Swine Flu – Advice For Line Managers
The vast majority of staff will approach the pandemic in a spirit of cooperation and commitment. Line managers should seek to support and sustain morale during the pandemic, and absence management should be handled with care and sensitivity.
Staff who display symptoms should be sent home and advised not to work until fully recovered. Infected staff will be paid under normal sick pay arrangements.
Line managers should remind their staff to notify their absence using the current arrangements for reporting absence. If the number of cases increases, Departmental Officers may be asked to submit sickness absence on a daily rather than monthly basis.
The decision to close schools or nurseries will have a major impact on staff with school-age children. Home working should be considered for a small number staff, though communications networks are likely to be under pressure.
Also, where staff travel to work is disrupted, staff may ask to work from home. These requests will need to balance the need to sustain the service with the pressures that will fall on staff that have childcare and other caring responsibilities. It is, however, unrealistic to expect that staff with school age children will not be affected by the closure of schools and/or nurseries.
It is recommended that we support staff with school-age children and other staff where a dependent relationship exists. The nature of the support offered could vary, for example a combination of paid and unpaid leave building on existing arrangements for compassionate leave. http://www.lancs.ac.uk/hr/total-reward/files/compass.html Staff should be treated consistently and fairly. Similar principles should be followed in relation to other dependents, such as disabled or older relatives.
Where staff have concerns about attending work due to fear of infection, efforts should initially be made to convince them to attend.
Information and accurate risk communication for staff are key to avoiding rising levels of anxiety in the workforce. We have an obligation to ensure the safety of staff and the measures taken in this respect should help reassure them. Further information is available at http://www.lancs.ac.uk/press/swineflu.htm
Issues surrounding absence will generally fall into the following categories:
(a) Staff who are genuinely ill;
Staff who develop symptoms during the working day should be sent home. They should contact their GP or NHS Direct 0845 4647 to determine whether they should attend for work on the next working day.
Staff who develop symptoms outside normal working hours should contact their GP or NHS Direct 0845 4647. They should report their absence to their line manager using the normal sickness reporting procedures.(b) Staff who fall into a vulnerable category (e.g. pregnancy) who have received medical advice not to travel to or attend work;
Attempts should be made to reallocate duties e.g. temporarily redeploy away from roles dealing directly with the university community e.g. receptionist, or allocate work to be undertaken at home. Advice is available from HR Partners(c) Staff requiring time-off to care for sick dependants;
Managers are encouraged to apply flexibility in the use of family leave and may allow consecutive days of family leave (up to the annual entitlement). Thereafter, care for dependants will be classed as unpaid leave, unless staff have unused annual leave entitlement they would prefer to use.(d) Staff who have a genuine fear about attending the workplace for fear of infection;
Initially, efforts should be made to convince staff to attend using the information provided by the HPA. The occupational health advisor/Health Management Limited will be able to offer advice and support and should be accessed via HR. If a member of staff refuses to attend and their actions are deemed unreasonable, they will not be entitled to pay or sick pay.
Any pandemic may lead to a need for staff to take on new roles or work in unfamiliar situations. The following guiding principles should be observed:
Taking on additional tasks should follow training and be under some form of supervision or, if this is not practicable, some other support. It should not set a precedent for longer-term role changes. Line Managers must therefore ensure that staff are competent before any duties are delegated to them.
As far as practicable, Managers should identify, in advance, any tasks that may need to be taken on by staff on a flexible basis, so that appropriate training can be offered. During the pandemic itself, emergency situations may arise which need to be dealt with on a case-by-case basis, balancing the needs of the service against any risks in asking staff to take on unfamiliar roles.
Certain categories of staff will be able to work from home comparatively easily, others may be able to work from home a little but may have insufficient work, others are front-line staff whose attendance is required in the workplace.
Where staff have insufficient work to undertake at home and are unwilling to travel to work because of the fear of infection, they will be treated in accordance with d) above.
Impact on annual leave
It may be necessary to limit annual leave to sustain services, although there should not be a blanket ban on leave. Requests for leave should therefore be considered on their merits, as it is important to allow staff to recuperate from the intense pressure of a pandemic. Pre-booked leave should be allowed unless there are exceptional circumstances in which case the leave will be re-credited. This advice is accurate at the date of issue but may be subject to review.
14 July 2009