Workplace Guidance for COVID-19

Updated January 25, 2021

Vaccine Distribution Information

You can find the most current information on COVID-19 vaccine distribution on the Spring 2021 Safe Campus Website.

Employee Health and Wellbeing Is Our Priority

One of the greatest strengths of the University of Minnesota is our workforce and the University is focused on keeping employees healthy, safe, and well. If you feel sick, stay home and report your absence.

When you are on campus, follow the guidelines for physical distancing, handwashing, and wearing a mask or face covering and your campus’ return to campus plan.

COVID-19 Testing Guidance

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Paid Leave

University Extends Emergency Paid Leave in 2021

The University has reset the emergency leave available for faculty, staff, and student workers under the University Emergency Paid Leave for COVID-19 because the federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act ended on December 31, 2020, and the University wants to provide adequate leave for COVID-19 to maintain the health and wellbeing of our University community.

Employees again have access to up to two weeks of University Emergency Paid Leave, starting January 1. Full-time employees will have 80 hours of University Emergency Paid Leave time available January 1, and those working part time will receive paid leave hours proportionate to the time they work. Unused emergency leave from 2020 will not carry forward. 

More information is available on Emergency Leaves Available to Employees and Student Workers. 

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Resources

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Frequently Asked Questions

All responses are as of August 15, 2021.

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Remote Working

Leaves

Pay

Benefits

Supervisors

Human Resource Professionals

Employees

Remote Working

Q: How long will employees who are able to do so be working from home?

A: Staff and faculty who can work from home should continue to do so through at least June 30, 2021, as shared in President Gabel's Nov. 11 message. We want to empower you all to make plans that support your families while maintaining fewer people on campus. If you have general questions the information on the Working Remotely webpage may be helpful. Please talk with your supervisor if you have further questions. 

Leaves

Q: What should I do if I am diagnosed with COVID-19?

A: Stay home from work and consult with your health care provider. You may be able to use a virtual care or telemedicine option.

Eligible employees who become sick with COVID-19 are covered under the Emergency Paid Leave with up to 80 hours of paid leave for full-time staff and adjusted down based on the percentage of time worked. Beyond that time, you can use your available sick leave and your employee-elected short-term disability insurance.

Q: How long should I quarantine at home after close contact with a confirmed COVID-19 case? 

A: An “exposure” is defined as an interaction less than six feet away for greater than a total of 15 minutes in 24 hours (with or without face coverings) with a person with laboratory-confirmed COVID-19. Employees who have been exposed should contact their supervisor and make plans to stay home using existing University and Federal leaves at their unit HR’s discretion.

Quarantining is self-isolation after a known exposure to COVID-19. Follow the quarantine guidance provided by MTest to determine the appropriate length of quarantine time for your case.    

Q: What about staff that have used up most or all of their sick and vacation time?

A: The University’s Emergency Paid Leave for COVID-19 went back into effect on January 1, 2021. Follow the link to learn more about leaves.

Q: What happens if I am Labor Represented or Civil Service and run out of sick time?

A: Effective January 1, 2021, eligible employees who become ill with COVID-19 are covered under the Emergency Paid Leave with up to 80 hours of paid leave for full-time staff and adjusted down based on the percentage of time worked. Beyond that time, you can use your available sick leave and your employee-elected short-term disability insurance.

Q: What if I am a Faculty member or P&A and need to be out for a period of time due to sickness?

A: Effective January 1, 2021, eligible employees who become ill with COVID-19 are covered under the Emergency Paid Leave with up to 80 hours of paid leave for full-time staff and adjusted down based on the percentage of time worked. Beyond that time, you can use your available sick leave and your employee-elected short-term disability insurance.

Q: Can I use the University’s Emergency Paid Leave to care for my elementary school child while they are doing remote learning?

A: The University's Emergency Paid Leave can be used to care for a child because of a COVID-19 school or childcare closure, including: children in K-12 remote-only programs, children in hybrid K-12 programs on remote learning days only, and assisting with the relocation of college-age child due to COVID-19.

Q: Can emergency leave be entered intermittently?

A: Yes. The employee and supervisor will need to discuss using a consecutive leave versus an intermittent leave, similar to Family Medical Leave. Supervisors can consult with their local HR staff if they need additional information on leaves.

Q: Can employees donate sick leave?

A: There is not a sick time donation program available at this time.

Q: I see that if I'm sick for more than eight days, and I'm enrolled in the short-term disability plan, I should call UNUM. Does time in quarantine count toward the eight days?

A: Effective January 1, 2021, eligible employees who become ill with COVID-19 are covered under the Emergency Paid Leave with up to 80 hours of paid leave for full-time staff and adjusted down based on the percentage of time worked. Beyond that time, you can use your available sick leave and your employee-elected short-term disability insurance.

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Pay

Q: Will off-cycle checks continue to be mailed?

A: Yes. These will be mailed out directly from OHR.

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Benefits

Q: Do our health benefits with Medica cover COVID-19 testing?

A: Yes, copays, co-insurance, and deductibles related to COVID-19 diagnostic lab testing are currently waived. Employees should contact Medica for specific coverage questions.

COVID-19 testing is available both through the MTest program on University system campuses and at numerous community testing sites. Most campuses offer COVID-19 tests to those without symptoms, but employees should confirm before getting tested.

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Q: Do our health benefits cover the cost of medications proven to be successful in treating COVID-19?

A: Medications for treating COVID-19 that are covered by the UPlan will have standard Pharmacy Program copays. We will continue to work with Prime Therapeutics, our pharmacy benefits manager, to identify drugs that can be covered based on their efficacy in treating COVID-19.  

Q: Will our health plan cover the cost of the COVID-19 vaccine, once it is developed?

A: When a COVID-19 vaccine becomes available and has been approved by the Pharmacy and Therapeutics committees for Prime and Medica, coverage will be provided on either the UPlan’s Pharmacy benefit or Medical Plan or both, at no cost to the member, under provisions of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). 

Once employees are eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine, the University will provide further guidance. 

Q: The COVID-19 situation has left me feeling anxious and worried. Where can I turn for help?

A: The Employee Assistance Program is available for all employees.

A: In-the-moment support is available 24/7 from the Employee Assistance Program provider, Sand Creek. If you have an urgent need, please call Sand Creek at 888-243-5744 to speak with a clinician. If you are experiencing an emergency or are in a violent situation, call 911 or visit your local emergency room.

Q: Are Regents Scholarship Program benefits affected by COVID-19?

A: The Regents Scholarship Program is continuing as-is, and is not affected by COVID-19.

Q: If I'm not currently enrolled in Short Term Disability, am I able to enroll now?

A: You can apply for coverage, but coverage is not guaranteed. First, you must complete the Voluntary Disability Insurance Enrollment and Change form and submit it to Employee Benefits. Then, you need to complete the evidence of insurability process. Based on the information you provide, Unum will determine if you are eligible for coverage. Please note coverage can only be canceled at open enrollment.

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Supervisors

Q: How do I help my employees return to campus and feel safe?

A: Resources for supervisors are available on OHR’s page regarding the Sunrise Plan and return to campus.

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Human Resource Professionals

Q: Do we need physical documentation to process I-9s?

A: The Department of Homeland Security is deferring the physical presence requirements for I-9 employment eligibility verification for employees who are being onboarded remotely and will continue to work remotely. This option is not available for employees who are physically present at a work location. For more information, see the announcement on the I-9 Employee Eligibility Verification page. Information can also be found on the OHR Operations website for those with access.

Q: If we have an employee currently covered by an intermittent FMLA for a major illness in which they are immunosuppressed, do we need to get further medical documentation for them to work from home for an extended period of time?

A: It's unlikely, especially if they're working from home during the time that they are also covered by FMLA (even if intermittent). We should treat this as we would anyone else - if we can accommodate a longer work from home option, we should. If the leave extends beyond the current pandemic, perhaps consider an accommodation request through the Disability Resource Center.

Q: I received a question as to whether FMLA would still be required for absences of more than three days when related to COVID-19. Yes for now?

A: The Office of the General Counsel has just issued new guidance for review as of March 20, 2020. 

Q: What types of releases and returns to work would be required, particularly for employee groups that often are challenged to provide it? Is there a process in place for soliciting that information and to know who is healthy?

A: For the novel coronavirus, the University is not requiring a doctor’s note before departure from the workplace, for use of sick leave or medical leave, or for proof of ability to return to work. This is a unique situation and the University is focused on keeping our employees and student workers safe during this period. 

Q: What should I do if employees who have self-quarantined and have applied for worker's compensation?

A: Questions about Workers Compensation reporting should be sent to the Risk Management Office at http://controller.umn.edu/riskmgmt/index.html

Q: Is there any change to the policy on non-renewals?

A: Non-renewals can move forward as usual pending approval by the Interim Vice President of Human Resources.

Q: Is there a need to capture pay and other expenses related to COVID in case there is a possible federal reimbursement?

A: Finance has created a CF2 code to track expenses. Please reach out to your Finance contact with questions about what should be tracked at this time. OHR is also putting tracking mechanisms into place for payroll.

Q. Will we be allowed to cash out vacation balances if we are over the vacation maximum due to heavy workloads related to COVID-19 preparation and response?

A: To ensure the University can continue to support as many employees throughout this pandemic as possible, we will not be providing a vacation payout option for P&A and Faculty positions. Civil Service and Labor-Represented employees should refer to their governance documents for vacation payout rules.

 

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