Guidance for staff with caring responsibilities

Caring responsibilities

Update 8 January 2021 - national lockdown

The University recognises that staff who have caring responsibilities will need to balance their caring commitments with work during this next phase of national lockdown.

As with the first national lockdown, we recognise that the closure of schools and colleges will mean that many of our staff will need to juggle work, childcare/homeschooling, and other caring commitments. We also recognise that you may not be able to contribute as fully to work as you would under normal circumstances. If this applies to you, please talk to your line manager in the first instance - we will do everything we can to support you and will be grateful for whatever contribution you are able to make at this difficult time.

The Department for Education has confirmed that higher education staff in England are considered critical / key workers for access to school places and educational settings. Whether working on campus or working from home, higher education staff involved in the delivery of higher education are considered critical workers, vital to the continuation of education and their children can attend school for face-to-face teaching from the advertised first day of term. However, the Government has issued updated its guidance and is now advising parents and carers who are critical workers to keep their children at home if they can and we would encourage as many staff as possible to only take up a school place(s) if absolutely necessary. Finding the right balance may be difficult but the University will do everything it can to support staff and flexible hours and working patterns, and furlough (whether part-time or full-time) are options that can be discussed with those affected.

Those who will find it impossible to carry out their role whilst home-schooling may, of course, continue to apply for a critical worker place at their school.

We are asking staff to exercise judgment, and unless you cannot carry out your role while home-schooling, and your job is absolutely critical to delivering teaching to students; providing welfare to students; or involved in Covid-related research, then we ask you not to apply for a school place as a critical worker.

The local education authority (Oxfordshire County Council) has agreed with this approach, and will be issuing guidance to schools to reflect these criteria. Schools will take them into account when making decisions on applications where they have insufficient space. The approach has also been agreed with the University of Oxford.

We hope that in all of us making these hard choices we can maintain school places for those parents who work in roles which are absolutely critical for defeating this virus.

Please see the Guidance on critical workers and vulnerable children who can access schools or educational settings for more details.

Other childcare options

There are more options available for staff during this lockdown as childcare support bubbles are allowed and nurseries remain open.

If you have specific queries, please refer to the FAQs below as these have been updated and may help you.

For Government Covid guidance, please refer to the government websiteIn the event that a member of staff needs to self-isolate in line with NHS or Government advice, this absence should be reported using the Coronavirus Reporting form and the absence will be counted as special Covid leave on full pay.

Managing work and caring responsibilities

Contact and stay in touch with your line manager

If these circumstances arise, it remains more important than ever for you and your manager to stay in touch.

Any caring responsibility issues which might have an operational impact at work should be discussed with your line manager at the earliest opportunity.

Discuss options with your manager

One size does not fit all and each situation, of course, varies from person to person as there are differing levels of caring responsibilities and the University recognises this.

Have an open and honest conversation between yourself and your manager with the ultimate goal to find the best solution for both parties.

Discuss work objectives, current projects, and commitments, and agree specific adjustments to be put in place to continue working whilst feeling supported and reassured.

Where possible, agree working hours and a pattern with your manager that meets a balance of your work commitments and your personal circumstances.

Where possible, include other members of your household in your arrangements and decisions where caring arrangements could be split.

Other options if working flexibly is not possible

Work may be able to be carried out and agreed flexibly, perhaps on a temporary basis (see Flexible Working policy). If this is not possible then there are other options available:

  • Flexibility - changes to working hours or days, for part time staff extending the contracted hours over more days to spread the load

  • Reduce tasks / responsibilities for a period of time or agree which activities can be left until later in the year
  • temporary reduction in hours with reduced pay
  • dependent care leave (to be used in an emergency)
  • annual leave or using additional annual leave carried over from last year
  • unpaid leave
  • parental leave
  • career break
  • Part-time or full-time furlough.

Any of these options are possible, and/or in some cases a blended approach, and you and your manager should agree the best option that works for you and the University.

All leave options should be applied and recorded in the usual way.

If you require further guidance, please contact your relevant link HR team via email.

Your wellbeing

Your wellbeing is important to us and we appreciate the additional uncertainties you may have. Additional support is always available from Occupational Health, Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) or the University offers a wide range of support for staff wellbeing - HR advice to support your wellbeing

Remember to be realistic and kind to yourself.