Covid-19 advice for local government workers

This page was last updated on 16 August 2021

England is now in step 4 of the government’s roadmap. This means that most legal restrictions have been lifted.

However, the government advises that:

  • Employers should gradually phase in returns to workplaces where staff have been working from home.
  • If you have Covid-19 symptoms, or have been in close contact with someone who has had a positive test, you should have a daily test.
  • You should continue to isolate if you have a positive test.
  • You should consider wearing a face covering in crowded areas.
  • You should continue to minimise social contacts.

Employers still have a legal duty to keep workplaces safe and to keep their employees safe whilst at work and when travelling to work.

All our councils in North Yorkshire are part of the National Joint Council for Local Government Workers (NJC). This is a joint committee of the trade unions and employers and sets terms and conditions known as the ‘Green Book’. This covers our members who work for:

  • North Yorkshire County Council
  • Selby District Council
  • Hambleton District Council
  • Richmondshire District Council
  • North Yorkshire Moors National Park Authority
  • Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority

If you work for an Academy school, you may still be covered by the NJC but unfortunately Academies can opt-out of the Green Book. See our advice for school workers.

Should I be asked to go in to work?

From 19 July all legal restrictions have been lifted, including the instruction to work from home if you can. However, the government is also very clear that employers should start a gradual return to work over the summer and should be mindful of local Covid rates.

We are working with all our local authority employers, and we understand that they are all advocating a gradual return to workplaces for those staff who are currently working from home.

Any changes to how you are working should be considered via a risk assessment and discussed with you.

Self-isolating – what will I be paid?

The Green Book is very clear – if you are unable to attend work due to an infectious disease you should receive your normal pay and this should not be counted as sickness absence. If your employer awards increments based on attendance, any period of self-isolation should not affect your increment. Any period of self-isolation should not be counted towards trigger points for absence management procedures.

If your employer is not following this you should, in the first instance show your manager this guidance and get them to confirm that they will follow it. If you are still experiencing problems please contact the branch so we can help you.

I am clinically extremely vulnerable – should I go to work?

The government advice to shield has ended, as has the general instruction for everyone to work from home if they can. However we believe that, wherever possible, employers should continue to allow you to work from home. If your employer asks you to return to the workplace they should conduct an individual risk assessment with you.

View our advice for vulnerable workers

I have been told to self-isolate before I go into hospital – what will I be paid?

The NHS has instructed that anyone who is due to go into hospital as an in-patient for planned or elective surgery (including day surgery) must self-isolate for 14 days along with all their household for 14 days prior to admission.

The national trade unions and employers have agreed through the National Joint Council (NJC) that all employees in this situation should continue to receive normal full pay for the duration of their isolation. Those who can work from home will be expected to work from home, or be deployed to alternative duties that can be done from home. It is accepted that if admission dates move then a further period of self-isolation may be required and that employers will have to accept this as a consequences of the ongoing Covid-19 emergency.

Download the NJC guidance on admission to hospital

I have been contacted by the NHS Track & Trace service and told I must self-isolate

It’s a legal requirement to self-isolate if you test positive or are told to self-isolate by NHS Test and Trace. You could be fined if you do not self-isolate.

View the latest advice on Track & Trace, isolating and testing

The Green Book conditions will apply and you will continue to receive your normal pay, your absence should not be recorded as sickness and should not count towards absence management processes or trigger points. If you can work from home, or if your employer can deploy you to a role that can be done from home, you should work from home. If you cannot be given work to do from home, employers have to accept that you must stay at home on your normal pay for the duration of the isolation period.

Download the NJC guidance on Track and Trace

Will I need a Fit Note (sick note)?

Normally you would be required to have a Fit Note to cover any sickness-related absence after the first 7 days. However, ACAS has issued advice to employers that they should be flexible and recognise that it may not be possible to get a Fit Note to cover you when self-isolating. We expect our local government employers to follow this advice.

If you are self-isolating you can request an Isolation Note from the NHS online.

Request an Isolation Note

If you develop Coronavirus symptoms you need to check the advice on the NHS 111 website.

NHS 111 website

Can my employer cancel my booked leave?

Yes. These are exceptional times. Councils in particular may need to cancel leave to ensure they can continue to deliver statutory and other essential services. However, we expect employers to be reasonable and take into account any costs you may incur and what plans you had for the leave. They must give at least as much notice as the time you were taking (i.e. at least one weeks’ notice if you were due to take a week off).

What if I travel abroad and am required to quarantine when I return to the UK?

Foreign travel is currently very limited. You must follow the latest government guidance on foreign travel.

If you do need to travel abroad you may have to isolate upon your return to the UK. Clearly this would mean you are unable to return to work.

The trade unions and employers have agreed joint advice for local government workers which sets out what should happen if you return from abroad and need to self quarantine.

If you booked your overseas travel before restrictions were announced then you clearly would not have known that you would need to isolate when you return. In such circumstances employers should be flexible and allow you to work from home, or ultimately to place you on extended paid leave. This would not affect your annual leave entitlement.

If you booked your overseas travel after the government announced quarantine restrictions, then you will be (or would have) travelled knowing that you would need additional time away from work. In these circumstances it has been agreed that employers should continue to be flexible and allow you to work from home, if you can. If you cannot do your job from home, then your employer should consider if they can deploy you to a role that can be done from home. Other options include:

  • take additional annual leave to cover some, or all, of the isolation period
  • take additional unpaid leave
  • take special leave (if your employer provides such a facility)
  • make up the isolation period over a period of time so you do not incur a drop in pay

Employers should also consider the specific case and give sympathetic consideration to things like:

  • an employee who has extenuating circumstances, such as travelling abroad to attend a family funeral
  • pre-booked holidays that were booked before quarantine was announced and that cannot be cancelled without incurring financial cost
  • pre-booked holidays that the tour operator has not cancelled, but has rescheduled to fixed dates which, if cancelled, would incur financial costs

Anyone who has to travel abroad for their work and has to then go into quarantine must continue to receive full pay.

Download the NJC Circular on quarantine when returning to the UK

View the current government travel advice

Can I be asked to do different work, or move to a different department?

Yes, it is likely that your contract will have provision for emergency situations to allow councils and local authorities to ensure they have sufficient staff to maintain statutory and essential services. However, councils should seek volunteers first and you should only be asked to do work that you are able and qualified to do. You should identify any training needs with your manager. If you are asked to do work at a higher grade, you should be paid at the higher grade.

The national unions and the employers have issued guidance though the National Joint Council that we expect all local authority employers to follow. We have also agreed a Memorandum of Understanding with North Yorkshire County Council to cover our members at NYCC.

NJC Guidance 23 March (critical workers and redeployment)

Download the UNISON/NYCC Covid-19 agreement

Can my employer send me home if they think I am symptomatic, and what will I be paid?

Yes, but you should be placed on medical suspension and receive your normal pay. If you are not being paid in such circumstances you must contact the branch as soon as possible as you could have a claim for unpaid wages.

What if my employer closes my workplace?

If your workplace is closed and you are unable to work from home, or another workplace, you must continue to be paid your normal wage, unless your contract includes a clause to cover unpaid shutdowns. You could also be redeployed to support other council services if your service has been closed.