Members in NICS below an update from David Sterling.

Dear Colleagues

You will know as well as I do that COVID–19 is a significant challenge for the entire world.

These are the most challenging times I have ever experienced in my 42 years as a civil servant. I know how worrying it is for everyone and how difficult it is to try to continue to deliver essential services, while following public health advice to protect yourself, your loved ones, the vulnerable in society and the wider public.

In view of these unprecedented circumstances I want to clearly state the following:

  1. If you are in the vulnerable category, you stay away from the workplace.
  2. Departments will determine the minimum amount of staff required to deliver essential duties and services.
  3. If you can work from home, then do so.
  4. If your manager does not consider your role to be essential to delivering key services at this time, then stay away from the workplace. We will over the next few days and weeks seek meaningful work for staff.
  5. If you are not in the workplace for any of the above reasons (other than in one of the vulnerable categories) you must be contactable, and understand you may be required to move to an alternative role with different duties / working patterns for a period of time
  6. If you have to come in to work to perform an essential role then all steps will be taken to socially distance. The relevant business areas are working very hard to take all steps to protect staff including:
    • seeking to ensure people sit an appropriate distance apart;
    • putting in place rotas that are based on the absolute minimum numbers of staff required to deliver essential services and perform essential duties;
    • putting in place working hours, patterns, shifts and rotas that minimise time in the office and use of public transport; and
    • using technology as much as possible to minimise time in office.
  7. There are some operational business areas where there are particular challenges in relation to what can be done to achieve social distancing. Managers from these areas will contact you directly reflecting the position.
  8. You will continue to be paid during this very difficult time.
    You must take all steps to ensure your line manager and colleagues have your latest contact details including telephone number and email so they can stay in touch. This remains a developing situation.
    We are working through updates as they become available. You can keep up to date with the latest information and advice for NICS staff on the DoF website. You can access this on the website homepage (quick links section) or directly at:
  9. At this stage the same applies for all agency workers.
Volunteers needed

The Civil Service has a vital role to play in the response to the challenges posed for our society by COVID–19. We have therefore stood up the response structures of the NI Hub and the suite of Departmental Operations Centres (DOCs) developed for EU Exit but scaled and tailored to the needs of this emergency.

I now need to ask for some of you to consider self-nominating to play a key role in supporting our response to COVID–19 by working within the NI Hub or one of our DOCs. I know this is a big ask, however these are critical parts to ensure we can deliver essential services.

I would like to assure you that the NI HUB and the DOCs are working hard to ensure that when colleagues are needed in work, all steps are taken to follow the public health advice on social distancing. This will include the steps outlined above.

We are also stepping up cleaning of our buildings as well as any other measures to protect colleagues, who are working very hard to perform essential duties and deliver essential services for citizens.

Please indicate if you are willing to volunteer by responding to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. as soon as possible.

Please ensure your line manager is able to release you and advise in your response anything we should know about your circumstances including anything to be taken into account when alternative working patterns are being allocated.

Line Managers should bring this note to the attention of industrial staff and staff without access to a computer.

Thank you very much in advance for your support in these unprecedented times.

David Sterling
Head of the Northern Ireland Civil Service