Workplace and employment FAQs

We have developed the following responses 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.

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

PPE and protecting yourself

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 COVID 19 Guidance for infection prevention and control in healthcare settings (available on www.gov.uk site).  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,  they set out best practice to support organisations in meeting their legal duties to protect staff from injury and illness. It also sets out the criteria for hazardous substances, including reference to relevant regulations.  For example, the standards set out what the employer's safe systems of work and procedures should include on control measures to ensure they are properly used or applied. These procedures should include: 

  • Visual checks and observations at appropriate intervals 
  • Ensuring that where more than one item of PPE is being worn, the different items are compatible with each other 
  • Supervising employees to ensure that the defined methods of work are being followed 
  • Prompt remedial action where necessary 

For further guidance on what appropriate PPE should be provided when treating COVID patients please refer to our Clinical Practice FAQ

(last updated: 25 Mar 2020)


What do i do if appropriate PPE is not provided?

Contact your infection control lead at your trust for advice if you feel the PPE provided to you is inadequate.  If you don't know who this person is go to your manager and ask for their contact details.

Please know if after talking to managers and infection control that if you remain concerned about the lack of personal equipment supply, fitting, infection control measures in place you can talk to your safety rep.  With their health and safety knowledge they are able to conduct inspections and liaise directly with your employer on your behalf.  If you do not have a safety rep, or a steward at your place of work then contact the CSP Senior Negotiating Officer for your region.  Call the CSP enquiries team on 020 7306 6666 for details.

(last updated: 25 Mar 2020)


Should i be test fitted before wearing assigned ffp3 equipment?

It is important that your you are fit tested before using your FFP3 mask to ensure there is good contact between your skin and the face seal of the face-piece. Thereafter you should follow your trust’s protocol for fit checking every time you use this equipment.  Also review Appendix 3 that sets out best practice – with putting on and taking off PPE in the COVID 19 Guidance for infection prevention and control in healthcare settings.

(last updated: 25 Mar 2020)


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 contact 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 updated: 25 Mar 2020)


What does the law say?

With respect to what legal remedy is available to individual employees 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 or accredited safety rep  for raising serious  health and safety matters with the employer, that fails to act or takes action that is to their detriment.

If an employee is dismissed because of leaving or refusing to return to a workplace due  an  imminent danger that they couldn't avert, or for  taking steps to protect themselves or others in these circumstances, there may also be grounds to argue an automatic unfair dismissal claim at an employment tribunal.

(last updated: 25 Mar 2020)


Self-Isolation and Sick Pay

Government guidanceStay at home: guidance for households with possible coronavirus (COVID-19) infection

NHS guidanceSelf-isolation if you or someone you live with has symptoms

NHS Employers guidance:Staff terms and conditions

How do I know if I should self-isolate?

You must follow Public Health England advice which is currently that you are required to self-isolate in the following circumstances:

  • If you know or suspect that you have contracted Covid-19
  • If someone you live with is displaying symptoms of Covid-19

Self-isolation means that you must not come into contact with anyone outside your immediate household during the period you are required to self-isolate.

(last updated: 1 Apr 20)


How long must I self-isolate for if I am displaying symptoms of Covid-19? 

If you are displaying the symptoms of Covid-19 then you must self-isolate for 7 days from the day you first displayed symptoms.  Normally after 7days you are not considered infectious but you must refer to the guidance on the NHS website to assess if this is the case. 

(last updated: 1 Apr 20)


I am healthy but I am living with someone who is displaying symptoms of Covid-19?

If you live with someone else you must self-isolate for 14 days from the date that the person you live with started to display symptoms.  If you live with more than one person, then you must self-isolate for 14 days from the date that the last person in your household displayed symptoms of being infected by coronavirus. This may involve a rolling period of self-isolation

(last updated: 1 Apr 20)


How do I inform my employer about my self-isolation?

If you are self-isolating either because you live with someone who is displaying symptoms, or you are displaying symptoms, you should submit a self isolation note.  

You do not need to get a fit note from the GP.

(last updated: 1 Apr 20)


I am employed in the NHS and have been required to self-isolate what will I be paid?

During any period you are required to self isolate you will receive full pay, including any pay enhancements such as cost of living supplements or unsocial hours payments, you would have received if you had worked your planned shifts.

Covid 19 related absence will be recorded separately from other absences and will not be managed under your NHS organisation’s existing Sickness Absence Policies. https://www.nhsemployers.org/covid19/staff-terms-and-conditions/recording-covid19-related-absences-on-the-esr

This means the following will apply for any absences caused by your sickness due to Covid 19 or due to a requirement for you to self-isolate in line with Public Health Advice:

  • They will be recorded separately as Covid 19 related absence.
  • The pay you receive will not be affected by or be counted towards your existing entitlements to paid sick leave.
  • Absences due to self-isolation will not be counted towards any sickness absence related policy triggers.
  • Entitlement and access to other forms of special leave will not be affected.

Any sickness absence not due to Covid 19 will be treated in line with your NHS organisation’s existing Sickness Absence Policies.

If you are well but are being required to self-isolate you may be asked to work from home and your line manager may a have a discussion with you to explore this option. If you cannot work from home it will not affect your pay.

Further information is available here:

https://www.nhsemployers.org/covid19/staff-terms-and-conditions/sickness-absence

(last updated: 1 Apr 20)


I am an employee or worker outside of the NHS or I am working for a private sector employer that normally provides NHS services.  What am I entitled to be paid if I need to self-isolate?  

Check with your employer and review your contract of employment to see what entitlements you have to sick pay.  It may also be the case that you can work from home or negotiate with your employer to pay you as normal for the period of time you are required to self-isolate.

If this is not possible and you do not have contractual sick pay, so long as you  regularly earn £118 or more a week you should be entitled to SSP.  You can check your eligibility via this link to the Government website: https://www.gov.uk/statutory-sick-pay

From 13 March 2020 Statutory Sick Pay [SSP] is available for all eligible employees diagnosed with Covid-19 or who are required to self-isolate in line with public health advice.  It is payable from the first day you are unable to attend work.   

You do not need a fit note from you GP but should access a self-isolation certificate available on-line from the NHS 111 website.  

(last updated: 1 Apr 20)


Returning to the NHS

See also our pages on Joining the temporary NHS workforce which summarizes the process for different types of returnee across the four countries.

What routes are available for me to return to the NHS?

You can register your interest throughNHS England and NHS Improvement which has created a survey for those who want to return to the NHS across all four countries. Advice on returning is available through NHS England and they have also created a set of FAQs for AHPs.

(last updated: 2 Apr 20)


Can I undertake a bank or agency role if I am only able to do a few shifts?

Yes, you can also apply for one of the many agency or bank roles currently available. Individual Trusts and Boards will have their own bank arrangements. You can search for these on your local Trust’s website or Facebook page for their current vacancies or search on NHS jobs

There is also NHS Professionals (NHSP)which is the largest NHS Staff Bank in England, working with 55 Trusts  to provide staff to the NHS and they have also produced COVID-19 related FAQs for bank staff.

(last updated: 2 Apr 20)


What employment rights do I have as a directly employed NHS staff member?

If you are appointed to a permanent or fixed term directly employed role, you will be engaged on an employment contract which will reflect standard terms and conditions in the usual way. All NHS appointments should reflect Agenda for Change terms and conditions, with minimal local variation.  You should also receive appropriate induction and refresher training.

(last updated: 2 Apr 20)


What employment rights do I have as an agency or bank worker or with NHS Professionals?

As a bank or agency worker you will have fewer employment rights than if you were directly employed, either permanently or temporarily.

A basic comparison of worker v employee v self-employed employment rights can be found on the ACAS website

Bank work in the NHS is usually closely linked to NHS pay scales with the work for qualified AHP's usually linked to Agenda for Change Pay Bands 5 or 6.  The Agenda for Change pay scales.

If you are undertaking bank or agency work there are specific terms and conditions in England if you need to self-isolate.

(last updated: 2 Apr 20)


What pay am I entitled to if I return to the NHS in a directly employed role?

During the emergency period, the Returning to work guidance sets out that for substantive staff in roles covered by Agenda for Change terms and conditions  they should be paid at the top of the appropriate pay band for the role they are fulfilling, providing they previously worked in that pay band or higher.  See for more details.(This is currently only set out for England but the other countries are likely to agree similar arrangements)

(last updated: 2 Apr 20)


I am returning from retirement and would rather go into a more junior role. What should I be paid?

If staff want to return to a more junior role than the role they retired from, they should be paid the top of the pay scale in the more junior role.  (This is currently only set out for England but the other countries are likely to agree similar arrangements)

(last updated: 2 Apr 20)


What are the pension payment arrangements for staff returning to the NHS to assist in the response to the COVID-19 outbreak?

Staff who have not retired but return to NHS service are automatically enrolled into the NHS Pension Scheme when they re-enter NHS employment with an NHS organisation.  Membership of the NHS Pension Scheme is voluntary, and staff can opt out if they wish. If an individual opts out within the first pay period after starting NHS employment, the individual is treated as having never joined the scheme. 

If staff have already taken their pension, the government is removing any restrictions on the amount of work they can do without losing any of their pension during the emergency. 

If they retired from the 1995 NHS Pension Scheme, they will no longer be limited to having to work no more than 16 hours a week in the first four weeks after retirement. 

For staff who want to take partial retirement from the 2008 and 2015 pension schemes, they will not be required to reduce their pay in order to claim their pension. 

If staff are a Special Class scheme member with the right to take their pension unreduced at age 55, they will no longer be subject to the current restrictions, called abatement, in the amount of work they are allowed to do before losing their pension between the ages of 55 and 60. This new rule will apply both to retired staff returning to the NHS and those who have already returned to work. Special Class status can be held by nurses, midwives, physiotherapists and mental health officers. This factsheet defines Special Class eligibility.  

Taken together, these measures will allow skilled and experienced staff who have recently retired from the NHS to return to work, and retired staff who have already returned to work to increase their commitments if required, without having their pension benefits suspended.

(last updated: 2 Apr 20)


What will happen when these measures are no longer required?

A six-month notice period will be given to staff and employers before these measures will cease to apply, at which point the relevant sections of the scheme regulations will take effect again. Staff and employers will therefore have six months’ notice to readjust their working patterns.

(last updated: 2 Apr 20)


Will I need a DBS/PVG check before starting to work in the NHS?

Yes, though if you have a recent DBS Certificate or have maintained a subscription to the DBS Update Service then it may not be necessary for a further application to be submitted.  An assessment will be done by your employing organisation, using guidance from NHS Employers, to determine if a further check is required.

Where a new DBS application is required, the DBS have extended the scope of their services to include a new fast track check against the adults and/children’s barred lists. These arrangements will enable employers to recruit into a regulated activity before receiving the full disclosure certificate, where they have undertaken a risk assessment and put in place appropriate monitoring and supervision.

You will not be required to pay for a DBS check.

(last updated: 2 Apr 20)


Annual Leave and Bank Holidays

For staff working in the NHS please also refer to the Annual leave guidance document.

What are my entitlements around annual leave?

Most employers will have annual leave policies that will still apply even in the current circumstances unless an alternative Covid/pandemic related policy has been specifically agreed with unions or determined through the normal route for policy development within the organisation.  These policies will contain any rules about taking annual leave and should be the first port of call for staff.  

There is also a statutory framework around booking annual leave.

(last updated: 2 Apr 20)


My employer is refusing to let me cancel my annual leave, but I would rather take it later?

Annual leave can only be taken with the agreement of the employer and similarly in respect of cancellation.  Employers may be reluctant to allow cancellation now as it will potentially create more staffing problems later when needed.  However, in light of the relaxation of carry-over (see later FAQ) it may be possible to discuss with your employer and reach a compromise.

(last updated: 2 Apr 20)


Am I still able to take my annual leave?

We are aware a number of Trusts are now cancelling annual leave or preventing staff from booking annual leave over the next few weeks.  Recent guidance issued in the NHS reinforces the importance of time off for staff but does also state that in exceptional circumstances employers may have to ask some staff to delay/cancel pre-booked leave and/or advise that leave cannot be booked during particular periods. : https://www.nhsemployers.org/covid19/staff-terms-and-conditions/annual-leave

The guidance cites the provisions of the Working Time Regulations 1998 (WTR) which provide detail about notice requirements in the event of cancellation and the consideration of compensation. 

(last updated: 2 Apr 20)


Can my employer force me to take annual leave during self-isolation?

It is not appropriate for employers to ask staff to use annual leave to cover a period of isolation when they are acting on public health advice.  See FAQs on pay during self-isolation. 

In terms of payment, employees who have to self-isolate will be entitled to SSP (from day 1 not the usual day 4) as a minimum, but may be entitled to more under an occupational sick pay scheme.  Recent guidance on NHS employers confirms staff who have to self-isolate should receive full sick pay including enhancements. This also applies to bank staff and contractors.  Agency hours (or work via a personal services company) are not included in the calculation, even if the individual also has a substantive contract with the NHS. 
https://www.nhsemployers.org/covid19/staff-terms-and-conditions/self-isolation

(last updated: 2 Apr 20)


How much leave can I carry-over if I am not able to take it?

The current regulations that limit how much annual leave you can carry-over have been relaxed.

The government is introducing a temporary new law allowing employees and workers to carry over up to 4 weeks’ paid holiday over a 2-year period. This law applies for any holiday the employee does not take because of coronavirus, for example if:

  • they’re self-isolating or too sick to take holiday before the end of their leave year
  • they’ve been temporarily sent home as there’s no work (‘laid off’ or ‘put on furlough’)
  • they’ve had to continue working and could not take paid holiday

ACAS have also produced 'Advice for employees and employers' with further information on these issues. 

(last updated: 2 Apr 20)


I can’t reach agreement with my employer on my annual leave?

Having clarified the current legal and policy framework, it is important to point out that healthcare providers and health workers are facing unprecedented pressures. Employers are already relying heavily on staff to go the extra mile and hopefully will be keen not to undermine their goodwill.  Workers should try to reach agreement about sensible annual leave arrangements in the circumstances described above.  If it isn’t possible to do this on an individual basis it is worth speaking to your local CSP steward to see if this is a problem with an individual manager or an employer wide issue.  It maybe that a mutually acceptable agreement can be reached with the involvement of the rep.  If it is a wider problem, unions collectively may need to be involved.  It wouldn’t be helpful for employers to refuse all annual leave for the duration of the outbreak for 2 reasons:

  • The current pressures on health workers means regular breaks are more important than ever to avoid staff suffering physical and mental health problems and going off sick 
  • On a practical level it will be difficult for all staff to take their leave entitlement within the financial year if the pandemic continues over an extended period and if all staff carry-over large amounts this will create problems later.

In workplaces without a local rep, members would need to approach the CSP directly for individual advice.

(last updated: 2 Apr 20)


We have been asked to cover the bank holiday as a normal working day.  What does this mean?

Some Trusts have decided they need to provide a full level of service on bank holidays due to the current pressures.  This may mean for physiotherapy services, instead of the usual emergency cover, there would be a change to providing a seven day service giving the same level of cover each day.  We would advise that discussion should take place, involving local stewards and managers, as to the appropriate level of cover needed and that a commitment is given to ensure this is a temporary arrangement only in response to the current crisis.  

If you do work on a bank holiday your contractual rights to relevant pay enhancements under Agenda for Change terms and conditions will still apply.  

If you are being asked to work bank holidays and weekends as part of a move to a full seven day service during the pandemic you will be entitled to unsocial hours payments as set out in Section 2 of the handbook:
 
If you are being asked to cover the bank holidays or weekends as overtime then Section 3 of the handbook will apply:

All staff are entitled to the full allocation of bank holidays, so if you are asked to work a bank holiday then you will be entitled to that day back as set out in the handbook.

(last updated: 2 Apr 20)


Advice for Pregnant Workers

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

New advice for pregnant women who are working in the NHS and other work settings has now been published by the Royal College of Obstetrics and Gynaecology and Royal College of Midwives.

Women who are less than 28 weeks pregnant should practise social distancing but can continue working in a patient-facing role, provided the necessary precautions are taken.  However the guidance was further updated on 26 March to emphasise that pregnant women of any gestation should be offered the choice of whether to work in direct patient-facing roles during the coronavirus pandemic. Your choices on whether you continue to work in direct patient-facing roles during the coronavirus pandemic should be respected and supported by your employers.

Women who are more than 28 weeks pregnant, or have underlying health conditions, should avoid direct patient contact.The guidance indicates that wherever possible healthcare workers who are less than 28 weeks pregnant should avoid caring for patients with Covid-19 or suspected Covid-19.   The CSP expects employers and occupational health to carry out a pregnancy risk assessment for you and put any systems needed in place to protect you at work.  This may include redeployment to another area, allocating different duties, changing hours of work and also considering working from home.  The Health and Safety Executive guidance for pregnant workers (https://www.hse.gov.uk/mothers/) includes information of what employers’ risk assessments should cover to keep you safe. In addition, as indicated above, you should be offered the choice as to whether you continue any patient facing role.

For women who are more than 28 weeks pregnant, or have underlying health conditions, they should significantly reduce any unnecessary social contact through working from home wherever possible, and avoiding contact with patients. NHS employers should therefore look at how they can redeploy anyone in this group to work more flexibly and in a different capacity, maximising homeworking opportunities.

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

(last updated: 26 Mar 2020)


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 4 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 accessible from the link below. Speak to your CSP Steward or Safety Rep if you are unsure about your entitlements.

(last updated: 26 Mar 2020)


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 updated 27 Mar 20)


  Changes to roles and responsibilities

What job roles could an employer reasonably ask me to do in response to the outbreak?

The CSP would advise that discussion and planning take place at a local level between employers and health unions, including CSP stewards, as soon as possible. As part of that planning and response, it may be reasonable to move staff from other clinical areas to support work on Covid-19. However, work should still be within the grade and professional scope of practice and/or competencies of the member of staff. For example, a physiotherapy service may be required to reduce some services such as out-patients in order to increase support to the physiotherapy respiratory service. It may also be reasonable for employers to request more flexibility around patterns and times of work.

The NHS Staff Council statement provides further advice on the importance of agreeing any changes with individual staff, taking into account their own health and well-being. If changes are agreed and put in place it is then essential that staff receive adequate training, for example on the use of equipment, and are paid appropriately for any shift work. Although the statement has been produced for the NHS, the good practice principles it outlines would be relevant in any similar environment.

If you are concerned you are being asked to undertake a role that is not reasonable please discuss with your local CSP steward in the first instance.

(last updated: 5 Mar 2020)


My private hospital/clinic is refusing to allow us to switch to remote consultations. What should I do?

CSP members who are employed by private providers should continue to follow Government advice at all times. From a workplace perspective members should have full regard to their employer’s legal obligations under COSHH (Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations) to adequately control the risk of exposure to hazardous substances where exposure cannot be prevented. It is difficult to see how an employer could comply with this, and comply with social distancing measures for the protection of patients and staff without utilising measures to assess patients via remote access. Remote access would be a reasonable measure in these circumstances.

The CSP would expect and urge all employers to comply with Covid 19 Guidance for Infection and Control in Healthcare Settings, outlining a hierarchy of control measures. A blanket refusal to utilise remote working to assess risk and mitigate against it is likely to place employers in breach of their duty of care and Health and Safety obligations to staff. CSP members should also be mindful of their individual circumstances. If they fall within the “vulnerable” categories for social distancing measures, “stringent” measures are required, including options to work from home or remotely. Furthermore under Government Guidance for employers and businesses on coronavirus (COVID-19), businesses and workplaces should encourage their employees to work at home, wherever possible.

We encourage any CSP members affected by such blanket refusals to contact CSP ERUS for advice and support.

Musculoskeletal services should ensure:

  • orthopaedic and rheumatology planning MUST prioritise triage to enable continued referral of emergency and urgent MSK conditions to secondary care services (Guidance to be provided).
  • Rehabilitation MUST prioritise patients who have had recent elective surgery, fractures or those with acute and/or complex needs including carers with a focus to enable self-management
  • All other rehabilitation work, including rehabilitation groups,  is  stopped with patients enabled to self-manage
  • Where appropriate virtual and telephone consultations are to be implemented
  • Telephone triage is introduced to assess risks of serious MSK complications e.g. Cauda Equina syndrome

Ref: COVID-19 prioritisation within community health services

(last updated 1 Apr 20)