HR Guidance for Faculty and Staff regarding COVID-19

Information about COVID-19 guidelines and protocols at Brandeis has changed frequently as public health guidance has changed; please be aware that the information in this letter may be outdated. For the latest information, please visit the COVID-19 Response website.

March 13, 2020

Dear Faculty and Staff:

As the University continues to closely monitor the local, national and worldwide incidence of COVID-19, the coronavirus and the illness it causes, faculty and staff are asked to review the following workplace policies, guidance and planning protocols.

The University’s priorities in setting these workplace procedures are to:

We recognize that the amount of information that is being published and discussed by government agencies, the media and on-line may be overwhelming. The goal of this summary is to provide our faculty and staff with a topical summary of information and options as we work together to manage through this challenging time.

While it is impossible to plan for every contingency, the following recommendations are steps that we are asking managers and staff to review together and implement now to proactively prepare for a scenario where department operations may be in jeopardy due to COVID-19.

Employee Classifications

In preparing, implementing and communicating your operational contingency plans it is important to understand several employee classifications and the protocols or guidelines that may apply to each during this time:

Essential employees: a position that has been designated as critical because its responsibilities include non-deferrable services that must be performed despite a University emergency and/or administrative closure. Positions may be designated as essential on an academic year, seasonal or situational basis, e.g., in the event of a snow emergency or a public health crisis. Examples of departments with essential staff include Facilities, Public Safety, certain student services and research animal care. Managers should talk to their essential staff regarding expectations, work assignments, and relevant operational contingencies.

Non-essential employees: a position that is not designated as either essential or back-up to essential positions vital during a University emergency and/or administrative closure. Managers should talk to their staff regarding expectations and proper protocols in the event of an emergency and/or administrative closure.

Employees who are part of a collective bargaining unit: Faculty or staff in a University collective bargaining unit must follow the requirements in the collective bargaining agreement regarding benefits, time off and workplace flexibility. Please talk with your manager if you have questions or need guidance in any of these areas.

Student employees: The University values the work and contributions of our student workers. As we plan for on-line classes and a reduction of students on campus, it is important to consider the impact on our student workers. We are committed to finding ways to keep our student workers engaged and productive. If you have questions or concerns about this group or a specific student worker in your area, please talk to your Dean or Senior Leader.

General Department Operations

  1. Care for your own health. Stay at home if you are not feeling well with symptoms for any illness. If you begin to feel ill at work, inform your manager or staff and leave as soon as possible.  
  2. Managers and staff should meet to address any concerns they may have and to discuss the information in this summary. Establishing a transparent contingency plan and communications plan for your department is vital at this point.
  3. Establish a chain of command/coverage and a contact notification process (call chain) for your department to provide critical University status updates or in the event of multiple employees becoming ill or incapacitated.
  4. Log into Workday and verify that your emergency contact information is accurate and up-to-date.
  5. List the essential department tasks and identify those that could experience delays in the event of short staff or a University closure. Develop contingency plans and backfill options for coverage to ensure continuity.
  6. Ensure that you are registered for the Brandeis Emergency Notification System (BENS).
  7. Remain vigilant and adhere to the guidance in this email, the Brandeis COVID-19 website and other directives from our Leadership. In this way, everyone plays a key role in helping to minimize the potential spread of illness.
  8. To support flexible work arrangements (see below), it is critically important that eligible staff have the appropriate equipment and connectivity to work remotely. We strongly encourage managers and staff to work together to test these teleworking capabilities before they are needed and resolve any issues.
  9. The University remains committed to providing its students, staff and faculty with an environment conducive to learning, and working, and where all people are treated with equity, respect and dignity. Potential discrimination issues can arise if COVID-19-related restrictions target individuals based on fear, not fact. For example, there should not be additional quarantine requirements imposed on any staff due to their ethnicity or nationality, real or perceived.  
  10. We recognize the challenges faced by parents whose children’s schools may be closed. We encourage faculty and staff to utilize remote working to manage these situations. To protect the health of our children and the Brandeis community, at this time, faculty and staff may not bring children on campus.
  11. Keeping our workspaces clean is important and everyone’s responsibility to help minimize the spread of germs. Our custodial staff is working hard to sanitize all spaces and touch points. Additionally, we encourage everyone to regularly wipe down their own work space with cleaning wipes.

Flexible Work Arrangements

It may become necessary to reduce the number of staff that are physically on campus to minimize the spread of COVID-19. Any decision to change the University’s staffing levels will be decided by University leadership and communicated to all faculty and staff. 

In addition to the department operational recommendations above, we are asking managers and staff to work together to identify flexible work arrangements (where applicable) that will allow for continuity of department operations. Some options to consider include:

Managers should work with their Senior leaders and their staff to determine which arrangements are most appropriate to ensure the continued operations of the area. 

Sickness and Absences

It is reasonable and prudent to assume that COVID-19 will affect some members of the Brandeis community, leading to increased absences. Faculty and staff who are sick, or become ill at work, are instructed to go home. This is the most important step we can all take to protect against spreading COVID-19.

The information below is being provided to help provide general guidance and support to faculty and staff in the event they cannot be at work due to sickness. Because there are many scenarios that could develop and each may need to be assessed on a case-by-case basis, we strongly encourage you to contact Human Resources for consultation and guidance.

Scenario Available Time Off/Benefits*
Faculty and staff who are sick but have not been diagnosed with COVID-19. Staff may use available sick days. Sick time balances can be found in Absences within Workday. In the event of an extended illness, staff may be eligible for short term disability coverage. For staff who are new to the University and have not built up a sick bank, we ask that you contact Human Resources to discuss options.
Faculty and staff who may be asked to self-quarantine by their doctor or a federal or state agency. Will be eligible for paid leave time during the 14-day quarantine period. If illness continues or becomes COVID-19, may be eligible for continued sick leave benefits and/or FMLA. Contact Human Resources for guidance.
Faculty and staff who are not sick but need to care for a family member who is sick. Will be eligible to take available sick days, vacation/personal days and/or FMLA. Contact Human Resources for guidance.
*Time off benefits may vary in accordance with University policy or collective bargaining provisions. Please contact Human Resources for guidance.

*Time off benefits may vary in accordance with University policy or collective bargaining provisions. Please contact Human Resources for guidance.

While employee safety is critical, we must be mindful of employee medical privacy rights, which generally prohibit disclosure of personal health information without proper consent or authorization. Further, any questions or concerns regarding medical documentation or return to work verifications during confirmed or unconfirmed COVID-19 episodes should be directed to Human Resources.

The CDC has identified groups of people who are high risk for serious illness from COVID-19. Employees who are at increased risk for complications from COVID-19 due to underlying health conditions are urged to consult their physician about steps they can take to protect their health. These may include requesting a temporary change in job location, hours, assignment or duties, or implementation of additional protective measures to reduce their exposure to others or chances of being infected. Please contact Human Resources if you have specific questions or need guidance in this area.

It’s natural to experience stress and anxiety in the face of a threat we cannot control. If you need help coping with the uncertainties of COVID-19, or have a staff member that needs help, please reach out the University’s Employee Assistance Plan (EAP). The EAP (800-828-6025) has trained clinicians available that can provide confidential support and helpful information to assist you, or a member of your staff, through these challenging circumstances.

Recruiting and Onboarding

We understand the importance of attracting talent to the University and having the appropriate number of faculty and staff to support our mission. Included below are important considerations to help support your recruiting needs:

  1. Interviews: We are recommending that candidate interviews now take place using video conference technology. This approach is necessary to limit the number of visitors that come on campus and potentially meet with multiple faculty or staff.  
  2. Hiring: At this time, the University will not reduce or suspend our hiring efforts.
  3. Orientation: Currently, orientation takes place following our new employees first day and is generally limited to 6-8 people. At this time, we will continue to offer orientation virtually.

If you have questions or need assistance with your hiring needs, please contact Human Resources.

Support and Guidance

For faculty and staff enrolled in a University health plan, please review the important summary from Tufts Health Plan regarding access to health care services.

The following resources are available to you if you have specific questions or concerns:

My best regards to everyone.

Robin Switzer
Vice President of Human Resources