FAQs – HR questions

Last updated: 25.03.2020

Q – Are we carrying on with recruitment?

A – Yes. We are looking at an alternative interview process to avoid the need for travel and face-to-face contact.


Q – I’m currently undertaking an apprenticeship. What is going to happen with my apprenticeship?

A – Due to the current situation the Trust has made a decision to postpone all apprenticeship training across the Trust until further notice. This will include all apprenticeship programmes from Level 2 through to Level 7, both clinical and non-clinical.
For those apprentices who are nearing their End Point Assessment and are also in receipt of apprenticeship pay, please can you contact your Apprentice Lead to discuss the criteria and process for any pay banding change. We want to ensure that those apprentices are not disadvantaged by any delay due to this extraordinary situation.

Government guidance also states :-

  • Apprentices who experience gaps in training due to Covid-19 related illness in the workplace or off the job can classify this period as a break in learning. The normal breaks in learning process should be followed and therefore we only need notifying once a break in learning has exceeded 4 weeks.
  • Usually breaks in learning are only permitted where they are learner driven, however we are aware that there may be occasion where an employer who is following government advice may take action that results in an apprenticeship have to be paused. In these occasions a break in learning can be used where there will be a break of longer than 4 weeks. The normal breaks in learning process should be followed.
  • After the 4 week period, I will inform our learning providers and this will be formally recorded on the apprentices ILR.
    With regards to the 20% off the job learning. At this time, the Apprentice Agency have not provided information though all existing funding rules are in force. We have been informed that this is with the minister for education and we are hoping to have guidance published later this week.

In the meantime all apprentices should be rostered to work their normal contracted hours.


Q – What HR guidance is there for bank staff?

A – Where bank staff have committed to shifts but cannot fulfil them because they need to self-isolate, they will still be paid for those shifts.

In line with Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) guidance, bank workers will take special leave with pay for the recommended period of self-isolation. This means we will advise workers that they are entitled to be paid for the shifts they have already booked during the prescribed isolation period, where one of the following applies:

  • They are officially diagnosed with COVID-19
  • They elect to self-isolate as they are exhibiting the symptoms prescribed to COVID-19
  • They are advised by a medical professional, NHS 111, Public Health England, or by their Trust, to self-isolate

NHS Professionals (NHSp) will be issuing a communication to all bank workers to inform them of these arrangements.


Q – With facilities like gyms closing, where can I find support?

A – Staff health and wellbeing is really important to us and we are working on pulling together a health and wellbeing plan, which will be supported by guidance from NHS Employers. We will communicate this as soon as possible.

We’d also like to hear from you about what support you would like to see. Submit your suggestions on BOB: ndht.ndevon.swest.nhs.uk/staff-health-and-well-being/covid-19-health-and-wellbeing-support/how-can-we-support-you/


Q – Will I be supported to stay in a hotel room in order for me to be able to keep on working?

A – We are looking into accommodation support for staff and will update you in due course.


Q – I am able to work from home. What kind of laptop access can the Trust support me with? Can I use my own laptop?

A –We have sourced some laptops and are ordering new stock as well, but will be putting a prioritisation process in place so that we are using this resource appropriately. Please look out for communications about this.


Q – What happens if schools close? What about childcare? How can I work whilst supporting my children?

A – The government has published its guidance on key workers for whom schools should remain open for childcare during the COVID-19 outbreak.

All NDHT and Sodexo support staff fall into this category, and only one parent needs to be a key worker for this to apply.

Parents or guardians who wish to take advantage of this should contact their child’s school to arrange a place for their child.

We know that some schools are asking for employer contact details to confirm that parents are key workers. A letter confirming NHS employment status can be downloaded here and provided to your school if required. Please note the letter must be produced alongside your NHS identification badge to be valid.

It is important to stress that every child who can stay at home absolutely must, and many key workers may be able to ensure their child is kept at home rather than at school.

We have been in touch with Devon County Council (DCC) and they have some useful information on their website to assist any parents with questions, including what you need to do if your child needs specialist support.

Website: https://www.devon.gov.uk/document/schools-and-families/

The website also includes a form to fill in if you have not yet been able to access a school.  If you complete the form, the DCC team will work to find a place for you. If you are struggling with childcare, please speak to your line manager.

DCC are working hard to determine what cover they are able to provide for the children of key workers over the Easter holiday period and beyond. We will let you know as soon as we have that information.


Q – I have had my baby and I am currently on maternity leave. I am willing to return to work for a period of time to help out during the current difficult time but want to then go back on to maternity leave. Can I do this?

A – Yes, we have relaxed the rules relating to maternity leave during the COVID 19 pandemic to facilitate staff to be able to do this. Please discuss this with your line manager in the first instance.


Q – I have agreed to retire and return. Do I have to wait 2 weeks before being able to return?

A – We have agreed to suspend the requirement for a 2-week break where staff wish to return earlier and are physically able to return to the workplace.

Under the rules of the NHS Pension Scheme it will still be necessary for individuals to have a break of 24 hours between their retirement date and the date of their return to work. At present the rules for staff retiring from the 1995 Section of the NHS Pension Scheme mean that they cannot work more than 16 hours per week for the first month after retiring. This does not apply to those retiring from the 2008 and 2015 Sections.

It is hoped that there will be a national relaxation of the 16 hour per week limit for those retiring from the 1995 Section and we will provide further information on this when we receive it.

We recommend you also speak to the Pensions Team who can be contacted on 01803 653303.


Q – Where staff are well, what should pregnant staff and staff with underlying health conditions be doing?

A – Pregnant women – national guidance has been issued to line managers. Please speak to your line manager in the first instance order to ensure you remain safe and well at work. If you have any remaining questions regarding this please contact the people cell at ndht.hr@nhs.net.

Underlying health conditions –  The People cell will be working with line managers to support staff, with at risk staff a priority. We will be looking at individual situations and working with line managers as much as possible to find the best possible solution. We are awaiting further national guidance.


Q – Are staff being tested/swabbed?

A – The health and wellbeing of our staff is incredibly important. We are rolling out the option of staff being swabbed to be sure, but we are doing this with consideration to reflect the capacity of testing facilities and under National Guidance. At present we are working to see if we can swab staff with minor symptoms so that we can confirm if they don’t have it and can therefore continue to work and not have to self isolate. At the moment we are not processing our samples locally, but we are establishing this as soon as possible – likely by the end of next week.


Q – If someone in my family at home is unwell with the symptoms of coronavirus, should I stay at home?

A – Please try to separate yourself from your family member as quickly as possible and contact the people cell for further guidance at ndht.hr@nhs.net

We are looking at hotel and other accommodation options for staff so that you can continue to work if that is appropriate . This will be assessed on a case by case basis following a risk assessment process.


Q – A member of my household is self-isolating because they are considered at risk. I’m not at risk myself, but to protect them what should I be doing?

A – At the moment we would expect you to attend work, but speak to your line manager about this to find an option that works for you. If you do attend work, the best support you can provide is to be very vigilant with infection prevention and control guidance – wash your hands regularly, change uniform at work etc


Q – I am not considered at-risk by national guidance, no-one in my household is considered at risk, and I do not have any of the symptoms of coronavirus. What if I am considering self-isolating?

A – Our current expectation is that you would attend work. We recognise that more people will want to/be advised to work from home where possible, and our People cell are working through this with line managers to facilitate home working where possible.


Q – Are there restrictions on staff who are well and travelling between hospitals?

A – Nothing as yet, but this is something we are considering.


Q – If I am currently on sickness absence and get coronavirus and need to self-isolate, what do I do?

A – We will treat this as a COVID-related sickness – please update your line manager and this will be updated to the People Cell. The People cell will maintain contact with you on a regular basis.


Q – Is the Trust cancelling annual leave? Can I carry over unused annual leave?

A – At the moment we are trying to preserve annual leave that has been booked. It will likely need to be discussed on a case by case basis, involving the People cell. We appreciate that we are likely to enter a fairly long period of working in an intense environment, so we are aware of the importance of annual leave. We are also awaiting further national guidance on this and will update you.



Q – There is going to be high demand on the NHS and staff will be working very hard. What kind of recognition/incentives/remuneration can we expect?

A –There is no doubt that we’ll all be asked to work differently as this develops. We are looking at this, with an awareness that we need to be consistent across the system.


Q – What HR guidance is there for bank staff?

A – We have agreed that our bank staff will be treated in exactly the same way as substantive staff from a HR perspective. We will be implementing this from Friday this week, so please talk to your line manager about the HR guidance.


Q – How quickly can I get an answer from the People cell and teams within HR?

A – Guidance is coming out frequently, and our People cell are working through this as quickly as possible. They are putting in place the processes needed to support staff through this period. They are working to get more clinical advice input into the people cell to aid with decision making regarding self-isolation etc. The health and wellbeing team are looking at packages to proactively support staff.


Q – Can you give us some assurances around food and drink whilst we’re working at NDDH?

A – We are already talking to Sodexo about a 24-hour hot food offering at NDDH, and will be looking at accommodation provisions near or on site.

Last updated: March 25, 2020