Updated RWTH Remote Work Guidelines

May 27th, 2020 | by

Despite the easing of restrictions and regulations in some areas of public life, the coronavirus still is a national public health emergency. In order to protect employees and students from infection, RWTH needs to take measures that are appropriate in the current situation.

Now the University needs to determine the next steps towards resuming normal operations, which will hopefully become possible soon.

As far as work from home arrangements are concerned, after June 1, 2020, working from home is to be encouraged where feasible, i.e., as long as employees can fulfill their essential job duties remotely and it contributes to improved prevention of infection.

In order to achieve an appropriate solution that takes the interests of all involved into account, managers in the respective University institutions should consult with their employees.

In principle, there are no objections against carrying out essential tasks on campus at RWTH as long as this does not involve any risk higher than that posed by engaging in normal everyday activities.

The following guidelines must, however, be observed:

The managers of University institutions must ensure that it is possible for employees to observe physical distancing and hygiene regulations at all times. Furthermore, a workplace-specific risk assessment is to be carried out. Both the employees themselves and the managers of the institution are responsible for meeting the physical distancing and hygiene regulations.

If the essential job duties of employees allow it, the occupancy levels of multi-person offices are to be reduced. In order to reduce the number of staff present in the same office, staff might alternate between working at the office and from home on a rota basis. Should this not be possible, it must be ensured that the physical distancing and hygiene regulations can nevertheless be met. Special protective measures (partition walls, the obligation to wear mouth and nose coverings when the minimum distance requirements cannot be met at all times, room size, etc.) are to be put in place.

In laboratories, workshops, and similar facilities, measures must be taken to ensure that the risk for employees is minimized as far as possible in the terms outlined above. If needed, the Occupational Safety and Radiation Protection staff unit can provide further advice.

Work from home arrangements should be the option of choice for employees in SARS-CoV-2 at-risk groups and for those with additional childcare responsibilities due to the partial closure of schools and childcare facilities, if their job duties allow.

When the option of working from home is chosen, please also refer to the available guideline.

Regarding childcare, parents and their superiors should work to find well-balanced solutions, which address the needs of both the parents/guardians and the University institution. The solution should take the possibility of involving the other parent or guardian of the child into account. The University’s HR departments will be happy to provide employees with further information. Please also take note of the offerings provided by the Family Services Center.

As regards the at-risk groups mentioned above, RWTH follows the guidelines provided by the Robert Koch Institute. According to an assessment by the University Medical Center, employees with the following conditions, in particular, belong to the coronavirus “at-risk” groups:

o   Cardiovascular disease in need of treatment (e.g., coronary heart disease, high blood pressure)

o   Lung disease (e.g., COPD, bronchial asthma)

o   Chronic liver disease

o   Kidney disease

o   Oncological disease

o   Diabetes mellitus

o   Weakened immune system (e.g., due to a disease or condition linked to immunodeficiency disorders; or the need to take medication on a regular basis which may adversely affect the immune response, such as cortisol)

For pregnant employees, the following applies: After you have notified your University institution of your pregnancy, an assessment of SARS-CoV-2-related risks will be conducted as part of the general risk assessment carried out for pregnant employees.

Employees belonging to an at-risk group are asked to provide their superior with a written declaration (e.g. by email) on their status as an “at-risk” individual. This is sufficient if the superior is aware of the employee’s condition. Otherwise, the employee is asked to submit a medical certificate, which must confirm that in case of an infection with SARS-CoV-2, the employee is at risk for a severe course of illness due to his or her impaired health. For data protection reasons, the name of the condition is not to be stated.

If necessary, employees and University institutions can get in touch with the University Medical Center to help answer any questions they may have.

Should employees belonging to an at-risk group have to work on campus at RWTH, suitable protective measures must be taken in consultation with the Occupational Safety and Radiation Protection staff unit and the University Medical Center so that the risk of infection can be minimized.

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