COVID-19 Updates

UPDATES

July 22, 2020

I am writing to provide the following updates regarding additional return to on-site work planning for President’s Office employees. The On-Site Transition Team (OTT) has led these planning efforts, and to date, approximately 25% of the President’s Office workforce has partially returned to on-site work. These employees are working on-site 1-2 days per week, and they are working on staggered schedules to further promote social distancing. 

Additional Employees Interested in Returning to On-Site Work

At this time, the OTT is seeking additional employees who are interested in returning to on-site work for 1-2 days per week beginning the week of Monday, August 17th. If you are interested in returning to on-site work as part of this next step, please discuss your interest with your supervisor and contact me at jdunlap@umassp.edu on or before Friday, August 7th.

Employees newly returning to on-site work will need to participate in an online Zoom training session on Thursday, August 13th @ 1:00 PM. This training will outline all of the health and safety measures the President’s Office has taken for returning to on-site work in accordance with the Governor’s guidelines.

Work Site Check In

A number of employees who are not planning on returning to on-site work at this time have inquired about accessing their workspace for the purpose of obtaining files, supplies or personal items. Employees who would like to check in on-site are welcome to do so; however, employees must first attend the training that will be conducted on Thursday, August 13th @ 1:00 PM (mentioned above).

Please contact at Meera Almesmari at malmesmari@umassp.edu if you would like to attend this training. After you have completed this training, Human Resources will work with you and your supervisor to schedule a date for your work-site check in.

Employees at Higher Risk

We ask that employees who are 65 years of age or older or employees who are considered to be at higher risk of severe complications from COVID-19 do not return to on-site work at this time. Employees with questions about whether they are at higher risk should review the guidance provided by the Centers for Disease Control at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/need-extra-precautions/index.html. The President’s Office will not prevent employees in these categories from returning to work if they choose to do so. However, we strongly advise against it.

Next Steps

The OTT will continue to review all relevant factors regarding the COVID-19 pandemic and make recommendations to senior management regarding any additional steps for returning to on-site work. We are aware that additional factors related to the pandemic, including but not limited to the uncertainty about the upcoming school year, have a tremendous impact on employees.  The OTT will continue to review these factors and their impacts on return to on-site work. 

We are committed to keeping you advised on additional planning efforts and impacts COVID-19 has on our workforce, and we will continue to provide updates.

Thank you all for your continued hard work and commitment to the University during this difficult period. All President’s Office employee updates are posted at https://www.umassp.edu/hr/covid-19. If you have any questions, please contact your supervisor or email me directly at jdunlap@umassp.edu.

July 10, 2020

As President Meehan indicated in his message below, the Office of the President is implementing a series of expense reduction actions to confront the financial impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic during the new fiscal year. I am emailing you today to provide details about two specific actions:

  • A furlough program of up to 5 days that will be implemented this fall for employees who earn $100,000 per year or more.
  • A requirement that employees use some amount of their accrued vacation over the next 12 months.

To be transparent, depending on a range of variables (state funding, federal aid, etc.), additional actions may be necessary in the second half of the fiscal year (January 1, 2021 to June 30, 2021).

Furlough Program

The Office of the President will implement a second furlough program for all employees who earn $100,000 per year or more. The number of days, the salary thresholds and the administrative process will be the same as the furlough program that was just completed. (Human Resources will send a follow up email that includes specific details about the administrative process.) The schedule is as follows.

No Work on Furlough Days

Employees may not perform work for the University on the day that they are on a furlough and may not perform additional work, beyond their regular hours, during the work week in which their furlough takes place. This restriction on additional work is necessary in order to comply with a specific requirement under the Fair Labor Standards Act for exempt public employees who are subject to a furlough for less than a full week.

Pay Status During Furlough

Employees will be in an unpaid status while on a furlough. Employees may not use vacation or personal leave in order to be paid on a furlough day.

Creditable Service for Furloughed Employees

The Massachusetts State Employee Retirement System will waive up to 20 business days of creditable service for employees who are furloughed. With both the President’s Office spring and fall furlough days combined, no President’s Office employee will have taken more than 10 furlough days.

Required Vacation Usage

Since the beginning of COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a very significant decrease in the use of vacation leave in the President’s Office and across the University system. This reduction is understandable since many employees are working just as hard as always during a time when many services and support structures are unavailable. However, it is still important for each employee’s well-being that they utilize the paid vacation leave that they have earned. Also, because the University needs to record the costs associated with accrued paid leave, it is necessary for the Office of the President to ensure that employees use a reasonable amount of their paid vacation leave.

For this reason, the Office of the President will require employees to use some of their accrued vacation as outlined below:

  • Employees who currently have at least two weeks of accrued vacation leave, but less than five weeks of accrued vacation, will be required to take at least one week of vacation by December 31, 2020 and will be required to take at least another week of vacation by June 30, 2021. (For a total of two weeks over the 12 month period.)
  • Employees who have five weeks or more of accrued vacation leave, but less than six weeks, must use at least one week of vacation by December 31, 2020 and must take an additional two weeks by June 30, 2021. (For a total of three weeks over the 12 month period.)
  • Employees who have six weeks or more of accrued vacation leave must use at least two weeks of vacation by December 31, 2020 and must use an additional two weeks by June 30, 2021. (For a total of four weeks over the 12 month period.)

In accordance with the current benefits structure, employees will continue to accumulate additional vacation during this 12 month period (most employees will accumulate an additional four weeks of vacation during this period.)  Consequently, this requirement will not result in any employee needing to exhaust his/her vacation leave balance.

The determination as to how much vacation an employee must use will be based on the employee’s vacation balance as of pay period ending 7/4/20. Next week, you will receive an email from Human Resources confirming your individual vacation usage requirement.

Employees can satisfy this vacation usage requirement by taking the total required amount prior to December 31, 2020 if they chose to do so. (For example, if an employee with four weeks of accrued vacation takes two weeks of accrued vacation prior to December 31, 2020, then the employee will have satisfied this requirement.)  In addition, employees are encouraged to use additional accrued vacation during this period. The process of requesting and scheduling vacation will remain consistent with current practice.

Employees are also encouraged to use their available personal time. However, this specific requirement does not pertain to personal time balances or personal time use.

Please contact the following individuals if you have any questions.

Thank you all for your continued hard work and commitment to the University during this difficult period.

June 12, 2020

I am writing to provide an update regarding the On-Site Transition Team’s (OTT) continued planning for the return to on-site work for additional President’s Office employees. At this time, approximately 20% of the President’s Office workforce has returned to on-site work as part of Phase One. These employees are working on-site only 1-2 days per week, and they are working on staggered schedules to further promote social distancing. 

Please note that while the OTT follows the guidelines the Commonwealth has laid out for the various phases, it does not follow the exact same timeline for the transition from one phase to another. For example, the Commonwealth as a whole moved to Phase Two on June 8th, but the President’s Office will not do so until Monday, July 6th (see below).

President’s Office Phase Two

The OTT is now seeking additional employees who are interested in returning to partial on-site work as part of Phase Two. This phase will begin the week of Monday, July 6th. Like the employees who have returned to work during Phase One, these employees may work on-site one to two days per week.

We ask that employees who are 65 years of age or older or employees who are considered to be at higher risk of severe complications from COVID-19 do not return to on-site work as part of Phase Two. Employees with questions about whether they are at higher risk should review the guidance provided by the Centers for Disease Control at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/need-extra-precautions/index.html. The President’s Office will not prevent employees in these categories from returning to work if they choose to do so. However, we strongly advise against it.

If you are interested in returning to on-site work as part of Phase Two, please discuss it with your supervisor and contact Jacquie Kittler at jkittler@umassp.edu on or before Tuesday, June 30th.  Employees who will be returning to on-site work will need to participate in an online Zoom training session on Wednesday, July 1st at noon. This training will outline all of the health and safety measures the President’s Office has taken in accordance with the Governor’s guidelines.

Phase Three Workforce Planning

The OTT has also begun the planning process for Phase Three. During this phase, additional employees will return to work 1-2 days per week.  The criteria for which employees will return during Phase Three has not yet been determined. It is certain that Phase Three will not take place until on or after Monday, July 27th. 

As is the case with Phase Two, we will ask that employees who are 65 years of age or older or employees who are considered to be at higher risk of severe complications from COVID-19 do not return to on-site work as part of Phase Three. The President’s Office will not prevent employees in these categories from returning to work if they chose to do so. However, we strongly advise against it.

Vacation Usage

As we approach the height of the summer vacation season, employees are reminded to make use of their accrued vacation time. The process for requesting and recording vacation time remains unchanged.

Conclusion

Thank you all for your continued hard work and commitment to the University during this difficult period. All President’s Office employee updates are posted at https://www.umassp.edu/hr/covid-19. If you have any questions, please contact your supervisor or Jacquie Kittler at jkittler@umassp.edu.

May 29, 2020

On Tuesday of this week, the President’s Office Phase One Workforce returned to on-site work in Shrewsbury and Hadley. This upcoming Monday (June 1), the Phase One Workforce will return to on-site work at One Beacon Street in Boston and Brockton. At this time, we would also like to provide an update on our continued planning for the return to on-site work for additional employees.

Expanded Phase One

In total, the Phase One Workforce currently consists of 10% of the overall workforce. However, the Governor’s guidelines allow for up to 25% of the workforce to return to on-site work during Phase One. In order to achieve a larger percentage, the On-Site Transition Team (OTT) is seeking a limited number of employees who are interested in returning to partial on-site work beginning Monday, June 8th. These employees may work on-site one to two days per week.

We ask that employees who are 65 years of age or older or employees who are considered to be at higher risk of severe complications from COVID-19 do not return to on-site work at this time. Employees with questions about whether they are at higher risk should review the guidance provided by the Centers for Disease Control at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/need-extra-precautions/index.html. The President’s Office will not prevent employees in these categories from returning to work if they choose to do so. However, we strongly advise against it.

If you are interested in returning to on-site work as part of the expanded Phase One Workforce, please contact Jacquie Kittler at jkittler@umassp.edu on or before Wednesday, June 3rd.  Employees who will be returning to on-site work during this latter part of Phase One will need to participate in an online Zoom training session on Thursday, June 4th at 12:00 pm. This training will outline all of the health and safety measures the President’s Office has taken in accordance with the Governor’s guidelines.

Phase Two Workforce Planning

The OTT is now in the planning process for “Phase Two” of returning to on-site work. During Phase Two, a majority of employees, not including those noted below, may return to partial on-site work. This will take place at some point on or after Monday, June 22nd.

Employees who do return to on-site work will do so on a staggered schedule to promote social distancing. For example, employees may be divided into two groups, with one group working on-site on Monday and Wednesday and the other group working on-site on Tuesday and Thursday. (In this example, employees would continue to work remotely the other three days per week.)

Employees who should not return to on-site work during Phase Two include:

  • Employee 65 years of age or older.
  • Employees who are at higher risk of severe complications from COVID-19.

The President’s Office will not prevent employees in these categories from returning to work if they chose to do so. However, we strongly advise against it.

In addition, some employees may not be able to return to work during Phase Two because they are on an approved leave under the emergency sick leave provisions or the extended family medical leave provisions of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), or because they are on some other form of approved leave. Employees with questions about FFCRA should review the FAQ at:

https://www.umassp.edu/sites/umassp.edu/files/content/FFCRA%20FAQ%20Final%2004-03-2020.pdf

If you have not already done so, please contact Senior Benefits Generalist Katie Temple at ktemple@umassp.edu on or before Friday, June 12th if you believe you will be unable to return to on-site work during Phase Two for the reasons outlined above.

All President’s Office employee updates are posted at https://www.umassp.edu/hr/covid-19. If you have any questions, please contact your supervisor or Jacquie Kittler at jkittler@umassp.edu.

May 19, 2020

The President’s Office On-Site Transition Team (OTT) has reviewed the Governor’s Reopening Massachusetts Report, which was issued yesterday. Based upon that review, the OTT has made some adjustments to the timeline that we issued on May 13th regarding the President’s Office Phase One Workforce:

  • The Phase One Workforce at Shrewsbury, Hadley and Brockton will return to on-site work beginning on Tuesday, May 26th, as planned.
  • The Phase One Workforce for the One Beacon Office in Boston will return to on-site work beginning on Monday, June 1st.
  • The earliest date that employees in the Phase Two Workforce would return to on-site work is Monday, June 15th (this date has been changed from June 8th in last week’s email.) 

All President’s Office employees who are part of the Phase One Workforce have already been notified by Human Resources regarding their status. If you have not already received an email from Human Resources then you will not be returning to on-site work during phase one.

The OTT is working with senior leadership to determine which employees will be included in the Phase Two Workforce. We will share this information with you as soon as it is available. (Again, the earliest date that employees in the Phase Two Workforce would return to on-site work is Monday, June 15th.)

The OTT has developed an On-site Return Guide for Phase One, which will be distributed to all President’s Office staff tomorrow.  This guide meets all of the requirements contained in the Governor’s Reopening Massachusetts Report. The OTT will continue to update that guide with Phase Two guidelines and will distribute that updated version in the coming weeks.

During this time period, supervisors and employees should continue to maintain regular communication to clarify work assignments and address logistics related to remote work.

All President’s Office employee updates are posted at https://www.umassp.edu/hr/covid-19. If you have any questions please contact your supervisor or Jacquie Kittler at jkittler@umassp.edu

May 13, 2020

The President’s Office On-Site Transition Team (OTT) is engaged in a planning process that will allow for a gradual and safe return to on-site work that will comply with all Federal and State guidelines.

The OTT worked with Department Heads to identify those employees who will return to work as part of the “Phase One Workforce.” This workforce will primarily consist of employees who perform critical business functions that cannot fully be performed remotely. The Phase One Workforce will return to work on either Tuesday, May 26th or at some point shortly thereafter depending on State guidance. All employees who are part of the Phase One Workforce have already been notified by Human Resources regarding their status. 

  • If you have not already received an email from Human Resources informing you that you are part of the Phase One Workforce, then you are not included in Phase One Workforce and you will not be returning to on-site work during the initial re-opening phase.

The OTT has not yet determined which employees will be included in the Phase Two Workforce. We will inform you of this information as soon as possible. However, the earliest date that employees in the Phase Two Workforce would return to on-site work is Monday, June 8th.  During this time period, supervisors and employees should maintain regular email communication to clarify work assignments and address logistics related to remote work.

All President’s Office employee updates are posted at https://www.umassp.edu/hr/covid-19. If you have any questions please contact your supervisor or Jacquie Kittler at jkittler@umassp.edu

April 28, 2020

Employees of the UMass President’s Office should work remotely until Monday, May 18th. This extension is being made to coincide with the Governor’s revised order regarding essential services, which was announced today. During this time period, supervisors and employees should maintain regular email communication to clarify work assignments and address logistics related to remote work.

Prior to Monday, May 18th, the President’s Office On-Site Transition Team will provide specific guidance to all President’s Office employees regarding the gradual return to on-site work that will begin on or after May 18th.  The OTT, which includes members from a number of different departments and work locations, has been charged with anticipating and addressing the questions and logistics around how we can return to the office in a safe and organized manner.

All President’s Office employee updates are posted at https://www.umassp.edu/hr/covid-19. If you have any questions, please contact your supervisor or Jacquie Kittler at jkittler@umassp.edu.

April 27, 2020

Dear Members of the Office of the President,

In his email earlier this afternoon, President Meehan informed you of a number of steps the President’s Office will implement at this time to manage the adverse financial impact of the Coronavirus Pandemic.  The purpose of this email is to provide you with greater detail about these steps. 

Furlough Program

The President’s Office will be implementing a furlough program for all employees who earn $100,000 per year or more. The number of furlough days and the schedule is listed below. Please note that each pay period is two weeks long and includes ten work days. 

Default Scheduling and Recording of Furlough Days

  • Department heads can schedule the furlough day for any day within the pay period based on the operational needs of the Department.
  • However, all impacted employees will be scheduled for a default furlough day on the second Friday in the pay period, which is the last regular scheduled workday of the pay period. (Directions on how to change this default date are below.)
  • For employees required to take a furlough day during the pay period of 6/21-7/4, the default furlough day will be Thursday, July 2nd.
  • Employees who are not scheduled to work on Fridays will need to work with their supervisor to schedule an alternative furlough day.
  • The payroll process for recording the furlough day will be handled centrally so neither supervisors nor employees need to take any different steps than usual when reporting this time or approving time. (Unless they are changing the default furlough day as outlined below.)

Changing the Default Furlough Schedule

  • A supervisor, or an employee with their supervisor’s approval, may change the default furlough day to an earlier day within the same pay period.
  • Supervisors should contact Carol Dugard at cdugard@umassp.edu if they want to change the default furlough day to an alternative day within the same pay period.
  • Supervisors need to request this change at least one day prior to the new furlough date.
    • For example, an employee is default scheduled to take a furlough day on Friday, June 5. The supervisor, or the employee with their supervisor’s approval, may decide to take the furlough day on Friday, May 29.  The supervisor must inform Carol Dugard at cdugard@umassp.edu of this alternative date by Thursday, May 28th.

No Work on Furlough Days

  • Employees may not perform work for the University on the day that they are on a furlough.
  • Employees may not perform additional work, beyond their regular hours, during the work week in which their furlough took place. 
  • Many exempt President’s Office employees regularly work more than forty hours in a pay period and their hard work and dedication is appreciated. This restriction on additional work (immediately above) is necessary in order to comply with a specific requirement under the Fair Labor Standards Act for exempt public employees who are subject to a furlough for less than a full week.
  • Supervisors need to work with employees to adjust and clarify work expectations in response to the loss of work hours due to the furlough.
    • For example, if an employee is assigned a furlough day on Friday of a given week, then the employee may not work in excess of a total of 32 hours on the Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday that proceed the Friday furlough. (Note that all President’s Office employees who are required to take a furlough have a regularly scheduled 40 hour work week.)

Pay Status During Furlough

Employees will be in an unpaid status while on a furlough. Employees may not use vacation or personal leave in order to be paid on a furlough day. Unfortunately, allowing furloughed employees to use the paid leave on their furloughed days would eliminate the necessary short term savings that is required at this time.

If an employee is on approved FMLA, Emergency FMLA or Emergency Paid Sick Leave then the employee will still be furloughed on the default furlough day.

Creditable Service for Furloughed Employees

The Massachusetts State Employee Retirement System will waive up to 20 business days of creditable service for employees who are furloughed. Consequently, the furlough program will not result in a loss of creditable services for employees who are required to participate.

Paid Leave Accruals During Furlough Period

Employees will continue to accrue credit for earned vacation and sick time during their furlough days.

Unemployment Insurance

The President’s Office Human Resources Department understands that Unemployment Assistance is only available to eligible employees who have had more than a 25% reduction in their weekly wage. Based on the parameters of the furlough programs outlined above, no employee would have such a reduction and therefore no President’s Office employee would be eligible for partial unemployment. 

However, employees are welcome to investigate their own potential eligibility if they so choose. The link to the Massachusetts Department of Unemployment Assistance is below:

https://www.mass.gov/orgs/department-of-unemployment-assistance

VOLUNTARY SEPARATION INCENTIVE PROGRAM

In addition to the furlough program above, the President’s Office will offer a Voluntary Separation Incentive Program (VSIP) with the same eligibility and benefit level as was offered to employees most recently on the Dartmouth and Boston campuses.  That benefit level is as follows:

  • Employees who have at least the equivalent of one or more years of full-time service and less than the equivalent of ten years of full-time service will receive a $5,000 payment.
  • Employees who have the equivalent of ten or more years of full-time service will receive a $20,000 payment.

In order to be eligible for either payment, the employee must sign an irrevocable letter of intent to resign/retire and waiver of claims on or before Friday June 5th. The employee must then resign/retire on or before Friday, June 26th. A copy of the waiver of claims that a participating employee will be required to sign is posted on the HR website at:

https://www.umassp.edu/sites/umassp.edu/files/content/human-resources/VSIP%20Release%20of%20Claims%2004-22-20%20v%201.2.pdf

An employee who is potentially interested in participating in the VSIP should review the waiver of claims document as soon as possible. Employees who have resigned or retired prior to today, or have already provided notice of their intent prior to today, are not eligible for this benefit.

Please contact the following individuals if you have any questions.

  • Contact Jacquie Kittler at jkittler@umassp.edu if you have general questions about the furlough program.
  • Contact Carol Dugard at cdugard@umassp.edu if you and your supervisor want to change the date of your default furlough day.
  • Please contact John Roy at jroy@umassp.edu if you have any questions about the Voluntary Separation Incentive Program.

April 27, 2020

Dear Members of the Office of the President,

I am writing to you today concerning the Office of the President’s plan to share in the university system’s collective response to financial challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

As I am sure you are aware from internal communications and news coverage, the University of Massachusetts has responded with compassion, determination and ingenuity to move 75,000 students forward toward graduation, continue world class research, and serve our Commonwealth during this unprecedented disruption. Each one of you has played an important role in this endeavor, and I want you to know that your work is highly valued by me, the rest of the senior leadership and our Board of Trustees. Your perseverance in the face of adversity, not just in workplace, but I am sure at home and in your communities, has been inspiring.

Our economy is facing a disruption not experienced since the Great Depression. As you would expect, our university has not been immune to the impact. The university is projected to lose $123 million in the last quarter of this fiscal year due to student room and board refunds, temporary shutdown of grant-funded laboratories, and other impacts. We were able to secure $46 million in the recently passed federal CARES Act, and we are continuing to advocate for more relief from the federal government.

Thankfully, due to skillful and innovative management across the system – including programs such as our system-wide shared services initiative -- UMass is in a relatively strong position compared to other higher education institutions. Still, we will need to find solutions and begin preparing for a new fiscal year that will be difficult for every college and university in America. We must take tangible actions to assure that UMass keeps moving our students forward and is prepared to propel the Commonwealth toward economic recovery.

Initially, these actions include:

  • The implementation of a University-wide restricted hiring policy on March 23.
  • Immediate reductions in non-personnel spending.
  • Aggressive efforts to secure assistance through federal and state COVID-19 relief funds.
  • Reprioritization of capital expenditures and debt-refinancing.

However, due to the significant loss of revenue and costs related to COVID-19, the University is projecting a year-end deficit of approximately $25 million. The Office of the President, along with each of the campuses, has had to make difficult choices to help balance the budget. To that end, we must take additional measures, similar to those taking place across the University system, to further reduce expenses for the remainder of this fiscal year.

These measures include:

1. A furlough program for all Office of the President employees who earn $100,000 per year or more. The number of furlough days will range from 2 to 5 days in total based on income level. The furlough days will be spread out so no employee will be required to take more than one furlough day per pay period. Human Resources will send an email later today with specific details of this furlough program.

2. A Voluntary Separation Incentive Program (VSIP). Employees who have between one and 10 years of full-time service will receive a $5,000 payment, and employees who have 10 or more years of full-time service will receive a $20,000 payment if they commit to resign or retire by June 5. More details will be provided by Human Resources.

3. The Budget Office is working with each department in the Office of the President to review existing purchase orders, contracts and other planned spending to eliminate all non-essential commitments and encumbrances.  Additionally, requisition workflow will be modified to include more approvals before spending will be allowed.

Combined, these actions will help reduce Office of the President expenses and help close the projected budget gap for this fiscal year.

I know this message will add to the stress and anxiety that many of you are already feeling as you manage your work and family lives during this period of instability. I join you in your frustration that concrete answers to fundamental questions about our collective future as a University, a Commonwealth, and a nation are not yet clear. I am heartened, however, by the knowledge that this University, born at a time of national strife, remained resilient through two world wars, a Great Depression and a Great Recession.

I remain confident that UMass will again emerge from crisis as a strong, vibrant, innovative university because we have the talent and determination to do so.

Thank you for all you do!

Marty

April 8, 2020

This message is a follow up to the email you received on Wednesday, April 1st.

Employees of the UMass President’s Office should continue to work remotely until Monday, May 4th. At this time, we have no additional information about whether remote staffing will continue after May 4th. During this time period, supervisors and employees should maintain regular email communication to clarify work assignments and address logistics related to remote work.

COVID-19 Related Benefits Enhancements

Congress has passed several laws with the goal of mitigating the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. These laws have created a number of significant temporary benefits enhancements. These include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Up to 80 hours of emergency sick leave for COVID-19 related illness or for the care of a family member with COVID-19.
  • Up to twelve weeks of leave for employees who are unable to work due to a lack of childcare due to COVID-19.
  • The elimination of the 10% penalty for deductions from supplemental retirement plans and other changes to these plans.

On Thursday, April 16th @ 10:00 AM and 2:00 PM, the Human Resources Department will host two webinars for all interested President’s Office employees. The purpose of these webinars is to provide you with information about these benefits changes and to explain the process to access these benefits if the need arises. Employees who would like to attend one of these webinars should register by clicking on the following link:

https://umassforms.formstack.com/forms/benefits_webinar.  (You only need to attend one of the sessions.)

In addition, employees who have specific questions about the emergency sick leave provisions and the extended family medical leave provisions of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act should review the FAQs at: https://www.umassp.edu/sites/umassp.edu/files/content/FFCRA%20FAQ%20Final%2004-03-2020.pdf

All President’s Office employee updates are posted at https://www.umassp.edu/hr/covid-19. If you have any questions, please contact your supervisor or Jacquie Kittler at jkittler@umassp.edu.

April 1, 2020

This message is a follow up to the email you received on Friday, March 27th.

Employees of the UMass President’s Office should work remotely until Monday, May 4th. This extension is being made to coincide with the Governor’s revised order regarding essential services, which was announced yesterday. During this time period, supervisors and employees should maintain regular email communication to clarify work assignments and address logistics related to remote work.

Families First Coronavirus Response Act (second notice)

  • The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), which was passed into law on March 18th, extends certain additional benefits to employees including paid sick leave for COVID-19 related illness and expanded family and medical leave coverage to address the lack of childcare due to COVID-19. The provisions of FFCRA will apply from April 1 through December 31, 2020.
  • Please see the FFCRA Informational Poster provided by the Department of Labor (link below and document attached).
  • https://www.dol.gov/sites/dolgov/files/WHD/posters/FFCRA_Poster_WH1422_Non-Federal.pdf.
  • Human Resources is coordinating with colleagues across the UMass system, including the UMass Office of the General Counsel, to gather guidance for interpreting and implementing the provisions of this new Act.
  • Employees with questions about FFCRA as it pertains to their personal situations should email Benefits@umassp.edu or call  Katie Temple at 774-455-7571. 

March 27, 2020

This message is a follow up to the email you received on Friday, March 20th.

Employees of the UMass President’s Office should work remotely through at least Tuesday, April 7th. The extension of the effective date (previously April 3rd) was made to coincide with the Governor’s order regarding essential services. At this time, we have no additional information about whether remote staffing will continue after April 7th. 

Families First Coronavirus Response Act (new section)

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), which was passed into law on March 18th, extends certain additional benefits to employees including paid sick leave for COVID-19 related illness and expanded family and medical leave coverage to address the lack of childcare due to COVID-19. The provisions of FFCRA will apply from April 1 through December 31, 2020.

Please see the FFCRA Informational Poster provided by the Department of Labor (link below and document attached).

https://www.dol.gov/sites/dolgov/files/WHD/posters/FFCRA_Poster_WH1422_Non-Federal.pdf.

Human Resources is coordinating with colleagues across the UMass system, including the UMass Office of the General Counsel, to gather guidance for interpreting and implementing the provisions of this new Act.

Employees with questions about FFCRA as it pertains to their personal situations should email Benefits@umassp.edu or call  Katie Temple at 774-455-7571. 

Accessing Work Premises

Only authorized staff may enter buildings while the Governor’s order regarding essential services is in place. A list of authorized on-site personnel at all locations has been established and made available to building managers. Questions about accessing work premises should be directed to Jacquie Kittler in Human Resources at jkittler@umassp.edu. (Donahue Institute employees should contact Carol Ann McGowan at cmcgowan@donahue.umassp.edu.)

Benefits and Work/Life Issues

  • GIC Open Enrollment Extension (new section)

The GIC Open Enrollment for health insurance and flexible spending accounts will begin on Monday, April 6, 2020. Originally scheduled to end on Friday, May 1, 2020, the GIC is extending the open enrollment through Monday, June 1, 2020. Any President’s Office employee who has a question related to their health insurance should email Benefits@umassp.edu 

  • The University Employee Assistance Program has created a comprehensive online toolkit that includes a wide variety of information and can assist employees with work/life issues, such as family care, as well as tips for supervisors and employees regarding working remotely.  This toolkit can be found at: https://pages.e2ma.net/pages/1807892/20932

Security Awareness Remote Work Safety (new section)

Be aware that there have been increased incidents of malicious emails and websites that are attempting to use the COVID-19 pandemic as an opportunity to steal your IT credentials. Please refer to the attached UITS Security Brochure for tips on staying safe at work or at home. Please email the help desk at helpdesk@umassp.edu with any questions you may have.

All President’s Office employee updates are posted at https://www.umassp.edu/hr/covid-19. If you have any questions, please contact your supervisor or Jacquie Kittler at jkittler@umassp.edu.

March 20, 2020

This message is a follow up to the email you received on Monday, March 16.

Employees of the UMass President’s Office should continue to work remotely through April 3rd. At this time, we have no additional information about whether remote staffing will continue after April 3rd.  If this date does change, we will send an email to all President’s Office employees as well as a text and phone message.

The President’s Office may determine that some employees must report to the work site.  Absent a specific communication from an employee’s supervisor, the employee should assume they are authorized to work remotely.

Employees who work remotely will receive their regular rate of pay. Employees who have previously planned vacation time, or who are unable to work due to illness or other reasons, should utilize the appropriate paid leave according to current guidelines.

Accessing Work Premises

In some instances, employees may need to come to work for reasons directly related to the University’s response to COVID-19 or for a critical business continuity reason. In these instances, employees should first request and receive approval from their Department Head. Department Heads should coordinate this approval with HRA. The same process should be followed for consultants and vendors. Approval should only be granted if the employee (or consultant or vendor) needs to access the worksite as part of the University’s response to COVID-19 or because of a critical need related to business continuity.

Benefits and Work/Life Issues

  • Any President’s Office employee who has a question related to their health insurance should email Katie Temple directly at ktemple@umassp.edu
  • The University Employee Assistance Program has created a comprehensive online toolkit that includes a wide variety of information and can assist employees with work/life issues, such as family care, as well as tips for supervisors and employees regarding working remotely.  This toolkit can be found at: https://pages.e2ma.net/pages/1807892/20932

Testing Location near Shrewsbury Facility (new section)

The CVS at the corner of Route 9 and South Street has been set up as a drive through COVID-19 testing location.  UMass Medical School, owner of the Shrewsbury office facility, has agreed to allow CVS the use of South Street Parking Lot D for overflow traffic, if such use of the lot becomes necessary. The UMass Medical School expects this use will have little to no impact on employees at the South Street facility because of the large numbers of employees who are now working remotely. In the event this temporary usage is still in effect when most employees return to on-site work, then we will provide additional information at that time. (Please note: this testing site is not operated by UMass and is not open to the general public. To be tested at this location, individuals must have consulted with their physician and received a doctor’s order for testing.)

Managers and supervisors should maintain regular email communication with employees to clarify work assignments and address other logistics. All President’s Office employee updates are posted at https://www.umassp.edu/hr/covid-19. If you have any questions please contact your supervisor or Jacquie Kittler at jkittler@umassp.edu.

March 16, 2020

This message is a follow up to the email you received on Friday, March 13. Some additional information has been added in response to questions that have come up over the past few days.

Employees of the UMass President’s Office should continue to work remotely through April 3rd.  This decision applies to all employees of the President’s Office regardless of their current work location.

The President’s Office may determine that some employees must report to the work site.  Absent a specific communication from an employee’s supervisor, the employee should assume they are authorized to work remotely.

Employees who work remotely will receive their regular rate of pay. Employees who have previously planned vacation time, or who are unable to work due to illness or other reasons, should utilize the appropriate paid leave according to current guidelines.

Accessing Work Premises (new section)

In some instances, employees may need to come to work for reasons directly related to the University’s response to COVID-19 or for a critical business continuity reason.  In these instances, employees must first request and receive approval from their Department Head. Department Heads should coordinate this approval with Human Resources. The same process must be followed for consultants and vendors. Approval should only be granted if the employee (or consultant or vendor) needs to access the worksite as part of the University’s response to COVID-19 or because of a critical need related to business continuity. Absent this approval, employees (or consultant or vendors) should not report to the worksite. 

Benefits and Work/Life Issues (new section)

Any President’s Office employee who has a question related to their health insurance should email Katie Temple directly at ktemple@umassp.edu

The University’s Employee Assistance Program has created a comprehensive online toolkit that includes a wide variety of information and can assist employees with work/life issues, such as family care, as well as tips for supervisors and employees regarding working remotely.  This toolkit can be found at: https://pages.e2ma.net/pages/1807892/20932

For information specific to employees of the UMass President’s Office please see https://www.umassp.edu/hr/covid-19.

Managers and supervisors should maintain regular email communication with employees to clarify work assignments and address other logistics. Additional information will follow. In the interim, if you have specific questions please contact your supervisor or Jacquie Kittler at jkittler@umassp.edu.

March 13, 2020

Employees of the UMass President’s Office should begin to work remotely effective Monday, March 16. This temporary change in work location should remain in effect through April 3rd.  This decision applies to all employees of the President’s Office regardless of their current work location.

The President’s Office may determine that some employees must report to the work site.  Absent a specific communication from an employee’s supervisor, the employee should assume they are authorized to work remotely.

Employees who work remotely will receive their regular rate of pay. Employees who have previously planned vacation time, or who are unable to work due to illness or other reasons, should utilize the appropriate paid leave according to current guidelines.

Please refer to the President’s Office Temporary Work Guidelines outlined below.

Managers and supervisors will be in touch with employees by email to clarify work assignments and address other logistics related to this time period. Additional information will follow. In the interim, if you have specific questions please contact your supervisors or Jacquie Kittler @ jkittler@umassp.edu.

Temporary Remote Work Guidelines

Employees should read these guidelines at this time so they are aware of important information regarding the President’s Office decision to have employees work remotely on a temporary basis.

Notification

  • All employees whose email is included in the “UMSO (UMass System Office) UMSO-UMassSystemOffice@umassp.edu” should have received and email from the Chief Human Resources Officer.
  • We ask that all managers forward this email to their direct reports as an echo and safety net in the event an employee is not included in the original email group or did not read the email. We also encourage managers and supervisors to call or text employees.
  • Managers will be responsible for sharing this information with others including interns, consultants and vendors who are working with their department and are scheduled to come on-site.
  • This information will also be posted on the UMass President’s Office website at:  https://www.umassp.edu/.
  • Information about when to return to on-site work and other important information will be distributed through the same process.

Timeline for Notification

  • In all likelihood, employees will have no more than one day’s notice that we are moving to temporary remote work staffing.
  • At this time, employees should be commuting to and from work with laptops and other portable IT equipment that has been assigned to them along with other material they need to work from home. Employees should take home important personal belonging they may need to access in the near term.

Location Specific

Depending on the reason for implementing a temporary remote work staffing pattern, the decision may impact some, but not all, President’s Office work locations. For example, a decision to take this action for the Shrewsbury facility does not automatically mean the same is true for Boston, Brockton or Hadley. The announcement will specify the impacted work locations. 

Business Continuity Employee Status

The President Office will assign a business continuity status to each employee. This status will be assessed on an ongoing basis. They are as follows:

Required on-site:                           

These employees must report to work and will be paid their regular pay.

Temporarily Remote:

These employees can work from a remote site and they will be paid their regular pay.

  • Absent a specific communication from their supervisor to the contrary, President’s Office employees should assume they are in this category.
  • Due to this unprecedented situation, non-exempt staff may be categorized as “Temporarily Remote” even though the University’s standing policy is that non-exempt employees cannot work remotely.

Temporarily Not to Report:

By the nature of the work they perform, these employees are not able to perform work at a remote location. If the University directs employees in this category to not report to work then they will be paid their regular pay. However, based on the duration of the “Temporarily Not to Report”, the University may have to re-assess the pay status at a future point.

  • The President’s Office will have very few employees in this category but campuses may have a sizable number of employees in this category.
  • The terms essential/non-essential will by necessity continue to be used where necessary due to collective bargaining agreement provisions. 

Employees with Increased Risk

Older adults and individuals with serious chronic medical conditions are at increased risk of becoming seriously ill should they contract COVID-19. Employees in these groups should begin working remotely at this time. Employees in this category (or their supervisors) may contact Katie Temple, the Senior Benefits Generalist for the President’s Office, at ktemple@umassp.edu or 774-455-7571.

  • Please remember that the large majority of people who are exposed to COVID-19 experience only mild symptoms. The best defense against COVID-19 is basic hand washing, coughing and sneezing etiquette, and remaining out of work if you are ill.

March 11, 2020

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued interim guidance for employers in response to the outbreak of the coronavirus (COVID-19). In addition, the Baker Administration has issued guidelines for state employees on this matter. The purpose of the document is to provide UMass President’s Office employees with guidance that is consistent with these guidelines. This guidance will remain in place for the UMass President’s Office until Monday April 13th or until additional guidelines are issued, whichever is earlier.

  • Please remember that the large majority of people who are exposed to COVID-19 experience only mild symptoms. The best defense against COVID-19 is basic hand washing, coughing and sneezing etiquette, and remaining out of work if you are ill.

The guidelines are as follows:

President’s Office employees who meet any of the following criteria should not report to work:

  • Employee has had a presumed or confirmed positive test for COVID-19
  • Employee has had close contact with a person who had has a presumed or confirmed positive test for COVID-19
  • Employee has recently returned from a CDC-designated level 3 country or other restricted travel areas defined by the CDC
  • Employee is experiencing symptoms associated with COVID-19:
    • Fever
    • Cough
    • Shortness of breath

Employees experiencing these symptoms should call their healthcare provider. The CDC provides specific guidance to assist people with assessing their risk level. (https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/php/risk-assessment.html).

Notification, Documentation and Return to Work

Employees who are absent from work because they meet one or more of the criteria above should follow their existing department notification process, and they should contact Jacquie Kittler, Director of Employee & Labor Relations, at jkittler@umassp.edu or at 774-455-7559. In addition, they should contact Jacquie Kittler to coordinate the terms of their return to work.

Consistent with CDC guidelines, employees who do not report to work because they meet one or more of the criteria above should contact their healthcare provider. However, they do not need to provide UMass with medical documentation to validate their absence.

Use of Paid Leave

Employees can use available paid leave (including sick, vacation and personal leave) if they are absent from work for one of the reasons above. Employees who do not have sufficient paid leave to cover their absence should contact Jacquie Kittler at jkittler@umassp.edu or 774-455-7559.

If an employee is fit to perform work, but unable to report to work because they have self-quarantined from having had close contact with a person who is presumed or confirmed to test positive for COVID-19 or because they recently returned from a CDC-designated level 3 country or other restricted travel area defined by the CDC, they may be able to work from home rather than use paid leave. This arrangement should be reviewed and agreed to by the employee, his/her supervisor and Human Resources.

Work from Home

The President’s Office is exploring options to increase the number of employees who may work from home. At this time, existing work from home agreements should continue in their current form. However, supervisors should work with employees, who currently do not work from home, to develop work from home options that could be implemented in the event we need to expand the number of employees who work from home.

Employees with Symptoms

If an employee is concerned that a co-worker may pose a health risk to others, please contact Jacquie Kittler at jkittler@umassp.edu or at 774-455-7559. We ask that any decision to send an employee home from work, or restrict an employee from the workplace, be made in conjunction with Human Resources on a case-by-case, fact-specific basis.

Work Related Travel

All international and out-of-state University-related travel for President’s Office employees has been cancelled.

Personal Travel

The President’s Office strongly discourages employees from traveling internationally at this time. Employees who choose to engage in personal travel should review the “Traveler’s Health Notices” that can be found at https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel. Employees should be advised that travel to certain locations may result in the need for the employee to self-quarantine upon his/her return in accordance with CDC recommendations. Employees should be aware of the impact personal travel and any requirement to self-quarantine will have on their paid leave balances. Self-quarantine-related absence from work as a result of personal travel will require use of the employee’s paid leave.

Conference and Large Gatherings and In-Person Meetings

Employees may not attend external work-related conferences, seminars or events in person. Alternatively, employees are encouraged to participate remotely. Regular internal business shall continue. However, meeting organizers are encouraged to utilize alternatives like conference calls, Zoom, WebEx and other group communication tools.

Additionally, employees may not host in-person meetings, seminars or conferences that include external parties. All such gatherings must be held using alternatives such as conference calls, Zoom, WebEx, etc., or must be cancelled. This does not pertain to meetings, seminars or conferences with internal staff only; however wherever possible, such gatherings with internal staff are encouraged to be held using the previously-mentioned alternatives.

In-person meetings with UMass employees from other campuses or with consultants performing work for the University should only take place if:

  • The meeting is essential to the COVID-19 response process or another essential business continuity function
  • The meeting cannot be held remotely
  • The meeting cannot be rescheduled to a later date
  • The meeting/interaction would consist of a small group of people

Err on the side of caution when making this assessment.

In this unique situation, employees working on the campuses should be considered “external parties”.

Interviews for Employment

Interviews with candidates for employment should be conducted remotely or rescheduled.

Employees with Increased Risk

Older adults and individuals with serious chronic medical conditions are at increased risk of becoming seriously ill should they contract COVID-19. Employees in these risk groups are encouraged to talk with their supervisors to review possible alternative work assignments which may include working from home. These employees may also contact Katie Temple, the Senior Benefits Generalist for the President’s Office, at ktemple@umassp.edu or 774-455-7571 to discuss this matter.

As is always the case, supervisors should not ask employees about the details or their “chronic medical condition”. Instead, they should direct the employee to Katie Temple in HR. During this unique period of time, HR will not ask employees for medical documentation to support their claim that they have a chronic medical condition.

Bias in the workplace

Employees are reminded to be mindful of projecting their anxiety about COVID-19 onto people from specific races and ethnicities. Stigma directed towards any group regarding the virus is contrary to the facts and runs counter to the values of our University and is not to be tolerated.

Additional information

Employees with specific questions regarding COVID-19, including its symptoms, spread, prevention and treatment can be found with the CDC and Massachusetts Department of Public Health at the links below.

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html

https://www.mass.gov/resource/information-on-the-outbreak-of-coronavirus-disease-2019-covid-19

If you have any additional questions or concerns, please feel free to reach out to Jacquie Kittler at jkittler@umassp.edu or 774-455-7559. Employees are also reminded of the availability of the University’s Employee Assistance Program which can be reached at 844-393-4983.

March 4, 2020

Communication from President Meehan and the Chancellors regarding COVID-19 and international travel can be found here.

March 2, 2020

As public health officials monitor and respond to new cases of the coronavirus (COVID-19) across the country and around the world, we want to provide up-to-date information to our UMPO community.

At this time, the risk of COVID-19 in Massachusetts is low, according to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (MDPH) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 

Travel
The CDC has issued the following travel advisories for certain countries with significant coronavirus activity:

  • Warning Level 3: CDC recommends that travelers avoid all nonessential travel to the following destinations:
  • Alert Level 2:  These destinations are experiencing sustained community transmission of respiratory illness caused by the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). The virus can spread from person to person. Older adults and those with chronic medical conditions should consider postponing nonessential travel.

Employees must evaluate their own circumstances, medical conditions and risk exposure, but given the uncertainties associated with the spread of COVID-19, travel to these affected regions is discouraged unless absolutely necessary. Because the risk in any specific region can change, members of our community with upcoming travel plans are urged to monitor official sources of information including the CDC’s Travel Health Notices and travel advisories issued by the U.S. State Department.

Additionally, many countries have introduced additional health screening procedures at some or all ports of entry; as such, travelers should allow extra time for such possible screenings.   Travelers requiring a visa to re-enter the U.S. should contact the Office of General Counsel for a consultation prior to departure.  UMass OGC can be reached at 774-455-7300 or by submitting an online legal request form (https://www.umassp.edu/general-counsel/contact-us).

Best Practices to Protect Yourself and Others
Symptoms of COVID-19 may include fever, coughing and shortness of breath. The CDC believes that symptoms can appear 2-14 days after a person is exposed.

As with the seasonal flu, reasonable precautions to minimize the spread of viruses include:

  • Washing your hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer;
  • Staying home when you are sick;
  • Covering coughs and sneezes with a tissue or the crook of your elbow;
  • Avoiding close contact with people who are sick;
  • Disinfecting frequently touched objects and surfaces; and
  • Getting a flu shot if you have not already done so.
  • Following CDC’s recommendations for using a facemask.

Please note: CDC does not recommend that people who are well wear a facemask to protect themselves from respiratory diseases, including COVID-19. Face masks should be used by people who show symptoms of COVID-19 to help prevent the spread of the disease to others.

If You Believe You Have Been Exposed to COVID-19
Members of our community who have recently traveled in countries or regions impacted by COVID-19, who may have come into contact with people who have recently traveled in these regions, or who may be exhibiting symptoms of coronavirus, should consult with their health care provider. You are urged to call ahead to inform your provider that you may have been exposed.

For further information, please refer to the CDC’s Prevention and Treatment recommendations

If you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to reach out to Jacquie Kittler, Director of Employee & Labor Relations at 774-455-7559, or Christine Packard, Director of Enterprise Risk Management, at 774-455-7609.