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Coronavirus information for staff

These pages will be used to share important information about the coronavirus and our response to it. See how we are supporting the coronavirus effort #WeareBrunel.

General coronavirus advice

What is the current government guidance?

The latest Government advice is to Stay Alert > Control the Virus > Save Lives. This means you must: 

  • stay at home as much as possible
  • work from home if you can
  • limit contact with other people
  • keep your distance if you go out (2 metres apart where possible)
  • wash your hands regularly

Detailed Government guidance on how you can help to protect yourself and others is available here. You cannot:

  • visit friends and family in their homes
  • exercise in an indoor sports court, gym or leisure centre, or go swimming in a public pool
  • use an outdoor gym or playground
  • visit a private or ticketed attraction
  • gather in a group of more than two (excluding members of your own household), except for a few specific exceptions set out in law (for work, funerals, house moves, supporting the vulnerable, in emergencies and to fulfil legal obligations)

If you are showing coronavirus symptoms, or if you or any of your household are self-isolating, you should stay at home - this is critical to staying safe and saving lives.

The most effective way to avoid getting or spreading coronavirus is to wash your hands thoroughly and frequently, and to encourage others to do the same. The NHS advises washing your hands for as long as it takes to sing Happy Birthday twice, about 20 seconds in all.

The NHS also advises people to do the following:

  • use hand sanitiser gel if soap and water are not available
  • cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when you cough or sneeze
  • put used tissues in the bin straight away and wash your hands afterwards
  • try to avoid close contact with people who are unwell

The NHS 111 online coronavirus service, 111.nhs.uk/covid-19, can tell you if you need medical help and advise you what to do.

What should I do if I develop cold or flu-like symptoms?

The most common symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19) are a recent onset of:

  • A new continuous cough and/or
  • A high temperature

If you live alone and you have symptoms of coronavirus, however mild, stay at home for seven days from when your symptoms started. 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 seven 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.

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

If you feel you cannot cope with your symptoms at home, or your condition gets worse, or your symptoms do not get better after seven 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.

Both students and staff may want to consult a doctor, however because NHS services are under pressure people are being told to call NHS24 (111) in the first instance. Please don't contact or visit the Medical Centre on campus. The online coronavirus service, 111.nhs.uk/covid-19, can tell you if you need medical help and advise you what to do.

Follow the Government guidance on staying at home here. The official NHS pages are an excellent source of reliable, up to date information and guidance on symptoms and the measures you can take to protect yourself and others.

What can I do to support the nationwide coronavirus response?

Brunel is working in a number of ways to support the coronavirus response locally, which includes supporting the NHS. See our #WeareBrunel page for more information. 

If you are fit, well and able to support the NHS, you can find out more information about becoming a volunteer responder here.

Services and events

Is anyone still on campus?

We are closed, but some services remain open and education and support services continue to be delivered remotely. We are mantaining on-campus security and a minimal number of staff to support students in residences as it is the only home for many of our students. Costcutter is open for supplies, along with the Pharmacy and Medical Centre. All other buildings and facilities are closed.

What has happened to on-campus events?

No events are being held on campus, but a number are being held virtually - check out IntraBrunel for more information. Sumer Graduation has been postponed in line with government guidance, however virtual ceremonies will be held for graduating students in the week commencing July 27. Applicant Days, Open Days and Selection Days are being replaced with virtual open days and Skype interviews.

Is Clearing likely to take place on campus or virtually?

Students will get their results as planned on 13 August. We are planning for a number of scenarios when it comes to how we deliver and respond to the Clearing process and keep all our volunteers safe and simultaneously we are awaiting further advice from government. We now accept Clearing applications online, so please volunteer if you’d like to support Clearing from home.

What are the term dates for the 2020/21 academic year?

Revised term dates for the next academic year have been confirmed and you can view the full dates here.

Autumn term

*Term 1: 21 September - 18 December 2020

Spring term

Term 2: 11 January 2021 - 23 April 2021

Summer term

Term 3: 26 April 2021 - 2 July 2021                                                                                    Term 4: 5 July 2021 - 17 September 2021

*NOTE: Teaching for Postgraduate students begins 21 September alongside enrolment for Undergraduates. Undergraduate teaching begins on 28 September.

How will the registration process change for the next intake?

The way we deliver our registration process for the 20/21 intake will depend on a number of factors related to Government guidelines, however it’s important we consider all eventualities and therefore we will be developing contingency plans against all scenarios. Only when the national picture becomes clearer will we be able to know which plan to adopt, but we’ve got to be thinking ahead and working out how we can be as flexible as possible.

Will there be a welcome week?

Our Welcome Week working group, led by Ian Dear, is currently working on plans for inducting students into the 2020/21 academic year. While we cannot give a clear indication of what the experience will look like at this stage as we are dealing with many unknowns, it is likely to be a dual approach, recognising the importance of social mixing to the early experience of University life, within Government guidelines.

Working from home

I'm a Line Manager, how can I support my team working from home?

It's good practice for line managers to ensure they keep in touch regularly with their staff.Using our Office 365 tools and platforms can be a really good way of keeping that team contact going, but regular email and phone contact should become routine where possible. It would also be useful for line managers to keep a record of when members of staff are working.

It’s not easy to change your working habits in such a short space of time, and one thing you may miss more than anything is day-to-day contact with your colleagues and that team spirit we take for granted.

Teams is a platform that is available to all of us through Office 365 – it’s a really good way of sharing work, ideas or simply conversation. Find out more about how to use it here.

There's no better time to start using Yammer either. There's a university-wide channel, and a new homeworking hub, where staff are sharing resources and ideas about staying healthy and happy while at home. Just sign in to your Office365 portal and select the app. More information about all platforms is available here.

How do I access Brunel's services from home?

There are a number of different tools and platforms that can help members of staff access their files and work as part of a team from home. These include our Office365 applications, some of which you may already be familiar with, as well as tools you may use every day and can also access from off-campus. 

We've put together a guide here for staff on how to use the services available to us, as well as some guidance around keeping in touch with your team. If you get stuck, there is more specific information about these packages on the Connect portal here.

How do I set up my home workspace safely?

Guidance has been prepared to help you ensure your home set up is suitable, including a shortened self-assessment version of the Display Screen Equipment checklist. Please complete the form and upload it to your CHIME record.

Should you require further assistance or guidance please contact your line manager in the first instance. They should be able to guide you through the process and provide you with information relevant to your area. If you find that you need further specific advice then please contact the Health and Safety team  healthandsafey@brunel.ac.uk.

Guidance has been prepared to help you ensure your home set up is suitable, including a shortened self-assessment version of the Display Screen Equipment checklist. Please complete the form and upload it to your CHIME record.

Should you require further assistance or guidance please contact your line manager in the first instance. They should be able to guide you through the process and provide you with information relevant to your area. If you find that you need further specific advice then please contact the Health and Safety team  healthandsafey@brunel.ac.uk.

I don't have access to a laptop in order to work from home. What should I do?

If your personal laptop or computer isn't suitable, please let your Line Manager know. Information services are working with departments across the University to provide an alternative.

Can I still book annual leave?

Whilst going away on holiday isn’t possible just yet, it is important for our wellbeing that we still take leave and have a break from work. In most cases staff should still be able to take their leave over the course of the leave year and are encouraged to do so wherever possible.

We are grateful for all the work staff are doing to support our students and their colleagues during this difficult time and recognise that some staff have postponed annual leave to assist with the response or due to sickness or self-isolation. We have therefore agreed that colleagues may carry over an additional five days’ annual leave, above the normal five day carry-over limit, into the next leave year.

Please discuss and agree any cancelled leave and/or additional carry over hours/days with your line manager. Your line manager should contact the HR Operations team advising of the additional number of hours/days that need be added to CHIME and the reason why. Your CHIME record will be updated accordingly.

Where can I find support for delivering teaching and assessment remotely?

Staff have already become familiar with a whole range of digital tools in a very short space of time, but this is a new way of working and it will take some time to adapt fully. A list of the tools available to staff can be found in the Framework and Guide to Getting Started while further information can be seen here

Further support and advice is available from the Digital Education Team at ltt@brunel.ac.uk and training sessions will be held for all academic and support staff at the end of June.

I am a Supervisor for Doctoral Researchers, how can I support them?

Please see the information for Supervisors available on the staff intranet.

Transitioning from lockdown

How long will we be expected to stay at home?

Our Covid-19 Recovery Strategy Group is working through its plans on how we can transition back to work on campus, while prioritising the health and safety of staff and students. We will share more information about that process as it becomes available.

In the meantime, please don't change your working arrangements. We are continuing to maintain on campus security and a minimal number of staff to support students in residences. Please do not come to campus unless you are on a rota to provide essential services.

We appreciate that research staff, particularly those receiving external funding, are keen to return to campus to continue their work. We are currently carrying out a detailed analysis of lab space to see how we can accommodate the needs of the research community. Please make any requests to your head of department in the first instance to help inform this work.

What flexible working will be carried forward in the long run?

Working flexibly is something that we will need to consider as a university, particularly as so many of you have adapted so well and so quickly to new ways of working. Although the situation changes by the day, in the short and medium term it seems that social distancing is going to become the norm and you only have to look at the way the University is populated that it is not going to be possible to have all of us on campus at one time and adhere to social distancing.

The IT team have been absolutely fantastic in helping us work from home, which is a good place to start, but one thing that is clear is that if we are in the position where we can support more working from home then we have to make sure we all have the right long-term support to do that. We need to be confident that you have the right environment at home in which you can work, and the Task & Finish Group concerned with transitioning from lockdown will need to look at this very closely. It is a really big positive that we are all finding ways of working remotely and that many people will prefer to do so – if we can make it work for members of staff and the University it’s a great opportunity.

How are we looking to convert office space?

It is clear that any phased return to campus is going to need to take account of restrictions such as social distancing and we will continue to plan for this in line with Government guidelines as they develop.

There are a number of issues about the campus environment and how that will function under the new circumstances. We will, for example, need to adopt a new approach to spacing between desks and attendance that enables us to sit in an office and not be too close to each other. We have done work already to collate and consider these issues, which now forms part of the Task & Finish Group objectives. Only through a detailed analysis of the campus will we be able to understand the best approach to using the campus effectively. There’s also plenty of scope for innovation, and we’ll be working through all of the issues we have to deal with in a practical and pragmatic way, all the while ensuring that the changes we make take full account of accessibility issues.

Can we continue to work from home if we live with vulnerable/shielding family members?

The University’s current position is for members of staff to continue working as they have been and to not change their working practices until further notice. The current government guidance concerning people with underlying health conditions is that anyone who is shielding at home should continue to do so in order to protect themselves.

According to the advice, members of a household which includes someone who is shielding don’t have to shield themselves but should take appropriate precautions. However, the last thing that we want is for staff to come to work feeling unsafe, so we will be ensuring measures are in place and that discussions can be had on individual cases once the University’s position around working on campus changes.

Ensuring financial sustainability

Can we expect redundancies?

This is a very difficult question to answer because we simply don’t know how things are going to shape up next year and the situation is, of course, changing all the time. But one thing we can do is to make sure we are using our money effectively and efficiently and making sure that we are making savings on our non-staff costs as well as we can. The way in which members of staff have responded to finding savings and freezing recruitment has been brilliant – we have risen to the occasion and we are saving money. And if posts are essential, we have tried to fill them internally, which is a really important approach. However, we can’t say how long that must continue.

We can’t guarantee that there won’t be job losses, but we can reassure staff that we will do all we can to stop that from happening. Ultimately it depends on what our income looks like next year and how the Council responds to the proposals put forward. The one thing we have to keep our eye on is how much cash we have – and of course we cannot allow the University to get into the situation where we can’t pay bills.

How is the University doing financially?

Our financial sustainability Task & Finish Group will not just be looking at how we spend our money but also how we get best use out of our resources (including our Estate). We will make an operating loss this year (ie year ending 31st July) due mainly to the loss of income from residences and conferences but our cash position at the end of the year will be close to our agreed KPI.

A lot will therefore depend on next year’s income and how Council responds to proposals we put forward in terms of acceptable levels of losses next year. A determining factor in this is cash and our ability to pay our bills, and a drop in student numbers next year would clearly have an impact on this. At the moment, we are focusing on using the money we have as effectively as possible and working hard in order to maximise our student intake next year.

Optimising the academic portfolio

How are we positioning ourselves for the new opportunities which are emerging in the post-Covid environment?

Brunel is very well positioned to grow in the current climate, and that is down to the ability of staff to adapt quickly and effectively to new ways of working and delivering our offer, which has already been demonstrated in such an impressive way.

Our 2030 Vision also very much identified the ways in which we should be looking to expand our portfolio, through degree apprenticeships, TNE and other ways of partnership working that will help the University continue to develop both nationally and on the international stage. The fourth Task & Finish Group will need to look closely at these opportunities and identify which areas of work are most suited to the post-COVID environment, particularly how we can best support the national skills need and economic and social recovery through research and innovation, with a focus on West London, which has been severely impacted.

How will this impact on our international activity?

Just as we have adapted our ways of working to be able to work from home, we need to adapt the ways we engage with all audiences. We have already seen innovative new ways of using technology (for example, in the form of our Virtual Open Days and Careers Fairs). All aspects of our engagement will need to be reviewed. This is an opportunity for us to be creative and do things differently as we overcome some significant challenges.