Below you will find a range of information and resources that we have collated during each stage of the response through the pandemic. In some cases we have simply directed you to an external source, e.g. GOV.UK, as the information or guidance changes so frequently that it is more appropriate that you go direct to the source. However, we have also developed FAQ’s based on the questions our Employment Team are receiving through the advice line. These generally look at interpretation of the information available and its application in the Local Government sector.
If you have a question for the Employment Team the best way to get in touch is to drop us an email. We’re always happy to help.
COVID-19 working arrangements from 19 July – NJC Circular
Lockdown 3.0 returned us to a situation where schools are closed to students unless they are children of critical workers or are vulnerable. In addition, this time round, children who don’t have access to online learning facilities e.g poor internet connection, no laptop/device, are also prioritised to be in school.
We are in the process of reviewing the FAQ’s that were developed in Lockdown 1 to ensure they are relevant for the current situation. Those contained in our FAQ section below have been reviewed in light of the current situation.
Information and Guidance
Councils should have also received a comprehensive briefing pack including a press notice, letters being sent to the shielded group and council Q&A from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG).
The CEV group will be expanded by an additional 1.7 million people following Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) led work recognising the need to identify a wider combination of risk factors (including ethnicity, deprivation etc) that make people more vulnerable to COVID-19 alongside specific clinical conditions. New additions to the CEV group will be added to the top of group 6 for priority vaccination during the current roll out. They will also become eligible for statutory sick pay and advised to work from home, alongside the same offer of support to the existing CEV population. The Government also advised that the period in which the full CEV cohort has been advised to shield has been extended from the planned review point of 21 February to 31 March.
The new 1.7 million cohort will be added to the shielded list in two phases. You should already have received aggregate data about the first tranche of 820,000 individuals aged 16-69 not already called for vaccination; this group will be added to the Shielded Patient List (SPL) and MHCLG have said they expect the SPL with details of the new additions to be shared with councils today. The second tranche of additions, of people aged over 70 who have already been offered a vaccine, will be added to the SPL as soon as possible.
The council briefing pack advises that councils can reach out to new additions from when letters or emails begin to arrive but urges sensitivity in cases where councils are getting in touch with new additions who may not yet have received their shielding letter. MHCLG have indicated that they expect councils to proactively contact those newly added to the list even if they haven’t requested support via the national support system but that this contact may be done in a variety of different ways and that local priorities will of course be meeting the immediate requests for support. Funding equal to £14.60 per CEV individual per four weeks will be paid to councils for February and March.
As well as speaking to your regional LGA Principal Adviser, you can also feed in via the MHCLG regional engagement leads or those in your region contributing to the shielding stakeholder engagement forum (SEF).
Local government COVID guidance
The MHCLG has updated its COVID guidance for local councils. The page brings together guidance, publications and announcements relevant to councils including on business and charity support, public health, schools and education, testing and vaccines.
Job Retention Scheme
We have seen many versions of this since March 2020 but the current scheme will remain in place until 30 April 2021 with the Government funding 80% of non-worked hours until then. For more details of the scheme, please see our Job Retention Support page.
With the advent of Lockdown 3, the LGA have confirmed a return to the guidance set out in the early NJC Circulars related to people attending work and appropriate pay rates. The most relevant circulars are:
NJC Circular – Coronavirus – 12 February 2020 – Green Book Sick Pay Scheme application
Test and Trace Support Payments
The Government has set out financial support for those who are told to self isolate and who can’t work from home. The employee must satisfy the following criteria:
- has been told to self-isolate on or after 29 September 2020, by the NHS Test and Trace Team AND from December the NHS App, and
- qualifies for certain means tested benefits, e.g. Universal Credit, and
- will suffer a financial detriment due to the need to self-isolate e.g. they cannot work from home and won’t be paid.
The employee should submit their claim for the £500 self-isolation payment via their Local Authority who should have a clear and easily accessible process for doing so.
Note that from December, the NHS COVID-19 app will allow those who have been instructed to isolate via the app to be able to claim the £500 payment, via the app.
As eligibility for this payment included suffering financial detriment caused by the need to self-isolate, it is unlikely that any Local Government employees, including schools staff, will qualify as employers are advised continue to pay them full pay during any period of self-isolation under the various sets of national terms and conditions.
Self-isolation pre and post hospital treatment
Initial advice stated that anyone expecting to attend hospital for treatment, including out-patient cases, should isolate for 14 days prior to their treatment date and for a similar period after release. In addition, all members of their household should self-isolate too. The NJC issued guidance that this period should be paid at normal pay in-line with the Green Book’s terms around contact with infectious diseases.
Note: The self-isolation period has reduced to a maximum of 10 days both before and after treatment, in line with the reduced period of self-isolation following advice from Test and Trace or the NHS App.
We are aware that hospitals have been issuing letters to their patients, containing specific guidance for periods of self isolation both before and after admission. Therefore, where an employee advises you that they need to self-isolate for a specified period, either because they are undergoing treatment or a member of their household is, you should seek confirmation of the instructions that have been recieved e.g. a copy of the hospital letter which can be redacted if it doesn’t apply to your employee. You should support them as much as possible to work from home, even if that isn’t carrying out their day to day duties but instead undertaking a specific project that would benefit the team/organisation. If working from home is not possible, they should be placed on special paid leave for the specified isolation period.
It was hoped that there would be limited numbers of people having to isolate in advance of treatments only to have the treatment postponed. However, in reality even during the period of reduced restrictions treatments were being postponed due to staff sickness. With the rising numbers of COVID patients in hospitals, all but emergency or essential treatment is now being postponed.
Joint Workforce Guidance (Schools & colleges) – Quarantine Rules & self-isolation for planned hospital admissions
In collaboration with the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) and NAHT unions, the LGA has published joint workforce guidance for schools on how to best manage the Government’s current quarantine rules and NHS requirement for self-isolation with regards planned hospital admission
Government Test and Trace guidance for the workplace
The government has published guidance for the critical workers self-isolation announcement which can be found on the following website: NHS Test and Trace in the workplace (gov.uk)
A number of Public Sector organisations have provided us with copies of their risk assessment forms and tools so that our member organisations can use or adapt them in their own settings. To access these resources please see our Risk Assessments page.
Workforce Planning to support Testing and Vaccine Programmes
Many councils across our region are being approached with requests to support the roll out of lateral testing sites and the vaccination programme. These requests for staffing come at a time where our workforce is already stretched as we are still managing additional workload demands as a result of the pandemic and so councils are having to carefully consider their approach to such requests.
Anecdotally we have a variety of responses in our region. Some councils are able to release a small number of staff and redeploy them for part of their normal working week. While others are making the decision that they can not release any of their workforce at this time, although they are communicating the request for volunteers to their workforce along with their volunteering policy which provides for a number of days of ‘volunteering leave’.
The NHS Test and Trace team have developed a workforce planning tool to help Local Authorities identify workforce demands for the Testing programme and it is likely that a similar tool will be made available to support the vaccination programme as that rolls out more widely.
LGA COVID-19 Workforce Survey
This fortnightly survey by the LGA seeks information from all councils across the country on the impact of COVID19 on the local government workforce. It started shortly after the start of Lockdown 1 and will continue for the foreseeable future.
Core questions have remained unchanged since the first round and seek information on absence levels, strain on services, recruitment and access to PPE. In addition to these core questions, time sensitive questions are included. In the run up to the implementation of the Public Sector Exit Pay Cap Regulations, information was sought relating to the number of exit converations that were in progress. In the final stages of the EU Transition period, information was sought in relation to preparedness.
The survey is circulated to named contacts, normally within HR, in all councils across the country. This includes councils in the South East who are not in membership of SEE.
The information collected in these surveys is used by the LGA, as evidence in support of the case to Government for support and resources, such as the Spending Review but also seeking guidance on Exit Pay Cap transition. The data is also shared with:
- MHCLG, to help shape government thinking about capacity in local government
- Local Resilience Fora, to inform decisions based on the availability of staff
- Regional Employers Organsiations, such as SEE, to help us understand the issues our councils are facing to shape the support we offer.
MHCLG in particular are relying on the data collected in this survey but have expressed some concerns regarding response rates. If the survey is deemed to no longer provide representative and reliable data, those organisation who are currently using and relying on the data will likely decide to request information directly from councils so rather than one request, councils may see multple requests for similar data instead.
If you would like to know whether your council has responded to the recent rounds of this survey please email us.
For details of the survey questions and the weekly summary results please see our dedicated LGA COVID19 Workforce Survey page.
DHSC risk reduction framework for social care employers
DHSC has published risk reduction guidance for social care employers, noting that the social care workforce is vital in supporting the health and care needs within our communities, and that keeping people who work in social care settings, and those who use social care services, safe and well is critical.
The guidance makes clear that adult social care employers have a duty of care to secure the health, safety and welfare of workers and the people who use services, as far as possible.
Service providers should have a process in place to assess and reduce risk for everyone in their care, regardless of characteristics or vulnerabilities. This should include:
- the risk to the people who use the service, considering any individual characteristics which may put them at increased risk
- the risk in the workplace, which should include travel to and from, and travel between workplaces
- the risk to workers, including volunteers, considering any individual characteristics which may put them at increased risk.
Reset Reflective Practice
The purpose of this tool is to support teams to take stock of the current ways of working; enabling reflection, capturing learning from our experiences, and using these insights to inform and shape the future. This resource was supplied by West Sussex county Council.
Throughout this pandemic, staff wellbeing has been a key consideration. The sudden shift to working from home, the challenges of balancing work and homeschooling, the constant message of ‘risk’ associated with social distancing measures, the ebb and flow of the waves of the pandemic and the associated lockdowns along with the additional work that the pandemic has caused will all be taking their toll on your employees.
We are seeking to pull together a series of wellbeing resources for you to refer to. These can be found on our COVID Wellbeing resources page: