Working from home

Updated 11 June 2020

Thank you to all our staff for doing your very best to support colleagues and students as we continue to adjust to online teaching, working from home and home schooling. As many staff (and postgraduate researchers) as possible are now enabled to work from home.

We expect the majority of staff will continue to work from home in summer 2020, more about plans to return to campus have been emailed to staff on 4 June.

Balancing caring responsibilities

We know that for those of you with children or other caring responsibilities this is a daily balancing act and you’re unlikely to be able to work exactly as you would from campus.

Please speak to your line manager and have an open and pragmatic conversation to explore and agree what is possible. These conversations might need to happen once or several times over the weeks ahead, but managers and staff are encouraged to talk frequently and openly to find flexible solutions that work best for individual situations.

Line managers are empowered to agree and support ways of working that are new and potentially very different from how work is carried out on campus. For example, it might be appropriate to agree that emails can be responded to out of ‘normal’ working hours to allow for caring responsibilities during the day.

What is key is that you work as best you can in your individual circumstances and that your line manager supports you to do your best, allowing for the fact that we’re all unlikely to be able to work exactly as we would from campus.

To complement the help and support provided by line managers is the carer’s leave guidance. Please note that in acknowledgement of the exceptional circumstances that we face, we have increased the standard entitlement of paid carer’s leave from 5 days to 10 days for this year (pro rata for part time staff). This 10 days includes any carer’s leave already taken within the past 12 month period.

Annual leave, unpaid leave and parental leave are also options that can be agreed to cover any additional caring responsibility requirements or if staff would like to take some time, away from work.

If you are a carer for a family member or a friend who has an illness, disability or addiction, Carers Leeds offer confidential telephone appointments. The aim of these free, 40-minute appointments is to provide a wide range of practical advice, support and information to working carers. To book a telephone appointment, please contact the Equality Policy Unit via email: equality@leeds.ac.uk. You can also contact the Carers Leeds advice line on 0113 380 4300 (Mon – Fri 9am – 5pm).

Ways of working

For many of us, working from home is a new experience and one that is taking time as we adapt our normal ways of working. Likewise, managers will be adjusting to a new way of managing their teams.  We have prepared some short guides that may help you. We also have guidance for accessing critical systems remotely.

The kind of work you can do from home includes activities you would usually carry out in an office on campus (this could include teaching preparation or marking for example). You should not carry out any work activities you would usually carry out in a laboratory or workshop at home – including storing or analysing samples.  Read more on the Wellbeing, Safety and Health website.

If you have a disability, you should discuss your support needs with your line manager so that previous adjustments can be reviewed, any updates made, and so that new adjustments can be implemented as soon as possible.

Working from home expenses, such as internet provision

Currently the University does not pay expenses or an allowance to staff who are working from home. Exceptionally, and with prior approval from your Head of School/Service (or nominee), the University will reimburse small scale consumable expenditure and small scale expenditure on IT cabling, wireless USB devices, and headsets that are wholly necessary in fulfilling your role from home. The cost of this equipment should be no more than £40 in total.

Any other IT equipment that is required to work effectively from home should be pre-approved and ordered through the University IT team in line with the latest University guidance.

As a general rule the University will not reimburse the cost of IT equipment, office furniture and internet access.

If you do not have internet access at home and it is necessary for your role, please contact your line manager who will discuss options with you including other types of work you can do at home.

Normal receipt requirements, expense claim process and authorisation routes apply.

Remote working tax relief

You can apply to HMRC to have the extra costs incurred during the period of remote working deducted from your taxable income which will lower your tax liability.

To apply to HMRC use Form 87 to make both on-line and paper applications. You can only apply on-line if you have an HMRC Government Gateway account. If not, you can either request on-line access from HMRC or complete a paper form.

The section of the form relevant to remote working is ‘Using your home as an office’, and you will be making a ‘Flat rate deduction’. You are required to enter ‘the amount paid by you’ which should be the flat rate of £6 per week for the number of weeks you have been working from home, the amount paid by employer for flat rate expenses is zero (0).

The process allows you to claim tax relief for 2019/20 (if applicable) and for the current year, 2020/21. You may prefer to wait until the remote working requirement ceases, so you can enter the total value of the claim on the 2020/21 application.

On-line and paper application forms can be accessed on the HMRC website accessed https://www.gov.uk/guidance/claim-income-tax-relief-for-your-employment-expenses-p87#claim-online.

You might be able to claim tax relief for other remote working expenses during Covid-19, however HMRC require proof (receipts) of you incurring these costs out of your own pocket, when the amount claimed is greater than the flat rate allowance.

We cannot support employees with personal tax computations, if you are in doubt contact HMRC general enquires employee helpline or take independent tax advice. https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/hm-revenue-customs/contact/income-tax-enquiries-for-individuals-pensioners-and-employees

IT security at home

The University is continually targeted by scams and phishing emails, but the Covid-19 outbreak brings a new set of challenges and risks. Working at home, you have remote access to information without the physical protections available on campus and without the University firewalls and access controls. It is hugely important that you understand how to protect your devices and information.

What you need to do

For everyone

  • Avoid clicking on links in unsolicited emails and be wary of email attachments. Always stop and think.
  • Remember, scams aren’t just limited to email – they can come through text messages and voice calls as well.
  • Do not reveal personal or financial information in email, and do not respond to email requests for this information
  • Follow the normal data protection guidelines (see dataprotection.leeds.ac.uk) and save data in the appropriate location.
  • If you need to access services that are normally only available on-campus such as ESS (Employee Self Service) read the ‘How to work from home or off-campus’ page on the IT website.
  • Report your device if it is lost or stolen. If your device contains University data and is lost or stolen you should report the incident to the IT Service Desk, even if it is a personal device.

At home

  • Think about your location. Is your computer safe from theft? Could other people see confidential University data?
  • Make sure your wi-fi is password protected and you have changed the default password.

If you are using your own personal device

  • You should not download University data to personal devices. Use Office 365 to access your email and Office apps rather than the mobile apps, as these may sync to your device.
  • If you are sharing a device, you must set up separate user accounts on it before accessing University data.
  • Make sure you have anti-virus software installed and keep it up to date and install operating system updates (eg for Microsoft Windows).
  • Make sure you have switched security features on, for example using a PIN, password or fingerprint access.
  • Enable a lock screen on your devices and set them to lock the screen after no more than five minutes of inactivity.

Zoom

If you are using Zoom be aware that there has been a rise of ‘Zoom bombing’ attacks. This is when online Zoom meetings have been crashed and interrupted by unwanted participants. Read the Keeping your Zoom meeting safe page on the IT website to help prevent your meeting from being disrupted.

Useful websites

Use trusted sources—such as the NHS or government websites —for up-to-date, fact-based information about covid-19. Be aware of sites offering ‘cures’ or apps claiming to give virus updates.

Training and guidance

LinkedIn Learning and other online training platforms offer courses which will help you use systems for working remotely.

If you have not used LinkedIn Learning before, have a look at the IT quick start page.

We have gathered tips and advice on the systems available.

Training sessions are being provided to help staff prepare for online teaching using the technologies available.

Systems to support working from home

Read the IT covid-19 updates and working from home advice.  We also have guidance for accessing critical systems remotely.

  • Check you have access to a webcam, speakers and microphone on your devices at home for conference/video conference calls. Consider using a headset with a microphone to improve the quality of online conversations. Check your home computer equipment, including broadband and WiFi
  • Use Office365 online to access key apps such as Word, PowerPoint, Excel, Teams, if you don’t have them installed on devices at home.
  • Install Office365 apps on your smartphone, if available, so you can receive notifications and chat easily with your colleagues, and students, via Microsoft Teams.
  • Read our advice on health and safety while working remotely.
  • Read more about systems for teaching online.
  • Access this free course on how to work effectively and collaboratively with your team, when working remotely.
  • If you are worried you may be missing emails (including updates on coronavirus), check your clutter folder. Find out how to manage and switch off clutter

Advice on systems

General advice on working from home is available on the IT website and there is also guidance on key systems.

Data protection and information security