This page contains information about returning to the workplace, including who will be asked to return, details about safety procedures and further advice for vulnerable staff members and those with caring responsibilities.

In response to recent Government announcements, the University is currently planning a safe, organised and phased return to some onsite activity. In the first instance the University is working to reopen buildings necessary for research activity or business-critical work that cannot be carried out remotely. Extensive work is underway in the relevant buildings, including undertaking risk assessments and implementing any necessary safety measures.

Working from home currently remains the default position for staff who can do so, until such time as onsite work can be facilitated. As such, unless staff have been working onsite already, they should continue to work remotely until they are advised further.

The University will consider any change to Government guidance and the impact on the University’s business continuity plans, including the return to on-site working programme. It is recognised that recently relaxed Government restrictions might be tightened again in the future. The University will need to respond to any changes and continue to comply with Government and Public Health England guidance.


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Who will be asked to return to the workplace?

Institutions will consider carefully i) whether work can be carried out from home and, where this is not possible, ii) the skills and experience of individuals as set out in the relevant role profiles required to carry out the research activities and support this activity.

Staff identified for a return to the workplace will be contacted at the appropriate time. Any consideration of whether or not a staff member should return to the workplace will take account of personal circumstances and safety.

Advice if you are clinically extremely vulnerable

No one who is shielding on advice from a medical practitioner will be required to return to the workplace. See the Government guidance on the definition of clinically extremely vulnerable for further information.

Your line manager will explore with you whether you can work from home.  If working from home in your normal role is not possible, you may be asked to undertake alternative duties on a temporary basis, provided the request is reasonable and within your capabilities. If alternative duties cannot be found within your department or faculty, you may be invited to support another part of the University on a temporary basis. 

If your line manager agrees that it is not possible for you to perform normal or any alternative duties from home, you will not be expected to work until you are no longer required to shield.  The expectation during this period is that you will remain contactable by your team. You will continue to be paid as normal. If you are already furloughed, this may be continued during this time. 

Advice if you are clinically vulnerable, pregnant or a member of your household is shielding

Staff identified for a return to the workplace will be contacted at the appropriate time. Any consideration on whether a staff member should return to the workplace will take account of personal circumstances and safety.  Your line manager will carry out an individual assessment to determine any potential risks.  They will explain the measures that have been put in place to ensure the safety of staff. This is likely to include one-way lanes, social distancing, hygiene measures including providing hand sanitiser, additional cleaning etc.  You may be invited to attend Safe Space Circles which are small groups of staff who meet remotely to consider how to use the space safely and support each other to feel safe in the workplace.

Your manager may ask you to visit Occupational Health to provide more detailed advice.

Advice if you want to return to on-site working but can undertake work remotely

We understand that many staff are eager to return to on-site working for a range of reasons; for example, we recognise that homeworking over a sustained period of time can lead to feelings of isolation. If you are working from home, we encourage you to keep in regular contact with your team.

Government guidance currently states that all workers should continue to work from home wherever possible, and staff who can work remotely should continue to do so. The University will continue to monitor the situation for all staff and will be guided by Government advice regarding the return to on-site working when it is safe to do so.     


Equality, diversity and inclusion

The University recognises that during the coronavirus pandemic, the associated restrictions on day to day life will inevitably impact in a different and sometimes disproportionate way on particular groups. Each of us has had, and will continue to have, different experiences of the pandemic.  For many, those experiences are challenging and stressful. We must be alert to this and be respectful of people who may have particular vulnerabilities. We must also recognise that our behaviour has consequences for the people immediately affected by it and for our collegiate community.

A set of COVID-19 inclusion resources has been created that we hope will be useful to you during this time.  Each of the University Diversity Networks (BAME, LGBT+, WBA, SPACE and WSN) are continuing to run virtual meetings to support staff. Your Equality and Diversity team is also available remotely to answer any queries you may have. 

Advice if you are a BAME member of staff (or are managing a BAME member of staff) concerned about safety in relation to COVID-19 

There are indicators that BAME people are more likely to be seriously impacted from COVID-19 . The unequal impact of COVID-19 on BAME communities may be explained by a number of factors ranging from social and economic inequalities, racism, discrimination and stigma, occupational risk, inequalities in the prevalence of conditions that increase the severity of disease including obesity, diabetes, CVD and asthma (Public Health England).  

If you have concerns about returning to the workplace, please speak to your line manager. It is important that adequate time is given to discuss your concerns and for managers to outline the safety measures put in place for your safety.  

You can also contact your HR School Team, or the Equality and Diversity team, who are available remotely to answer any queries you may have. The University also has a BAME staff network.  



Ensuring safe working practices

The health, safety and wellbeing of all members of the University community is paramount. Institutions are doing everything they can to make your building a safe environment in which you can work.

Prior to return

Before work on-site is resumed, institutions will complete a risk assessment and develop a plan for staff to work on-site. The assessment will consider Government guidelines on social distancing and implement measures needed to keep staff safe.  These will include setting up the workplace in such a way so as to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and identifying specific ways of working or protective equipment needed for certain areas or activities. Staff occupancy density in buildings will be restricted according to agreed health and safety requirements, which are typically a maximum of 30% of normal or recommended occupancy based on social distancing needs.

You may be invited to attend remotely a small group meeting or Safe Space Circle with other intended occupants to consider and discuss how to use the space safely and enable you and your colleagues to feel safer in the workplace.

Staff returning to work will be issued with a Return to the Workplace Pack, which will include new working protocols for their work area, support contacts, and information on what they need to do to stay safe when working in and around the building. If you have any concerns, you should raise them with your line manager in the first instance. Alternatively, you may wish to contact your Departmental Administrator or equivalent.

Wearing of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

The University’s approach follows the Government advice for working safely during coronavirus.

In summary, staff who are already using PPE in their work activity to protect against non COVID-19 risks, will continue to do so. However, when managing the risk of COVID-19, additional PPE beyond what is usually worn is not beneficial. In respect of face coverings, there are some circumstances when wearing a face covering may be marginally beneficial as a precautionary measure (for example, in enclosed spaces where social distancing is not possible). The evidence suggests that this does not protect you, but it may protect others if you are infected but have not developed symptoms.  

Arrangements for food and drink

You should bring your own food, drink and utensils from home and clean them at home at the end of each day. It is important to remember to wash your hands before and after eating. The use of kettles or boiling water faucets and microwaves will be risk assessed on a site by site basis.

Social distancing

All staff should adhere to social distancing whilst at work. Where a colleague is not adhering to social distancing, you may politely remind them yourself or, alternatively, inform your line manager. All staff should be prepared to accept feedback about their social distancing.

Public transport

Staff returning to the workplace should avoid travelling to work by public transport wherever possible.  Your line manager will explore with you whether there are other travel to work options such as cycling, walking, or requesting a University car parking space for an interim period.

They may also discuss the possibility of changing your working pattern so that you could travel at off-peak times.

Those staff who do need to use public transport should follow the current Government advice on safer travelling.


Advice if you have been asked to return to the workplace but have caring responsibilities 

Personal circumstances, including caring responsibilities relating to the current situation, will be considered in discussions with staff about their return to on-site working. In particular, the availability of childcare and nursery places and the phased re-opening of schools and holiday play schemes will be taken into account. In the first instance, line managers will explore whether it is possible to continue working from home either fully or partly, and whether an individual’s working pattern could be varied to support this. Every effort will be made to accommodate homeworking where this is practical and productive, until childcare, nursery and/or school places are available to your child or children as relevant. This position will be reviewed in August 2020 ahead of the start of the new school year.

Employees with unforeseen caring responsibilities may also be entitled to take emergency leave (see the University’s Special Leave Policy for details of eligibility) or you may wish to take the opportunity to request annual leave at this time.

If your role cannot be carried out at home, line managers will discuss the use of annual leave, unpaid leave, emergency carers leave (if appropriate) or consider alternative duties, redeployment or continuation of furlough. See the Furlough FAQs for more information.

The Supporting Parents and Carers at Cambridge (SPACE) website provides sources of support and advice.

The Government has indicated that all schools will be open full time from September 2020, however it is recognised that those with caring responsibilities may require further flexibility beyond this point, particularly around before and after school care. Line managers should hold supportive conversations with individual staff members about their personal circumstances and any concerns they may have.

My Family Care is also available to University staff for emergency childcare, eldercare and school holiday cover at short notice.

University nurseries and playschemes 

University nurseries are currently open and operating in adapted ways to ensure the safety of children and staff. From August, as nursery facilities will be able to open at their normal occupancy levels, the University nurseries at Edwinstowe Close, West Cambridge and Eddington will be welcoming all registered children.

Changes in government guidance has given permission for holiday clubs to reopen from the end of July, where possible and whilst adhering to strict restrictions. However, as with other holiday club/playscheme providers, the University relies on external venues to operate. Despite the University’s best efforts and due to the restrictions in place as a result of the pandemic, the current venues the University uses have advised that they are unable to host the University Holiday Playscheme for summer 2020.  However, it is hoped that this position may change in time for school holidays later in the year.

In light of this, the University has undertaken extensive work to explore the possibility of using alternative premises, working with other organisations in the Cambridge area to compile information on alternative childcare options for parents for the coming summer holidays. Our Childcare Office has been in contact with over 200 potential school venues within a 15 mile radius and playschemes across the county to enquire whether their holiday provision will be running and, if so, whether spaces could be offered to University employees. From the responses received, a majority will not be running playschemes this summer and those who have confirmed that they are opening will be restricted on the spaces they can offer under the current government guidance.

The University’s Childcare Office remains committed to supporting parents and carers, particularly at this challenging time and is available to provide information about alternative support in the local area. Please contact or for further details.

The University is also continuing to explore ways to support staff with childcare needs over the coming weeks. More information will be provided here as it becomes available.


Advice if you have been asked to return to the workplace but have developed symptoms of coronavirus

If you have symptoms of coronavirus (Covid-19), you must self-isolate at home for at least 7 days from when the symptoms started and not return to work.  Your absence will be treated as sick leave and you should follow the University’s standard sickness absence reporting procedure. Whilst at home, you should refrain from work in order to facilitate your recovery. You should not, under any circumstance, enter University buildings.

If you develop symptoms whilst at work, you should inform your manager and leave work immediately and:

  • avoid touching anything, and wash your hands regularly
  • cough or sneeze into a tissue and put it in a bin, or if you do not have tissues, cough and sneeze into the crook of your elbow
  • use a separate bathroom from others if possible
  • avoid using public transport to travel home, if possible

Under Government guidelines, you should also arrange a test. As a University or College member of staff with symptoms, you also have access to a dedicated testing service offered in partnership with Addenbrooke’s Hospital. 

Further information on staff testing >

After 7 days, if you still have symptoms other than a cough or loss of sense of smell/taste, you must continue to self-isolate until you feel better. It is your responsibility to notify your line manager if you test positive for COVID-19.

Please provide your line manager with your coronavirus test result. You will not be required to provide a GP fit note after 7 days of sickness. However, you should continue to keep your Department informed and regularly updated about your health.

If you live with someone who has coronavirus symptoms but you remain well, you must remain at home for 14 days. Your line manager will explore with you whether you can work from home during this period. 


Government’s ‘Test and Trace scheme’

If you are contacted by the NHS Test and Trace team, you may be asked to isolate for 14 days. Under these circumstances, you should not return to the workplace even if you have not been sick. You may be required to do this on more than one occasion if told to do so by the NHS. You will remain on full pay during the isolation period.


What to do if you have had contact with a person with suspected coronavirus

If you have had close contact with an individual with suspected coronavirus in a way that you consider may have put you at risk of exposure, you should return home and self-isolate for 7 days or until a negative test result is confirmed for the person with whom you have had contact. If you go on to develop symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19), such as a continuous cough, fever, loss of sense of smell and/or taste, you should follow the NHS advice.

If working from home in your normal role is not possible you may be given alternative duties.


What to do if you have concerns about returning to on-site working but can’t work from home

The Government recently announced that all workers who cannot work from home should return to work if their workplace is open. However, the re-opening of University buildings will be complex and there will be a range of considerations in determining how the space can be made safe for the resumption of activity. Departments will follow the “Re-occupancy of University building and facilities protocol” and the “Preparing our Staff COVID-19 Return to the workplace protocol”. Existing risk assessments that relate to your activities in a building must be reviewed and amended where necessary, to take into consideration the implications and impact of the control measures relating to COVID-19 on that work/research activity.

Your line manager will also explain to you the measures that have been put in place to ensure the safety of staff.  This is likely to include one-way lanes, social distancing, hygiene measures including providing hand sanitiser, additional cleaning etc.  You may be invited to attend Safe Space Circles which are small groups of staff who meet remotely to consider how to use the space safely and support each other to feel safe in the workplace.

You and line manager may consider and discuss a phased approach to returning to the workplace to help address your concerns (i.e. starting with fewer number of days or shorter working days building up to normal working hours). If you continue to feel concerned about returning to the workplace, you may wish to discuss taking a period of annual leave or unpaid leave. You may also wish to make use of the wellbeing and mental health provisions of the University and/or seek support and advice from your trade union.