RWTH Extends Work From Home Policy

September 21st, 2020 | by

In agreement with the Rectorate, the Crisis Management Team has decided to extend the University’s work from home policy until the end of the winter semester (March 31, 2021). The Crisis Management Team came to this decision because this year, in the fall and winter, not only will we continue to face the risk of infection with COVID-19, but we will also have to deal with the seasonally increased occurrences of the flu or common cold. For us at RWTH, the protection of students and employees remains the primary objective.

This decision allows both superiors and employees to make longer-term plans. At the same time, it gives them the leeway to meet challenges such as providing short-term care for children who have fallen ill. It also makes it possible for employees with (mild) symptoms of respiratory infection to work from home until it becomes clear whether they can work and whether they pose a risk of infection to others.

The current situation of the coronavirus pandemic with lower infection rates has resulted in restrictions and regulations being eased in many areas of life. Nevertheless, the epidemic situation in Germany is still serious and we must all still make sure to take care and behave responsibly.

Accordingly, RWTH’s top priority continues to be protecting its employees and students from possible infection.

The eased regulations in many areas of RWTH in the last two months has shown that, on the one hand, we have good regulations in place for dealing with the risk of infection and, on the other hand, that the university management and employees are taking heed of these regulations.

Currently, the risk of working at the office is generally considered to be comparable to that of other forms of participation in social activities.

Therefore, we generally have no concerns about employees carrying out essential tasks more frequently at the workplace itself; a sign of progress on the path toward normal operations. In the interest of preventing infection, supervisors should approve employees’ requests to work from home for periods covering up to 50% of the individual’s working hours, if this is compatible with work requirements. Furthermore, we would have no objections to motions that go beyond this if they are approved between the parties in question.

Employees must continue to adhere to the following guidelines:

The management of the respective university institution must create the conditions required to comply with the existing distance and hygiene regulations. Due to the existing legal requirements, this action must be documented by carrying out the general risk assessment for the workplace.

Both managers and employees in the respective university institutions are responsible for complying with the distance and hygiene regulations.

When it comes to shared offices, we recommend employees alternate between working from home and at the office (work duties permitting) in order to keep the number of individuals present in one place at the same time as low as possible. If this is not possible, the distance and hygiene regulations must be observed and special protective measures must be taken (partitions, face masks in case of temporary inability to comply with the minimum distance, room size, etc.)

In laboratories, workshops, etc., appropriate measures must be taken to ensure that employees can work in a low-risk environment, as specified above. If necessary, you can contact the Occupational Safety and Radiation Protection Staff Unit for further advice on this matter.

Employees in at-risk group for SARS-CoV-2 or who have additional childcare duties due to the restricted opening of schools or daycare centers, should primarily work from home, provided this is compatible with their work duties.

The human resources departments at RWTH will be happy to provide you with further information if necessary.

When working from home, please also refer to the available guidelines.

In addition, we would like to encourage you to take a look at the offers of the Family Services Center.

Regarding the at-risk groups mentioned above, RWTH assumes the definition of the Robert Koch Institute. According to the University Medical Center’s assessment, employees with the following pre-existing conditions in particular are in at-risk groups for the coronavirus.

  • Cardiovascular diseases requiring treatment
    (e.g. coronary heart disease, high blood pressure)
  • Lung diseases (e.g. COPD, bronchial asthma)
  • Chronic liver diseases
  • Kidney diseases
  • Oncological diseases
  • Diabetes
  • Weakened immune system
    (e.g. due to a disease resulting in an immune deficiency, or regular medication intake that can weaken the immune response, such as cortisone).

For pregnant women, the specific risk assessment for SARS-CoV-2 is carried out as part of the general risk assessment when the pregnancy is announced.

To announce they are at risk, employees simply have to declare this fact to their superior in text form (an email is sufficient) if their superior is already aware of their health condition. Otherwise, employees must submit a medical certificate confirming they would face serious health complications if they got infected with coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 due to their particular condition. For data protection reasons, the pre-existing condition should not be specified.

If necessary, employees and university institutions can discuss any queries on this matter with the University Medical Center.

If employees of an at-risk group are working at the office, suitable protective measures must be agreed upon with the Occupational Safety and Radiation Protection Staff Unit and the University Medical Center if necessary, so that their risk of infection is low.

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