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Coronavirus (Covid-19) frequently asked questions

Last updated - 30 March

Self-isolation (stay at home) questions


If I have been advised to self-isolate (stay at home), do I need medical evidence?


No. The assumption is that we’re all honest and work to the Service’s core values, so no evidence will be needed.


What if I have been advised to self-isolate following advice from the NHS (stay at home) but I want to come to work?


You should not come to work as it may put other people at risk. See previous guidance on self-isolation.


What if my child's school has been closed, with children being sent home to self-isolate (stay at home)?


Due to the exceptional circumstances of the coronavirus outbreak and the number of people who may be affected, we appreciate that staff may need additional time off.


If you, or a member of your team need time off as a result of the coronavirus outbreak, such as caring for children or dependants, speak with your line manager.


The service will look at all requests in a flexible and supportive manner.


If I am a Flexi-Duty Officer, can I stay available from home to respond if a member of my family is in self-isolation?

The current guidance is that you should be in self-isolation and should not respond. The Service will provide more guidance on this as the situation develops.


If I have been asked to self-isolate (stay at home), what does this mean with regards to other employment?


If you need to self-isolate then you should stay at home and not be in contact with other people. This includes other employment.


Should you, or a member of your staff, visit other members of staff who are in self-isolation?


You should not visit members of staff who are required to self-isolate (stay at home)


What do I do if someone in my household in self-isolating or confirmed?


If you live with someone who has symptoms, you'll need to stay at home for 14 days. Further advice is on the NHS website.


How long do I need to self-isolate for?


If you have symptoms of coronavirus, you'll need to stay at home for 7 days. Further advice is on the NHS website.

Do I return to work even after the self-isolation period if I’m still coughing?


The NHS advice is that you do not need to stay at home if you just have a cough after 7 days. A cough can last for several weeks after the infection has gone. If you’re unsure about whether you can come back to work, use the 111 coronavirus service to seek advice.


How long will I be paid if staying at home with other family members who are in self-isolation, especially if they don’t need caring for?


The Service understands that these are exceptional circumstances and that staff may need additional time off to look after your families. If you, or a member of your team need time off as a result of the coronavirus outbreak, such as caring for children or dependants, speak with your line manager. The Service will look at all requests in a flexible and supportive manner. More advice will follow as we understand the impact this will have on Service Delivery.


What should you do if you or a member of your team receive a letter from the NHS advising them to self-isolate (stay at home) for 12 weeks?


Those who are considered to have very serious health conditions and are being asked to self-isolate (stay at home) for
12 weeks will receive a letter from the NHS. A copy of the letter should be forwarded to the Pay and Conditions team (pandcshared@dsfire.gov.uk) and this absence should be reported on Workbench as self-isolation. Please add a comment noting that the person concerned has been advised by letter from the NHS to self-isolate for 12 weeks.

I have a household family member who has received a letter from the NHS, do I need to self-isolate as well?

The government has now released further guidance on this which can be found at the attached link. The guidance is for people at a very high risk of severe illness and sets out the shielding that is recommended over a 12 week period.

The advice states that if you are living with someone who is at very high risk, then you are not required to adopt these same protective shielding measures but you should do what you can to support them and should stringently follow guidance on social distancing, reducing your contact outside the home. Read the government advice on social distancing.

Is there a protocol for recording additional time off  (i.e. self-isolation/social distancing) on flexi-time sheets? 

The Service has agreed some revised working arrangements during the coronavirus pandemic and these can be seen on the main coronavirus page of the intranet.  For support staff, this information covers the use of flexi sheets.  Any cases of self-isolation should be recorded via the workbench sickness app.

 

Schools and childcare questions


What if my child’s school has a confirmed case of Covid-19?

Follow the advice given by Public Health England and if you are in doubt, contact NHS 111 for advice.


What is the advice for staff around school closures?


Whilst schools are closing from Friday 20 March, the latest information from the Government is that some schools will be kept open with a skeleton staff to provide support for the children of key workers.


The guidance is that every child who can be safely cared for at home should be where possible. Schools are writing to parents, and are putting on-line classes in place.


Fire and rescue service staff (including support staff) are classed as key workers.


Not all schools will be able to remain open as the virus will affect their staffing levels. If you or a member of your staff need time off to care for your children then please speak to your line manager.


The Service will look at all requests in a flexible and supportive manner.


What counts as a key worker for child care?


You will have no doubt seen that the Government has released guidance on who counts as key workers who will be able to send children to nursery or school. Fire and rescue staff, including support staff, are deemed to be key workers.
The service we provide to the public is critical and we need as many staff available as possible to run the service.
Everyone will have their own personal challenges and arrangements to balance out over the coming weeks. You should speak with your line manager if you are uncertain about how you are going to manage work and childcare.

As a key worker I would like my children to remain at school but have been asked for confirmation that I work for the Fire & Rescue Service. Can I have a letter to confirm this?

If your school requires evidence from the Service then HR are able to provide a document with the Service’s letter heading that can be sent as a PDF to the school. If you require this then please email hroperationsteam@dsfire.gov.uk

 

Duties, leave and pay questions


What happens if I have been travelling? Can the Service prevent you from coming into work?

You should follow the government guidelines about self-isolation (staying at home) and discuss the situation with your line manager.

What happens to my pay if I am asked to carry out a different role to help the Service’s business continuity arrangements?

If the Service asks you to carry out a role at a lower grade you will be paid at your normal pay rate. If you are asked to carry out a higher graded role then you will be paid at the appropriate higher rate of pay while you are carrying out this activity.
The Service will be looking at how we make best use of the skills and experience of our staff to maintain service delivery.

What should be considered if you or a member of your team are working longer hours to support the Service?


It is important that everyone takes sufficient breaks and rest periods. We understand some of you may wish to work longer hours to help support service delivery. The terms of the working time directive will still apply so you may need to complete an opt-out form.


Your welfare and wellbeing is very important to us. Information around the support that is available is on the Intranet or you can talk to your line manager or a staff supporter.


I am pregnant and on light duties. Should I still come to station?


Please do not come to the fire station as it is particularly important for you to do what you can to avoid catching Coronavirus.

What happens if you or a member of your team want to cancel any pre-booked annual leave?

Based on the latest travel restrictions and Government advice, or a need to self-isolate, you or a member of your team may not be able to travel on a pre-booked holiday. Where this is the case, you will be able to cancel your annual leave request or alternatively you may decide to still take some time away from work on annual leave.
Service delivery is key, so flexibility will be needed when looking at alternative dates. If you do need to rearrange your leave then we will seek to accommodate this.


Can a uniformed member of staff retire from the Service and return to undertake further work during this period of Coronavirus?

Following a one-month gap in employment, retirees can return and undertake work with the Service on a casual basis or through a longer term appointment on a fixed-term basis, following approval under the Retirement & Re-employment Policy.


Please be aware however that there are implications relating to pensions, as abatement will apply unless you are a retiree from the Firefighters’ Pension Scheme 2015.


For casual employment, the calculation of earnings will be carried out retrospectively after one year to check that your earnings plus pension are no more than your salary (plus inflation) when you retired. If an excess pension payment occurs then this will need to be recovered.


If you are employed on a fixed-term contract then this calculation would be done on a monthly basis.


Do I still book ORIS inspections and visits to other businesses or groups?

Risk inspections must cease for operational fire stations. Crews should undertake desktop reviews of their risks and arrange telephone calls to premises to work through the plans to confirm or reviews risks on the sites.

I am an on-call firefighter but my primary employer is unable to provide work for me and I am going to be a furloughed worker under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme. Will I still be eligible for this scheme if I am in employment as an on-call firefighter as well?

The Service has sought information from our tax advisors and they have confirmed that as yet there has not been official guidance on the details as to how the scheme will work. However the Institute of Chartered Accountants for England and Wales has said that: “While we understand that an employee who is furloughed can do no work at all, our current understanding is that the employee can hold a separate employment with a different and unconnected employer which will be unaffected.”

This would mean that where a second employment is already held, e.g. as an on-call firefighter, this should not affect you from being furloughed from your other employment where this is unconnected.

This is not the official guidance from Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs as the detailed guidance is yet to be published. Once we have more detail then we will make this information available.

Why do I have to come to work when others are working from home?


We understand it may be worrying for some of you to continue working at Service premises when other support staff colleagues are able to work from home. We have reduced social interactions on our premises as much as possible but certain tasks have to be carried out on-site to support service delivery. We are extremely grateful to everyone for playing your part in our response to this situation, wherever you are working. We are making sure we comply with Government guidelines on staying at home and the permitted exceptions to the rules. For those that are at home and are frustrated that you don’t have your usual work to do, don’t worry, we may be contacting you to volunteer for other roles in the near future.

If you have any concerns about coming to work, speak to your line manager in the first instance. We have published revised working arrangements guidance on these pages due to the exceptional circumstances in which we are currently operating. The Government has also published guidance for employers who require staff to come to a place of work and we are following Public Health England guidelines on social distancing and hand washing at work.

Can I volunteer to help vulnerable people in my community?

You are welcome to do whatever you like in your own spare time, as long as (on-call staff only) you keep your availability as appropriate. However you must not use Service resources, equipment, vehicles or buildings for volunteering in the community - this activity must be carried out through a co-ordinated approach. There will be information about this and opportunities to volunteer shortly.


 

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