March 17, 2020  COVID-19 Human Resources Update

March 17, 2020 COVID-19 Human Resources Update

COVID-19 Human Resources Update

Dear Employees, 

I want to personally thank you for the care, creativity and flexibility you have shown in the past week in dealing with the rapidly changing situation and conditions related to COVID-19.  We know many staff have questions about how to proceed effectively given the current constraints and shift to virtual teaching and the recommendations relating to social distancing that have been issued from our State and local officials. In this memo, I want to provide three things:

  1. Clarity for managers about guidelines as you work with your departments and teams during this time.
  2. New information about State and Federal regulations that have changed to provide greater flexibility and coverage for employees that need to take leave or have a reduction in hours.
  3.  Tips for working virtually.

1.     Guidelines for Managers

Managers should work with their departments to implement best practices for social distancing, including modifying office space usage, allowing flexibility in hours, and remote work. Decisions about whether employees are able to perform work responsibilities virtually are to be made on a departmental and individual basis, in conjunction with guidance from VP’s, Deans and other senior leaders. There are some departments and individuals that, by the nature of their work, will need to report to campus for their work activities: much of residential experience, public safety, and facilities will likely fall into that category.  But again, these decisions should be made with managers in conjunction with senior leadership, and all alternative work arrangements must be approved by the appropriate manager/supervisor.

Over the course of this week, staff should develop a work plan that includes a list of critical tasks, projects, strategic priorities, and lower priority tasks/projects that are needed in order to ensure business continuity, and discuss this list with their supervisor/manager. This work plan will serve as an agreement between the employee and their supervisor on roles and responsibilities during this time. Remote work plans should be reviewed and approved by supervisors with an eye toward equity, responsibility, connectivity and productivity. Supervisors as well as other senior leaders reserve the right to request additional documentation of work at any time.

If you have employees that are unable to perform their work responsibilities under the current conditions, supervisors/managers need to contact Human Resources.  In the event of any foreseen reduction of hours of staff within their department, this process should be initiated by sending an email to HR@stmarys-ca.edu. Employees will be able to use all accrued and available vacation and sick time in order to remain whole during the time they are not able to perform their work responsibilities.  If an employee does not have vacation or sick time available to use, we would then reduce their hours until such time that they are able to return to work. In the event that a benefits eligible employee must reduce their hours so that they no longer meet the benefits eligibility requirements, the employee would maintain their benefits eligibility during the shelter in place period.    

Meal & Rest Period Requirements

California's meal and rest period requirements for non-exempt employees apply to remote workers. All non-exempt employees are still required to take appropriate meal and rest periods while working remotely.

Please continue to monitor the HR FAQs for updates - New FAQs will be added today which align with California Governor Gavin Newsom's Executive Order relating to those that become ill or quarantined due to COVID-19 and those that experience a reduction of work hours, as outlined below.

2. New regulations for State Disability, Paid Family Leave and Unemployment Insurance

Paid Family Leave/State Disability

If an employee becomes ill or quarantined or has to care for a family member, they should first notify their supervisor/manager.  Next, please contact the Benefits Department in Human Resources at benefits@stmarys-ca.edu.  Then, please do not delay in completing your online California State Disability or Paid Family Leave claim.  The normal one week unpaid waiting period has been waived per the Governor's Executive Order. See full HR FAQ here.

We encourage you to review the FAQs provided by the Employment Development Department (EDD) for guidance on what programs are available and what situations may be applicable to your circumstances.

Unemployment Insurance Benefits

The government has made several important changes to existing benefits.  Unemployment Insurance, usually reserved for those out of work, provides partial wage replacement benefit payments to workers who lose their job or have their hours reduced, through no fault of their own. Workers who are temporarily unemployed due to COVID-19 and expected to return to work with their employer within a few weeks are not required to actively seek work each week. However, they must remain able and available and ready to work during their unemployment for each week of benefits claimed and meet all other eligibility criteria.  The Governor’s Executive Order waives the one-week unpaid waiting period, so you can collect UI benefits for the first week you are out of work. More information on Unemployment Insurance Benefits can be found on the Employment Development Department Coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19) FAQs webpage.

3. Tips for working virtually.

Below are a few tips for creating productive and successful remote work experiences, for those of your staff who will be working remotely at this time:

- Establish work hours. Remote employees should make every effort to honor the departmental hours of operation.

- Define clear expectations and deliverables.

- Follow up with open communication. Employees and supervisors should be flexible and communicate frequently and clearly. Establish frequent check-ins and points of accountability.

- Departments should establish protocols for communicating any changes in how they are conducting their work / operating procedures (i.e. how to contact department members if staff are working remotely; if the department will have a reduction in open hours, etc.).  Departments should also consider and establish phone routing/coverage protocols.

- Think creatively about what tasks can be completed remotely. While many employees will continue to perform their regular day-to-day work functions, this necessary change in workflow may postpone or prevent the completion of certain projects, or create a lack of resources. Employees may be asked to complete tasks outside of their own areas of responsibility for the good of their departments, the College, and to ensure that the employee is able to work a full day.

- Follow this link for technology support for remote work - https://www.stmarys-ca.edu/it-services/technology-services-available-from-off-campus

Again, thank you for all that you are doing in this time to ensure a safe, effective and productive workplace for all.  It is greatly appreciated.

Do not hesitate to contact our team in Human Resources at hr@stmarys-ca.edu with any questions you may have.

Please take care,

Laurie Panian
Associate Vice President & Chief Human Resources Officer
Title IX Coordinator
Saint Mary's College of California