Dear Faculty and Staff,
As another year comes to a close, I write to provide a series of updates related to employee benefits and spring semester planning. Admittedly, some of these updates are still in the making or are awaiting further information from state and federal agencies. However, we know how valuable it is in these remarkably uncertain times to have some sense of what is and what may be. As we learn more, we will share further developments and will continue to update the hr.unc.edu website. In the meantime, know how grateful we all are for your patience, resilience, and ongoing commitment to working with us as we navigate the changes associated with COVID-19 and our work at Carolina.
First, to provide additional flexibility for employees, particularly those who may have used more leave than initially planned pre-pandemic, Wednesday, Dec. 30 and Thursday, Dec. 31, 2020 will now be optional workdays for employees (as opposed to University Closed days, where employees would be required to use leave). UNC employees who wish to work on these days must receive advance approval from their supervisor to do so. For those employees who receive approval to work, note that campus services will be operating at normal holiday closure levels.
Looking ahead to the spring semester, several efforts are underway to ensure the University can meet its instructional, research, and service missions while keeping our community safe. Roughly 20% of undergraduate courses with enrollments of 35 or fewer will be taught on-site, and we anticipate having roughly 2,000 more students living in on-campus residence halls in the spring than we did at the end of the fall semester, though residence halls will not be full. These faculty and students will join those who have remained on campus this fall for graduate and professional courses and the continuation of the Carolina research enterprise. While we expect that there will be some need for more staff to be on campus when classes begin on Jan. 19, 2021, we intend to minimize overall density so that we can maximize campus safety for those who are here.
To that end, we are asking employees to work with their supervisors to make plans for the spring semester.
- In general, employees who can continue to work remotely effectively should be encouraged to do so.
- Decisions about return to campus should take into consideration any on-site presence needed to meet school or unit obligations in support of the University’s mission. Supervisors should contemplate rotating schedules and staffing to manage density for employees who need to work on-site.
- We want employees to have agency in the process of determining when and how to return to campus in the spring semester, and we will once again provide options for accommodations and flexibility for those employees who have health or other family-related concerns about returning to campus. More information about those options can be found at eoc.unc.edu/covid-19accommodations.
For those employees whose jobs require them to be on campus, we have adopted several provisions to provide for their safety and that of the broader Carolina community. These provisions are in addition to the expectation that employees continue to follow the Carolina Together Community Standards.
- Employees coming to campus will be required to fill out a daily assessment at ehs.cloudapps.unc.edu/UEOHC/covid19wellness. This tool is intended to help employees track their well-being and to connect those who may be ill or who may have been in contact with others who are ill with resources for testing and guidance about out of work/return to work dates.
- Voluntary asymptomatic testing will be available at three testing centers for faculty and staff once a week. This testing does not require a contact tracing or doctor’s referral and is intended to provide an option for those employees who wish to be tested but are not showing symptoms or evidence of illness. For more information, visit the Carolina Together Testing Program page.
- Employees referred for testing because of a close contact or as a result of contact tracing will be directed to testing through the University Employee Occupational Health Clinic.
- Governor Cooper’s most recent Executive Order #180 mandates that state employees must always wear face coverings indoors, unless alone in a fully enclosed workspace such as an office with the door closed. Further, face coverings must be worn outdoors if it is not possible to consistently be physically distant by more than six feet from non-household members. Employees will again be provided masks
- In addition, guided by current recommendations from the CDC regarding indoor air quality, Facilities Services is upgrading building air filters, performing preventive maintenance and assessing HVAC ventilation systems across campus for proper operation.
Together with a series of efforts directed at students, these provisions will provide for a safer and more robust campus experience for all. While this is not the spring we envisioned, we are hopeful that these actions, together with the good news about vaccine development and distribution, mean that we can be looking to a future where we are all on campus again soon.
Finally, we have had in place a series of work/leave provisions to provide some flexibility for employees to manage child and elder care needs, home-schooling and work-from-home matters, in addition to your family’s and your own health and wellness. We anticipate several of these will roll over in the new year but are still awaiting final word from state and federal agencies.
We do know with certainty that sick and vacation leave will remain interchangeable into the new year, at least through March 31, 2021 and that limited provisions of the Communicable Disease Leave policies continue to apply. We await more information from state and federal agencies on the extension of COVID shared leave banks and community service leave requirements, as well as the federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act, all set to expire on Dec. 31, 2020. We will provide additional updates on those benefits as we have more certainty on their applicability and use for employees.
While this update is far from complete, we hope it demonstrates all the work being done to build out our structures and systems to position us to best pursue our mission as a world-class institution, and to protect the well-being of all who make it just that. Thank you to each of you for your continued service and commitment to Carolina.
Human Resources and Equal Opportunity and Compliance