Coronavirus – update at 20th March 2020

Events are moving very quickly, but it’s clear that the University will be moving to remote working from the end of today, Friday 20th March.

As it stands, there are still some unanswered questions, such as casual pay, but all University employees with a contract will continued to be paid in full and you will be placed in one of several categories:

Expected to work on site on a reduced rota system.

Expected to work from home as much as possible, which may involve a reduction in hours worked.

Not expected to work, either due to the nature of your job, or as a result of being granted special leave.

It remains to be seen how working from home will operate given the nature of equipment available and the robustness of internet connections not used to such a load, but as the weeks progress, we expect the University to be reasonable and flexible in its expectations of what we can all do.

We have put together some answers to questions, but please feel free to get in touch if you want to discuss your situation.


I have been asked to attend as normal.

If you’re comfortable with this then please bear in mind the health implications for you and others. The University will need people on site as normal and they should have done a risk assessment for this. Please let UNISON know if you have any concerns about personal protection or what you’re being asked to do.

I am on a rota system.

This is going to be in place for some people to maintain services where necessary. As long as the allocation of work is fair, we expect that you would do considerably less work because the nature of your role will not allow you to work remotely. As above, please bear in mind your personal health, in particular on your way to and from work and with regard to the people you live with. All requests for people to be removed from the rota system should be dealt with sympathetically and with due regard to public health issues.

I am not required to work because there is no work for me to do.

The University will have asked you to remain at home, but reserve the right to ask you to work if suitable alternative work becomes available. If so, you should only work on activities that are within your grade and if you feel comfortable doing so.

I am able to work from home.

Your manager should agree with you when you will be available should they need to involve you in meetings etc., but there should be some degree of flexibility. Please remember that you should not be expected to work more than your normal hours, although you could be offered overtime, which should be paid at time and a half if you work more than 37 hours in a given week. (Don’t let them tell you that you can only have this as hours off in lieu –  that’s not true, despite what some managers have tried to tell people!)

Also, you should be under no obligation to cover for absent colleagues if that means more hours and stress. The University still has a legal obligation to prevent you from feeling stressed as a result of the work you are expected to carry out. If you are feeling under unnecessary pressure to get work done, you can still complete a stress risk assessment and discuss it with your manager who will then have an obligation to address it.

I am partially able to work from home.

What you can and can’t do will depend on your job and your personal circumstances (other commitments, ability of equipment and internet connection etc.) In this case, you should discuss with your manager what you will be able to do and during which times. Your manager should be flexible to accommodate whatever adjustments need to be made to deal with any other issues. It is unreasonable for them to force you into doing work which is outside your job description or going to put your health and wellbeing at risk. Please contact UNISON if you feel that they are doing this.

I could probably do something at home but I also have childcare.

Many people will now be required to look after their children, given school closures and some will have new or existing caring responsibilities. We would expect your manager to be reasonable about what’s possible given that many people could carry out some work rather than none. If you don’t feel able to commit to what your manager is suggesting then please contact us.

I have caring responsibilities and I don’t feel as if I will be able to work at all.

The closure of schools is going to put a lot of pressure on people who already struggle over the summer holidays to find enough annual leave to cover the break. Childcare at the very least is a full time job in itself and if you manage this on your own, you are never off duty. It’s important that we all recognise that those caring for others have significantly less flexibility and that this crisis will enforce significant lifestyle changes.

If you have children who are not at school or nursery and you don’t feel able to work as well as care for them, the University should not expect you to. In this case, you should ask your manager for special leave, on the basis that you will not be able to carry on working for the foreseeable future. All managers should accept this, but please feel free to get in touch if they are being difficult.

Generally speaking, it’s impossible to outline every scenario because our work and personal circumstances are all different.

What we all need to remember is that this crisis does not mean that your rights as an employee are no longer in force. You still have the right to expect to be treated with dignity and not to be bullied or harrassed, even though these are unprecedented circumstances. If you need to talk to UNISON reps about any problems you encounter then please feel free to contact us.


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