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COVID-19 Recovery Period - Staff FAQs

Last Updated 12 August 2022

1. General

1.1 I think I might have COVID-19 Symptoms. What do I do?

Check the list of  C-19 Symptoms here and if you are displaying these symptoms, please follow the steps that are outlined on that HSE webpage.

1.2  How can I claim tax relief for e-working?

As a public sector employer, we are prohibited from contributing to additional costs for items such as electricity, heating and broadband for staff working from home due to COVID-19 restriction. However, there is E-Working tax relief that staff can claim where they work from home for substantial periods on a full or part-time basis. Such staff can claim E-Working expenses by completing an Income Tax return on the Revenue website as follows:

  1. sign into revenue.myaccount
  2. click on 'Review your tax' link in PAYE Services
  3. select the Income Tax return for the relevant tax year
  4. select 'Other PAYE Expenses' in the 'Tax Credits and Reliefs' page and insert the amount of expense at the 'Amount Claimed' section.

Staff who you have not yet registered for Revenue's online services should do so now at the link above in preparation for making claims in 2022.

As a claim may be selected for future examination by Revenue, all documentation relating to a claim should be retained by the staff member for a period of six years from the end of the tax year to which the claim relates.  Please check the Revenue website for details on how such relief is calculated.

2. Diagnosis, Self-Isolation and Restricted Movements

2.1  I've been diagnosed with COVID-19. What should I do?

If you have been diagnosed with Covid-19, please follow the guidance on the HSE website.

2.2  I've had a positive COVID PCR or Antigen test, however I’m well enough to work, do I have to take special leave with pay?

If you have received a positive PCR or Antigen test and do not feel unwell, if feasible you may work from home during the isolation period. Please discuss this with your line manager to discuss what work you will carry out. Please ensure to contact your line manager immediately if you become unwell during the isolation period and are unable to continue to work from home. If this happens, then you may be placed on special leave for the remainder of the isolation period.

2.3  I've been diagnosed with COVID-19. Will I be paid?

Special leave with pay may be granted in lieu of sick leave for COVID-19 when an employee is required to self-isolate and is displaying symptoms of COVID-19 or had a positive PCR test/or for those under 40 who have registered a positive antigen test on the HSE portal. Medical or HSE advice should be followed. Staff must also complete the COVID-19 Self-Declaration Form. The HSE or medical confirmation of COVID-19 diagnosis and / or satisfactory evidence of a positive test for COVID-19 is required with the completed form

The HSE sets out the latest criteria for self-isolation at this link.

The general principles applying to the management of sick leave, for example the requirement of employees to contact managers, and for ongoing contact with employees who are on special leave for this purpose, will apply. The arrangement relating to the application of special leave with pay for COVID-19 is temporary and will be kept under regular review by the Government.

Special leave with pay does not apply to individuals who are restricting their movements.

2.4 I’ve been diagnosed with COVID-19 and granted special leave with pay. How long will it continue?

From 1st July 2022, if you cannot discharge your duties from home or are too unwell to do so, special leave with pay will continue for the duration of the stated self-isolation period only (whatever duration is in place at the time of the absence), currently seven calendar days. Special leave with pay will continue for the duration of the stated self-isolation period only (whatever duration is in place at the time of the absence), currently 7 calendar days. In order to avail of special leave with pay evidence is required in the form of a PCR test result or antigen test result registered on the HSE portal along with a completed COVID-19 Self-Declaration Form.

Any periods of COVID-19 related illness which extend beyond the stated self-isolation period (currently 7 calendar days) will be treated as ordinary sick leave in accordance with the Sick Leave Policy with requirements such as medical certification, illness benefit application applying and may include a referral to occupational health.

2.5 Can special leave with pay be extended beyond 10 calendar days?

No, if an employee remains absence beyond the stated self-isolation period (currently 7 calendar days) this will be treated as ordinary sick leave under the University’s Sick Leave Policy will apply.

2.6 I have to avail of special leave with pay, do I need to provide a medical certificate for this absence?

Medical certification is not required for application of COVID special leave with pay, a copy/screenshot of the text message from the HSE and completion of the COVID-19 Special Leave Self-Declaration form are the necessary documents required. If your absence extends beyond the stated self-isolation period (currently 7 calendar days), then a medical certificate is required from day 8 of your absence.

For any periods of leave for which a medical certification is submitted, such absences should be recorded as sick leave with Sick Leave Policy rules applying, such as calculation of sick pay benefit for the period and application for illness benefit payments from the DSP, if the absence is three days or greater.

2.7  I am on special leave with pay. How often should I update my manager?

The general principles applying to the management of sick leave, for example the requirement to contact managers and for ongoing contact with staff who are on special leave with pay for this purpose, will apply

2.8 I am a close contact of confirmed COVID-19 case. What should I do?

The advice around close contacts has changed. If you think you have been in close contact with someone who has COVID-19, you do not need to restrict your movements or self-isolate.

Information from the HSE about the steps you need to follow can be found here.

2.9 What if I don't provide the appropriate COVID-19 /ordinary medical confirmation to my line manager?

In the event of non-compliance with the University's Sick Leave Policy and/or the provisions of special leave with pay (including the requirement to provide bona fide confirmation of self-isolation/diagnosis of COVID-19) existing procedures, including with-holding of pay and/or disciplinary measures, may be invoked.

2.10 What if I don't return to work after being granted special leave with pay?

When granted special leave with pay, staff will be expected to comply at once with any directions which may be given by the University and to take all practicable steps to resume duty as soon as possible. Non-compliance with this may result in the with-holding of pay.

2.11 Can I claim illness benefit whilst on Special Leave with Pay?

Staff on special leave with pay are not permitted to claim any form of Illness Benefit payment from the Department of Social Protection.

2.12 Will I be entitled to days in lieu of public holidays that occur while I am on special leave with pay due to self-isolation?

Staff are not entitled to days in lieu of public holidays that occur whilst they are in receipt of special leave with pay

2.13 I am on annual leave. I've been advised to self-isolate as I am displaying symptoms of COVID-19, diagnosed with COVID-19 / had a positive test.  How will my time off work be recorded?

Special leave with pay only applies to staff who were rostered or due to be working. Special leave with pay cannot be substituted for other forms of leave such as annual leave.

2.14 I have a family member that has been told to self-isolate. What leave arrangements can I avail of?

If a staff member in this situation has been advised by the HSE that there is no need for them to self-isolate, they can explore alternative working patterns and working from home with their line manager, where feasible. If the staff member wishes to stay at home for the purpose of caring for family members, they may be able to avail of other forms of leave under University policies such as Annual Leave, Parental Leave, Special Unpaid Leave of Absence or Force Majeure (as defined under the Parental Leave Act 1998). The granting of any leave is subject to the approval of the Head of School /Administrative and Support Area.

Parental leave requests should be made using the parental leave application form. In these extenuating circumstances and on an exceptional basis, the normal notice periods for such applications will be waived and accepted retrospectively.

Special Unpaid Leave of Absence requests should be made using the unpaid leave application form.

Force Majeure applications should be made using the force majeur application form.

2.15 Is special leave with pay available for caring arrangements?

There is no special paid leave available for COVID-19 caring arrangements during this time.  Any employee who wishes to avail of existing leave allowances during this time is entitled to have such requests considered by their employer, as always, including parental leave, annual leave etc. patterns, flexible or staggered shifts and weekend working may be explored, where feasible.

3. Returning to the workplace

3.1 Should At-Risk employees attend the workplace premises?

As workers return to the workplace, employers should take account of the particular needs of those in the high or very high risk (extremely vulnerable) category. Public health advice is that such individuals should get vaccinated and should follow public health advice in relation to mask wearing, including wearing a surgical or FFP2 mask when in crowded indoor settings, as set out here.

At risk workers, may be particularly concerned about returning to the physical workplace and Managers should engage and address concerns. Discuss such concerns with your Manager, who should contact the Employee Relations Team in HR employee.relations@tcd.ie who will make the necessary arrangements for a fitness for work / to attend the workplace medical risk assessment with the University's Occupational Health provider to determine what, if any, accommodations are necessary.

3.2 I am pregnant and concerned about attending the workplace. What should I do?

The HSE advice on COVID-19 and pregnancy is set out here. If you are pregnant and concerned about remaining at work onsite or returning to work onsite, you should raise your concerns directly with your Head/Manager in the first instance. Your Head/Manager can then contact the Employee Relations Section in Human Resources by email to employee.relations@tcd.ie to arrange a COVID-19 at-risk assessment to determine if you are in a high/very high-risk category and what, if any, accommodations are necessary.

3.3 Are face coverings required in the workplace?

The legal requirement to wear a face mask/covering expired on 28th February 2022. However, it is still good practice to continue to use face masks/coverings particularly in crowded areas. Workers who use or share work vehicles may also consider using a face mask/covering. Individuals at high or very high risk should also follow public health advice in relation to mask wearing including wearing a surgical or FFP2 mask when in crowded indoor settings.

3.4 If I am required to restrict my movements on my return from international travel, how will this be recorded?

Current guidance on international travel is available on government-advice-on-international-travel.  Employees who intend to travel abroad should ensure that they are aware of any testing and quarantine requirements in place at the time of travel, and pertaining to their own circumstances, both for their intended destination and on return to Ireland. Where a restricted movement period is required as a result of travel, all employees must make provision by way of an annual leave or unpaid leave application for that period of restricted movement, in line with the normal rules applying in the relevant sector. This arrangement is applicable to all civil and public servants, regardless of whether they can work from home.

An emergency brake system may be applied quickly to countries where a variant of concern or interest arises. Employees should be aware that whatever restricted movement (quarantine) requirements are in place and applicable to them on their date of return to Ireland will apply. Employees are required to notify their employer as soon as possible if they have to take additional annual leave or unpaid leave in order to satisfy any restricted movement (quarantine) requirement.

3.5 I am a new staff member who must travel to Ireland to commence working in Trinity. If restricted movements are required on my arrival to Ireland, how will this be recorded?

For new incoming staff who are due to commence work in Trinity and who must travel to Ireland to do so, such travel is considered essential travel. Staff in this category who are required to restrict their movements on arrival to Ireland may work from home for the required period. The specific work arrangements during this period should be agreed in advance with their incoming Manager.

3.6 How should flexi-time schemes operate during the COVID-19 recovery period?

The normal operation of flexi-time, or equivalent attendance management rules, including any flexi-time accruals and deficits, continues to remain temporarily suspended for those employees who are working under different arrangements. This includes those who are working from home and working different shift patterns etc. This is set out in the University's Blended Working Policy.

3.7 What supports are available for staff?

Inspire Workplaces Counselling Services provide the University's Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) service. University staff and their immediate families (those living at home with them who are 18 years of age and older) can avail of up to 6 professional counselling sessions free of charge. Appointments can be made by calling Inspire on freephone 1800 817 433 or by email to workandstudy@inspirewellbeing.ie

Inspire also offer a dedicated online Support Hub where staff will find useful information, articles, e-zines, self-assessment tools and much more. To access please click on EAP Inspire Support Hub:

  • On the home page click the purple ‘Sign up’ icon (top right)
  • When prompted enter the company pin (PIN: Trinity!)
  • This will create a randomly generated username – please take note of username
  • Create your own password and start using the Support Hub

4. Vaccines

4.1 Can the College make it mandatory for me to be vaccinated against COVID19?

No. The current legal position in Ireland is such that there are constitutional and other legal barriers that would make it extremely difficult for an employer to implement a mandatory vaccination programme for COVID-19. This includes the right to bodily integrity, the right to a private life and the right to personal autonomy.

4.2 If I decide not to take up the offer of a vaccine, can I be prevented from attending the workplace?

As outlined above, it is an individual's right to choose whether or not to be vaccinated. If an employer, having carried out a risk assessment in line with their duties under the Act, concludes that there is a risk of a staff member coming into contact with the virus, or, that there is a risk of putting colleagues or service users at risk, your Head/Manager may have to consider re-assigning you different duties to your normal core duties if you are unwilling to be vaccinated.

4.3 My Head/Manager is encouraging me and my colleagues to get the vaccine when it is offered. Can they do this?

Yes, Heads/Managers should encourage their staff to get the vaccine, in line with public health advice. The Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act (the Act) obliges employers to identify and reduce workplace risks as part of their risk assessment. Individual staff also have a duty under the Act to co-operate with their employer so that Trinity can comply with its duty to reduce workplace risks.

4.4 Can I ask if my colleagues have been vaccinated?

No, this would constitute a data protection breach.

4.5 My colleague has told me they are not vaccinated; I don't want to work alongside them. What are my options?

The evidence suggests that receiving the vaccination prevents the recipient of the vaccine from getting very sick. On that basis, arguably the person who has been vaccinated would still be protected working alongside someone who has not been vaccinated. In addition, all other control measures that have been put in place under your School/Area's Resumption of Activity on Campus Plan should remain, in line with the Work Safely Protocol, such that the employee should be in a position to continue to work as before.

Refusal to work alongside unvaccinated colleagues/students will be dealt with on a case-by-case basis and may have to be dealt with under the relevant procedures.

4.6 I received notification for my COVID-19 vaccine appointment and it is within my working time, how will this be recorded?

Time off work for COVID-19 vaccines is to be treated as a medical appointment in line with section 1.2 of the Sick Leave Policy and therefore normally recorded as sick leave with employees informing their Manager/Head in advance and provide a copy of appointment details (screenshot if notification received by text). If staff do not wish to discharge a full /half day sick leave for this appointment, they should discuss this with their line manager and where feasible they can agree to:

  • Go straight to the appointment, come into work after it
  • Come into work, go to the appointment, return to work after it
  • Leave work early to go to the appointment if scheduled late in the afternoon

Staff who become ill immediately after receiving the vaccine who cannot return to work as a result will be recorded as being on sick leave.

4.7 I became ill due to an adverse reaction to my COVID19 vaccine and cannot work, how will this be recorded?

Any illness absence as a result of adverse reaction to a vaccine is considered ordinary illness and therefore to be recorded as sick leave. Medical certification to cover the absence is required in line with section 2.2 of the Sick Leave Policy as is application to the Dept of Social Protection (where applicable) for illness benefit as set out in section 7.

5. Ordinary Illness

5.1 What happens if I have an illness other than COVID-19?

Under the terms and conditions of the University's Sick Leave Policy, ordinary illness should be recorded locally by the line manager as sick leave.

5.2 What if I am on ordinary illness sick leave and subsequently contract COVID-19?

If a staff member is on sick leave due to ordinary illness and is subsequently diagnosed with COVID-19, the special leave with pay may be granted retrospectively in lieu of sick leave. The staff member would be required to complete the Self-Declaration Form and return it to their line Manager with the appropriate evidence as set out in FAQ 2.4 above as soon as possible.

6. Managers

6.1 As a Manager, what leave records do I have to keep?

The Organisation of Working Time Act 1997 requires employers to hold records of all forms of leave. It is important that records of all leave (CV19 special leave with pay, annual leave, unpaid leave etc.) are kept locally in each area. These should be readily available for University and DFHERIS statistical data, if requested.

6.2 As a Manager, what should I do if a staff member who is pregnant raises concerns to me about working onsite?

The HSE advice on COVID-19 and pregnancy is set out here. If a staff member who is pregnant raises concerns to you about working onsite, you should contact the Employee Relations Section in Human Resources by email to employee.relations@tcd.ie to arrange a COVID-19 at-risk assessment to determine if the staff member is in a high/very high-risk category and what, if any accommodations are necessary.

6.3 As a Manager, what should I do when a staff member contacts me about potential COVID 19 infection?

You need to establish specifically:

  • Whether the staff member has been diagnosed as an actual or probable case. If the staff member is medically diagnosed with COVID 19, special leave with pay may be granted.
  • Follow the steps identified here to report diagnosis.
  • Ensure the staff member completes the Self-Declaration Form and returns it to you with the appropriate medical confirmation as soon as possible.
  • Record this locally as CV19 Special Leave with Pay on the staff member's attendance record.

If a staff member becomes unwell at work, Managers should refer to and at all times follow the guidance on the HSE website for dealing with a suspected case of COVID-19 infection in the workplace.