Workplace and employment FAQs

The following responses have been developed to questions we have received from members. We will continue to add to these where it is helpful to provide more specific advice not covered elsewhere.  However with the lifting of restrictions there is less specific advice available as work places revert to normal practices.

NHS terms and conditions

The NHS has developed information on a range of terms and conditions for its staff in response to the pandemic. Many are the same or similar across the four countries. Further information and FAQs for all the countries can be found on our page of NHS guidance and general employment resources.  However the Department of Health and Social Care has now indicated that it wants to review this guidance in light of the government moving to a new phase of managing the pandemic.

The CSP urges members to follow the advice given by your employer and public health agencies. 

Protecting yourself at work

Please also see our FAQs on Protecting yourself from infection.

How can I protect myself at work

Your employer should carry out risk assessments in line with the HSE and PHE infection prevention control guidance.  They should put in place the necessary procedures, including identification of potential patients with Covid-19 symptoms, safe systems of work including isolation, staff training, monitoring protocol and sufficient supply of suitable personal protective equipment (PPE) for health workers. 

Review the NHS Staff Council Workplace health and safety standards,  for best practice on protecting staff from injury and illness.  The standards' criteria on dealing with hazardous substances,  covers safe systems of work and control measures

For further guidance on what appropriate PPE should be provided when treating Covid-19 patients please refer to our  Clinical Practice FAQs.

(Last reviewed 17 January 2022)


How do I know ventilation at work is sufficient and what can I do about it?

The Health and Safety Executive advice to employers on their workplace risk assessments on ventilation sets out what is required to limit staff’s exposure to the virus.   


Examples of good practice

 When employers did the following:

  • Engaged a competent ventilation contractor to assess air changes in work spaces to determine how to modify to improve air flows.
  • Undertook a site wide survey of all mechanically ventilated spaces to identify issues and to rebalance their ventilation system.
  • Implemented a schedule of cleaning and maintenance of their mechanical ventilation systems.

Examples of where improvement was required

Some HSE findings of poor ventilation:

  • Re-purposed rooms designated as rest facilities, but with no windows or other means of ventilation.
  • In areas where AGPs were carried out the clearance time was not available.
  • Not all opportunities to open doors and windows were being taken.
  • No monitoring, particularly in poorly ventilated areas, where use of CO2 monitors could assist.   

Action points for you

  1. Ask to see your employer’s risk assessment.
  2. Talk to colleagues about ventilation and decide where you think improvements is needed.
  3. Notify your line manager, service lead and CSP safety rep or steward about your concerns.  Do it in writing.  

What can the CSP do to help?

For serious breaches of health and safety in the workplace the CSP, according to procedures arranged with the HSE, will undertake the following with active involvement of members. 

  • Contact the employer directly, advising of members' concerns and request for suitable and sufficient risk assessment or urgent review of the current assessment.
  • If the matter is unresolved and the CSP considers there is a breach of H&S regulations, a  formal complaint (utilising the employer's procedures) is submitted.
  • If the complaint is not resolved then the CSP contacts HSE, providing required information for their assessment and intervention.

In circumstances where the situation is clearly urgent, the CSP may bypass the employer's complaint procedures and contact the Health and Safety Executive directly. 

(Last reviewed 15 Oct 2020)


What does the law say?

With respect to what legal remedy is available for individual employees (and now also workers from 31 May 2021) on health and safety grounds, we refer you to the Employment Rights Act 1996, Sections 44 and 100. If successful in a claim, an employment tribunal may rule against an employer to pay out financial compensation to an employee, worker or accredited safety rep for raising serious health and safety matters with the employer, that failed to act or take action that is to their detriment.

If dismissed because of leaving or refusing to return to a workplace due an imminent danger that you couldn't avert, or for taking steps to protect yourself or others in these circumstances, you may have potential grounds to argue an automatic unfair dismissal claim at an employment tribunal.

(Last reviewed 7 June 2021)


Childcare arrangements and carers leave

What are my rights to time off to look after a dependent?

Employees are entitled to time off work to look after dependents (children or adults) in an unexpected event or emergency. This could apply to situations connected to coronavirus. It normally covers only the first few days that are needed to manage the emergency situation.

There's no statutory right to pay for this time off, but some employers might offer pay depending on the contract or workplace policy. In the NHS, most trusts have a policy that allows for a certain amount of paid time (special leave) followed by using annual leave and/or unpaid leave if further time is needed. Your CSP Steward will be aware of local and national policies that will support you in relation to coronavirus and carers leave.

(Last reviewed 11 Jan 2021)


 

I am pregnant and concerned about going into work. What is the current guidance?

Every pregnant worker should have a risk assessment with their manager, which may involve occupational health. This risk assessment should specifically address the risk presented by COVID.   The risk assessment should also be guided by any local changes to advice.

The CSP expects employers and occupational health to follow the The Health and Safety Executive guidance on what is required to be in place to keep you safe at work. 

Another key source of information for health employers that you may wish to review is the Department of health and social care (DHSC) guidance  regarding pregnant staff.

Please do speak to your local CSP steward or safety rep if you require further support.

(Last reviewed  March 2022)


What if there is no alternative role? Can my employer enforce unpaid leave or maternity leave?

If it is found that an employee or their pregnancy would be at risk were the employee to continue with their normal duties, the employer should provide suitable alternative work for which the employee will receive their normal rate of pay. Employers must take into account the risks to new and expectant mothers when assessing workplace hazards and remove, avoid or control the associated risk.

If a risk cannot be removed or controlled, the employee must be provided with suitable alternative work. Where this is not possible you should be suspended on full pay until your maternity leave starts.

It is normally up to you to decide when you wish to start your maternity leave. However, if you are off sick with a pregnancy-related illness or suspended on health and safety grounds in the last four weeks before your expected week of childbirth, your employer can start your maternity leave and pay automatically.

There is further guidance on maternity leave and entitlements on the Maternity Action website. Speak to your CSP Steward or Safety Rep if you are unsure about your entitlements.

(Last reviewed March 2022)


My partner is pregnant. What should I do?

It is really important that you try to keep yourself and those around you safe. Take all of the infection control procedures, use effective personal protective equipment as advised and maintain social distancing as far as you are able at work. According to current guidance, healthcare workers who have a pregnant family member do not need to self-isolate and can continue to work clinically. 

(Last reviewed March 2022)


I am pregnant / planning to get pregnant / breastfeeding – should I get the vaccine? 

The latest advice from the Joint Committee on Vaccinations and Immunisation (JCVI) is that Covid-19 vaccines should be offered to pregnant women at the same time as the rest of the population, based on their age and clinical risk group.  

The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists have updated guidance

The advice, published in Public Health England's green book , a clinical professional guide for vaccinators in the UK, still advises that pregnant women should discuss the risks and benefits of vaccination with their clinician, including the latest evidence on safety and which vaccines they should receive. 

Maternity action have run two webinars on the Covid-19 vaccination and pregnancy and fertility. 

(Last reviewed March 2022)


Further advice on coronavirus and pregnancy

Current government advice

General advice for pregnant workers

(Last reviewed  March 2022)


What guidance is available for vulnerable workers?

Across the UK, guidance for those who are classed as clinically extremely vulnerable has been changing. There is no longer separate guidance for those who were identified as clinically extremely vulnerable (CEV) 

It is important that CEV staff and those classed as vulnerable but not clinically extremely vulnerable(which includes pregnant workers) should  have a risk assessment conducted by their employer to look at eliminating the risk of exposure to Covid-19. 

Guidance for vulnerable groups is available from:


Support from the CSP Members Benevolent Fund

How can the Members Benevolent Fund support CSP members experiencing financial difficulties?

The CSP Members Benevolent Fund (MBF) is an independent registered charity that supports past and present members of the CSP who are experiencing financial hardship.

Support can take a number of forms:

  • A financial monthly allowance.
  • A one-off grant.
  • An interest-free loan.
  • CSP membership subscription.

The MBF can also support access to:

  • Advice on benefits, financial planning, and debt management.
  • Support for applications and tribunals.

Find out more about support from the MBF

(Last reviewed 15 Oct 2020)

Your health and wellbeing

What is available to support my health and wellbeing?

As a physiotherapist, the current pandemic will have meant huge disruptions to how you do your job and how you function day to day. Inevitably this may be a cause of stress and anxiety.

One of the best ways to get through this period is to turn to family, friends and colleagues to talk about what is on your mind. Right now this isn’t always going to be possible, but fortunately there is a whole raft on online support available to see you through this period.

General health and wellbeing

The CSP website has dedicated advice for members about maintaining good mental health and wellbeing during the pandemic.

The taking care of your mental health resource includes top tips for managing anxiety, such as reducing your media exposure and creating a safe space for yourself at home and at work. For more, see the page on dealing with anxiety.

Mindfulness can help you to focus on what's happening in the present moment, which can reduce anxiety and restore balance at work and at home. For more information and a list of recommended apps to access guides and resources, go to the page on mindfulness and breathing.

The NHS Employers website also has details of support available for NHS staff. Information is provided on how to access:

  • Discounts and priority shopping times for NHS staff.
  • Wellbeing apps such as Unmind, Headspace, Sleepio and Daylight, which can help with a range of issues from anxiety and sleeplessness to ways of coping.
  • Guidance to improve physical activity.
  • A bereavement support line.
  • Advice on financial wellbeing.

Mental health resources and helplines

If you are in distress or need immediate help, the CSP has collated a list of useful websites and helplines.

During the coronavirus pandemic, an NHS staff support hotline, operated by the Samaritans and free to access, is available to offer psychological support. It is open between 07:00 and 23:00 every day, while the text service is available 24/7. Call 0300 131 7000 or text FRONTLINE to 85258. For more information, visit people.nhs.uk/help.

NHS Employers has created a wellbeing toolkit with mental health charity Mind. To access it, go to the Mental Health at Work website.

(Last reviewed 15 Oct 2020)


I'm not getting adequate breaks. What can I do about it?

Taking regular breaks is essential to your wellbeing and your ability to do your job properly. If you are not able to have regular breaks, report this to your line manager, and if the issue remains unresolved, contact your CSP representative for support. Under the Working Time Regulations, employers have a legal responsibility to ensure staff get sufficient rest and do not work excessive hours.

As well as a minimum rest break of 20 minutes after working for six hours, you have the legal right to a daily rest break of at least 11 consecutive hours between working days. You also have the right to a weekly rest break from work of not less than 24 hours, which can be averaged out over two weeks. In addition, health and safety law states that you should be able to access drinking water and somewhere to rest, away from your immediate work environment.

During the pandemic, you may be working longer shifts than usual. NHS Employers suggests that it may be necessary to repurpose offices into rest spaces. Guidance from the Health, Safety and Wellbeing Partnership Group (HSWPG) on safe shift working includes information on provisions for ‘power naps’ and the safety of staff driving home after long shifts.

If you are regularly missing breaks:

  • Keep a log of the breaks you have missed.
  • Inform your line manager.
  • If you are unable to easily access drinking water or food, raise it with your line manager.
  • Fill in an incident form and ask your manager how they intend to respond.
  • Inform your CSP rep if no action is taken.

Go to the working hours section of the CSP website for full details of your working rights.

(Last reviewed 23 July 2021)


I'm worried about my colleague's mental health. What should I do?

Look out for signs that someone is struggling to cope and may need support. Don’t be afraid to ask a colleague if they are OK. Make sure you have at least 10 clear minutes to be with them and that you are able to give them your full attention. If they do open up to you, listen carefully and be respectful of what they say.

Have sources of support to hand. During the pandemic, an NHS staff support hotline, operated by the Samaritans and free to access, is available to offer psychological support. It is open between 07:00 and 23:00 every day, while the text service is available 24/7. Call 0300 131 7000 or text FRONTLINE to 85258. For more information, visit people.nhs.uk/help.

For other resources and advice, go to the Frontline article on suicide awareness.

A TUC webinar led by the Mental Health Foundation recommends that if you are concerned about a colleague, you should:

  • Suggest they contact the Samaritans straight away, either via the NHS hotline above or on 116 123.
  • Help them to call their doctor, or a trusted partner or friend.
  • If you are concerned for someone’s immediate safety, or they tell you that they plan to end their life imminently, you can call 999 and ask for the police, or take them to an A&E department.
  • If you are worried that someone is a risk to themselves, or to others, or unwell to the point that they are losing touch with reality, you have a duty of care in the workplace to see that they get help. It’s not enough to send somebody home alone.

Go to the TUC website for the full webinar.

Visit the Mental Health Foundation's website for further advice on supporting a colleague.

(Last reviewed 15 Oct 2020)


I'm feeling stressed and anxious that my employer is not doing enough to protect my health and safety at work. What can I do about it?

Under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, employers have a duty of care not to place their staff in harmful situations, and the current pandemic highlights just how important this duty is. If you are unhappy about the level of protection you are receiving, raise this as soon as possible with your line manager, head of department and/or infection control department, if possible highlighting the CSP’s position on this issue. You can do this either in person or in writing. Ensure that you keep records of the process, in case they are needed for future reference.

The CSP recommends looking at the NHS Staff Council Workplace health and safety standards, as they set out how your employer should meet their legal duties to protect you from injury and illness. The standards also highlight the importance of agreeing any changes with individual members of staff, and that individuals' health and wellbeing and levels of training should be factored in.

If you feel your concerns have not been adequately addressed by your employer:

  • Contact your local CSP representative for support and intervention. Your CSP safety rep has rights under legislation to investigate and request remedial action.

  • If there is no CSP representative at your Trust, please call the CSP enquiries team on 020 7306 6666 - they will refer you to the Senior Negotiating Officer for your region.

  • If you have an injury (such as skin abrasions or pressure sores on the face as a result of your PPE), as well as notifying your manager and infection control lead, follow your Trust’s reporting processes for this injury, and make and keep a copy of your report.

  • If the matter is unresolved and the CSP considers there is a breach of health and safety regulations, the CSP will submit a formal complaint (following the employer's procedures).

  • If the complaint is not resolved, then the CSP will contact the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), providing required information for its assessment and intervention.

  • In circumstances where the situation is clearly urgent, the CSP may bypass the employer's complaint procedures and contact the HSE directly.

Further advice

(Last reviewed 15 Oct 2020)


 Working at home – your health and wellbeing

Since lockdown began, I'm doing more remote consultations from home. I'm working long hours using my personal laptop at my kitchen table. I'm concerned about the long-term effects this is having on my body. What can I do about it?

Sitting down for hours puts strain on your body, and you are at heightened risk of developing an injury to your hands, wrists, arms, neck and/or back if your workstation is not set up properly.

Employers still have a duty of care to employees working at home and this includes making sure they have the appropriate health and safety arrangements. 

Employer recommendations

NHS Employers recommends that home workers should, where possible, have suitable equipment and a dedicated workspace. This includes the employer providing the necessary IT equipment to carry out the job and the employee having a work area with appropriate furniture where they can have confidential conversations with patients or colleagues.

Carrying out a risk assessment

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has web resources on how to protect home workers, including advice on how to complete your own basic risk assessment at home.

It suggests these simple steps to minimise the risks of being stuck in front of a screen for long stretches of time:

  • Take regular breaks away from your screen (at least 5 minutes every hour).

  • Regularly change position and avoid awkward positions.

  • Move regularly and do stretching exercises.

  • Avoid eye fatigue by switching tasks or blinking from time to time.

For more detailed information, go to the HSE toolbox for home workers.

Display screen equipment

Your employer has a duty to apply the Display Screen Equipment (DSE) Regulations 1992. The HSE has a checklist of issues to consider and lists risks factors in six areas: keyboards; mouse and trackball; display screens; software; furniture; and work environment.

Among other issues, the workstation checklist asks you to consider:

  • The position of your keyboard. It recommends pushing the display screen further back to create more room for the keyboard, hands and wrists.

  • Whether you are supporting your wrist and forearm, for example on the desk or chair arm.

  • Adjusting your chair and ensuring that the small of your back is supported.

  • Whether your feet are comfortably flat on the floor or if you need to use a footrest.

  • If you have suitable lighting so that the room is not too bright or too dim for you to work comfortably.

Go to the HSE website to complete the full workstation checklist.

Rest and exercise

You must take regular breaks throughout the day and also have whole days away from work. This is essential if you are to stay physically and mentally healthy.

The CSP website has resources available to help you work well at home. Watch this video about exercising at your desk or try these easy working from home exercises.

(Last reviewed 23 July 2021)


I've been working from home for an extended period and I feel quite isolated and unsupported by my employer. What are my rights? What can I do to improve the situation? 

Working from home can cause people to suffer from work-related stress. However, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) warns that being away from managers and colleagues can make it difficult to get proper support.

Your employer’s duty of care

Your employer should be keeping in regular contact. They still have a duty of care to you when you are working from home. They may have a home working policy, although it may not be realistic for all the usual procedures to be followed at present.

In its guidance on home working, NHS Employers recommends that line managers should be in regular contact with team members working from home either through phone calls or virtual team meetings. They should also ensure that you are included in all staff communications and that you are made aware of any support available to you. You could, for example, be offered a change of hours or duties if you are also having to juggle caring or childcare responsibilities.

What can you do?

Call colleagues or managers to discuss your work instead of always relying on email. If you are feeling isolated, call your line manager and talk about how you are feeling. NHS Employers also suggests that when working from home you should:

  • Have a routine with regular hours, planned in discussion with your manager.
  • Ensure that the people you live with know your work hours and when not to disturb you.
  • Maintain a healthy lifestyle, eat well and get plenty of sleep.
  • Take regular breaks from your desk and screen, and have a proper lunch break.
  • Keep active – go outside if you can or, if this is not possible, exercise or stretch at home.

Online resources

The CSP has a range of resources to help members maintain good mental health and wellbeing during the Covid-19 outbreak. Go to our section about taking care of your mental health.

The CSP website also has resources available to keep you active at home. Watch this video about exercising at your desk or try these easy working from home exercises.

MIND website offers useful advice on good mental health when working from home.

(Last reviewed  23 July 2021)


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