Health and wellbeing

Ensuring the health and welfare of all our staff, wherever they are working, is our absolute priority. As we work through the Covid-19 pandemic, we have plenty of support available to you.

[Updated 27.7.21]

The University COVID-19 risk assessment has been updated to reflect changes which came into effect from 19 July 2021 and is based on the Government’s Working Safely guidance.

Any staff that wish to start working back on campus are free to do so from Monday 19 July. They should talk to their line manager first to ensure that returns are managed and gradual.

All staff are expected to return to work on campus from 20 September, albeit on an agreed hybrid working pattern (where possible) If you are anxious about returning, you can discuss your concerns with your manager during your risk and concern conversation to discuss how best to support you.

It is also important to remember that significant safety measures are in place to ensure sure that our campuses meet the Government’s Working Safely guidance. Our University-wide risk assessment  outlines the safety measures in place.

  • Our Occupational Health team are here to help you with any physical and/or mental health concerns – whether it’s an underlying health issue or work related stress.
  • Our Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) gives you easy access to expert help with both personal and work-related issues. Online, you will need to use the login: uokent and password: university.

For further information on what support is available, check out our Mental Health Support pages.

If you have Covid-19 symptoms, you need to isolate immediately, book a symptomatic test and let us know. Find out more on our Coronavirus reporting procedure

Read more on looking after yourself (including a new FAQ on booking a vaccination), what to do if you think you have Covid-19and what is being done to reduce workload pressure.

Looking after yourself

    The University is aware that the mental health and associated wellbeing of its staff has been affected by circumstances brought about by the coronavirus crisis.   

    Here are some of the ways you can look after your wellbeing during this challenging time:   

  • Ensure that you create a boundary between work and non-work activities, especially if you are still working from home.  Keep to a structure of work hours and don’t be tempted to work alongside eating or leisure and family activities.  
  • Keep up exercise activities, especially those started in the lockdown.  Exercise is especially good for physical and mental health 
  • Focus on eating healthily.  Maybe embark on cooking from scratch for some meals throughout the week.   
  • Build up a sound sleep structure and sleep hygiene.  Good sleep underpins so many elements of good mental and physical health.
  • Spend time doing things you enjoy, whether it’s on your own or with others.   

The NHS points to 5 Ways to Mental Wellbeing which are a good starting point.   

The University has a collection of resources available to assist staff with their mental health.  Most of these are accessible from the Staff Health and Wellbeing website.  You can find the information you might need on the Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) and can download the University’s Psychological Wellbeing Standard with its Stress Risk Assessment Tools.   There is also a link to the Staff Wellbeing Reading List, with e-books and articles available alongside physical books available on loan from the University library.  

Your manager is a resource to support you.  If you feel it is difficult to approach someone in your management line you can reach out to HR or Occupational Health.

If you are experiencing a high degree of distress or anxiety, then counselling may be one avenue you wish to explore. The University provides counselling both through its new Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) and its Occupational Health Service. As a first step, you are encouraged to discuss your needs with the EAP service. To log-in, use the username: uokent and password: university.

Or you can phone the providers, Care first/Sodexho, free of charge on 0808 168 2143. Information about how the counselling service works can be found on the Occupational Health webpages.

If for any reason, the EAP does not consider it appropriate to offer you counselling and you remain concerned, your line manager can refer you, or you can opt for self-referral, to Occupational Health.

Government Shielding advice has been paused as of 1 April. Current Government guidance is that those identified as extremely clinically vulnerable should follow the same advice as everyone else, this includes working on campus. 

Guidance about individual actions to take to reduce risk for those in this group has been published by Government. Anyone who is classified as Extremely Clinically Vulnerable and is concerned about working on campus should discuss this with their line manager.      

We would encourage all staff to have a Covid-19 vaccine when offered, although we understand that this is ultimately a personal choice. 

Staff and managers should be flexible to allow vaccine appointments to be attended at the earliest opportunity whilst minimising the impact on working hours if possible. We ask that where possible, you try to avoid booking your vaccine during working hours. If, however, it’s unavoidable or could cause a significant delay in getting the vaccine, please speak to your line manager to request time off for this purpose, giving as much notice as possible. Time off for the vaccination will be on full pay, and line managers may ask for evidence of the appointment (copy of an appointment card, confirmation email or text).

What to do if you think you have Covid-19?

Common symptoms of coronavirus (Covid-19) include: 

  • a high temperature, 
  • a new, continuous cough
  • a loss or change to your sense of smell or taste

If you have symptoms of coronavirus, even if they are mild, you should stay at home for at least 10 days from when your symptoms started. This will help protect others whilst you may be infectious. For more information on when and how you should self isolate, use the NHS online coronavirus serviceNHS website or contact NHS 111.

If you are self-isolating, please let HR and Occupational Health know by emailing who will be able to help support you. Please also contact your line manager.

There is also further guidance on self-isolation and pay and self-isolation and annual leave.  

Anyone who has coronavirus symptoms can ask for a free test to check if they have the virus. Staff can use the NHS online coronavirus service for information on what the test involves and to book an appointment.

Local testing sites (LTS) are open on both the Canterbury and Medway campuses.

The Canterbury LTS is located on the Rutherford Car Park and open 08.00-20.00, seven days a week, excluding bank holidays. The LTS is open to staff, students and members of the general public.

The testing facility at Medway campus is located in front of the Jellicoe building, in the car park accessed by North Road. It is open 08.00-20.00, seven days a week.

To keep everyone safe, we are asking all staff working on or visiting the campus to be tested at least twice a week, even if you have no symptoms. Asymptomatic testing is available at both Canterbury and Medway, and home-test kits are also available.  

Anyone who comes to or lives on a University site should stay at home or in their accommodation if they feel unwell. 

If you are unwell with suspected coronavirus symptoms, you should follow the coronavirus reporting procedure for staff. Your line manager will record your absence as ‘authorised paid absence’ in Staff Connect. This will ensure that you are paid for the absence even if, for any reason, you are not currently entitled to sick pay.

It may not be possible for you to obtain a certificate from your GP (a ‘Fit Note’) if you are in self-isolation. You can, however, request an isolation note from the NHS, which should be used to keep your line manager informed about your absence and when you are likely to be able to resume working again (even if working at home).

Through the Government’s NHS Test and Trace app you can report symptoms, order a coronavirus test, check in to venues by scanning a QR code and help the NHS trace those who may have coronavirus. The app will do all this while protecting your identity and data security. Please download it and help keep our University community safe.  

If you or anyone you’ve had close contact with test positive for coronavirus, you’ll be contacted by NHS Test and Trace and asked to self-isolate. You will be asked to provide them with information they’ll need to help stop the spread of the virus. You'll be contacted by email, text or phone. Text messages will come from NHStracing. Calls will come from 0300 0135000.  

Learn more about NHS Test and Trace.

Work pressure relief

The decision to implement these new arrangements has been taken following feedback on work pressures resulting from the impact of Covid-19, and recognising that practical action is needed to address these concerns.

The actions agreed have been selected on the basis that they will reduce work pressures for significant numbers of staff and do not put the organisation at an unacceptable level of risk in this academic year. 

It has been agreed to suspend the current formal probationary process for both professional service and academics. Staff, including the requirement to complete standard paperwork associated with these schemes. It has also been agreed to suspend the current RPD process for all staff.

Due to the urgent need to relieve immediate pressure on workloads as we continue to work through the pandemic, the revised arrangements will be introduced immediately. Our current expectation is that these revised arrangements will be in place until the end of academic year 2020/2021. 

Yes, standard probation periods will continue to be in place during this academic year, and support and mentoring will continue to be provided by probationary supervisors. Requirements around probationary plans are unchanged and will be signed off by the relevant Director.

If you are due to reach the end of the standard probation period during this academic year, successful completion where due will be confirmed by the relevant Director, and without the need for standard paperwork to be submitted. There will also be no requirement for missing paperwork to be completed retrospectively.

Following confirmation, standard HR procedures remain in place in relation to confirming with the individual. 

The requirement for an RPD to take place is suspended with immediate effect. However, where either party (appraisee or appraiser) request to continue with it - either for developmental or performance-related reasons - this may still proceed.

Should an RPD take place if both parties mutually agree, it would be helpful, but not a requirement, if standard University paperwork is used. 

The requirement for Probationary paperwork and processes is suspended with immediate effect. However, where either party (probationer or supervisor) request to continue with it – either for developmental or performance-related reasons – this may still proceed. A panel of three senior staff (minimum grade 9) from the relevant Division or Directorate would be convened to review the position and determine a development plan/extension to the probationary period.

If a line manager or probationary supervisor has significant concerns around progress and/or performance of an individual currently in a probationary period, they can also request that a probation review meeting take place.

Yes. It is recognised that there is a need on occasion to extend a probationary period. In these circumstances, the review would take place as normal with a review by a panel of three senior managers as outlined in the FAQ above. 

If this happens, the line manager or relevant head of department/school would recommend that completion of probation is not confirmed or that it would be appropriate to extend the probationary period. 

This would then be communicated to the relevant Director, before a panel of three senior staff (minimum grade 9) from the relevant Division or Directorate would be convened to review the position and determine a development plan or extension to the probationary period.

Yes, the right to appeal against a probation decision remains in place. Academic appeals will be heard by a panel comprising members of the Executive Group, one of whom would be the Deputy Vice-Chancellor - Academic Strategy, Planning, and Performance.

Appeals from professional service staff would be heard by a panel convened of three senior staff (minimum grade 9) from the relevant Division or Directorate. 

As a rule, you will not be required to complete any additional paperwork relating to probation.

If you are due to complete probation before 1 September 2021, you may be required to do so if your line manager considers it would be helpful or necessary in line with the option for a full probationary review if required (as outlined in the previous FAQs).

If you are supervising an academic on probation who is due to complete, you will be asked to confirm to your Director of Division by email  your recommendation for confirmation or any alternative recommendation. Directors (or their nominee) may choose to ask further questions where appropriate, but the intention is for this to be kept to a minimum.

No, there will be no meetings of the committee for the remainder of this academic year. If your probation devision was deferred from the October 2020 academic committee meeting, this will now be followed up by the chair of the committee in due course.

If you have already submitted paperwork for completion of probation to the February committee, this will now be picked up in line with the revised ways of working and sent to the relevant Divisional Director, or their nominee, for information alongside with a recommendation for confirmation or request for a review panel.

If you have already submitted annual probationary review paperwork this will not now be considered in February. However, we recognise the efforts and time that will have been invested in completing this information, and would like to confirm with you that this will be shared, for information only, with the October 2021 Probation Committee. 

Yes, there are no changes regarding this requirement.  

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