Workplace Guidance for COVID-19

Updated August 27, 2020

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.

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Paid Leave

Families First Coronavirus Response Act 

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) provides emergency leave to employees who are unable to work or work remotely for reasons related to COVID-19. (See this notice from the U.S. Department of Labor). This FFCRA web page offers more details. Email or call the OHR Contact Center (ohr@umn.edu, 612-624-8647 or 800-756-2363) with any questions about your eligibility for leave. This leave can be used in combination with University Emergency Paid Leave.

University of Minnesota Emergency Paid Leave

The University Emergency Paid Leave for COVID-19 is an appendix to the Administrative Policy: University State of Emergency: Human Resources Implications. The goal of this interim benefit is to provide emergency paid leave for COVID-19–related reasons in order to maintain the health and wellbeing of our University community.

Effective March 23, 2020, the University will provide emergency paid leave of up to a total of 80 hours to faculty, staff, and student workers. This leave is intended only for situations when employees are unable to work or work remotely due to COVID-19–related illness, the need to quarantine or isolate as a result of exposure to COVID-19, to care for someone who is ill with COVID-19, to care for a child whose school or childcare is closed or unavailable, or to assist with the relocation of a college-age child due to COVID-19. If you work less than 100% time, paid leave hours will be proportionate to the percentage of time you work. For example, someone who works 50% time will receive a total of 40 hours of University Emergency Paid Leave or a student who works an average of 15 hours per week would qualify for up to 30 hours of paid leave.

Using Emergency Paid Leave
You can use this leave beginning March 23, 2020, and this leave will be tracked by the unit's time and absence administrator. If you need to use this leave, employees should request it in the same manner that they request and utilize other paid leaves. You will not need to provide medical documentation. However, if you are ill with COVID-19 for an extended period and you want to use your employee-elected short-term disability insurance, you will need to provide documentation to the University’s provider, UNUM, regarding your illness. Your use of your short term disability coverage can run concurrently with emergency paid leave.

If additional time away is needed beyond what is provided in the University State of Emergency: Human Resources Implications, you can use regular available sick leave or paid medical leave plus comp time, if eligible.

Any leaves not qualifying for emergency paid leave will be processed using the guidelines provided in the Administrative Policy: Campus and Building Closure in the appendix Pay Provisions During Emergency Closings or Reduced Operations.

Employee Benefits

Benefits, including the employee health plan, will continue for employees while on Emergency Paid Leave related to COVID-19. UPlan Medical Plan participants using Medica will have COVID-19 tests covered. If you are ill due to COVID-19 for an extended period and have short term disability insurance, contact UNUM.

Virtual physical, mental, and financial care can be accessed from home.

 

University Talent Share Program

If your department could use extra staffing for important projects and tasks—or if you have employees who have time available —the University’s new Talent Share program may help.isit the Talent Share website for program details.

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Resources

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Frequently Asked Questions

All responses are as of August 27, 2020.

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Supervisors

Human Resource Professionals

Employees

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.

In addition, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) provides emergency leave to employees who are unable to work or work remotely for reasons related to COVID-19. This FFCRA web page offers more details. You can contact your local HR staff or the Office of Human Resources at ohr@umn.edu, or call 612-624-8647 or 800-756-2363 if you have questions.

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 into effect on March 23. Follow the link to learn more about leaves.

In addition, the federal government recently passed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) to provide emergency leave to employees who are unable to work or work remotely for reasons related to COVID-19. This FFCRA web page offers more details.

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

A: Effective March 23, 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.

In addition, the federal government recently passed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) to provide emergency leave to employees who are unable to work or work remotely for reasons related to COVID-19. This FFCRA web page offers more details.

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 March 23, 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.

In addition, the federal government recently passed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) to provide emergency leave to employees who are unable to work or work remotely for reasons related to COVID-19. This FFCRA web page offers more details.

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 March 23, 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.

In addition, the federal government recently passed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) to provide emergency leave to employees who are unable to work or work remotely for reasons related to COVID-19. This FFCRA web page offers more details.

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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 will be waived. Employees should contact Medica for specific coverage questions.

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). The expectation is that it will be at least 12 to - 18 months before a vaccine is available.

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.

Q: Does the Employee Assistance Program have a crisis hotline?

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: Can a staff member be reimbursed for internet access if asked to work from home, whether or not they have internet service to start with?

A: Departments will make decisions about any additional resources available to support work from home. Local Wi-Fi and internet providers may be providing additional access within your community. Refer to OIT website for updates. 

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 could treat this as we would anyone else - if we can accommodate a longer work for home option, we should. If it were to need to continue beyond the current state of a pandemic, perhaps consider an accommodation request through 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 happens if we don't have enough revenue due to impacts on sponsored projects and other revenue sources?

A: Refer to attached policy for information on pay during emergency closing period

Q: Any update on student workers and their pay?

A: Student worker information can be found in the following policy. https://policy.umn.edu/operations/emergencyclosing-appd

Q: I have heard from two units that employees who have self-quarantined have applied for worker's compensation. Who do I talk with for more information?

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.  (must receive approval from Ken)

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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