Inverclyde Council employees

A message from Inverclyde Council Chief executive to employees on 17 April 2020:

As we enter the next phase of the lockdown I wanted to say a word of thanks to you.

Whether you are continuing to work in your usual workplace to continue delivering essential services, are supporting other parts of the council or HSCP, are working from home or are self-isolating you are supporting the frontline of keeping this virus at bay.

Protecting those at most risk is a huge priority right across the country whether you fall into that category yourself, your work directly supports them or they are members of your family or wider network.

The council and HSCP are there on the frontline of shielding the very vulnerable category of residents. We are also providing practical support to people who are at risk of contracting covid 19 but who may not have family or a wider support network around them.

This is work that will save lives by supporting vulnerable people to stay home and comply with the social distancing rules.

Another area where the council is at the forefront of supporting the community is the delivery of Scottish Government business grants.

While the original scheme has changed a couple of times up to close of play today we will have issued £1.75m of business grants essential to support our local business community. That is no small feat from a standing start and the team are ploughing through the rest of the applications to do the necessary checks and balances to make sure the right money gets to the right people.

All of this work and so much more is to support our community and to help make sure that whenever the end of this comes our residents and businesses survive.

It is easy to forget that this current situation has only been a matter of weeks though it can feel like it has been going on for a lot longer.

As this continues, it is important that you look after yourself.

If you are working outside the normal working environment, either in another location or from home, or working in a different way it is important that you look after your own wellbeing if you aren’t surrounded by your normal work location.

Working from home, for example, it can be easy to work harder and for longer. It is important to take breaks, get away from your desk, or kitchen table, and keep hydrated.

You also need to make sure that working differently you do not feel isolated, so take the opportunity to speak to colleagues when you can.

This is a new kind of normal so please look out for yourself and your colleagues.

On behalf of the corporate management team, I want you to know that we appreciate the work you have been doing and we recognise that you have adapted so well to the changes necessary for us to support our community during this time.

Please continue to check www.inverclyde.gov.uk/coronavirus which includes links to important health advice as well as local updates to services in Inverclyde.

Have a good weekend and stay safe.

Regards

Aubrey Fawcett

Chief Executive

We are at the forefront of responding to the vulnerable in our society and providing critical services that can only be delivered with you and your teams’ support. This is a fluid situation and during a period which may extend up to 12 weeks, we may have to deliver our services in a different way if the government direct us to do so. This already includes building closures and very different ways of working than we are used to.

The government advice is that people who can work from home should do so and that people who cannot work from home should come to work as usual. They are clear that the purpose of this is to slow the spread of the virus, rather than to protect individuals. Further guidance on this is available through the link below.

Our staff health and safety is paramount. Where staff must come into work to help deliver key essential services, we will assess the risks and put control measures into place to reduce the risks to staff as low as is reasonably practicable.

We recognise that our employees have many skills and previous work experience that we might find useful at this time. Taking that into account, if you feel you can support other services, please let your manager know so we can arrange any additional and relevant training as early as possible. This call may become more necessary as we progress.

Follow the links for more information on:

  • daily briefings
  • Homeworking (including Health & Safety advice and IT support)
  • Government advice and information

Managers

Managers should take the following actions to allow relevant team members to work from home as quickly as possible in line with the service imperatives to provide critical services to Inverclyde and our most vulnerable service users.

Managers should take action to send all employees home who are either:

  • over 70 or
  • pregnant.

These people should go home and if possible undertake meaningful work, if that is not possible you should make arrangements to further consider suitable work for them to undertake.

You should have asked staff to let you know if they have a significant underlying health condition, for example those conditions which weaken immune systems and those with long term health conditions or who are eligible under NHS guidelines for free flu vaccine due to their personal health situation.

If not essential you should also advise them to go home where possible even if it is not possible to undertake meaningful work and you should make arrangements to further consider suitable work for them to undertake.

For staff in essential or critical services there may be instances where staff will require to come into work, this must be risk assessed and stringent control measures put into place to ensure their safety. A risk assessment is available to help you do this. See the download link below.

You should consider whether your operation can support further instances of home working – when determining if home working for a period of time is an option it is a management decision, based on the needs of the business, to determine whether people can or cannot work from home and this will not be a matter for self-selection, however the government advice is clear only those people who are essential workers should be coming into work.

  • Can employees deliver meaningful work from home? – these will usually be employees who have mobile technology, but not in every case
  • For what period of time can they deliver meaningful work with or without technology?
  • Are there any other considerations particular to your employees that they wish to share? For example caring responsibilities
  • The need to define outputs and activities during home working and provide management support and review
  • Rotating attendance amongst team members where there is a need to make sure core presence in the office.
  • Encourage staff to volunteer for positions where they could help deliver essential services
  • Consider if staff expertise could be used in another area to help deliver essential services.

You should use management judgement to make your decision on who should work from home in line with the service requirements with reference to your Service contingency plan. This position is continuously changing and you will be asked to review the position regularly. Remember only staff essential to the delivery of key services and who do not have the ability to work from home should be in work.

It is recognised that the organisation cannot offer meaningful work to everyone for continuous home working over an extended period but managers are asked to maximise the level of home working in line with business continuity plans.

Device/network security

You should consider rotating staff attendance at the work place, and of course all staff with technology may need to visit the office to connect to the network if they are having problems or to pick up work or documents they may require. Please try to avoid having all home working staff visit the office at the same time. Maintain social distancing rules. Further guidance on this is available.

Team rotation

You may need for operational reasons to have some members of the team in the office, even if they have the technology to work from home. In this case, you should rotate the team so that all spend some time home working and some time in the office.

Managers’ responsibilities

Support - Listen to your team members and provide support where you can, this is a difficult time for everyone. Managers must communicate and keep in touch with staff at all times, no matter where they are working, making sure they are kept informed and receiving all relevant communications in a timely fashion. Escalate any questions you cannot answer.

Workloads - Your teams’ work should be supported and monitored in the normal way. Where work requirements change, then existing home working arrangements will be reviewed. These are not to be taken as fixed.

Contact details - All home workers must provide you with contact numbers for immediate communications – home working will not be possible without a contact number

IT security - Employees who are enabled to work from home, must follow the ICT safety and security guidance which can be downloaded below.

Annual leave - It’s important for the business and for employees during this stressful time, to make sure proportionate holidays are taken and managers should clarify that existing and approved holidays remain in place. We recognise however there may be exceptions subject to Service delivery needs.

Changing position

As you have seen in the past few weeks, the position can change almost daily. The daily briefings will keep you updated on the latest council information

In these unprecedented times, we will continue to assess how we can deliver our service with our available workforce. We will keep you updated.

Self-Isolation advice

As of 16 March anyone developing symptoms consistent with COVID-19, however mild, should stay at home for 7 days from the onset of symptoms as per existing advice. In addition, it is now recommended that anyone living in the same household as a symptomatic person should self-isolate for 14 days. If symptoms worsen during home isolation or are no better after 7 days then people should be advised to phone their GP or NHS24 (111). Advice for people who have symptoms and are self-isolating can be viewed via the links below.

The most common symptoms of COVID-19 are recent onset of:

  • new continuous cough and/or
  • high temperature

Information for the public on COVID-19, including stay at home advice for people who are self-isolating, can be found on NHS Inform.

People are advised to take social distancing measures to help reduce the transmission of COVID-19. In particular, this is strongly advised for people aged 70 or over, people with underlying medical conditions and pregnant women. Further advice on these measures will be available on NHS Inform.

Ending self-isolation and household-isolation

If you have been symptomatic, then you may end your self-isolation after 7 days. The 7-day period starts from the day when you first became ill

If living with others, then all household members who remain well may end household-isolation after 14 days. The 14-day period starts from the day illness began in the first person to become ill. Fourteen days is the incubation period for coronavirus; people who remain well after 14 days are unlikely to be infectious.

After 7 days, if the first person to become ill feels better and no longer has a high temperature, they can return to their normal routine. If any other family members become unwell during the 14-day household-isolation period, they should follow the same advice - i.e. after 7 days of their symptoms starting, if they feel better and no longer have a high temperature, they can also return to their normal routine.

Should a household member develop coronavirus symptoms late in the 14-day household-isolation period (eg on day 13 or day 14) the isolation period does not need to be extended, but the person with the new symptoms has to stay at home for 7 days. The 14-day household-isolation period will have greatly reduced the overall amount of infection the rest of the household could pass on, and it is not necessary to re-start 14 days of isolation for the whole household. This will have provided a high level of community protection. Further isolation of members of this household will provide very little additional community protection.
At the end of the 14-day period, any family member who has not become unwell can leave household isolation.

If any ill person in the household has not had any signs of improvement and have not already sought medical advice, they should contact NHS 24 on 111.

The cough may persist for several weeks in some people, despite the coronavirus infection having cleared. A persistent cough alone does not mean someone must continue to self-isolate for more than 7 days.

Important note: Websites are updating guidance in line with this change, please check the relevant guidance via the links below.

Information and links to the latest advice is also published on the Council website at www.inverclyde.gov.uk/coronavirus. Daily briefings are being issued by Corporate Communications.

Underlying health conditions and vulnerable employees

The list of underlying health conditions includes those who are/have:

  • aged 70 or older (regardless of medical conditions)
  • under 70 with an underlying health condition listed below (ie 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,

There are some clinical conditions which put people at even higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19. those staff members should rigorously follow the social distancing advice in full.

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)

Further guidance on what constitutes an underlying health condition and appropriate social distancing measures can be found in the links below.

Any members of staff that fall within the above categories should discuss making provision for home working with their line manager or if an essential worker how this can be done safely.

Where the employee’s role is such that they are unable to work from home, the manager should discuss with the employee possible tasks or activities that are paper based and can be done at home, e.g. undertake training, reviewing coursework, policy and procedures review etc. as an alternative. The employee will receive their normal pay.

Where it is not possible for an employee to undertake any work activity, tasks or training from home, a period of paid special leave can be granted. However, communication between manager and employee should be maintained as they may be required to undertake other specific tasks to support the Council deliver essential services

A generic risk assessment is available for download below. This should be adapted, as appropriate, by services.

Other concerns

Where an employee has other concerns about their specific circumstances, such as living with someone with a specific underlying health condition, they should have a discussion with their manager at the earliest opportunity to ensure that the appropriate safeguards can be put in place to reduce the risk of potential exposure.

Solutions may include adjusting duties, working from a different location that minimises risks or working from home. This list is not exhaustive and solutions should consider the needs of the employee and the service in which they work.

Looking after yourself

We appreciate that as well as being a valued member of Inverclyde Council you all have family and friends that you will be anxious about, we give a commitment to support you as best we can throughout this difficult and challenging time.

We know over the next period of time there will be competing priorities within your life, please make sure you keep in contact with your line manager to discuss the flexibilities that can be put in place to help you to look after your own family as well as continuing help us deliver essential services.

Employees should ensure that they are taking steps to look after their wellbeing during their period of working from home. This includes: 

  • maintaining regular contact with their manager and colleagues
  • taking regular breaks
  • contacting the employee assistance programme if they need support, for example, in relation to heightened feelings of anxiety
  • being aware of the things that can cause them poor wellbeing and the activities and resources that can help to address this

There is further information and guidance in the homeworking page.

Care leave

Employees unable to attend work due to their child’s school closing – Where possible all reasonable alternative arrangements should be explored for childcare. Where alternative arrangements cannot be made, the following should apply:

  • Where the employee’s job role allows them to work from home, this can be agreed and communication between manager and employee should be maintained. The employee will receive their normal pay.
  • Where the employee’s role is such that they are unable to work from home, the manager should discuss with the employee possible tasks or activities that are paper based and can be done at home, e.g. undertake training, reviewing coursework, policy and procedures review etc. as an alternative. The employee will receive their normal pay.
  • Where it is not possible for an employee to undertake any work activity, tasks or training from home, a period of paid special leave could be agreed during term time. However, communication between manager and employee should be maintained as they may be required to undertake other specific tasks to support the Council deliver essential services. 

Page last updated: 20 April 2020