COVID-19 employee update
Aug. 21, 2020
Leave and schedule options, resources and other employee updates
With the start of the fall semester only days away, staff and faculty members throughout the University of Alaska system are getting ready to launch the 2020-21 academic year under extraordinary circumstances. Because conditions and federal, state, local and university rules can change frequently, please keep a close eye on campus and system emails, participate in forums and consult the UA COVID-19 website to stay as informed as possible. Following are some important pieces of information to review:
Stay home if you’re sick
One of the most effective things you can do to slow the spread of COVID-19 in our university community is to monitor your health. Stay home and contact your health care provider and supervisor if you have any of these symptoms, even if they are extremely mild:
- Cough, shortness of breath, difficulty breathing
- Fever, chills, fatigue
- Runny nose, sinus congestion, loss of taste or smell
- Headache, sore throat, muscle pain
- Gastrointestinal problems
If you need a COVID-19 test, Premera is waiving cost shares such as deductibles and coinsurance. The university benefits plan also includes access to Teledoc, which is a lower-cost alternative to an office visit.
Mental health and wellness
Living and working during a global pandemic is a stressful experience. UA offers confidential services for those in need of behavioral health or mental health resources. Additionally, financial and family support services are offered at no cost to employees.
For short-term counseling, along with many other life/work balance assistance resources, consider the Employee Assistance Program through Deer Oaks. See the Fact Sheet and more on the EAP website for how to access this benefit.
If you need more intensive or clinical services, but either don't have access to clinicians in your area or you'd rather receive therapy virtually, consider TalkSpace, an online service with licensed clinicians using either private messaging or live video. A quick guide to getting started is available on the benefits website.
Face-to-face local therapy
Your UA Choice plan offers a network of licensed clinicians in most areas of Alaska. Sometimes, an in-person appointment is the best option. You can always talk to your doctor about a behavioral health referral. They may have some recommendations in your area. Or you can just log in to Premera.com to find a provider in your area using the "Find a Doctor" tool.
The universities have worked together to create a short training with useful information about COVID-19, how the disease spreads and how you can protect yourself and others. Watch for information from your university about how to access the course in Blackboard. Employees and students are encouraged to take the training.
Leave options and workplace flexibility
The pandemic continues to present challenges for employees. Senior leaders throughout the university are committed to flexibility for staff and faculty members.
Regular, student and temporary employees are eligible for leave under the federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), which went into effect on April 1 and ends on Dec. 31. Employees have access to up to 80 hours of paid emergency sick leave for various COVID-19 related reasons. Employees may also be eligible for up to 12 weeks of expanded family medical leave to care for a child whose school or daycare is closed due to COVID-19. The expanded family medical leave is available, by request, to employees with at least 30 days of service based on their regularly scheduled hours. For more information on using these leave categories use the quick-reference guide for regular employees or temporary and student employees. If you have any questions please contact HR via email or call 907-450-8200.
While the FFCRA leave is a helpful tool, it is limited in scope and duration and some employees may have already used most of their allocation. That means employees and supervisors should work together to come up with plans that allow employees to meet both their work and personal responsibilities. Supervisors are empowered to implement flexible work arrangements for both salaried and hourly employees. The first step is to talk to your supervisor about your needs.
Campus operations and on-site work
Due to local and Alaska pandemic conditions, most campuses and sites are operating under Phase B of the UA on-site operations plan. You can read more about the plan and university operations during the COVID-19 pandemic on the UA status website. Many employees are continuing to work at home, but some are returning to on-site work. Employees and supervisors should discuss whether on-site work is necessary. If so, adequate safety measures must be in place. Risk management personnel can help evaluate the adequacy of safety measures.
For employees working remotely, the virtual campus website has support resources and guidance for working and teaching remotely. In addition, the university has established an internet connectivity allowance to offset business-related home internet costs. The allowance is taxable and is not intended to reimburse employees for existing internet capacity or for personal use. To request the allowance, submit the internet connectivity allowance form.
Travel restrictions and impacts
A new State of Alaska travel mandate went into effect Aug. 11. The university is in the process of updating its guidance to align with the mandate, which includes stricter quarantine and social distancing requirements for anyone traveling from outside the state of Alaska. Because of this, both personal and business travel could have an impact on an employee’s ability to return to work. Even a healthy employee returning from travel outside Alaska will be required to either work remotely or use leave for a minimum of 10 days. Employees and supervisors should carefully consider whether travel outside the state is compatible with work requirements.