On Tuesday morning, Human Resource Services hosted a virtual panel discussion to provide updates for supervisors and answer questions on how to best support our employees with the rise in COVID-19 cases in the region and the state as we approach the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday and winter break.
As announced Monday, the university is taking several additional measures to help protect the health of our community and to deliver the critical support our students need to be successful in these final weeks of the semester.
Below is a recap of the topics that were covered during the virtual panel discussion. The recording of the session also is available online.
Working remotely through the end of the calendar year
While many employees have been working remotely and will continue to do so, there are some who have been coming to campus to work because it’s convenient or for other reasons, but who are otherwise able to do their jobs remotely. These employees are being asked to work remotely again to reduce the possible spread of the virus. Basically, if you don’t have to be on campus, you shouldn’t be.
Offices should continue to provide services and make them available virtually. Websites should be updated with current office hours and the best ways to reach staff remotely.
Supervisors should continue to be flexible and help accommodate those employees who are balancing eldercare or remote learning responsibilities while also working remotely. Supervisors should do their best to try to identify computer and technology equipment that an employee may need to work from home and look for creative solutions, like borrowing from other divisions and departments. Those employees who do not have the technology or access at home to perform their duties are able to work on campus as a last resort but must follow the responsibilities outlined in Protecting the Pack.
As a reminder, Microsoft Teams meetings can also be joined by dialing in via telephone and do not necessarily require a computer, camera or microphone.
Wherever possible, student-employees who can work remotely should be permitted to do so. Students with jobs that require them to be on campus are allowed to continue to work on campus. Student-employees will be paid for their hours worked in accordance with FLSA guidelines.
Employees who are working remotely should continue to utilize benefits time for doctors’ appointments, taking a day off to spend time with family, etc., just as they would when working on campus.
Finally, working remotely looks different for everyone. It does not mean the employee has to be working from their home. It simply means they are at a place off-campus where they have reliable internet access and can safely and effectively perform their job duties.
Working on campus through the end of the calendar year
Those supervisors and employees whose job responsibilities require them to be on campus must continue to follow the requirements outlined in Protecting the Pack:
- Self-monitor daily for symptoms using the #CampusClear app before coming to campus.
- Wear a face covering when you are in common, open workspaces, entering and exiting a building or working in an office with someone else. Only remove your mask once you are alone in a private office with the door closed.
- Practice good hand hygiene, cough etiquette, workplace cleanliness and sanitation.
- Maintain at least six feet of separation from other individuals for proper physical distancing.
- Report any symptoms or exposure using the COVID-19 Screening Checklist.
Employees can request an accommodation, like modified face coverings, on the Affirmative Action website.
If an employee is not following one of the health and safety requirements, employees should remind one another of the expectations in Protecting the Pack and the importance of working together to keep each other safe and healthy. Employees should also report these incidents to their supervisors. The supervisor should 1) ask them to correct the behavior, i.e., wear a mask, provide physical distance, practice hand hygiene.; 2) Make the same request as a directive, and 3) if the employee is still non-compliant, take disciplinary action.
Employees and students can use the COVID-19 Concerns form to report non-emergency concerns and non-compliance related to COVID-19 by NIU students, employees, visitors and student organizations. This form can also be used to report other COVID-19 concerns related to facilities, cleaning, availability of hand sanitizer, general behavior by groups or other concerns.
Reporting, Isolating and Benefits Usage
The supervisor of an employee who has tested positive for COVID-19, has been exposed to COVID-19 or is showing symptoms of COVID-19 must notify HRSCOVID@niu.edu about the employee and instruct the employee to self-isolate or quarantine. Human Resources in partnership with the DeKalb County Health Department will determine when the employee who is self-isolating or quarantining will be able to return to work. The employee and supervisor will be notified of this date and the conditions that must be met in order to return to work. The supervisor should NOT share the employee’s health status with other members of the staff. Supervisors can remind employees that purposely coming to work sick could result in disciplinary action.
The Human Resource Services (HRS) website has a page devoted to the range of leave options employees can access and utilize due to COVID-19. The university offers generous leave benefits that employees can utilize if they're not comfortable working or they're not able to work for a variety of reasons as it relates to COVID-19. Employees represented by a union are encouraged to refer to their collective bargaining agreements for specific guidance on the availability and use of paid leave benefits.
While the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) is set to expire Dec. 31, the federal government could decide to extend it, and Human Resource Services will update the campus if that does happen.
HRS is also available to work with employees who have exhausted all their benefits and still have a reason for a leave. HRS can also assist with questions that supervisors have as they navigate those situations with employees. Please reach out to HumanResources@niu.edu for support.
If you have any additional questions about any of the topics covered in this email or in the virtual session for supervisors, please email HumanResources@niu.edu. Thank you for your service to our community.
Interim Chief Human Resource Officer