Guidance for staff with caring responsibilities

Caring responsibilities

Updated 7 April

The University recognises that staff who have caring responsibilities may still need to balance their caring commitments with work.

Whilst the situation in every school will be different, it is clear that many schools in Oxfordshire are severely struggling to provide places to all critical workers.

Oxford Brookes is committed to helping ensure that school places can be maintained for those parents in roles which are absolutely critical to defeating the coronavirus. Sadly, all too many of us now know someone who has contracted the virus, or have been personally affected. Therefore, we would therefore appeal to colleagues, and to the strong Brookes community mindset of which we are proud, and ask that you continue to keep children at home if you can.

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.

There are a range of options that can be considered to help working parents get through this period, such as changes to working hours or days, a temporary reduction in hours with reduced pay, unpaid leave or a career break. We are currently investigating the possibility of offering furlough either part time or full time. In all cases, we will look for the best solution which balances the needs of the individual and University.

Those who find it impossible to carry out their role whilst homeschooling may, of course, continue to apply for a critical worker place at their school. Guidance from the Department for Education sets out the HE roles that may be prioritised for accessing school places, which fall into four broad categories. These four categories now supersede the three criteria outlined in our previous communications to staff.

We are asking staff to exercise judgment, and unless you cannot carry out your role while homeschooling, 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.

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.

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:

  1. Flexibility - changes to working hours or days, for part time staff extending the contracted hours over more days to spread the load
  2. Reduce tasks / responsibilities for a period of time or agree which activities can be left until later in the year
  3. temporary reduction in hours with reduced pay
  4. dependent care leave (to be used in an emergency)
  5. annual leave or using additional annual leave carried over from last year
  6. unpaid leave
  7. parental leave
  8. career break
  9. 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 on the best option that works for you and the University. However, all these leave options should be explored before consideration of the furlough scheme. Please refer to Job Retention Scheme (Furlough) for more information.

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.