare and other responsibilities or homeworking difficulties. This is also referenced elsewhere in the guidance and in the circumstances we are asking staff to give us what hours they can at times when they are available under the current circumstances. It is accepted that some people will be logging on and off at irregular times of the day and may not be able to work all of their contracted hours, each individual circumstance will be different.  

Health, safety and wellbeing

If we are asking staff to undertake other work duties, how will we ensure their health and safety?

If you are working at home, you should undertake the DSE module on Welearn to ensure your home working environment is safe. If you are asked to undertake duties in another location or within the community, a risk assessment will have been undertaken to ensure any appropriate health and safety measures are implemented and social-distancing guidance followed. You should also familiarise yourself with and follow the latest public health guidance (e.g. hand-washing), whether at home or out in the community. If a particular task requires the use of PPE or training, this will be should be provided before starting the task.
There is guidance and example risk assessments available on the intranet.

Staff will not be asked to perform a task that they are not trained or qualified to do, no matter how willing they are to help, e.g. operating machinery, working at height.

Can staff still work alone in buildings?

If lone working is a feature of a role, it should already have a risk assessment and risk controls in place. If those risk controls can be maintained, e.g. a means to summon help and regular contact throughout the work period, then they can continue to work alone. Any new requirement to work alone must be properly risk assessed and risk controls must be put in place and tested.

Due to many people now working from home we are unsure how many first aiders and fire marshals we have in our buildings. Can we keep buildings open without a first aider?

For staff in office buildings:
This is an unprecedented time and so some arrangements for first aiders or fire marshals may need to be reviewed. Where a building has a building manager such as a town hall, there should be one identifiable entrance. This will mean that any person entering the building should report and sign in. First aiders should be identified, and managers should be comfortable that there are suitable first aiders and fire marshals present.

To aid social distancing as much as possible, it is advised that all those that sign into a building are directed to one floor or area of that building, while other areas are closed off. This would mean that in the event of a fire evacuation those needing to be evacuated are within one area.

For those staff working outdoors, such as Parks and Gardens or Highways staff:

Due to the nature of these roles there should be no changes to the current first aid provisions in place. However, if first aid provisions are not being met due to self-isolation or sickness and absence, then managers should review staff placement to ensure that this is rectified as much as is practical. If vital services are required but cannot be delivered due to lack of these provisions, please contact the Health and Safety team.

Some buildings may temporarily close which will be communicated as necessary.

If we require staff that do not usually have contact with vulnerable groups to provide additional support, will we require them to have a relevant level of DBS checks undertaken? 

Yes, there will be a requirement to complete DBS checks for any staff requested to work with or support vulnerable people. These can be completed very quickly on an online process.

How will we protect staff who normally visit customers at home, or those working in Children’s Services that normally see children at home or in school?

It is important that we don’t put any staff, customers or children at unnecessary risk from COVID-19. All services that are completed in the community or at home will should be risk assessed and managers should decide which visits can be postponed, which can be completed in a different way and which visits must go ahead. Public Health guidance must be followed at all times.

For those that must go ahead, the following steps should be followed:

  • Contact the people that you normally arrange visits with and ask whether anyone at home has been advised to self-isolate due to COVID-19 or if they believe they have symptoms
  • If they confirm they are fit and healthy and do not have symptoms of COVID-19, the home visit can proceed with caution
  • On the day of the arranged visit, when arriving at the home but before entering the house, ask again whether anyone at home has been advised to self-isolate due to COVID-19 or believe they have symptoms.
  • Staff should be provided with hand sanitiser or have it available when entering the home. They should avoid touching surfaces, shaking hands, or using any utensils, cups etc. It would be advisable to have a packet of tissues and hand wipes available if you need to open doors or touch surfaces or other items.
  • Advise customers that you need to keep a safe distance away (3 metres if possible) and complete you visit
  • Upon leaving, use hand sanitiser to clean hands
  • Avoid touching your face and follow existing Public Health England advice regarding sneezing and coughing into a tissue. If you can, wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds before leaving the home.

Should we provide staff with face masks if visiting people in the home?

Face masks have been shown to be unnecessary and ineffective. Unless it is a face fit tested respiratory mask, it won't stop breathing in a virus or bacteria from an infected person. Face masks are best used by people who are infected to reduce the spread of the virus.

Some members of staff will need to renew their paediatric first aid qualifications in the next few weeks. How will we achieve this?

Although they can complete the first day of the refresher training via e-learning, to meet the requirements of Ofsted and Sure-start they also need to complete the second day of practical training. Following the completion of the online training, the face-to-face training can be completed up to 6 weeks after. You should discuss the options with the usual first aid provider.

Ofsted are sensitive to the challenges that all providers are facing and will take a balanced and proportionate approach to regulation, taking account of how people have tried to satisfy regulatory requirements in these difficult circumstances.

How can we support employees with social distancing in services that remain open?

Social distancing is a control measure to restrict groups of people coming into close contact to reduce the risk of exposure to COVID-19. Staff should try to keep 2 metres apart. Risks assessments will be undertaken to ensure social-distancing is possible and encouraged in the workplace where this is outside of the home environment.

How will we follow guidance for social distancing in work and work vehicles?

All staff should follow the latest Government advice and keep a safe working space between employees to help prevent any possible transfer of the virus. Where equipment is shared, these should be wiped using a detergent and disposable towelling. Staff should continue to use PPE provided for all tasks.

Further guidance and advice is available from Public Health England.

How can I ensure the wellbeing of my team without face-to-face contact?

We understand that all staff are adapting to a new way of working, in many cases remotely. It is essential that we find ways to keep in touch with our managers and our colleagues, informally and formally. Microsoft Teams is a fantastic collaboration tool and there are some tips and guidance  on the intranet about how to get the most from this.

Managers should keep in regular contact with all staff to check on their welfare and ensure they are updated, including those who are home but unable to work because of temporary service closure or caring responsibilities. This might be by phone, test, email or through Microsoft Teams depending on the circumstances.

Staff that live alone may appreciate contact from their manager, work contact may provide their only contact with people. Managers should also know which of their staff have an underlying health condition and should check on their welfare and keep them updated with information.

If staff already have an individual stress risk assessment in place, managers should revisit this and consider whether there are any additional controls that they can agree and put in place.

With COVID-19 at the forefront of many people's minds, you may feel you need some support to help positively manage your mental wellbeing. If so, the Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) can help.

The EAP is available 24/7, 365 days a year, and is also available to partners and dependents living in the same household (dependents must be aged 16-24 in full time education). You can also undertake a mini mental health check via the website.

You can access support services, 24/7, 365 days a year by contacting the EAP on 0800 0305182.

Staff should also be following Public Health England and NHS advice about hand washing and social distancing.

Is there any advice for staff wellbeing available?

Council advice for wellbeing can be found on the intranet.

What advice and guidance is there for employees working from home?

A comprehensive training package is available for employees working at home. It includes wellbeing and mindfulness training along with display screen equipment information and some exercises to encourage movement and mobility.

How can I support my team to deal with stress?

There is information on how to complete stress risk assessments on the Health and Safety intranet page. Stress management eLearning is also available.

Further support and advice is available from the Employee Assistance Programme (EAP).

You can access support services 24/7, 365 days a year by contacting the EAP on 0800 0305182.

Is there any additional advice for limiting stress and helping home workers?

Employees should be sensible with their home working and make decisions to keep stress at bay. The following actions should help:

  • Drink plenty of water
  • Take a walk on your lunch break or go into your garden for some fresh air
  • Reduce caffeine intake, maybe switch one or two to decaf or replace one or two coffees with water
  • Eat well and vary your food. Eat away from your computer to get the most from your breaks
  • Walk about whilst on calls where possible, if it is not confidential perhaps take the call in the garden
  • Check in on your work colleagues. Ask how they are, share your best practice
  • Try and use a to do list or have a plan of what time you aim to finish a task. This will help to focus the mind and help keep you on track with work tasks

Who can we contact for health and safety advice?

You can contact the Health and Safety team using the following details:

Staff redeployment

Will staff be asked to work in an area they do not normally work in?

As the COVID-19 situation develops, we will need to respond flexibly and quickly. Agile working will be key. We may need to call upon our staff to undertake different duties and to work with different teams (with appropriate training) to ensure that we can continue to deliver critical services and to protect the most vulnerable. We will periodically ask for volunteers in respect of this. Unless you volunteer, you will not be instructed to undertake different duties unless it is safe and reasonable to do so taking into account the nature of your current role, duties, pay and personal circumstances.

If employees from other areas of the organisation volunteer to cover essential service areas they will still have to meet any basic requirements of the role, e.g. checks or qualifications. If these cannot be met, then a risk assessment will need to be agreed by a senior manager.

How will staff be redeployed?

An internal agency has been set up to facilitate the redeployment of staff to maintain critical services.

We appeal to you to be flexible and help us to ensure that critical services can be maintained. Residents depend on us and we need your support.