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Return to Campus Working

Since March 2020, the University of Limerick has switched from a campus-based education model to online learning and working.  We will largely have to continue with this approach. We are not anticipating a full return to working on-site and the guiding principle for all is that if you can work from home, continue to do so.

A project team in UL is working on a plan in accordance with the mandatory provisions in the Government’s Return to Work Safely Protocol. This is being led by Buildings & Estates and Health & Safety with input from HR and other areas. 

To identify those staff who need to work on campus, we will be liaising with Deans and Department Directors on an approvals process. Researchers who require lab access and academic staff who need to prepare audio-visual material for online teaching are being prioritised initially. We will also be looking at how to facilitate staff who need to be on site for specific periods of time in the working week or month. 

Significant detail is required to ensure that we have a safe working environment. This includes: identifying high risk groups or staff with caring responsibilities who may need to remain at home; creating an online induction process for staff returning to work; ensuring that our buildings, offices and lecture rooms are reconfigured to provide sufficient social distancing space; developing hygiene protocols; contacting tracing for staff on-site; and creating a Covid 19 incident response plan. 

For the majority of us who will remain at home, a Working from Home Protocol is being developed by HR.

DETAILS Updated 12/06/20

The implementation of this Protocol on campus is being co-ordinated by the Space Management Committee: chaired by Gerry O’Brien (Deputy President, Chief Operating Officer and Registrar) with representation from Academic Affairs, Academic Registry, Research, Buildings and Estates, ITD, Health and Safety Unit, Plassey Campus Centre, Internal Communications, Finance and HR.

The Covid-19 pandemic has abated in Ireland but continues to be a potential threat to public health. This remains the case despite the plan to lift all travel restrictions beginning on Monday 29 June.

The accelerated Government Roadmap for reopening society gives Monday 20 July as the date when universities will open. Details of the implications of a ‘fully opened campus’ in line with this are being worked on. Departments and Units must fully comply with the UL Return to Campus Working Protocol prior to returning to work on or before this date, and are actively preparing their plans for this in cooperation with the Buildings and Estates Department.

Notwithstanding the above, the principle remains in place that if you can work from home, you should continue to do so with your line manager’s approval.

We are working to identify with Deans and Department Directors, researchers who require lab access and academic staff who need to prepare audio-visual material for online teaching. Several actions need to have happened by the end of June for us to enable eligible staff back on site.

The mandated Worker Representative (WR) role needs to be filled on a minimum 1 WR:50 staff basis, with nominations coming from senior line managers. The WR will be responsible for liaising with University management to ensure that all the actions in the government’s Return to Work Safely Protocol are fully adhered to at the University, and communicating and overseeing Covid-19 advice to their colleagues. Their primary point of contact and training will be provided by Health and Safety.

We have to balance campus access with the capacity of our work-spaces. Currently, Buildings and Estates are assessing all classrooms, lecture theatres, labs, multi-occupancy offices and additional rooms, and putting in place capacity limits and advisory notices for physical distancing and hygiene. As a rough guide, these are averaging from 15 – 40% of normal capacity. We are also assessing other spaces for teaching suitability. 

These protocols form part of a process that all Units/Departments will have to follow to get back to work on campus. The Bernal Institute has already undergone this process and partially reopened for research purposes on a pilot basis last Monday. Part of this was ensuring that an appropriate Covid-19 Business Response Plan is in place. This was produced in consultation with their Worker Representative and details their plans for physical distancing, hygiene, workspace and equipment sharing, canteen usage, and one-way systems where necessary.

Our planning for a Return to Campus Working is an active process. We are aiming to have a Covid-19 Sharepoint Hub accessible by Wednesday of next week. This will host any documents and guidelines required to plan your return. Academic Planning and Remote Working procedure material will also be located here. I urge you to use this resource; also check in on the Covid-19 FAQs updates on our website.