Coronavirus – latest information for Longhurst Group Colleagues

This webpage includes key information and advice for Longhurst Group colleagues about how the organisation is responding to Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and the steps colleagues should take.

It will be regularly updated as the picture changes so please continue to monitor this page for the latest information.

LATEST UPDATES

  Last updated: 9.44am on 30/03/2020

Our approach to pay and annual leave

During these extremely challenging times, we know that colleagues have lots of questions about our approach to self-isolating or queries from people who may be struggling to fulfil their usual roles or working hours from home.

This crisis brings considerable uncertainty and we absolutely understand that the main question many of you are asking is, “will I get paid if…?”

We are constantly looking at the various guidance being issued by the government to inform our approach but, ultimately, our priority is to keep our essential services running while keeping our people safe.

We are committed to paying all colleagues throughout this initial three-week period of enforced government restrictions.

We are also committed to paying colleagues who have been guided by the NHS to shield themselves at home for the next 12 weeks.

Now more than ever, we all need to pull together to tackle this crisis and that may mean that we take on work we wouldn’t normally do. It could be work that supports our combined efforts to keep our essential services running, particularly if we experience significant staffing shortages as a result of coronavirus.

It could also include taking on important work to help us progress key projects and 2025 strategy work.

Pay

As already stated, we are absolutely committed to ensuring that all of our colleagues are paid during these enforced government measures.

Our main priority is to ensure that people can work. That might mean people carrying out other tasks, working more flexibly or reducing hours if needed.

If colleagues are not able to work, they will still be paid. However, this payment may come as a result of them being furloughed (please see below for more information).

Furlough/government pay retention scheme

The government has introduced an 80 percent pay retention scheme and this is something we are likely to apply for, for colleagues who genuinely cannot work from home or we do not have enough work for.

The scheme enables people to be ‘furloughed’ on a temporary basis, which means they would not be working for the organisation during this period but will still receive payment. Annual leave and other benefits would still be accrued.

During this period, we will aim to top up pay so that people who are furloughed continue to receive their full salary.

However, we will need to make decisions on this on a case by case basis as this situation develops.

Working hours

As previously outlined, we will be as flexible as we can with people’s working hours – both in terms of the time when they work and the amount of hours they do, entering into reduced working hours arrangements if it helps those with caring responsibilities.

Given our move to essential and emergency services, some colleagues may have less to do than normal and it is important that we ensure people have meaningful work to do.

Annual leave

To avoid a backlog of annual leave being taken later in the year, during a time when we are most likely to need as many people in work as possible, we want everyone to take a quarter of their annual leave entitlement for the year, including any leave you have carried over, over the next three months (1 April to 30 June).

It is important that we all look after our mental health and take some annual leave during these challenging times. In extreme circumstances, which may arise due to a shortage of resources in frontline care and support services, we will review the option to relax the proposed time limit on taking annual leave. This will be done on a needs basis.

If you want to take more leave to help with responsibilities at home, this can also be agreed with their manager.

Some colleagues may even feel that this situation represents an opportunity to take a voluntary break or unpaid break from work and we can consider that too.

Colleagues struggling to work from home

We know that some of you may be struggling to work from home for a variety of reasons. These may include those of you whose role doesn’t lend itself to home working, those of you having challenges with technology and those of you with childcare or other caring responsibilities.

Where this is the case, including for those that are self-isolating or shielding but well enough to work, there are a number of options that can be considered, including carrying out different duties, working more flexible hours, taking special leave or annual leave.

If you are struggling to work from home, please speak to your manager to discuss these options.

  Working, pay and what it means for you

We have created a dedicated page that covers our approach to pay during this pandemic.

This page includes comprehensive information about the different scenarios colleagues may face during the coronavirus outbreak and our pay approach for each.

 Coronavirus: working, pay and what it means for you


Our offices

All of our offices have now been closed. Arrangements have been made for colleagues to occasionally go into offices to access essential files.  

As Royal Mail faces unprecedented challenges, we have plans in place to manage all post but would advise all colleagues to avoid reliance on post wherever possible.

The Finance Team in Boston is contacting all local authorities and smaller suppliers to request that anything sent by post is to be emailed/scanned across. If you are waiting for any important post, please contact the person who sends it and ask for it to be scanned and emailed.


Working from home

Where you have the capability to work from home then you must do so. Many of you are already set up and working from home and doing your best to help us continue providing key services to customers, while staying in touch and remaining engaged and motivated.

Much of this has been possible due to the fantastic efforts of our ICT team. Please continue to follow their advice around accessing technology from home and please remember to let ICT know of any equipment you have taken home with you.

The imminent office closures will mean that more people will be working from home. Members of the Leadership Team are now discussing our ongoing projects and revised priorities to ensure we can continue to deliver key services and remain productive.

This will require flexibility, resilience and a real team effort, with some colleagues likely to be required to carry out different duties to support our most critical services.

It will continue to be a challenging time and we will all need to keep an open mind and show enthusiasm for any new tasks we may be required to do. We will need to absolutely own these new responsibilities, working together and helping each other to the best of our abilities.

  Working from home - ICT guidance and information

Our ICT team has provided a complete rundown to getting set up for home working. Follow the link below to access advice, factsheets and contacts if you need any help.

  Working from home - ICT guidance


Government guidelines and our responsibilities

We take our responsibilities as an employer extremely seriously and want to ensure that everybody is following the government guidelines. This will help us to do everything we can to keep everyone safe.

12-week shielding

If you have been contacted by the NHS and advised that you need to shield yourself at home for the next 12 weeks, it is crucial that you inform your line manager and People Services immediately.

Frontline care and support colleagues within this category must stop coming into work. 

High-risk groups

If you are more vulnerable and classed by the government as being in a high-risk group (including people with underlying health conditions, those over 70 and those who are pregnant), it is crucial that you inform your line manager and People Services immediately.


Living our values awards

As announced by Julie Doyle during her video message last week, we have launched new awards to recognise the fantastic work and commitment that colleagues across the organisation have shown during these extremely challenging circumstances.

Taking inspiration from our values, values that have firmly been on display on a daily basis, we began with the following three categories:

  • Heartfelt service award
  • In it together award
  • Fun and fair award.

 Our winners - Friday 27 March

Heartfelt Service

  • Tracy Norman – Tracey received two separate nominations. Fantastic work, Tracy!
  • Paula Grant – for performing CPR and saving someone’s life!
  • Stephanie Ellis – for gaining access and getting help for a customer who had collapsed on floor for some time.

In it Together

  • Matthew Must – one of many ICT colleagues nominated this week, but highlighted by Darren Ryland for his efforts to help colleagues to work from home.
  • Georgina Digby – for providing exceptional support in the hugely complex task of ensuring the re-direction of our post to a single office.

Fun and Fair

  • Monika Baginska - for her fabulous Gangnam Style-inspired video!

The winners will receive Living our Values certificates and an Amazon shopping vouchers. Winners of the Heartfelt Service award will also receive heart-shaped lapel pin.

These awards represent only a small gesture of our appreciation for the way colleagues have truly pushed the boundaries and stepped up to the mark when we have needed you the most.

Executive Directors, Directors and Heads of Service will put colleagues forward for these awards, with the winners and their prizes being announced every Friday.

If you would like to make a suggestion for a colleague or a team that you think should be recognised with an award, please email the details to communications@longhurst-group.org.uk.


Coronavirus FAQs

  • What steps should colleagues take in their day to day jobs?

    Wash your hands

    Wash your hands frequently with soap and water and use the anti-viral hand sanitisers that will be delivered to offices soon.

    Catch it, bin it, kill it

    If you cough or sneeze, cover your mouth and nose in your elbow or with a tissue. Throw the tissue away into a closed bin and clean your hands thoroughly. This can help to prevent the spread of germs and viruses.
    Please continue to follow advice around washing your hands thoroughly and regularly. Please always wash your hands:

    • before leaving home
    • on arrival at work
    • after using the toilet
    • after breaks and sporting activities
    • before food preparation
    • before eating any food, including snacks
    • before leaving work and on arrival at home.

    Colleagues handling post or cash should wash their hands as these items will have been handled by various people in transit.

    We are doing everything we can to prepare in the event of care and support locations needing a deep clean. Where a symptomatic person has passed through a communal area, all handrails, door handles, surfaces that are touched, should be cleaned.

    We have communicated with all of our contract/employed cleaners and increased routine daily cleaning of all high contact areas (door handles/releases, computer keyboards, bathrooms, kitchens) etc.

    We have shared the government guidance on decontamination in non-healthcare settings and assured ourselves that provision is in place to undertake deep cleans of workplaces / homes in the event of a confirmed case.

    Remember, if you have a fever, cough or breathing difficulties, please seek early medical assistance.

    Other sensible steps to take

    For colleagues working away from office locations, as well as regular handwashing, please use hand sanitiser where this is available. Where supplies are unavailable, please consider using local facilities that may have hand sanitisers that you can access within your working area.

    Public Health England recommends avoiding direct or close contact (within 2 metres) with anybody who is potentially infected with the virus. Please be mindful of reducing close contact with people showing symptoms of the virus (cough, difficulty breathing and fever).

    Based on Public Health England guidance, we are not recommending that colleagues wear face masks to protect themselves from the virus. It is recommended that only individuals with symptoms of the virus (as advised by a healthcare worker) should wear facemasks to reduce the risk of transmitting the infection to others.

  • Delivering core services

    Fundamentally, we are introducing all of these measures to follow the Government advice as closely as we can, to keep people as safe as we possibly can and to try our very best to maintain the core and essential services that we provide to our customers.

    As things change in the coming weeks and months, it is possible that colleagues could be deployed in different roles and services to ensure that we can continue to provide these services.

  • Office closures

    All of our offices have now been closed. Arrangements have been made for colleagues to occasionally go into offices to access essential files.  

    As Royal Mail face unprecedented challenges, we have plans in place to manage all post but would advise all colleagues to avoid reliance on post wherever possible.

    The Finance Team in Boston is contacting all local authorities and smaller suppliers to request that anything sent by post is to be emailed/scanned across. If you are waiting for any important post, please contact the person who sends it and ask for it to be scanned and emailed.

  • Public transport closures

    As more and more public transport closures are announced, we would like to reassure frontline colleagues that should you need to use a taxi to get to your work location, we will reimburse you for this cost.

    Please keep a receipt for any journeys to and from work which are made via taxi and claim these back through your expenses. In the coming days, we will be exploring the possibility of setting up accounts with local firms.

  • Working from home

    Please visit this dedicated page with tips, advice and factsheets about getting set up to work from home.

  • Non-essential travel

    Please do not travel between offices or other work locations. If you feel it is absolutely essential for you to travel, please speak to your line manager.

    All meetings, training, events and conferences should now be cancelled or take place remotely using the available technology.

  • Travelling abroad

    For the latest advice about visiting other countries, please visit the Government website.

    If you have recently travelled to a country that has cases of coronavirus, please refer to the advice on the Public Health England website. This information is regularly updated and will guide you on the appropriate measures to take.

    Please also keep your line manager fully updated about this.

    If you have returned to the UK from the list of countries listed on the Public Health website, please refer to the Public Health England website.

    If you are required to self-isolate due to travelling to a high risk area you’ll be asked for proof of travel. Full pay will then be processed for the full two-week period (waiting days etc. waived).

    Your line manager or other colleagues will check in with you by phone on a daily basis over the two week period to maintain communication and provide support.

    For care workers returning from Category 2 regions who are engaged in personal care of customers with potentially higher health risks from Covid-19 (Older adults, people who have serious chronic medical conditions like: heart disease, diabetes, lung disease and respiratory conditions etc.) an initial 7-day self-isolation period is required. Please contact your line manager by phone and do not present at your place of work. 

    Self-isolation due to travel

    If you are required to self-isolate due to travelling to a high risk area you’ll be asked for proof of travel.

    Full pay will then be processed for the full two-week period (waiting days etc. waived).

    Your line manager or other colleagues will check in with you by phone on a daily basis over the two week period to maintain communication and provide support.

    For care workers returning from Category 2 regions who are engaged in personal care of customers with potentially higher health risks from Covid-19 (Older adults, people who have serious chronic medical conditions like: heart disease, diabetes, lung disease and respiratory conditions etc.) an initial seven-day self-isolation period is required.

    Please contact your line manager by phone and do not present at your place of work. 

    If you have returned to the UK in the last 14 days and develop symptoms of cough or fever or shortness of breath, you should immediately:

     stay indoors and avoid contact with other people as you would with the flu
     call NHS 111 to inform them of your recent travel to the country
     inform your line manager and People Services and keep us updated.

  • What to do if you think you have Coronavirus

    The NHS website confirms that the symptoms of coronavirus are:
      cough
      a high temperature
      shortness of breath

    But these symptoms do not necessarily mean you have coronavirus.

    The symptoms are similar to other illnesses that are much more common, such as cold and flu.

    The NHS advises that you call 111 if you think you might have coronavirus and isolate yourself from other people. Please also let Longhurst Group know by contacting People Services.

    If you think you may have come into contact with someone with coronavirus, please call 111 for advice.

    In the unlikely event that a Longhurst Group colleague has confirmed coronavirus, the organisation will immediately undertake a risk assessment to determine who they have been in contact with and work with health professionals as per NHS advice to help prevent further spread.

    Symptoms and self-isolation

    If you have any of the symptoms associated with Coronavirus (cough, temperature or flu-like symptoms), however mild, please contact People Services as soon as possible and follow the government and NHS advice to stay at home and self-isolate for seven days.

    You do not need to call NHS 111 to go into self-isolation.

    If your symptoms worsen during home isolation or are no better after seven days, contact NHS 11 online, call NHS 111 for dial 999 in a medical emergency.

    If you feel well enough and can work from home, please do so. Your line manager or other colleagues will check in with you by phone on a daily basis over the isolation period to maintain communication and provide support. 

    If you are feeling too unwell or are unable to work from home, please speak to your line manager.

    During self-isolation, please stay at least 2 metres (about 3 steps) away from other people in your home, sleep alone (if possible) and wash your hands regularly, for 20 seconds, each time using soap and water.

    Stay away from vulnerable people, such as older people and those with underlying health conditions, as much as possible.

    Underlying health conditions include people who have serious chronic medical conditions like:

    • Heart disease
    • Diabetes
    • Lung disease and respiratory conditions.
  • What happens if I become ill or have to self-isolate?

    Sickness leave and pay

    Visit Coronavirus: working, pay and what it means for you for a full review of the Group's work and pay arrangements during the Coronavirus pandemic 

    Pre-existing health issues

    If you have significant health issues and are concerned you may be at higher risk of contracting coronavirus, please speak to your line manager and ensure that people People Services are aware that you have consider yourself to be at risk. If you are well enough and happy to do so, please continue to come to work or work from home, if you are able to do so.

    If you develop any of the symptoms associated with the virus, please seek immediate advice from NHS 111 and contact your line manager so that a risk assessment can be conducted.

  • Self isolation and social distancing

    To provide some clarity over advice previously issued about self-isolation, we are separating the two different approaches laid out in the Government guidance about what people can do to keep themselves and others safe.

    Self isolation

    The first, more drastic measure is social isolation for households that have a suspected case of coronavirus.

    Here the measures are very clear; employees must not go to work and should work from home wherever possible, provided they remain well during the isolation period.

    If colleagues aren’t able to fulfil their usual duties from home, then they need to speak to their line manager.

    What happens if I need to self-isolate?

    Visit Coronavirus: working, pay and what it means for you for a full review of the Group's work and pay arrangements during the Coronavirus pandemic 

    Social distancing

    The second guide is called social distancing and is advice for everyone without symptoms. It sets out measures that we should all be taking as much as we reasonably can to limit the spread of infection. These include:

    1. Avoiding contact with someone who is displaying symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19). These symptoms include high temperature and/or a new and continuous cough.
    2. Avoiding non-essential use of public transport, varying your travel times to avoid rush hour, when possible.
    3. Working from home, where possible. Please refer to employer guidance for more information.
    4. Avoiding large gatherings, and gatherings in smaller public spaces such as pubs, cinemas, restaurants, theatres, bars and clubs.
    5. Avoiding gatherings with friends and family. Keep in touch using remote technology such as phone, internet, and social media.
    6. Using the telephone or online services to contact your GP or other essential services.

    The guidance advises that those who are at increased risk of severe illness from coronavirus should be particularly stringent in avoiding these social interactions. This is why we are complying with this guidance by instructing that colleagues within the increased risk categories should work from home if they are able to. 

    For those in a higher risk group who cannot work at home, we ask that you speak with your line manager and People Services. 

    We will work with colleagues to provide the assurance they need to limit social contact, whether by means of increased protective equipment, adjusted duties or potentially time away from work.

    The Government has advised that people at increased risk of severe illness from coronavirus (COVID-19), include those:

    Please note: There are some clinical conditions which put people at even higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19.

    This week, the NHS in England will directly contact these people with advice around the more stringent measures they should take to keep themselves and others safe.

    People falling into this group are those who may be at particular risk due to complex health problems such as:

    • people who have received an organ transplant and remain on ongoing immunosuppression medication.
    • people with cancer who are undergoing active chemotherapy or radiotherapy.
    • people with cancers of the blood or bone marrow such as leukaemia who are at any stage of treatment.
    • people with severe chest conditions such as cystic fibrosis or severe asthma (requiring hospital admissions or courses of steroid tablets).
    • people with severe diseases of body systems, such as severe kidney disease (dialysis).

    Due to the expectation that, from this weekend, the advice for high risk groups will become enforced self-isolation for 12 weeks, we anticipate further guidance to employers on employee rights who are unable to work at home will follow. 

    We remain committed to doing everything we can to help colleagues through this challenging time and we thank you for your continued assistance and understanding.

  • What happens now nurseries, schools and colleges have closed?

    We are doing everything we can to be as flexible as possible to help colleagues with childcare or other caring responsibilities.

    This could mean extra flexibility around when you carry out working hours but, again, this is something that needs to be discussed and agreed with your line manager.


  Press enquiries

Should you receive a media enquiry, this must be passed on to Jon Reeves or Matt Dannatt in the Communications Team as soon as possible.

Colleagues should not comment or agree to being interviewed without the Communications Team being informed first.

 Further questions

If you have any queries or concerns, then please speak to your line manager or alternatively contact the People Services team on the details below.

  01205 319 623

  PeopleServicesTeam@longhurst-group.org.uk

  Further updates

Communication updates will be issued on a daily basis, via email and on the dedicated webpage created on the Longhurst Group website - longhurst-group.org.uk/coronavirus.

 Workplace Facebook

Workplace Facebook is a fundamental tool for colleagues to use to stay updated, keep in touch and continue to virtually work as one team. 

If you have not already activated an account on Workplace Facebook, please take this opportunity to do so as soon as possible. A dedicated group will be set up for all Coronavirus-related communications in the coming days.

If you need any support with using Workplace Facebook, please contact the Communications team.


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