Coronavirus: Your Questions Answered

We remain committed to protecting and supporting the health and wellbeing all of our students and staff during these difficult times.

This FAQ was last updated on 26th March 2020.


General advice and guidance


Summary Table

What happens if I have symptoms, have been in contact with someone with symptoms or live with someone with a pre-existing health condition?

The Government have provided some detailed and useful guidance on Guidance for Staying At Home and Self-Isolation HERE and Social Distancing HERE.

Please refer to the Coronavirus Table (pdf) to the right for a summary of what to do in diffierent circumstances.

In general:

  • If you have a temperature or a new continuous cough please self-isolate for seven days.
  • If you are living with someone with symptoms please stay at home for 14 days.
  • Those who are being tested for coronavirus should follow the guidance of Public Health England.
  • Continue to adopt good hygiene with regular hand washing and catching coughs or sneezes in a tissue then disposing of it.

How do I protect myself – advice from Public Health England:

  • Wash your hands more often than usual, for 20 seconds using soap and hot water, particularly after coughing, sneezing and blowing your nose, or after being in public areas where other people are doing so. Use hand sanitiser if that’s all you have access to.
  • To reduce the spread of germs when you cough or sneeze, cover your mouth and nose with a tissue, or your sleeve (not your hands) if you don’t have a tissue, and throw the tissue away immediately. Then wash your hands or use a hand sanitising gel.
  • Clean and disinfect regularly touched objects and surfaces using your regular cleaning products to reduce the risk of passing the infection on to other people.

Where can I go for more support and advice? 

  • Staff support and advice contact emails to this account will receive a response from a member of the Human Resources Team within two working days. Please avoid emailing individual members of the Human Resources Team for advice.
  • A coronavirus page has been added to our When to Refer guidance – this includes steps to take if you have concerns about an individual. Click here or paste this link into your browser
  • There is also an updated Wellbeing page for all staff and students HERE.

To reduce the burden on staff who are trying their best to support students and staff with the change in circumstances, it would be brilliant and greatly appreciated if you can:

  • Refer to the working from home guidance HERE
  • Ask a tech-savvy colleague or try googling your issue first to see if there are any very obvious answers out there? We have some willing volunteers lines up to help - try sending general queries to to free up the Technical Services team to deal with the tricky questions
  • Look up someone's number on the DIRECTORY rather than calling 0
  • Make sure your details are correct in the DIRECTORY if your number is wrong or missing you can correct your details HERE.

Where can I find general advice?

  • General advice and guidance about coronavirus is available from Public Health England (PHE) HERE
  • A link to Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) advice and guidance is available HERE.
  • (Note: Where FCO guidance differs from our agreed approach, follow University of Sunderland guidance.)
  • There are helpful resources on the BBC and NHS web pages too.


Is the University ‘open’?

Yes. The University continues to operate, however, following Government guidance, the University has taken a decision to close its buildings.  The University remains committed to continuing to manage its normal operations off campus with staff working from home.  There is a skeleton staff presence on campus, primarily security and domestic, to ensure the safety of the buildings and to support any students in residence.

Can I access or work from the campus if I choose?

At this time, the vast majority of staff are working from home. There are currently no working spaces / areas open at any of the campuses.   

As soon as the University begins to open working spaces or offices to staff, an announcement will be made and the FAQs will be updated.

University guidance on working from home:

How should sickness be reported?

Follow the normal University procedure for reporting sickness absence. 

Any instance of Coronavirus or coronavirus-like symptoms should be recorded as sickness for monitoring purposes. The following can be recorded in Employee Self-Service (ESS), Manager Self-Service (MSS) or iTrent. There is a "Coronavirus recording" menu in MSS to assist managers.

  • All staff self-isolating with coronavirus symptoms should be entered as Sickness (“Coronavirus / self-isolating with symptoms”)
  • All staff self-isolating without symptoms (for example because a person in the household has symptoms) should be recorded under Other Absence Details as “Self-isolating without symptoms”.

Will any absence relating to coronavirus be included for the purpose of monitoring sickness absence triggers points, the University’s Sickness Absence Management Policy?

Coronavirus-related absences will not be counted for the purpose of any monitoring against trigger points under the University’s Sickness Absence Management Policy.

What health and wellbeing support is available to me?

We understand that this is a difficult time for everyone. If you feel that your wellbeing is being affected please do make use of our support services, including Silvercloud online CBT tool, which is available to staff and students. The mental health charity, Mind has also published a specific guide for coronavirus.

University employees have access to a 24 hour and free confidential helpline: 08000 562 561

The University Occupational Health service continues to remain open to support staff wellbeing, with a few changes made to allow effective functioning. Occupational Health service continues to be available to provide any work related health and wellbeing advice you may require. Please direct all enquiries to the Occupational Health inbox ( and we will aim to deal with your query at the earliest opportunity, Occupational Health staff are available Monday to Thursday.

Please note that from week commencing Monday 23 March 2020, all consultations will be held via telephone and appointments will be assigned on a health needs basis to ensure the most urgent issues are addressed accordingly. Occupational Health will continue to accept receipt of both management referrals and self-referrals via the usual processes, please see the Human Resources website for the referral forms, HERE

As a first aider, should I carry out my duties as usual?

Most staff are working from home and so the need for first-aiders is unlikely to arise until buildings begin to reopen.  Should a situation present itself that requires a first aider then, in the absence of relevant symptoms (fever, cough, and shortness of breath) please respond as usual to any first aid incidents. Please visit the NHS website for the latest guidance.

If you have not yet received it, please also request a copy of the latest advice and guidance from the University to First Aiders via

What should I do about my Annual Leave?

Colleagues are encouraged to book and use their annual leave from work during this period, as holidays are important. Working from home is not a holiday, this situation is also developing late into the academic year when many staff, including yourselves, will need a holiday. Staff should therefore be encouraged to use their holiday allocation and take a holiday or short break to support their well-being as well as their loved ones.

In accordance with the University’s Guidance on Annual Leave Policy HERE carry-over of more than 5 days into the 2020 / 2021 academic year is discouraged

Where a nursery or school has closed due to coronavirus and / or a member of staff has caring responsibilities but is expected to work from home, what is the University’s advice to staff?

We understand that many of you will be looking after children following the announcement of nursery and school closures. We are asking staff to ensure that they can reasonably care for their children whilst undertaking work-related duties from home. We accept that this may be particularly challenging for some colleagues and is largely dependent on your personal circumstances. We would encourage you to discuss any additional flexibility (such as variable hours, alternative working patterns, and reduced availability) or support that we may offer or provide to you to support you in juggling the various demands at home.

Where it is not possible to reasonably care for your children whilst undertaking work-related duties from home, then please discuss your situation with your line manager and a Human Resources colleague. As a general principle, the provisions of the Special Leave Policy HERE can be applied to ensure that staff are supported to make alternative leave arrangements such as annual leave, time off for dependents leave or parental leave to facilitate their absence from work.

As an agency worker, will I still receive my salary during this period?

Yes, agency workers who are engaged in ongoing work will be paid as normal for the period of their agreed contract. Agency workers who are able to work effectively on a remote basis will be expected to do so during the closure. If any agency workers are engaged in what are deemed to be essential services (e.g. security, residences), will be required to work on campus.

Am I able to Sign Up to the NHS volunteer Scheme?

With the news that an ‘army’ of 250,000 volunteers are being recruited to help the NHS support vulnerable people during the coronavirus pandemic. The Government has called on fit and healthy adults to sign up as NHS volunteer responders to help up to 1.5 million vulnerable people confined to their homes for three months.

People aged 18 and over and in good health – and without coronavirus symptoms – are being asked to sign up online to help ensure vulnerable people confined to their homes get the essential supplies they need and to provide other support to the NHS.

The University seeks to play a leading role in making a significant commitment to inclusion to our local community, especially during this crisis.  We already know that many of you are keen to play your part in this scheme.   We fully support those who can, sign up to be part of the responder’s team. 

As a guiding principle, we would support all employees to be granted one day of paid leave for volunteering during the period that the volunteers are required.  This day can be used in full or split into hours.  Please seek agreement with your line manager how this might best be arranged around your current work and so that it can be recorded on ESS/MSS.  This is recorded under other absence.

This page was published on 26 March 2020