Coronavirus update: HR Information and Support for Employees

As a follow-up to President Randhawa's message about Fall quarter changes, Human Resources wants to ensure we are providing you with as much support as possible. In doing so we have gathered information and resources from your comments and feedback. Feel free to reach out to Human Resources at any time with questions. Please read on to learn more about:

  • Support for remote workers and remote work equipment and resources
  • Childcare Support
  • Processes in place for when employees need to be on-site
  • Student hiring
  • Leave and support options
  • Self-care resources from EAP

Support for remote workers and accessing remote work equipment and resources

Recognizing that many employees are continuing to work from home for longer than originally anticipated, it is important that we take the time to evaluate your current work station and identify what steps may be necessary to create a safe and healthy work environment.

The governor's mandate on remote working means that those people who can and should work remotely should continue to do so. With reduced student numbers on campus, this means that the only people who should be on campus are those who:

  • Are already designated as critical on-site employees (they must perform their work on site)
  • Must be on site to support the minimal fall academic operations
  • Are unable to perform some of their functions remotely (for occasional on-site working)

At this time, all employees who can work remotely should continue to do so. Employees who need to retrieve equipment or resources from their offices to improve their remote work station may fill out the on-site visit form. Transport services can help with moving larger items. Funding will be required for this service. For more information about these processes see the following Employee FAQs:

  • “What do I do if I feel like I need to improve my work-from-home space?”
    • To view the Accessing Remote Work Equipment and Resources procedure, click here.
  • “What if I need to collect items from my office at campus to improve my work-from-home space?”

As a reminder, resources and tips for effective remote work are available here, including courses on managing remote work. Please contact HR for additional support.

Childcare Support

During this unprecedented time, we recognize many employees are facing challenges in balancing work and family needs. Western understands the dynamic situation, and our hearts go out to all who are juggling their many roles. We embrace the new work from home dynamic with family and pets present during employee interactions, we also want to provide the following dependent care information for both remote and onsite employees:

Department reopening plans

To help maintain a safe working environment when people are on site, all departments, including those that have critical on-site employees, are asked to submit a department reopening plan. Western's Safe Start information and resources can be found here. Questions regarding your department-specific reopening plans should be referred to your supervisor. If a department has already submitted a plan and their on-site activity is affected by the fall academic decision, the department will need to submit an updated plan through the ReADY system.

Daily COVID-19 Screening - Attestation form

In accordance with WA Safe Start guidance, the limited number of employees who need to work on site will be required to complete the online training from EHS prior to returning to on-site work. Employees working onsite must also attest to being symptom-free prior to arriving onsite; Western is creating an attestation form to streamline this process. The link to this form and relevant instructions will be distributed by fall quarter.

Managing on-site employees

For people who must come on site we want to make it as safe as possible. Although many may wonder why we want to track people who come on site, we do so for two reasons. First, to keep the numbers of people in rooms and building down to a safe level. The second reason is so that we can provide information on where a staff member has been to contain the spread in case of infection. ICS is currently evaluating the system by which we track staff, faculty and vendors on site. Until any changes are announced, please continue to use the on-site visit form for occasional visits or ensure your employees are on the critical on-site staff list. Additions to the critical on-site list require approval by the respective supervisor and divisional vice president.

Hiring Student employees

As a reminder, the hiring freeze does not apply to student employees. Departments who intend to hire student employees for the Fall can begin planning for those hires now. Contact Student Employment with questions.

Leave and Support Options for Employees

COVID-specific leave needs

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act was passed and signed into law on March 19, 2020 to address employee needs related to COVID-19, such as the need to quarantine or care for a child whose school or daycare has closed. The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) remains in effect until December 31st. Please see more information about the leave available under this law in Other Types of Leave.

Voluntary Reductions of Hours/Furlough or Voluntary Layoff

Employees interested in voluntarily reducing their appointment or taking a furlough can learn more here. Employees interested in volunteering for permanent layoff should contact their supervisor or HR Consultant.

Paid Family Medical Leave and Supplemental Benefits

The WA Paid Family and Medical Leave (PFML) program is an insurance program that provides a partial wage replacement for Washington workers for an employee's own medical condition, to care for family members, bonding with a child, or for certain military-related events. Under the PFML program, the Employment Security Department will replace up to 90% of an employee's average weekly wage (up to $1,000 per week).

Employees that are receiving PFML can use “supplemental benefits” to make themselves whole starting on August 1st. Supplemental benefits include compensatory time, sick leave, vacation leave, personal holiday, personal leave day, and winter break day (during winter break). Using your accrued leave as a supplemental benefit will draw down on your leave balances.

Learn more about PFML or contact Julie Moon with questions at Julie.Moon@wwu.edu or 360-650-3771.

Shared Leave

On March 17, 2020, the governor signed into law several meaningful changes to the Shared Leave program, including the following change to include COVID-19 related leave. 

Employees may qualify forshared leaveif the employee or relative or household member is isolated or quarantinedas recommended, requested,or orderedby a public health official or health care provider as a result of suspected or confirmed COVID-19 infection or exposure during the declared state of emergency. 

Additional changes were made to the shared leave language under RCW 41.04.665(1)(f) for COVID-19 effective April 10, 2020. The purpose of the shared leave changes as a result of Proclamation 20-43 are to expand shared leave to a broader audience in order to help reduce the impacts of the novel coronavirus disease 2019 on employees. This includes those employees who have been determined to fall in the high-risk category, or those who need leave for lack of childcare reasons. An employee who has the option to telework and declines to do so would not be eligible for shared leave.

Learn more about Shared Leave or contact Julie Moon with questions at Julie.Moon@wwu.edu or 360-650-3771.

Extension of protections for high-risk workers

Gov. Jay Inslee announced the extension of a proclamation 20-46.1 today giving high-risk workers the right to protect themselves from COVID-19 without jeopardizing their employment status or loss of income.

The proclamation 20-46.2 provides older workers and those with underlying health conditions a series of rights and protections, including:

  • The choice of an alternative work assignment, including telework, alternative or remote work locations if feasible, and social distancing measures.
  • The ability to use any accrued leave or unemployment benefits if an alternative work assignment is not feasible and the employee is unable to safely work. Employers must maintain health insurance benefits while high risk employees are off the job.
  • Employers are prohibited from permanently replacing high-risk employees.

High-risk individuals are defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and specifically include:

  • 65 years of age or older; and
  • People of all ages with underlying medical conditions, particularly if not well controlled.

The proclamation was originally set to expire on August 1st. It is now being extended with no end date and will remain in effect through the end of the current State of Emergency.

Self-Care

As we continue to navigate through the uncertainty that is the pandemic, self-care remains as important as ever. The Employee Assistance Program (EAP) is a benefit available to Western employees that can help. They are currently offering guidance on navigating change in challenging times, self-care, and building resilience. These can be accessed on their website as live webinars, or as on-demand resources. Upcoming sessions are as follows:

Navigating Change

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

2:00pm-3:30pm

Register

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

10:00am-11:30am

Register

Thursday, August 20, 2020

9:30am-11:00am

Register

Thursday, August 27, 2020

1:00pm-2:30pm

Register

Self-Care with the WA State EAP

Tuesday, August 4, 2020

8:30am-10:00am

Register

Thursday, August 13, 2020

1:00pm-2:30pm

Register

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

8:30am-10:00am

Register

How to Build Resilience When Your Job Involves Helping Others in Crisis

Thursday, August 6, 2020

9:30am-11:00am

Register

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

8:30am-10:00am

Register

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

8:30am-10:00am

Register

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