Workplace Guidance for COVID-19

Updated March 31, 2020

We want to update you on the workplace impacts of the COVID-19 virus for the University of Minnesota. Please remember that this information is subject to change given the fluid nature of COVID-19.

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University Priorities

As one of Minnesota’s largest employers, the University of Minnesota is committed to keeping employees and student workers safe. One of the main ways to ensure this is by encouraging all faculty, staff, and student workers to stay home if they are sick. Additionally, we are focused on keeping pay and benefits whole for our employees who may find their work disrupted by COVID-19.

Paid Leave

Emergency Paid Leave

The University Emergency Paid Leave for COVID-19, an appendix to the Administrative Policy: University State of Emergency: Human Resources Implications, took effect on March 23, 2020. 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.

University Emergency Paid Leave
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.

Change to Leave Use for March 16–22, 2020
Emergency-leave eligible employees will be paid for their regularly scheduled hours between March 16 and 22, 2020, with the exception of pre-approved vacation, personal holiday, or leave of absence without pay. This means those who were sick or used sick time to quarantine, isolate, or care for someone who was ill, do not need to enter an absence request or use paid leave and will be paid their regular wages. Employees will not need to accrue a negative sick balance during this period. This approach is different from what I shared in my email on March 12. Given the tremendous changes happening across the University at that time, this approach is simpler and more consistent over time. 

Beginning March 23, 2020, 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

The Office of Human Resources routinely updates our website regarding the impact of COVID-19 on our workplace with FAQs and resources. In the future, I will share updates on the Federal Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act of 2020 when details become available.

Those Who Are Uncomfortable Being in the Workplace

Essential employees who are healthy and must work on campus all or part of the time and who are uncomfortable being in the workplace can use vacation time, unpaid time if their vacation balance is exhausted, or comp time (for Labor Represented and Civil Service) to be absent from the workplace. Please follow the current policy requiring supervisor approval for time away.

A chart that shows which types of leave can be used in specific circumstances due to COVID-19 is being updated to reflect changes in policy and will be available shortly.

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.

Physical, Mental, and Financial Health Care from Home

Resources are available that you can use from home if you need some help. Learn about the virtual services for physical health, mental, health, financial health, and wellbeing resources. These services are available to employees, undergraduate and graduate students, fellows, residents, and interns. 

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COVID-19 in the Workplace

If you think you may have COVID-19, contact your primary health care provider. As with any illness, stay home and report your absence using the standard process for your unit. Whether you are working from home or on campus, notify your supervisor and human resources staff if you believe that you have COVID-19 so your time away is tracked as Emergency Paid Leave related to COVID.

Supervisors, administrators, and HR staff members are obligated to respect the privacy of University employees health conditions. Guidance on ensuring employee health privacy is available from the Office of Human Resources.

Working Remotely

President Gabel's March 16 communication directed all employees to work from home after March 18 unless otherwise directed by their supervisor. The Office of Human Resources' guidance can help supervisors, employees, and departments set up temporary remote work arrangements quickly and successfully.

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