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Coronavirus staff guidance University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust

Government withdrawal of COVID-19 Workforce Guidance terms and conditions

Last updated: 19 July 2022 at 19:11

What change has taken place?

At the start of the pandemic in March 2020, the Government introduced temporary emergency measures for NHS staff sick pay. This meant that staff isolating due to COVID-19 received full pay. Those whose COVID-19 related absence continued in the longer term also continued to receive full pay, rather than the sick pay provisions for all other absences, which pays a period of full pay and half pay, based on duration of absence and length of service.

With effect from 7 July 2022, the Government has withdrawn those temporary emergency measures for sick pay that were contained within the COVID-19 Workforce Guidance, which has also been withdrawn.

The Trust does recognise that at this particular time there is still a need for staff to remain away from work when they test positive for COVID-19, and therefore the decision has been taken to class this isolation period as paid special leave. The requirement for employees to isolate for a minimum period of 5 days continues, and staff are required to test on day 5 and day 6 and may return to work at this point if they test negative on both days. For staff who continue to test positive, the special leave will continue up until day 10. After that, if the individual is well enough to do so, they return to work even if they are still reporting positive COVID tests as they will have passed the infectious period that requires isolation.

If the member of staff feels unwell after the 10th day and is unable to return to work, as there is no longer an isolation requirement, paid special leave would end and a new period of sickness absence will commence. This will be paid in accordance with contractual sick pay and will be managed in accordance with the Trust’s Sickness Absence and Attendance Procedure.

A member of my team is currently absent due to long COVID. How does this affect them?

There will be a period of transition for those colleagues who were absent due to COVID-19 before 7 July 2022 and remain absent. For those colleagues, they will receive a letter to confirm that their pay will revert to full contractual sick pay with effect from 1 September 2022. Managers will also be supported by the HR team in having supportive conversations with affected colleagues to answer any questions they may have.

How does this affect staff who test positive for COVID-19 after 7 July 2022?

From 7 July 2022 onwards, staff who have a positive LFT must stay away from work for a minimum of 5 days. LFTs should be taken on days 5 and 6 (24 hours apart) and the staff member can return to work on day six, if both tests are negative and they do not have any symptoms of COVID-19. This period of self-isolation will be paid as special leave.

If the member of staff feels well enough to work from home and is able to carry out work from home (as agreed with the line manager) then this should be accommodated until such time that the employee can return to work. Managers should also consider allowing the staff member to undertake mandatory training from home.

If the period of isolation continues beyond day 10 and the employee is not able to return to work, a new period of sickness absence will commence. This will be paid in accordance with contractual sick pay and will be managed in accordance with the Trust’s Sickness Absence and Attendance Procedure.

Will episodes of sickness absence due to COVID-19 be "counted" towards sickness indicators in line with the Trust’s Sickness Absence and Attendance Procedure?

In line with the Trust’s Sickness Absence and Attendance Procedure, all episodes of sickness may be counted towards sickness indicators. However, it is for line managers to determine on a case-by-case basis if any episode should be discounted for the purposes of the procedure. Managers are encouraged to seek HR advice in making these decisions.

Line managers should consider section 11.4 of the Procedure when giving this consideration, as they do with any other episode of sickness absence.

What is my entitlement to contractual sick pay?

Sick pay entitlement is dependent on length of NHS service, as follows:

During first year of service 1 month's full pay and 2 months' half pay
During second year of service 2 months' full pay and 2 months' half pay
During third year of service 4 months' full pay and 4 months' half pay
During fourth and fifth years of service 5 months' full pay and 5 months' half pay
After completing five years of service 6 months' full pay and 6 months' half pay

Please note that any prior episodes of absence paid as COVID-19 sick pay, regardless of length, will not count in calculating the entitlement to contractual sick pay moving forward.

How does this affect staff who are currently on a phased return to work following a period of absence relating to COVID-19?

For employees who are back at work following an episode of sickness absence due to COVID-19, the entitlement to full pay for the full period of their phased return formally ended on 7 July 2022.

Recognising the need to be supportive in helping our staff return to work and remain at work wherever possible, managers are encouraged to seek the advice of Occupational Health in determining the length of a phased return and how this will be managed. The Sickness Absence and Attendance Procedure makes reference to phased returns being extended up to a period of 6 weeks if advised by OH. Managers and staff may agree to extend the phased return beyond the period of 6 weeks using accrued annual leave to support the staff member to remain in full pay.

Where a staff member feels unable to return to their full contractual hours during or following a phased return, a discussion should be held with the line manager at the earliest opportunity to explore a potential reduction in hours as a reasonable adjustment.

I am pregnant and work directly with patients. What is the latest advice that I need to be aware of?

Pregnant colleagues who are at more than 26 weeks' gestation can continue to work until the commencement of their maternity leave if they are in a non-patient-facing role or, in most circumstances, continue to work in their normal patient-facing role.

It is recommended that patient-facing pregnant staff approaching their 26th week repeat their individual COVID-19 risk assessment with their line manager. They should seek help from Occupational Health if the pregnant worker has any significant underlying health conditions, is unvaccinated or there are any concerns with their pregnancy. In some circumstances, following the outcome of an Occupational Health risk assessed review, it may be recommended that a pregnant worker:

  • continues working in their role and area using higher-level PPE
  • is restricted to working in COVID-19 low-risk areas where the COVID-19 status of the patient is known to be negative, or
  • exceptionally, be moved to a non-patient-facing role or to working from home

Pregnant colleagues who are at less than 26 weeks' gestation, and have any significant health problems, are advised to seek advice from Occupational Health on safe working.

Please note, previous COVID-19 advice for pregnant staff, as issued by the Government, HSE, Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists and the Royal College of Midwives, which had restricted colleagues from patient-facing roles, has been withdrawn by those bodies. Arrangements for pregnant staff have now returned to normal practice. UHB’s advice above has been updated in line with that withdrawn advice.

Further information

It should be respected that many staff will have levels of anxiousness, ranging from general concern to significant anxiety, about their personal health risks when coming to work, as they may be exposed to a higher level of risk at work than if they were to choose to isolate at home. Staff members’ personal concerns should be taken into consideration when risk assessing work placement and job activities, and where anxiety is a factor, active steps should be taken by the manager and the individual to reduce the level of anxiety.

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