Coronavirus - updates for Cumbria County Council employees

17:08PM Wednesday, 8 April 2020

Coronavirus (COVID-19) staff update

Annual leave

During this challenging time it is recognised that many people are working above and beyond and supporting work pressures on a daily basis, often for longer hours than normal. At times like this it is important to consider your own wellbeing and that you take some well-earned rest.

All staff are encouraged to take their annual leave during the current period, however it is recognised that for those staff directly involved in the COVID19 response it may be more difficult to do so. In such circumstances the government have provided the following guidance to support the carryover of annual leave.

Following this we are pleased to confirm the following:

  • In such circumstances where you are unable to take your leave entitlement, you may request to cancel any leave which was pre-booked to take place during the coronavirus pandemic. This must be discussed and agreed with line manager
  • Staff working in support of the COVID19 response will be able to carry forward up to 4 weeks annual leave, to be used over the next 2 years, extending your current leave into 2021 and 2022
  • Your managers will be asked to carry out planning of all future holiday requirements, following the coronavirus period. This is so that we can ensure continuation of critical services while also managing requests for leave and the wellbeing of employees
  • Where all other options have been exhausted consideration will be given to pay for up to 10 days outstanding holidays which employees have been unable to take (pro-rated for part time employees). This will be by exception only, where the employee was directly involved in the COVID19 response and will require approval by a senior manager
  • Cumbria Fire and Rescue Service are subject to separate conditions under the Working Time Directive and consideration of whether this guidance applies to those employees is currently still under review.

In addition to the above it has been agreed that current restrictions on flexi time and time off in lieu (TOIL) are to be temporarily relaxed as follows:

Flexi / Time off in lieu (TOIL)

  • Where it is not practical for flexi/TOIL to be taken within a 4 week period the current limit on time carried forward will not be applied and time accrued in excess of 3 days can be carried forward
  • Consideration may be given to payment of flexi/TOIL where you are unable to take time off. This should be discussed and agreed with your line manager.

Employees with zero hours contracts

Normally, if employees with zero hours contracts are absent through sickness, they receive pro rata sick pay for any days off sick, based on their average pay over the previous 12 weeks (previous 3 months payroll).

The Council is temporarily extending this provision to also apply where these employees are unable to attend work because of a requirement to self-isolate and are unable to undertake alternative duties from home.

Casual Workers

Casual workers are not employees and would not normally be paid when they are not working. However, given the exceptional circumstances the Council is temporarily extending the provision for zero hours employees to also cover casual workers where they cannot continue to be engaged in work.

Therefore if a casual worker is not able to undertake work - to carry out hours that they would normally have been asked to work - due to a suspected or confirmed case of coronavirus, or because they are required to self-isolate, they will receive payment based on their average pay over the previous 12 weeks (3 months payroll).

This includes casual workers who have existing employment with the County Council.

Sessional Payments

Sessional Payments (Sundays / Nights / Bank Holidays) will continue to be paid to employees who are off sick or have to self-isolate, for employees who would normally be entitled to sessional payments as defined in the pay and benefits booklet (PDF 887KB), while off sick or on annual leave, under their existing contracts.

Employees who are carrying out their substantive post by working from home at different times of day e.g. in the evening or early morning will not be entitled to claim sessional payments.

'Sleep in' Payments

'Sleep in' Payments are not normally payable during periods of sickness. However, due to the exceptional circumstances sleep-in payments will temporarily be paid to employees who are off sick or have to self-isolate, for employees who would normally be rostered to undertake sleep-ins under their existing contracts.

In these circumstances, to ensure these payments are made, managers should record sleep in payments on timesheets in the same way that other sessional payments would be recorded if an employee was off sick.


17:11PM Tuesday, 7 April 2020

Coronavirus (COVID-19) staff update

Have you joined the conversation yet?

Are you managing to stay in touch with people while you are working from home? Over 1200 of your colleagues and work friends have joined Yammer since it launched last week, and its helping us to feel a little less isolated. There are many groups to join and conversations being had - come along and see for yourself!

All you need to do is visit: Cumbria County Council's Yammer

Log in with the same details you use to get onto the council network.

Please make sure that your Active Directory contact details are up to date, so that your details stored in Yammer are accurate.

You can access Yammer on your laptop, or you can download the app for your work phone or personal phone from the Google Play or Apple's App Store depending on your device.

Looking after your mental health

As we move into week three of homeworking for many of you, please don't neglect your mental health whilst working from home.

Draw on support you might have through your friends, family and other networks. Try to stay in touch with those around you over the phone, by post, or online. Let people know how you would like to stay in touch and build that into your routine. This is also important in looking after your mental wellbeing and you may find it helpful to talk to them about how you are feeling.

Remember it is OK to share your concerns with others you trust and in doing so you may end up providing support to them too. Or you can use a NHS recommended helpline.

If you would like any further information or support you could:

Looking after your physical health

It's also really important to keep active and look after your physical health too. There are lots of options online to do workouts at home, and you should still make time to get away from your computer to go out in your local area for a walk, run, or cycle ride, providing it doesn't involve unnecessary social interaction.

Please try and get some time away from your computer to get some fresh air. Spending time in green space or bringing nature into your everyday life can benefit both mental and physical wellbeing. It can improve mood, reduce feelings of stress or anger, and make people feel more relaxed - even just opening the window and getting some fresh air can help.

Taking regular screen breaks and moving away from the desk in the same way you would in an office is essential and stretching exercises, gentle yoga or mindfulness can be beneficial.

Fit notes / doctors notes / medical certificates - changes to certificate requirements

If you are off sick with coronavirus symptoms then there is no need to contact your doctor for a fit note. You should follow the coronavirus self-isolation advice. You should follow the normal procedures for keeping in touch with your manager.

If you are off sick with a conditions not related to coronavirus then normal procedures apply and if you've been off sick for more than 7 days then you will need a fit note (or Statement of Fitness for work) signed by a doctor. For the first 7 days of any absence (not coronavirus related) you should complete a self-certification form (DOC 97KB).

Fire safety whilst working from home

With the increased numbers of people working at home, our Fire and Rescue Service colleagues are asking staff to make sure that they take appropriate precautions to stay safe.

There are simple things we can all do to ensure we are keeping safe while we are all spending more time at home. The first thing you can do is test that your smoke alarms are working.

With spending more time at home, you are more likely to be cooking during the day and with phones ringing, emails to respond to and possibly children to look after, it's easy to get distracted.

If you don't usually work from home and have set up a temporary office, please ensure you haven't overloaded any plug sockets or are using counterfeit or incorrect chargers for tablets, laptops and mobile phones and "daisy-chaining" - plugging multiple extension leads together or plugging many multi-socket adaptors into a single socket.

In a nutshell, here are some simple tips to stay safe at home:

  • Make sure you have working smoke alarms installed on all levels of your home. Working alarms can give you the vital time needed to escape in a fire. Test your smoke alarms regularly and never remove batteries
  • Never leave cooking unattended. The majority of fires start in the kitchen so this is a high risk area. Always turn off kitchen appliances when you have finished cooking
  • If you smoke, make sure your cigarette is fully extinguished and take extra care if you are tired. It's very easy to fall asleep while your cigarette is still burning and set furniture alight
  • Never use heaters to dry clothes. Heaters can start fires when things are placed too close to them. Keep them well away from curtains, clothing and furniture
  • Don't overload sockets. Ensure only one plug per socket. Always turn off plugs when they are not in use, except those that are designed to be left on, like freezers - you can use a handy socket overload calculator to make sure you are safe here
  • Make sure you and your family have a clear escape plan (that you all know) should you need to get out of your property in a hurry.

For more information on fire home safety please contact Group Prevention Manager will.richardson@cumbria.gov.uk or visit the Cumbria Fire Service website.


17:36PM Thursday, 2 April 2020

Coronavirus (COVID-19) staff update

Workplace health and safety - Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

In addition to the detailed messages already communicated regarding the Council's commitment to workplace health and safety, work has continued today to progress additional supplies of personal protective equipment for our teams.

Significant PPE orders have been raised and a system is in place ready to distribute supplies when they arrive. In the meantime, we recognise and fully understand the levels of anxiety regarding PPE, and therefore wish to reassure you that in the meantime should you have any queries or concerns, please feel confident to discuss them with your line manager, seek advice from a corporate health and safety advisor or Trade Union health and safety representative.

Data Protection and Information Security: employee guidance

Now more than ever it is essential that we all take steps to ensure that Council IT devices and information is kept safe and secure. Since the Council's response to the COVID-19 Pandemic began a number of staff have asked for advice on the approach to data protection and information security.

The Council has put together some Frequently Asked Questions that include the latest advice from the Information Commissioner. The Frequently Asked Questions will be updated on a regular basis so always check for the latest position before taking any action.

If you have any additional questions or concerns you can contact the Data Protection Officer - dataprotection@cumbria.gov.uk or the Information Security Team - security@cumbria.gov.uk

It's Yammer time!

Today we launched Yammer to help connect you and your colleagues whilst so many of us are working from home. It has been in the testing stages for a little while now and yesterday morning there were just over 300 people signed up and now there are around 900 of you reading posts and joining in the conversations. People have been showing off their lovely pets and home working set up and asking for help on work related topics. People are also letting their colleagues and work mates know what they are up to as well as sharing some interesting tips and advice too.

If you haven't already then come have a look and get involved!

To join in all you need to do is visit: yammer.com/cumbria.gov.uk

Log in with the same details you use to get onto the council network.

Please make sure your Active Directory contact details are up to date, so that your details stored in Yammer are accurate.

You can access Yammer on your laptop, or you can download the app for your work phone or personal phone from the Google Play or Apple's App Store depending on your device.


11:39AM Wednesday, 1 April 2020

Coronavirus (COVID-19) staff update

PPE reminder

The need to maintain critical services and the health of our keyworkers is paramount and we are working hard to ensure that the approach to PPE is co-ordinated and prioritised. Ensuring the health safety and wellbeing of our staff and customers remains our top priority. We remain fully committed to fulfill our legal and moral duties to protect staff.

This is still the number one priority for all partners through the Strategic Co-ordinating Group and is being raised daily with Central Government and the supply chain.

We recognise that nationally we are in an unprecedented position with PPE stocks in short supply throughout the UK. The County Council has established an internal tactical group to focus on PPE who continue to work with our national/local supply chain, Local Enterprise Partnership and others to procure stock and target provision to our priority frontline staff and services.

Some employees have asked if they can provide their own PPE such as hand sanitiser and single use gloves when Council stocks are not available. We are supportive of staff doing this and they will be reimbursed through normal expense claim procedures. Please note that it is very important that PPE must be to the required standards and be suitable for the tasks being performed and advice has been provided to assist all colleagues.

If you require further information please speak with your Line Manager or Directorate Health and Safety Advisor.

We ask that all Care workers follow national advice on hand hygiene (PDF 122KB).

Information from Colin Cox, Director of Public Health regarding hand hygiene and the use of face masks (PDF 15KB).

If you are unclear about what this guidance means for you please speak to your line manager, or review the information held on the Council's website

There are a host of additional information sources and official guidance links:

Further questions and answers can be seen on the Frequently Asked Questions pages.

We still need your help to support our critical services!

We have had a fantastic response to our appeal for support to our critical services, thank you to everyone who has completed the questionnaire. We have already been able to allocate some staff to support the critical work being carried out in the community to support the most vulnerable.

The team are working through all of the responses so if you have completed the questionnaire but haven't yet received a reply someone will be in touch with you soon.

We are continuing to source support for critical services such as residential services for adults and children, the community hubs and social care. These services are looking for people who are able to carry out a range of range of roles and tasks including the provision of care, cleaning, kitchen assistant, community/customer liaison, welfare officer and business support. Some of these roles require staff to work from council buildings but there are some roles that can also been done remotely from home.

An online training course has been developed for all staff allocated to support in Adult's and Children's Residential and Social Care services. If you have completed the questionnaire and been identified as potential support in these areas someone will be in touch with you with the details for the training. In all other areas training will be provided as and when required.

A number of queries have been raised by staff in relation to this process so we have developed some frequently asked questions to respond. We have also included further information on the specific tasks/roles and skills required for the critical areas as referred to above. You can find them on the Council's website

We are still looking for more staff so if you feel that you are able to support our critical services please complete the short questionnaire.

If you are able to provide support in any capacity, then we would actively encourage you to do so as this will make a real and direct difference to the support we can provide to the people of Cumbria. Thank you in advance.

Do you have an LGV Category C or above driving licence?

To assist in providing resilience within the county council, but also so that we are able to potentially offer support to the District Councils, if you have an LGV category C or above driving licence please email Fleet Maintenance Manager, John Chapman - john.chapman@cumbria.gov.uk. Thank you.

Think before you click!

Colleagues within the public sector are reporting a significant increase in the past week of cyber-attacks against Councils as they work towards defeating COVID-19. The attacks are coming from a number of new routes including smart phone apps.

Please can we ask that all staff maintain a high level of vigilance and question every email, text message or even phone call that has arrived unexpectedly from a person they do not know asking them to open an attachment, click on an attached link or action a request to upgrade software for example to WhatsApp gold.

These malicious messages look extremely professional and convincing. They are attempting to convince you to "click" to enable malicious software to be downloaded to your electronic device.

If you are in any doubt please report it to the ICT service desk - ict.servicedesk@cumbria.gov.uk.


10:49AM Monday, 30 March 2020

New emergency support line launched for vulnerable people needing urgent help

On Monday 30 March, Cumbria County Council and partners have launched a new emergency support service for people at high risk of becoming seriously ill, as a result of COVID-19, and who do not have support available from friends, family or neighbours.

Those at high risk include people over 70 years old, pregnant women and those with underlying health conditions who should be protecting themselves by staying at home. The majority of these people will already be receiving support from family, friends or local voluntary groups with tasks like shopping or collection of medicines if they require it. But we know that a small number of people will not have this support. If they have no alternative, these people will now be able to call the Freephone number to request help with getting food, medicines, essential supplies and home deliveries.

Cumbria County Council has been working closely with District Councils, Cumbria CVS, Cumbria Community Foundation, community and voluntary sector, private sector and military to establish these new arrangements. To support the new helpline every area is coordinating a supply of essential food, medicines and supplies which can only be accessed via the emergency helpline or email. The requests received asking for help will then be matched with local support and supplies being offered by community groups, volunteers, councils and businesses.

The Emergency telephone support line is 0800 783 1966.

Or you can email your request for help to COVID19support@cumbria.gov.uk.

Further details about this support service.

The telephone 'call' centre will operate Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm and 10am to 2pm at weekends. The service will also accepts referrals from members of the public who may be concerned about people in their community.

Cumbria is already seeing widespread community and voluntary sector support for the response to COVID-19 and informal support, including neighbourhood WhatsApp groups and community Facebook groups, alongside a commitment from existing community emergency planning groups, local churches and faith groups and formal voluntary sector organisations who are working with the county council and partners including District Councils and NHS.

Cllr Deborah Earl, Cabinet Member for Public Health and Communities, said:

"People who are self-isolating or shielding must not go out to get food shopping, many of these people have good support networks who they can rely on for the delivery of food, medicines or essential services and supplies. But for those who don't we are launching the new emergency support helpline.

We want to reassure the public that we are ready to provide support to our most vulnerable residents who may not have friends or family available to help them."

Carolyn Otley, Cumbria CVS, Chair of Community Resilience Group:

"It is important to speak to others and ask them to help you to make arrangements for delivery of food, medicines and essential services and supplies, and look after your physical and mental health and wellbeing.

It's been reassuring to see there is already widespread community and voluntary sector support for the response to COVID-19 across Cumbria. We all must continue to work together to help those who are isolated or at high risk."

The helpline will also accept referrals from members of the public who may be concerned about people in their community.

Up to date information on COVID-19 in your area.


14:43PM Friday, 27 March 2020

Coronavirus (COVID-19) staff update

We need your help to support our critical services!

Thank you to everyone who has already completed the questionnaire to support our critical services. We are currently reviewing all of the information provided and will be in touch soon with further information.

Managers are currently considering where they can stop delivery of non-essential activities in order to free up staff to help support critical services. If your role is identified as part of this process you will receive an email asking you to complete the questionnaire. If you have already completed the questionnaire there is no need to complete it again.

A number of queries have been raised by staff in relation to this process so we have developed some frequently asked questions to respond.

We are still looking for more staff so if you feel that you are able to support our critical services please complete the short questionnaire.

If you are able to provide support in any capacity, then we would actively encourage you to do so as this will make a real and direct difference to the support we can provide to the people of Cumbria. Thank you in advance.

Latest government guidance

The government recently announced guidance for everyone on staying at home and away from other people.

The primary aim of this is to reduce day-to-day contact with other people, and reduce the spread of the infection. Staff will be aware that the guidance introduced three new measures:

  • Requiring people to stay at home, except for very limited purposes this includes attending work where necessary
  • Closing non-essential shops and community spaces
  • Stopping all gatherings of more than two people in public


Working from home

Wherever possible all staff should work from home unless they are critical to the delivery of the COVID-19 response.

Where staff are required to continue to attend their place of work, or deliver front line services, there is separate guidance available on Gov.uk.

If you are unclear about what this guidance means for you please speak to your line manager, or review the information held on the Council's website.

Shielding extremely vulnerable staff

The government have also provided further guidance relating to shielding and protecting those who are deemed as clinically extremely vulnerable.

People who fall into this group include:

1. People with a solid organ transplants (e.g. heart, lungs, kidney)

2. People with specific cancers:

  • People with cancer who are undergoing active chemotherapy or radical radiotherapy for lung cancer.
  • People with cancers of the blood or bone marrow such as leukaemia, lymphoma, or myloma who are at any stage of treatment.
  • People having immunotherapy or other continuing antibody treatment for cancer.
  • People having other targeted cancer treatments which can affect the immune system, such as protein kinase inhibitors or PARP inhibitors.
  • People who have had bone marrow or stem cell transplants in the last 6 months, or who are still taking immunosuppression drugs.

3. People with severe respiratory conditions including all cystic fibrosis, severe asthma and severe COPD.

4. People with rare diseases and inborn errors of metabolism that significantly increase the risk of infections (such as SCID, homozygous sickle cell).

5. People on immunosuppression therapies sufficient to increase risk of infection.

6. Women who are pregnant with significant heart disease, congenital or acquired.

People who fall into this clinically extremely vulnerable group will be contacted directly either via their NHS clinician, or their own GP, within the next few days, with further information and guidance.

As an employee, if you receive a notification from the NHS or your GP you are advised to stay at home at all times and avoid any face-to-face contact for a period of at least 12 weeks or until the government decides to lift the restrictions.

You should advise your manager if you are in this group and you will be expected to work from home even if you are classed as a key worker. If you are unable to work from home in your substantive role, or undertake alternative duties from home, you will be required to stay at home and you will receive your normal pay.

Vulnerable staff

Government lists those who are vulnerable as:

1. Over 70's (regardless of medical condition)

2. Pregnant Women

3. Those with an underlying medical condition (i.e. anyone instructed to get a flu jab):

  • Chronic - heart, respiratory, kidney, liver diseases
  • Neurological conditions e.g Parkinsons, motor neurones, MS
  • Diabetes
  • Weakened immune system as a result of a condition such as HIV and AIDS, medicines such as steroid tablets or chemo therapy

4. Those who are seriously overweight (a BMI of 40 or above)

5. People with complex health problems such as:

  • had an organ transplant
  • cancer (not on the extremely vulnerable list) who are undergoing active chemo or radiotherapy
  • severe diseases of the body system e.g. kidney disease (dialysis)

You should advise your line manager if you fall into one of the categories above.

Line managers will need to determine what appropriate measures need to be taken. Your manager will consider all options to support working from home and may ask the Occupational Health team for advice, based on your particular circumstances, to determine the options to support you and also the impact upon the ongoing delivery of critical services.

If they ask for advice from the Occupational Health team, you may need to speak to one of the Occupational health nurses about your condition.

Your manager will then discuss working from home with you, balancing the need to continue to provide critical services.

If you live with someone and/or cares for someone who is identified as being clinically extremely vulnerable or vulnerable...

You should advise your line manager if you are living or caring for someone who falls into the extremely vulnerable or vulnerable group.

Line managers will need to determine what appropriate measures need to be taken. Your manager will consider all options to support working from home and may ask the Occupational Health team for advice, based on your particular circumstances, to determine the options to support you and also the impact upon the ongoing delivery of critical services.

If they ask for advice from the Occupational Health team and you may need to speak to one of the Occupational health nurses about your particular circumstances.

Your manager will then discuss and consider options for working from home with you, balancing the need to continue to provide critical services.


If you have any specific queries in relation to this advice you can contact the People Management Team using the new People Management portal or by telephone on 01228 221231.


17:09PM Thursday, 26 March 2020

Cabinet pass on their grateful thanks

Following an informal Cabinet Member meeting earlier this week, the Cabinet would like to pass on their grateful thanks to all staff across Cumbria County Council for their efforts at this time.

Wherever your place of work is now: one of our care homes, your regular office, a completely different office base for those redeployed, or your kitchen table with small children and your pets running around your feet - on behalf of the people of Cumbria who need you all now more than ever, please accept our heartfelt appreciation because you are all doing an amazing job.


16:20PM Wednesday, 25 March 2020

Coronavirus (COVID-19) staff update

We need your help to support our critical services!

Our frontline and critical services are working exceptionally hard to ensure the ongoing delivery of priority services to the people of Cumbria.

We have already started allocating some of our resources differently in order to support these critical services. Teams and services are being asked to consider where they can stop delivery of non-essential activities in order to free up staff to help support critical services.

If you feel that you are able to support our critical services please complete the short questionnaire.

You will need to provide information regarding your availability in terms of location and hours/days and confirmation of any specific skills and qualifications. A process has been developed to ensure that volunteers are matched based their skills and availability linking with the priorities from critical services. If you are able to volunteer in any capacity, then we would actively encourage you to do so as this will make a real and direct difference to the support we can provide to the people of Cumbria. Thank you in advance.

Update from ICT

Changes have been implemented to our VPN network, and we are pleased to report that we have seen a significant improvement. We have received positive feedback from colleagues today on the improved network performance - thank you! Please be assured we will continue to monitor our infrastructure and make any further improvements where possible.

The email traffic has also reduced, so again thank you for responding to the points raised yesterday.

To further improve your connection, please close any calendars you may have opened, and likewise any other mailboxes you may need to access.

ICT are continuing to work through the increased number of requests we have received since last week. We are experiencing stock supply issues, particularly for standard mobile phones and smartphones. If you have submitted a request, we are prioritising and responding to these as quickly as we can but as this point we cannot given an indication of timescales. We appreciate your understanding.

Hand hygiene and PPE update

Latest information from Colin Cox, Director of Public Health regarding hand hygiene and the use of face masks


Latest information on the Coronavirus.


09:59AM Wednesday, 25 March 2020

Important update: temporary closure of face to face public access at council buildings and on non-essential council services

Dear colleague,

In response to the latest government guidance on COVID-19, Cumbria County Council will with immediate affect temporarily close all its buildings to the public and will no longer provide non-essential 'face to face' services. Alternative contact can be made on line, by phone, or by email.

The only essential Council 'face to face' services that will continue to be provided are as follows:

  • Registration Services for births and deaths only at the following locations:

County Offices, Kendal

The Nan Tait centre in Barrow

The Lady Gilford's building in Carlisle

Penrith Library

Whitehaven Library.

  • Coroner's Office on Station Road, Cockermouth, CA13 9PT
  • Family Centres (for supervised contact ONLY)*
  • Household Waste Recycling Centres *

Services marked with * are under review and there will be further announcements about them shortly.

Any Staff who can work from home, should now do so, unless they have made different arrangements with their manager.

In an effort to continue to support our customers and residents in this unprecedented time, the council will continue to provide access to council services in the following ways:

  • Online - Customers can go to the cumbria.gov.uk for online services
  • Email - We will publish an email address on cumbria.gov.uk to enable customers to stay in direct contact with the services they need
  • By Phone - Residents can call the council on its general number 01228 606060

We have not made this decision lightly but as you know this is an unprecedented situation and the health, safety and wellbeing of you, our staff, our customers, and our local communities has to be our number one priority.

Work is also already underway to review all other 'face to face' support that we offer as a council. We are looking at how, and where, this can be minimized to provide increased protection. Where this is not possible we will look at the measures we can put in place such as improved PPE and increased hygiene measures to help protect our entire workforce.

Thank you all for your continued efforts. These are difficult times and it continues to be very challenging as we strive to continue to provide services while protecting ourselves and our customers, families, friends and communities.

Please continue to take care of yourselves and of those around you.


16:46PM Tuesday, 24 March 2020

Important ICT update

As you will appreciate, the ICT infrastructure is under extreme pressure supporting us all to work at home - which has been a significant increase!

The ICT team have, and continue to do a great job to help support us all to stay connected in these unprecedented times and high demands on the team. We thank you for your patience and understanding as we embrace this new way of working. But as you would expect the increased use has had an impact on the network and its availability.

We are continually monitoring the stability of our network and where we can putting additional arrangements in place to improve the core infrastructure

One way we can all work together to help ICT to help us all is alleviate pressure is by reviewing the way we use email. Email is a vital communication tool and as expected we are now experiencing a very large increase in the amount of emails being circulated.

We need to all play a part, individually and collectively to reduce the overall volume of avoidable Council emails and you can help by:

  • Considering who you are emailing, and only coping colleagues into an email where it is absolutely essential that they get a copy of the email - please don't copy lots of people in if not required as it could clog up the system
  • Phoning to discuss an issue instead of emailing. Phone is a great way to keep in touch with your colleagues and it is much more personal
  • Considering the size of the email attachments you are sending, and avoiding large attachments wherever possible - please check the size of your attachments before you hit send and reduce its file size where possible
  • At the end of each day, please take some time to do some basic housekeeping - delete unwanted emails and files, tidy up your archive folders and tidy up your shared drives - all of this will free up valuable space that will help us all work at home.

Thank you for helping - it really is appreciated.

We need your help to support our critical services

Our frontline and critical services are working exceptionally hard to ensure the ongoing delivery of priority services to the people of Cumbria.

We need to start allocating some of our resources differently in order to support these critical services. Teams and services are being asked to consider where they can stop delivery of non-essential activities in order to free up staff to help support critical services. If you feel that you are able to support our critical services please complete the short questionnaire.

You will need to provide information regarding your availability in terms of location and hours/days and confirmation of any specific skills and qualifications. A process has been developed to ensure that volunteers are matched based their skills and availability linking with the priorities from critical services. If you are able to volunteer in any capacity, then we would actively encourage you to do so as this will make a real and direct difference to the support we can provide to the people of Cumbria. Thank you in advance.

Email out of office auto reply

If your work is part of the COVID-19 response you may be receiving a high volume of emails which mean you aren't able to respond to all of them in a timely manner, especially if they aren't specifically linked to COVID-19. You therefore may wish to add an auto reply to your email to help manage the expectations of those contacting you as suggested below:

Please be aware that due to COVID-19, I like many other staff are involved in co-ordinating and responding to this unprecedented national situation. This is our priority and as such you should not expect a response from myself to any other general queries at this time. Unless your query is urgent please also refrain from calling the council at this time. Visit cumbria.gov.uk for a full list of services affected. I hope that we will be able to return to business as usual as soon as possible. Thank you for your patience and understanding at this difficult time.

{INSERT YOUR SIGNATURE HERE}

Active Cumbria - Stay In, Work Out

Active Cumbria has a new resource available via their website.

The page signposts to lots of different activities that people can do indoors during this time - for children and adults of all ages. Get involved and share what you're doing on social media tagging Active Cumbria in your posts!

Latest information on the Coronavirus.


16:30PM Monday, 23 March 2020

Coronavirus (COVID-19) staff update

Priority childcare arrangements in schools for children of essential workforce

All schools and childcare settings are now only providing childcare for children of parents who are essential workers. Not all schools are open and those that are open, are operating on as minimal staff numbers as safe to do so in line with social distancing guidelines. If you do require childcare as you have no alternative option in place, you will need to take evidence with you to show that you are classed as an essential worker. Please ask your manager to fill out a COVID-19 - Key Worker Classification letter (DOC 309KB).

Parents who are not essential workforce should make alternative childcare arrangements.

Explanation of 'essential workforce'

Supporting our critical services

Our frontline and critical services are working exceptionally hard to ensure the ongoing delivery of priority services to the people of Cumbria. Over the coming days you will start to see more messages about how we need to work differently to support these critical services. The People Management team have already started to ask teams and services about what could be classed as non-essential activities and where they might be able to free up volunteers to help support critical services, potentially, in other parts of the Council. The team are working hard to develop a process to ensure that volunteers are matched based their skills and with demands from critical services. Look out for more on this in the coming days which will include information about how you can volunteer.

Coronavirus Frequently Asked Questions

Thank you again to everyone who has sent messages in to the Ask Colin mailbox and directly to the People Management service. Where possible these have been answered and can be found on our Frequently Asked Questions web page. These are being updated daily.

One question sent in today asked "At what point will the Council be issuing clear advice to staff working in county council buildings to maintain a safe distance between each other, e.g. a desk between, or advising that whole teams are not in the office at the same time?"

Answer: The message remains the same as last week - All Cumbria County Council staff should work from home if they are able to do so.

For those unable to work from home and are continuing to work from Council offices, the following precautions should be taken:

Social distancing

  • to limit the potential risk of transmitting the virus, work from a single office and avoid transferring between offices
  • aim to keep 2 metres apart from other people. This can be achieved through spacing of desks and seating in order that people are not working in close proximity to each other.

Please note that all corporate messages and Heads Up briefings can also be found on our website should you wish to refer back to something.

WhatsApp - for Council Android devices (not old windows phones)

To help you keep in touch with your team mates and colleagues, the ICT team have now made WhatsApp available for installing on your county council mobile phone (Android devices only).

Many of you will already be familiar with using this messenger app out of work already with friends and family. This will simply provide an extra way to keep connected and have a chat with your team.

Please follow this link to view the easy installation guide to get you set up.

If you've got any queries please contact the ICT service desk on ict.servicedesk@cumbria.gov.uk or call 01228 226000

Webinars to support new ways of working

A series of three Webinars to support staff with remote working are now available through My Learning at . The first one starts tomorrow at 12.30.

The topics are:

We'd welcome your feedback on the webinars and any ideas on what else we can do to support you in working in different ways. Get in touch with ldadmin.team@cumbria.gov.uk

Latest information on the Coronavirus.


18:01PM Friday, 20 March 2020

Coronavirus (COVID-19) staff update

Our aim is to keep you as up to date and informed as possible on everything you need to know during the Coronavirus pandemic situation and would encourage you all to please take the time to read the daily corporate messages. Thank you.

Urgent Guidance: Priority childcare arrangements in schools for children of essential workforce from Monday 23 March

Parents/carers with children of school age

Parents will be contacted by their child's school to inform them if the school will be open for children of parents who are essential workers. If the school is unable to open, parents who are essential workers will be asked to take their child to another local school. There will be no school transport provision. Children should not attend school before 9.30am on Monday. Uniforms should be worn as usual.

If you are asked to provide a letter to the school to evidence that you are classed as an essential worker, please ask your manager to fill out a COVID-19 - Key Worker Classification letter.

Parents who are not essential workforce should make alternative childcare arrangements.

Parents/carers of children in nurseries and early years settings

We have asked nurseries and early years settings to close on Monday to all except children of parents who are essential workers and who cannot make alternative childcare arrangements. This is in line with Government guidance. Parents should be contacted by their child's setting to inform them if they will be open for children of essential workforce, and if not where the nearest alternative is.

If you are asked to provide a letter to the nursery to evidence that you are classed as an essential worker, please ask your manager to fill out the letter found in this link.

Parents who are not essential workforce should make alternative childcare arrangements.

Explanation of 'essential workforce'.

Stay at home to stay well

The government advice around social distancing remains in place to try and stop the spread of the Coronavirus outbreak. Social distancing will help reduce the spread of coronavirus. Everyone should follow the guidance on social distancing for everyone in the UK.

It advises on social distancing measures we should all be taking to reduce social interaction between people in order to reduce the transmission of coronavirus (COVID-19). It is intended for use in situations where people are living in their own homes, with or without additional support from friends, family and carers.

Everyone should be trying to follow these measures as much as is realistic.

Reporting of Covid-19 related absences

You should notify your line manager in the first instance if you require any absence related to Covid-19 (Coronavirus). For example, if you have a confirmed or suspected case of Covid-19 sickness or other absence relating to Covid-19, such as self-isolation or limited work availability, you need to ensure your manager is aware of your circumstances as soon as possible; so cases are accurately recorded on iTrent.

Accurate recording of workforce data and availability will be vital to support on-going delivery of critical, essential services. Managers are required to record their teams working availability in order to support this. This information will be used to understand the impact of Covid-19 on teams across the council and understand the knock-on effect this will then have on services. We need to be able to understand the organisational impact of Covid-19 so the right resources are provided to support staff, service users and customers during this period of uncertainty.

Sickness absences (Confirmed or Suspected cases of Covid-19) will be recorded in the normal way and will come out of sick pay entitlements.

Other Absence reasons related to Covid-19 (not sickness absence, i.e. self-isolation) have been added to iTrent, which will continue to provide normal pay.

Learning and development to support new ways of working

A new 'My Learning' area to support you with resources and training for new ways of working is now live and can be found in My Learning. Take a look at the 'Managing in a crisis: how to work remotely?' videos and pointers; the daily top tips and 'staying connected with your team'. These resources and pages will be added to in the coming days. The L&D team are also developing a page of resources for staff who are working from home with children off school.

The team are working hard to shift more training online; develop the use of webinars, videos and other digital training technologies to support our new way of working. If you have any useful resources or links that you'd like to see shared then please send them to ldadmin@cumbria.gov.uk

Coronavirus Frequently Asked Questions

Thank you to everyone who has sent messages in to the Ask Colin mailbox and directly to the People Management service. Where possible these have been answered and can be found on our Frequently Asked Questions web page

Please note that all corporate messages and Heads Up briefings can also be found on our website should you wish to refer back to something.

Information for public buildings

If you work in a public facing building please follow this advice if someone comes in to the building with symptoms suggestive of Coronavirus:

  • Please encourage the individual to follow the self-isolation advice on the NHS website and tell them that they should go home and follow the stay-at-home guidance available through NHS 111 online and on the Gov.uk website
  • If they need clinical advice, they should go online to NHS 111 or call 111 if they don't have internet access. In an emergency, call 999 if they are seriously ill or injured or their life is at risk. Tell them not to visit the GP, pharmacy, urgent care centre or a hospital.
  • If a member of staff has helped someone who was taken unwell with a new, continuous cough or a high temperature, they do not need to go home unless they develop symptoms themselves. They should wash their hands thoroughly for 20 seconds after any contact with someone who is unwell with symptoms consistent with Coronavirus infection.

It is not necessary to close the business or workplace or send any staff home, unless government policy changes. Keep monitoring the government response page for the latest details.

For cleaning advice, please follow the advice for cleaning of non-healthcare settings or follow the advice specific to your setting from the list of guidance available.

Keep connected to your team

There are lots of ways to keep in touch with your team mates and colleagues whilst you are away from one another. Here's some ideas:

  • For 1-2-1 conversations please use your county council mobile phone not Skype audio calls
  • Skype instant messenger is great for quick messages that you don't want to clog up email inboxes for and you can have group conversations on this too. It feels a bit more informal and may be a nice way of quickly checking in on each other
  • If you do need a face to face meeting use the Skype video option. If you are new to using skype you'll find some useful guidance on intouch. Please be mindful that video calls take up more capacity on the council's network so please bare this in mind and use the audio function first.
  • There are already a number of conference call multi dial in telephone conference numbers allocated to keep teams connected, however we're aware from helpful feedback that more numbers are required and the council is in the advanced stage of agreeing additional numbers at significantly lower usage costs. More information on this will be provided as soon as possible.
  • Yammer and other mobile options for teams to connect so you can keep in touch with your team mates online are also being launched very soon. Yammer is similar to Facebook and you can use whether you're working at home or in the office. More on this coming soon!

Stay up to date with what's going on in your area

If you would like to receive updates and information about how public services and local communities are responding to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak please subscribe to the alerts for your area:

Train disruption

In line with government advice, train operators are working to a reduced timetable. If you had train travel planned please check with the operator to see how this affects you.


Latest information on the Coronavirus.


09:42AM Friday, 20 March 2020

Coronavirus (COVID-19) staff update

*Parents of Early Years, Primary, Secondary and Post-16 education - PLEASE READ THIS*

It is now decided that schools will close from tomorrow. If NHS and social care employees cannot attend work because of childcare responsibilities this will create a major problem for health, care and emergency services that will directly affect their ability to care for seriously ill people and protect the public.

In Cumbria we are working on a plan to keep some open to provide childcare for children who's parents work in the NHS, social care and emergency services and cannot make alternative childcare arrangements. To help us prepare we are asking families in these circumstances to complete the COVID-19 priority childcare form.

Please share this survey link with any friends or family as necessary.

Connecting to council ICT systems from home (VPN) - reminder

The council's ICT team have worked hard to increase the number of people able to work remotely via VPN.

This is however placing additional demands on the network so whilst you're working from home and connecting to the network using VPN you may experience slower ICT performance than usual. Unfortunately this is unavoidable and is to be expected given the increased load on both the county council's and national communications networks. Our ICT colleagues are aware of some challenges being experienced and are doing everything possible to maximise network availability so there is no need to log a call with them about this specifically.

Much work has already been done and is ongoing to keep us all connected and please be assured that the systems in place will aim to support as many people as possible to work from home.

We'd ask that you please be patient whilst the system adjusts and consider the types of thing you are using the network for, for example - trying to access large files, pictures, videos and video conferencing will take longer than usual so consider doing this at non peak times of the day if you can. In particular, if you are connecting to video conferencing, video calls take up more bandwidth than just audio calls so should only be used when absolutely required. Everyone can play in part in keeping us all connected so thank you for your continued support on this.

If anyone is new to using VPN please follow all three stages below:

1. Download Google Authenticator onto your mobile phone

2. Register for VPN

3. Connect to a wireless network and VPN

If you require support to connect please contact the ICT helpdesk on ict.servicedesk@cumbria.gov.uk or call 01228 226000.

Social distancing instructions

We should all now be taking steps to limit face to face interaction between people in order to reduce the transmission of Coronavirus. You'll see and hear this being referred to as 'social distancing'.

The advice is intended for use in situations where people are living in their own homes, with or without additional support from friends, family and carers.

Steps you can take are to:

  1. Avoid contact with someone who is displaying symptoms of Coronavirus. These symptoms include high temperature and/or new and continuous cough
  2. Avoid non-essential use of public transport, varying your travel times to avoid rush hour, when possible
  3. Work from home, where possible
  4. Avoid large gatherings, and gatherings in smaller public spaces such as pubs, cinemas, restaurants, theatres, bars, clubs
  5. Avoid gatherings with friends and family. Keep in touch using remote technology such as phone, internet, and social media
  6. Use telephone or online services to contact your GP surgery or other essential services

Everyone should be following these measures as much as is realistic.

For those who are over 70, have an underlying health condition or are pregnant, we strongly advise you to follow the above measures as much as you can, and to significantly limit your face-to-face interaction with friends and family if possible.

All the latest advice.

This advice is likely to be in place for some weeks.

Volunteering in your community

Vulnerable people and elderly people in your community who are social distancing or self-isolating may need the support of volunteers - could you help?

Support Cumbria are looking for volunteers of all levels to support local charities and organisations in local communities.

You might have specific skills to offer or may want to help with tasks like shopping, dog walking, collecting prescriptions or other help.

Go to Support Cumbria to register as a volunteer or to register a volunteer group.

Looking after your mental health

It is really important to look after your mental health whilst homeworking.

Draw on support you might have through your friends, family and other networks during this time. Try to stay in touch with those around you over the phone, by post, or online. Let people know how you would like to stay in touch and build that into your routine. This is also important in looking after your mental wellbeing and you may find it helpful to talk to them about how you are feeling.

Remember it is OK to share your concerns with others you trust and in doing so you may end up providing support to them too. Or you can use a NHS recommended helpline.

If you would like any further information or support you could:

Looking after your physical health

It's really important to keep active and look after our physical health too. There are lots of options online to do workouts at home, and you should still make time to get away from your computer to go out for a walk, run, or cycle ride, providing it doesn't involve unnecessary social interaction.

Please try and get some time away from your computer to get some fresh air. Spending time in green space or bringing nature into your everyday life can benefit both mental and physical wellbeing. It can improve mood, reduce feelings of stress or anger, and make people feel more relaxed - even just opening the window and getting some fresh air can help.

Taking regular screen breaks and moving away from the desk in the same way you would in an office is essential and stretching exercises, gentle yoga or mindfulness can be beneficial.


15:57PM Wednesday, 18 March 2020

Working from home

As per national guidance the council is encouraging as many people as possible to work from home.

For lots of people this may be the first time you have worked from home and you might be feeling a bit apprehensive, however we've put together some useful advice, guidance and tips to help you and will continue to send out regular updates throughout this period. There is a new page on our website which contains all of the staff messages should you want to refer back to anything.

The BBC have put together some handy tips and advice which are worth reading to help you work well at home.

Connecting to council ICT systems from home (VPN)

The council's ICT team have worked hard to increase the number of people able to work remotely via VPN.

This is however placing additional demands on the network so whilst you're working from home and connecting to the network using VPN you may experience your laptop running a bit slower than usual. Unfortunately this is unavoidable and is to be expected given the increased load on both the county council's and national communications networks. Our ICT colleagues are aware of some challenges being experienced and are doing everything possible to maximise network availability so there is no need to log a call with them about this specifically.

Much work has already been done and is ongoing to keep us all connected and please be assured that the systems in place will aim to support as many people as possible to work from home. We'd ask that you please be patient whilst the system adjusts and consider the types of thing you are using the network for, for example - trying to access large files, pictures, videos and video conferencing will take longer than usual so consider doing this at non peak times of the day if you can. In particular, if you are connecting to video conferencing, video calls take up more bandwidth than just audio calls so should only be used when absolutely required. Everyone can play in part in keeping us all connected so thank you for your continued support on this.

If anyone is new to using VPN please follow all three stages below:

1. Download Google Authenticator onto your mobile phone

2. Register for VPN

3. Connect to a wireless network and VPN

If you require support to connect please contact the ICT helpdesk on ict.servicedesk@cumbria.gov.uk or call 01228 226000.

Staying connected to your team

There are lots of ways to keep in touch with colleagues whilst you are away from one another. Many teams are setting up regular calls or Skype meetings to stay connected and check in with one another.

  • For direct 1-2-1 discussion, use your county council mobile phone.
  • There is also Skype option which allows face to face video and audio calls. If you are new to using skype you'll find some useful guidance on intouch. As already mentioned - be aware that video calls take up more capacity on the council's network so please bare this in mind and use the audio function first.
  • There are already a number of conference call multi dial in telephone conference numbers allocated to keep teams connected, however we're aware from helpful feedback that more numbers are required and the council is in the advanced stage of agreeing additional numbers at significantly lower usage costs. More information on this will be provided as soon as possible.
  • We'll also be launching Yammer and other mobile options for teams to connect so you can keep in touch with your team mates online. Yammer is similar to Facebook and you can use whether you're working at home or in the office. Look out for more on these coming soon!

Learning and development support

A range of online learning and links is available online at My Learning, these are currently being extended to include short courses and training on working and managing in a virtual way. Further detail will follow tomorrow.

Working safely from home - Th!nk safe - be safe

We remain committed to ensure people work safely. Home working requires some adjustments and it is important that each of us consider our own health and safety and follow the appropriate guidance. For instance the chairs, desks or additional equipment you may use at work may not be available or supplied to a home environment or alternative place of work at this time.

If you're using your own equipment please be aware of common hazards - please visually check all equipment to ensure it is fit for purpose and undamaged before use and ensure cables do not cause trip hazards.

Use of laptops and display screens:

  • Where possible and already issued as part of your usual workplace equipment, please attach a separate keyboard and mouse when using your laptop
  • Work from a suitable work surface (desk or table) and use a comfortable supportive chair
  • Position your laptop so that your eyes are roughly at the same height as the top of your screen
  • Regularly change position and take regular breaks away from the screen (around five minutes in every hour)
  • Multiple screen (and repeater screens) will not be practical to be moved from usual workplaces to home environments, so please work flexibly given the challenging situation
  • Please speak to your Line Manager should you have individual concerns

Lone Working

Please discuss with your Line Manager any agreed lone working measures so that you can keep in regular contact at suitable intervals. This may be at the beginning and end of a working day but will be dependent on your role.

You can find out more about Lone Working using the links below:

Tips on how to manage your team remotely

You may already manage people who work from home routinely, but if you don't then this might take some adjusting for you too. Over the coming days, we'll be providing more information to help you to manage your team in this new and different way of working. In the meantime it's important to check in regularly with your team to make sure they are ok and coping with their workload and also adjusting to this new way of working. Don't forget to not overlook the importance of letting them know that they and their work is valued - a simple thank you goes a long way!

These are unprecedented times and we really value everyone's flexibility and commitment to adapt to new ways of working, staying connected to one another and continuing to provide the best possible services for the people of Cumbria - so thank you again, you are really appreciated.

Latest information on the Coronavirus


17:46PM Tuesday, 17 March 2020

Changes to working arrangements

Dear Colleagues,

The Prime Minister's announcements yesterday make it clear that the national effort to delay the spread of COVID -19 is moving to a stage of greater intensity. By delaying the spread Government aims to avoid very large numbers of people becoming ill at the same time.

This is an unprecedented situation. By working together and looking after ourselves and one another we will be able to continue to provide essential public services for the people of Cumbria. Thank you for your commitment.

Preparing for change

Today all managers will be reviewing business continuity planning in their teams in order to ensure that the council is ready to implement changes to working practices from tomorrow (18 March).

This will include:

  • Assessing all those staff within their service who can fulfill their role by working from home. We will support home working in all cases that we possibly can.
  • Reviewing and preparing to implement business continuity plans for critical, essential services to ensure we continue to be able to support those people most in need of our support.
  • Reviewing all work related travel.
  • Reviewing the need for all face to face meetings unless there is business critical reason.
  • Considering the use of ICT solutions, including Skype and conference calls as part of business continuity considerations.
  • Reviewing the welfare, infection control and personal protective equipment for staff who provide critical, essential services to our residents and for whom home-working is simply not an option (recognising that there are national shortages of key resources such as sanitiser).

Given the diverse range of services that we provide there will not be a "one-size-fits-all" approach across the council. All of these measures will be reviewed regularly and your manager will keep you updated.

Health and wellbeing

  • If you develop a cough or high temperature stay at home for 14-days.
  • If you live with someone who has a cough or a temperature stay at home for 14-days.

Where you are well and can work from home please do so. Where home-working is not an option for you due to your role you will continue to be paid. This includes staying at home because you live with someone who has a cough or a temperature. COVID-19 absences will be discounted from absence triggers and absence and well-being procedures, but you still need to let your manager know if you are away from work.

GOV.UK stay at home guidance

Employees at greater risk

Employees who are at increased risk for complications from COVID-19 due to underlying health conditions should talk to their manager about steps they can take to protect their health. These may include requesting a temporary change in job location, hours, assignment or duties, or implementation of additional protective measures to reduce their exposure to others or chances of being infected.

Council committee meetings

I have suspended Member committee meetings and associated working groups until the end of the week. All other Council meetings that are planned over the next six weeks will be reviewed and a decision will be made about those meetings and future arrangements before the end of the week. We expect new legislation that will enable some meetings to take place remotely. We are living in unprecedented times and will all need to be responsive and flexible in our approach in the coming weeks.

Cumbria is a great place, with enormous community spirit and strength. I am confident that you will all step up to support one another, so that we face these new challenges positively.

Thank you for everything you do for the county council and our residents.

Katherine Fairclough,

Chief Executive, Cumbria County Council



13:11PM Tuesday, 17 March 2020

Heads Up Coronavirus

This heads up includes important information and managers need to make themselves familiar with the guidance included.

Ways of working flowchart

A flowchart (PDF 434KB) has been put together to help managers and staff work through various scenarios that are emerging as a result of the developing situation with the Coronavirus and the subsequent national and Council guidance.

The flowchart covers common questions that have been asked. You will understand that it is not possible to cover every scenario and this is provided as a guide and will be updated if situations change. Managers are asked to use their judgement and pragmatism to solve problems that arise.

Advice for vulnerable groups

For further details on vulnerable groups please see the government website. This now includes further advice for pregnant women who are being advised to self-isolate.

Recording absence and time lost due to coronavirus (supersedes guidance issued on the 12 March 2020)

Accurate recording of workforce data and availability will be vital to support on-going delivery of critical, essential services. Managers are required to record their teams working availability in order to support this.

Sickness absences should be recorded in the normal way. Other absences due to coronavirus i.e. requirement to care for a dependent, but not actual sickness will be recorded via iTrent People Manager using the "other absence" functionality.

How to record sickness absence as a result of a confirmed case of Coronavirus

Recording should be completed in iTrent following the normal absence recording method.

  • Where a team member is unwell with a confirmed case of coronavirus record in iTrent as "Coronavirus - confirmed case"
  • Where a team member is unwell with a suspected case of coronavirus record in iTrent as "Coronavirus - suspected case"
  • If a suspected case becomes confirmed, you will need to change the reason for the absence to "coronavirus - confirmed case".

Managers are advised that absences in respect of Coronavirus are to be discounted from triggers and progression through the Absence and Wellbeing procedure.

Ending an absence

As normal, absence should be ended when the team member is fit to return to work. It is really important to maintain accurate records so promptly entering absence end dates will help the organisation understand and plan around levels of availability.

Other absence recording

Just like when your team members are on flexi leave, other absences from the workplace should be recorded in iTrent. Additional categories for coronavirus related absence have been added which will continue to provide normal pay. The codes are as follows:

  • Coronavirus - Caring responsibilities
    This option should be selected if the employee's normal care arrangements are not available (i.e. school closure, carer unable to attend) and the employee is unable to work from home.
  • Coronavirus - Self-isolation
    This option should be selected if an employee is directed by health professionals or following government guidelines to self-isolate or dependants have coronavirus symptoms but they are unable to work from home. Self-isolation should not be recorded as a sickness absence.
  • Coronavirus - Awaiting redeployment
    This option should be selected if the employee is available for redeployment into another role due to their building being closed or current work is not sustainable etc. Further guidance will be provided on this in due course.
  • Coronavirus - Redeployed
    This option should be selected if the employee is redeployed into another role. Further guidance will be provided on this in due course.

How to record Coronavirus related absence (not sickness)

1. In People Manager, select relevant Employee and choose 'Other Leave'

2. Select 'Other Absence - New'

3. Enter details and select 'Paid Leave' and choose relevant Coronavirus absence option above and save.

Frequently Asked Question

What to do if a team member becomes ill during self-isolation?

If the team member who has been self-isolating becomes unwell, then they should then be recorded in iTrent as sickness absence, using the instructions above just like you would for any other normal absence.

Health Surveillance appointments

Please note that all health surveillance appointments for Fire, Highways and other safety critical posts have been postponed until further notice.

Additional travel and expenses claims relating to Coronavirus

Any claims should be made via the usual methods, see below for instructions on how to submit a claim.

Where employees have been required to make a business journey due to the Coronavirus, then "Coronavirus" should be entered in the reason column.

Any additional expenses which are directly linked to Coronavirus, should be claimed against the 'expenses - other' element. In the reason for spend column employees should enter, Coronavirus followed by what the expense is, for example "Coronavirus - purchase of hand sanitizer".

Expenses should be pre-authorised by an individual's line manager before any claims are submitted.

Cumbria County Council will only reimburse employees for expenses which are essential and required to carry out their role. An example would be where employees working in the front line services are required to purchase their own hand sanitizer or cleaning products to be used in the work place.

Although it is against normal expenses guidance, Cumbria County Council will reimburse any additional telephone costs arising from employees needing to use their own phone for work purposes, as they are required to work from another work location (including home) and did not have access to a Council phone, either landline or mobile.

All claims should have a valid VAT receipt. Where VAT is not to be recovered, claims should still be supported by a receipt where possible to ensure compliance. All mileage claims must be accompanied by VAT receipts, with the exception of pedal cycle travel. Reimbursement will not be made if receipts are not provided.

How to submit a claim

Employees with access to MyHR should submit their claim online.

MyHR User Guides

Employees who do not have access to MyHR should complete the Mileage and Expenses Claim Form (DOC 245kb). Completed forms and VAT receipts should be sent to: Service Centre, Parkhouse Building, Baron Way, Kingmoor Business Park, Carlisle. CA6 4SJ.

Questions

Should you have any queries in respect of recording, please contact the People Management Team via the People Management portal.


16:18PM Monday, 16 March 2020

Further changes to managing Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Today the Government has introduced new measures in the Prime Minister's speech, including an announcement asking people to work at home wherever possible.

As regards your working arrangements for tomorrow (Tuesday 17 March) we are asking all staff to please arrive at work as normal e.g. if you intended to be in your usual place of work then please carry on with this arrangement and go to your place of work as normal.

To reassure you, the council has been preparing for this decision for some time now. We have been proactively working on all of our business continuity plans.

There will be further detailed guidance out tomorrow, outlining how we will make the move to balancing increased working from home, whilst maintaining our most critical and essential services.

Crucially there will not be a "one-size-fits-all" approach across the council. This reflects the diverse nature of the services we provide and our workforce.

This is a complicated issue and the response from everyone so far has been fantastic. Thank you for your commitment and team spirit.


17:51PM Friday, 13 March 2020

Change to managing Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Yesterday the Government changed its approach to managing the spread of Coronavirus (COVID-19). The aim is now to delay the spread of the virus across the country, rather than prevent the spread.

The change acknowledges that the virus can no longer be contained and many people are likely to be infected with it over the coming weeks and months. By delaying the spread Government hopes to be able to reduce the pressure on public services, particularly health services, by stretching out the number of people who become ill over a longer period.

We have preparing for the change in approach over recent days.

What this means for the council?

This means that over coming days and weeks you will see changes in how the council operates and how you are asked to work. These changes will be intended to slow the spread of the virus amongst the workforce, with the aim of minimising the impact on our ability to provide public services to the people of Cumbria.

This could mean more home working, teams operating from split locations, change or suspension of certain services and more. There will not be a "one-size-fits-all" approach across the council. This reflects the diverse nature of the services we provide and our workforce. How you may be asked to work could be different from colleagues elsewhere, and that it is likely to change and evolve over time.

Work is currently underway to agree initial measures that will be put in place and the aim is that these will be applied in a co-ordinated way amongst public sector partners in the county. More information about this will be provided early next week.

Cumbria Fire and Rescue Service, will be implementing changes from today which reflect their status as a blue-light emergency service.

What we are asking of you

This is worrying time, even if we are not concerned for ourselves we may have concerns about family members or loved ones. We are asking you to be flexible about how you work and respond positively to change. In turn the council recognises that the spread of the virus will have impacts on people's lives outside of work and we will be flexible and ensure people are supported to meet all their responsibilities.

This is significant challenge, and while we can hope for the best we must be prepared for the situation to get worse and to last months rather than weeks.

Further information will be circulated next week. The response from everyone so far has been fantastic. Thank you for your commitment and team spirit.



Latest guidance from Government

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

  • new continuous cough and/or
  • high temperature

For most people, coronavirus (COVID-19) will be a mild infection:

  • if you have symptoms of coronavirus infection (COVID-19), however mild, do not leave your home for 7 days from when your symptoms started. (See ending isolationsection below for more information)
  • this action will help protect others in your community while you are infectious
  • plan ahead and ask others for help to ensure that you can successfully stay at home
  • ask your employer, friends and family to help you get the things you need to stay at home
  • stay at least 2 metres (about 3 steps) away from other people in your home if possible
  • sleep alone, if possible
  • wash your hands regularly for 20 seconds, each time using soap and water
  • stay away from vulnerable individuals, such as the elderly and those with underlying health conditions, as much as possible
  • 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 7 days, contact NHS 111 online. If you have no internet access, call NHS 111. For a medical emergency dial 999

Coronavirus (COVID-19): UK government response


17:55PM Thursday, 12 March 2020

Coronavirus (COVID-19) recording absence and time lost due to self-isolation

People Management and Health and Safety colleagues have agreed that all absences or self-isolation cases, suspected or confirmed COVID-19 cases for staff must be recorded through iTrent. There is no recording requirement through the E-Safety accident/incident reporting system. This will still enable effective monitoring practices to take place for affected staff.

Managers are advised that absences in respect of COVID-19 are to be discounted from triggers and progression through the Absence and Wellbeing procedure.

Self-isolation

Where a team member is directed by health professionals or following government guidelines to self-isolate

AND they are well

AND they are able to work from home, then they will continue to work as normal and no recording is necessary (at present) other than your records for your team.

Where a team member is directed by health professionals or following government guidelines to self-isolate

AND they are well

BUT they are unable to work from home, then they will need to be recorded as self-isolating. Provisions exist within all our terms and conditions of employment for full pay in these circumstances.

How to record self-isolation

Self-isolation should not be recorded as absence. Follow these instructions to record self-isolation:

Submit a ticket to the Service


17:59PM Wednesday, 11 March 2020

Can you work from home and access Council systems?

We are preparing for the possibility that the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak will get worse. If it does, people may be required to work from home. We want to check now that people can access Council ICT systems from home.

PLEASE NOTE: At this stage, there is no need to change existing working patterns, however we want to be as prepared as possible in case staff are required to work from home more than usual.

What you need to do now

County Council ICT systems can be accessed securely from home and other non-County Council premises. This secure access is possible by a wifi connection to County Council systems via a Virtual Personal Network (or VPN for short).

Many people will use this regularly. If you do not, or have never tried, we want you to test whether you can connect via VPN from home.

To use your laptop to access Council systems via VPN, there are three key stages outlined below - each stage has a step-by-step DIY guide (click the links).

Over the next few days please follow the instructions below and check you are able to connect from home.

All stages must be completed to allow successful access.

1. Download Google Authenticator onto your mobile phone

2. Register for VPN

3. Connect to a wireless network and VPN

Queries and support

Should you be unable to access VPN or have a setup problem, please contact the ICT Helpdesk via:

Frequently asked questions

Thank you to everyone who has sent questions . We have compiled a list of Frequently Asked Questions and responses. This will be updated as the situation develops.


18:10PM Tuesday, 10 March 2020

Update 10 March

Dear Colleagues,

As you may be aware from local media reports there have been three additional COVID-19 (Coronavirus) cases confirmed in Cumbria today, taking the total to eight in the county.

Two of these cases are related to earlier Cumbrian cases; the other is a member of staff at a school in Carlisle who recently travelled through Italy. Following an expert assessment by a Public Health England Health Protection Team the school has not closed as it was determined that the risk to people at the school was low.

It is increasingly clear today that we are moving towards the point where the country will need to move from a "containment" phase, where the aim is to stop the virus spreading, to a "delay" phase where the aim is to reduce the speed at which it spreads. This is a decision that will have to be made nationally and until then we should continue to follow the national advice in terms of self-isolation and good hygiene practice.

Corporate Management Team are holding a special session tomorrow to discuss the situation in more detail and consider the planning work that has been going on to prepare for the potential impact on council services. I will update you again on those discussions.

Thank you for your messages, colleagues in the Public Health team are working through your queries. Where there are specific concerns about an individual we will contact you direct. General queries will be dealt with through an FAQ and circulated to all colleagues in my next message. If you have any further queries please ask.

It's also important to remember that the risk to the public remains low and in the vast majority of cases, COVID-19 causes relatively mild symptoms and people make a full recovery. However, just like seasonal flu, it can be serious for a small number of people, particularly in more vulnerable groups such as older people and those with existing respiratory conditions. It is therefore important to try to limit the spread of the virus where possible.

Yours

Colin Cox, Cumbria Director of Public Health



Preventing the spread of infection

There is currently no vaccine to prevent COVID-19. The best way to prevent infection is to avoid being exposed to the virus.

There are general principles anyone can follow to help prevent the spread of respiratory viruses, including:

  • washing your hands often - with soap and water, or use alcohol sanitiser that contains at least 60% alcohol if handwashing facilities are not available - this is particularly important after taking public transport. Guidance is available on hand washing
  • covering your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throwing the tissue in a bin. See Catch It, Bin It, Kill It
  • people who feel unwell should stay at home and should not attend work (this also applies to visitors to care homes)
  • avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands
  • clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces at least daily or after use. Deep cleaning is not required
  • if staff are worried about their symptoms or those of a family member or colleague, please call NHS 111. They should not go to their GP or other healthcare environment

employees should wash their 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
  • on arrival at home

Please note: Hand sanitiser has been ordered for council employees in public facing roles and reception areas of public buildings but there is currently a national shortage due to high demand. Sanitiser will be distributed as soon as available.

Facemasks and gloves

During normal day-to-day activities facemasks do not provide protection from respiratory viruses, such as COVID-19 and do not need to be worn by staff in any of these settings. Facemasks are only recommended to be worn by infected individuals when advised by a healthcare worker, to reduce the risk of transmitting the infection to other people.

Gloves are not required. Individuals should follow hand washing guidance.

PHE recommends that the best way to reduce any risk of infection for anyone is good hygiene and avoiding direct or close contact (within 2 metres) with any potentially infected person.

Containing and delaying the spread of infection

At the current time the UK is attempting to contain the spread of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) infection and prevent it becoming widespread in the population.

If this is not successful the UK will move to a strategy of delaying, or slowing down, the spread of the virus. This is to try and avoid large numbers of people becoming ill at the same as this could have a serious impact on businesses and public services.

As part of a future delay strategy this may mean some staff could be required to work from home. This would help reduce contact between people and slow the spread of the virus, limiting the number of people infected at any one time. This will help us remain able to provide services to the public. Government has asked us now to think about how this would work.

Regular internal planning meetings are being held by senior officers and the council is also leading the multi-agency planning with partner organisations in Cumbria.

New advice will be published if the UK moves to a delay strategy.

Coronavirus: ICT security

There has been a sharp increase in the number of malicious 'phishing' emails targeting organisations that seek to capitalize on people's worries around Coronavirus (COVID-19).

Phishing is a cyber attack that uses disguised email as a weapon. The goal is to trick the email recipient into believing that the message is something they want or need — a request from their bank, for instance, or a note from someone in their company — and to click a link or download an attachment.

Please be aware of the possibility of receiving of unsolicited emails related to Coronavirus (COVID-19).

Please do not open emails, click links or download documents if they are not from a trusted source.

If you receive any such emails please contact Security@cumbria.gov.uk

Further information

Further information and resources


18:26PM Friday, 6 March 2020

Coronavirus (COVID-19): Guidance for employees from Director of Public Health

Dear Colleagues,

Understandably the current situation is causing concern for many people and it's important that employees are given the right advice about Coronavirus (COVID-19).

It's also important to stress that the risk to the public remains low and in the vast majority of cases, COVID-19 causes relatively mild symptoms and people make a full recovery. However, just like seasonal flu, it can be serious for a small number of people, particularly in more vulnerable groups such as older people and those with existing respiratory conditions. It is therefore important to try to contain the spread of the virus where possible.

This briefing provides the latest advice from Public Health England and reflects discussions we have had with Trade Unions regarding concerns being raised by employees. The advice is proportionate to the level of risk that currently exists, there is no need to do more than advised in this briefing.

Colin Cox, Cumbria Director of Public Health


Preventing the spread of infection

There is currently no vaccine to prevent COVID-19. The best way to prevent infection is to avoid being exposed to the virus.

There are general principles anyone can follow to help prevent the spread of respiratory viruses, including:

  • washing your hands often - with soap and water, or use alcohol sanitiser that contains at least 60% alcohol if handwashing facilities are not available - this is particularly important after taking public transport. Guidance is available on hand washing
  • covering your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throwing the tissue in a bin. See Catch It, Bin It, Kill It
  • people who feel unwell should stay at home and should not attend work (this also applies to visitors to care homes)
  • avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands
  • clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces at least daily or after use. Deep cleaning is not required.
  • if staff are worried about their symptoms or those of a family member or colleague, please call NHS 111. They should not go to their GP or other healthcare environment

employees should wash their 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
  • on arrival at home

Please note: Hand sanitiser has been ordered for council employees in public facing roles and reception areas of public buildings but there is currently a national shortage due to high demand. Sanitiser will be distributed as soon as available.

Facemasks and gloves

During normal day-to-day activities facemasks do not provide protection from respiratory viruses, such as COVID-19 and do not need to be worn by staff in any of these settings. Facemasks are only recommended to be worn by infected individuals when advised by a healthcare worker, to reduce the risk of transmitting the infection to other people.

Gloves are not required. Individuals should follow hand washing guidance.

PHE recommends that the best way to reduce any risk of infection for anyone is good hygiene and avoiding direct or close contact (within 2 metres) with any potentially infected person.

Containing and delaying the spread of infection

At the current time the UK is attempting to contain the spread of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) infection and prevent it becoming widespread in the population.

If this is not successful the UK will move to a strategy of delaying, or slowing down, the spread of the virus. This is to try and avoid large numbers of people becoming ill at the same as this could have a serious impact on businesses and public services.

As part of a future delay strategy this may mean some staff could be required to work from home. This would help reduce contact between people and slow the spread of the virus, limiting the number of people infected at any one time. This will help us remain able to provide services to the public. Government has asked us now to think about how this would work.

Regular internal planning meetings are being held by senior officers and the council is also leading the multi-agency planning with partner organisations in Cumbria.

New advice will be published if the UK moves to a delay strategy.

Coronavirus: ICT security

There has been a sharp increase in the number of malicious 'phishing' emails targeting organisations that seek to capitalize on people's worries around Coronavirus (COVID-19).

Phishing is a cyber attack that uses disguised email as a weapon. The goal is to trick the email recipient into believing that the message is something they want or need — a request from their bank, for instance, or a note from someone in their company — and to click a link or download an attachment.

Please be aware of the possibility of receiving of unsolicited emails related to Coronavirus (COVID-19).

Please do not open emails, click links or download documents if they are not from a trusted source.

If you receive any such emails please contact Security@cumbria.gov.uk

Further information

Further information and resources


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