COVID-19: Employee Policies and Procedures

University employees are encouraged to review policies and procedures related to sick leave, telecommuting, travel reimbursements and other information critical to day-to-day job functions and maintaining a healthy work environment. Faculty and staff instructors can also gain access to "Keep Teaching" tools for remote learning.

Latest employee updates:

Updated March 29 at 7 p.m.

  • The City of Columbia issued a Stay Home Stay Safe ordinance for a minimum of two weeks beginning Sunday, March 29.
  • The university is suspending all university sponsored or affiliated travel, both domestic and international through May 9, 2020.
  • Faculty and staff may donate leave to the Leave Transfer Pool to help other employees who do not have enough leave to cover their absence.
  • The University of South Carolina is committed to supporting our staff during the current crisis through the Keep Working initiative.

 

Stay Home Stay Safe

The City of Columbia issued a Stay Home Stay Safe ordinance for a minimum of two weeks beginning Sunday, March 29. The Ordinance directed that only essential employees in certain industries can continue to report to work during this period. There is an exemption for educational institutions so that remote learning, critical research, law enforcement and other essential services related to facilities and maintenance can be performed.

As has been the case, faculty and staff should continue to work remotely and not report to campus unless they have been designated as essential for the purpose of maintaining health and safety and ensuring critical operational continuity. Those few employees that are coming to campus must continue to practice social distancing (staying a minimum of 6 feet from others) and wash hands frequently to prevent spread of the coronavirus.

Supervisors have received a letter [pdf] they should issue to personnel who still must come to campus. Essential employees should be reminded to have a copy of the letter and their Carolina Card with them whenever they are traveling to and from campus.

Per the Governor’s executive order on March 19 the University of South Carolina announces the following changes regarding university employees and contract workers effective through the end of the semester:

  • only those employees whose presence is necessary in order to maintain continuity of remote educational offerings and to ensure the health and safety of campus need report to work.
  • All other employees will continue to work remotely.

The university is encouraging all departments to be flexible and creative as they consider options for allowing employees to work remotely.  Employees whose jobs do not normally lend themselves to telecommuting may be able to view training materials, document processes and procedures, or perform other meaningful work.  This also applies to employees in temporary positions. 

This unprecedented public health challenge demands that all of us do our part for the public good.  It is in this spirit that we ask each of you to rise to the occasion and remain flexible over the coming weeks. This is a rapidly changing situation, and we will do our best to keep you informed as conditions change. For the most up-to-date information affecting your campus, please visit each campus's website.

If you have questions regarding Telecommuting, please contact the Employee Relations Office at 803-777-3821.


Keep Working: Remote Working Tools and Strategies

Just as the "Keep Teaching" resources assist instructors, the Division of IT and Human Resources have partnered to provide all university employees the technology and the strategies to work efficiently in a remote location. The university is also supporting staff through this crisis by sustaining productivity, income levels and physical and emotional health.

Tools and Technology

Remotely access secure resources; forward calls and access voicemail; conduct meetings; receive IT support.

Strategies

Review resource guides for succeeding as a virtual team member or leader; find tips on transitioning to a remote environment; access professional development and learning opportunities.

Commitment to Staff Support

The university is committed to supporting staff through this crisis by keeping staff engaged and productive, sustaining income levels, and addressing physical and emotional health.


Teaching and Research Support

The Office of the Provost is sharing resources with instructors on converting courses currently taught in-person to online. Information includes:

  • Preparing for course disruptions
  • Communicating with your students
  • Teaching remotely: Tips, tools and resources
  • Blackboard basics
  • Individual and group assistance

To the extent necessary and practical, the Research Enterprise continues to operate with support offices staffed sufficiently to enable the essential aspects of research administration. Our faculty pursue different types of research, some of which can be pursued through telework while some must be carried out in a lab and requires essential personnel to complete critical procedures. The Office of the Vice President for Research has issued some operational considerations for individual research programs.


Employee Leave

Our university is committed to limiting the impact of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) and keeping our students, faculty, and staff safe. As directed by the Governor of South Carolina, the campus has been closed through the end of the semester and President Caslen has directed non-essential employees not to report to campus and to work remotely whenever possible.

Employees who submit weekly time sheets (Non-Exempt Employees) in positions that earn leave (i.e FTE, RGP and time-limited) should report time in the following manner:

  • All time actually worked should be reported in the normal manner, using ITAMS code: WORKED-Hours Worked.
  • Time not worked as a result of the campus closure and the social distancing directive should be reported using the following COVID codes:
    • During the COVID-19 event, all leave earning employees are authorized to use available sick leave to cover time not worked, even if they are not diagnosed with the virus.
      • Employees who use Sick Leave should use code: “S/L COVID S/L COVID Illness”
    • Employees may also elect to use compensatory time, annual leave or leave without pay depending on their preference and available balances.
      • Employees who use compensatory time should use code: “COMP-TAKEN Comp Time Taken”
      • Employees who use annual leave should use code: “A/L COVID A/L COVID Illness”
      • Employees who use leave without pay should use code: “LWOP COVID Unpaid Leave COVID Illness”
    • Employees who are caring for a family member who is ill may use code: “FSL COVID S/L-Family COVID Illness”

Employees who report time on bi-monthly basis (Exempt Employees) and are in positions that earn leave (i.e. FTE, RGP, and time-limited) are to report time not worked using the COVID codes in the manner described above for Non-Exempt employees.

For leave earning employees who do not have available sick leave, sick leave may be advanced. HR 1.06, Sick Leave, allows the advancement of up to 15 days of sick leave with the approval of the Vice President for Human Resources or their designee. During the COVID-19 event, approval will be expedited. Documentation from a licensed health care provider will not be required. All advanced leave will be repaid as the employee earns future sick leave. Certain employees who meet required criteria may be eligible for leave from the university leave pool.

Temporary employees are not eligible for leave with pay for absences from work, except under the provisions of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. To the extent possible, departments should be flexible and creative as they consider options for allowing employees to work remotely to maintain operations and services. Please communicate these expectations to your managers.

Please also view the Payroll Toolbox for additional instructions on recording paid leave, or contact Judy Timmons in the Payroll Department at Timmons5@mailbox.sc.edu with any payroll related questions.

If you have any questions regarding the policy, please contact the Benefits Office at benefits@mailbox.sc.edu or the Employee Relations Office at uscer@maibox.sc.edu in the Division of Human Resources.

Our university is committed to limiting the impact of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) and keeping our students, faculty, and staff safe. As directed by the Governor of South Carolina the campus has been closed and President Caslen has directed employees to work remotely. This is new territory for many of us and we appreciate all that you are doing to promote social distancing and ensure that your employees are observing the guidance provided by President Caslen.

We have received additional information from the State of South Carolina regarding the use of Sick Leave during this period of closure. Please share this information with your supervisors and managers.

Employees who earn leave are authorized to use sick leave:

  • If they are sick,
  • If they fall into CDC defined higher risk or special populations,
  • If they are otherwise affected by social distancing directives related to COVID-19

This means that leave earning employees are authorized to use sick leave, annual leave, or compensatory time to cover their absence from campus if they are not engaged in telecommuting and their supervisor determines that their presence at work is not required.

Sick leave may be advanced to leave earning employees under the same criteria.

  • HR 1.06 Sick Leave allows the advancement of up to 15 days of sick leave with the approval of the Vice President for Human Resources or their designee.
  • During the COVID-19 event, approval will be expedited. Based on new guidance, documentation from a licensed health care provider will not be required for advancement of sick leave directly connected to the COVID-19 event.
  • All advanced leave will be repaid as the employee earns future sick leave.

We encourage departments to be flexible and creative as they consider options for allowing employees to work remotely. In some cases, it might be appropriate to allow for a combination of both working time and leave time to account for all normally scheduled working hours.

Apply Guidance to Both Graduates and Undergraduates

All of the guidelines apply to both graduate and undergraduate workers.

Students Working During Closure

The university is allowing current student employees to continue working where possible. However, similar to faculty and staff, whenever possible, work is to be performed remotely.

Federal Work Study Students

The above guidelines regarding students working during closure also apply to Federal Work Study students.

Permitted On-Campus Work

In very limited circumstances, departments may identify mission critical student jobs that must continue to be provided on-campus. These should be exceptional situations and should adhere to the guidance provided by Student Health Services [pdf].

Limit to Hours Worked Per Week

Students are advised to limit their hours worked to no more than their average hours worked per week prior to the closure and should not exceed 20 hours per week. For students who are continuing to work in multiple jobs, the hours worked in each job should be accurately reflected in ITAMS.

Appropriate Tasks for Students Working Remotely

If possible, ask students to continue performing similar work to what they do when working on campus. If this is not possible, be creative in providing the students some tasks such as documenting business processes or preparing desks manuals for what they do on a daily basis. Also, consider providing them development tasks to do such as watching informational videos, reading or researching topics, drafting proposals, or other such work that will continue to develop their knowledge and skills.

Ensuring Students Get Paid

Nothing has changed with this process. For hourly student employees, simply ensure the student enters their time worked in ITAMS and that you approve the time by the published deadlines. For salaried student employees, no entry into ITAMS is required for them to be paid.

Information for Graduate and Research Assistants

Additional information for Graduate Assistants is available from the Graduate School.

Additional information for Research Assistants is available from the Office of Research.

Faculty and staff may donate leave to the Leave Transfer Pool [pdf] so that employees who are experiencing personal emergencies and do not have enough leave to cover their absence from work may request leave from the pool.

Employees who earn annual leave may donate up to one-half of the annual leave and one-half of the sick leave they are eligible to earn in a calendar year, as long as they keep at least 15 days of sick leave in their account.

If an employee would like to donate leave to the Leave Transfer Pool, please have them complete the Leave Donation Request Form [pdf] and return it to the Benefits Office of the Division of Human Resources. Should you have any questions, please contact the Benefits Office at Benefits@mailbox.sc.edu.

Please share this information with employees in your area.

 

Travel Advisory and Policy Statement

Goals

Based on the CDC guidelines for businesses, all employers need to consider how best to decrease the spread of COVID in the workplace. UofSC’s goals to reduce the spread of COVID-19 for the workplace include:

  • reducing transmission among staff,
  • protecting individuals that may be a higher risk for adverse outcomes,
  • identifying mission critical functions and
  • sustaining the infrastructure of the University

Purpose

There is substantial scientific evidence to support that individuals traveling to and from areas where there is widespread of COVID-19 creates a high-risk of ongoing spread of the virus. Crowded travel settings, like airports, public transportation, rest stops, gas stations and convenient stores may increase the risk of exposure to COVID-19. The spread of COVID through Italy has been directly linked to individual’s traveling habits and the widespread sustained transmission in Europe and ultimately was the reason the CDC placed Europe on the Level 3 Alert. Great consideration must be given to the risk of passing COVID to others during travel, especially if you are in close contact with older individuals or those that may have compromised immune symptoms (CDC guidelines).

As we are implementing more widespread testing within the United States it is anticipated that we will begin to see many more confirmed cases reported. It is not just the destinations but the process of travel which is what exposes individuals to the increased risk of exposure. The countless public spaces and transportation centers are prime examples of locations where viruses are spread.

University’s Travel Advisory Recommendations

The University’s Travel Advisory dated March 11, 2020 should be updated to include:

  • All non-mission critical domestic and international sponsored or affiliated travel is suspended until April 6 regardless of the travel Alert.
  • Determination of mission critical status is up to Deans, Chairs, Department Heads, the President or Board of Trustees as appropriate and should be communicated to the EPG for oversight of potentially conflicting standards and risks to our community as appropriate.
  • Travel expenses related to travel that has been canceled will be reimbursed up to the date of this memo.
  • Any expenses related to travel incurred after the date of the memo will not be reimbursed unless there is a formal exception granted due to a mission-critical event.
  • University aircraft operations should confirm mission critical designation of requested flights.
  • Employees must self-quarantine off campus for a period of 14 days if they have traveled to and from a Travel 3 Alert destination.
  • Employees that have traveled to an area where there is widespread outbreak of COVID-19, should highly consider self-quarantining off campus for a period of 14 days, unless an assessment has been completed to determine otherwise.  SHS will assist with these assessments as requested.
  • Employees that have been quarantined or isolated must not return to campus until the quarantine or isolation period has been completed.
  • To protect the health and wellbeing of our campus community, we also recommend that staff should reconsider personal travel outside the immediate area. 

All employees especially those that travel outside the immediate area should monitor for symptoms and immediately call their healthcare provider for guidance if they develop symptoms.

The University is suspending all university sponsored or affiliated travel, both domestic and international through May 9, 2020.

This suspension of travel includes travel that is reimbursed from the University funds or grant funds. Any exception to this travel advisory based on your department’s mission critical functions will require review and approval by the Dean or Department head and subject to approval from the Coronavirus Emergency Management Team.  Exceptions should be sent to the Controller’s Office Travel Department.  If approved, you will be notified by the Travel Department. 

For those who are currently outside of the United States, University of South Carolina strongly encourages your return as soon as practical to avoid travel delays, minimize health risks, and support university operational continuity. University of South Carolina will work with you to ensure a smooth transition.

If you are traveling from or through a country that has a level 3 Travel Alert, you must inform the University immediately and contact your department head or supervisor for guidance. Upon your return, you must self-quarantined off campus for 14 days. This quarantine will be managed and enforced through DHEC.

Additionally, if you have traveled outside the United States or in areas within the United States where COVID-19 is widespread, the University requests that you self monitor for symptoms and discuss with your department head your ability to work remotely and self-quarantine off campus for 14 days. A guide that outlines the steps for Self-Quarantine is incorporated at the end of this advisory. Please refer to the CDC website to learn what you should do if you become sick.  

Unauthorized university sponsored or affiliated travel subject to this advisory will not be reimbursed and may result in disciplinary action.

  • All domestic or international travel that has happened or is in process up through the date of this travel advisory will be reimbursed in accord with the University Travel Policy.
  • However, university sponsored or affiliated travel that has been approved but has not happened must be cancelled or rescheduled. Expenses related to the travel that have occurred (airline, registration) may be reimbursed in accord with the University Travel Policy. 

Given the significant uncertainty of COVID-19, we encourage you to delay or postpone travel plans through April 3rd, 2020. If you must make plans, please pay close attention to cancellation and refund policies and change fees.

University Employees needing to cancel their travel plans due to conference cancellation or personal cancellation out of concern should adhere to the guidance below:

  • The university will reimburse for reasonable flight cancellation or change fees or any other nonrefundable travel expense (e.g. registration, lodging, rental cars, etc.…) you already incurred due to the COVID-19 virus. You are encouraged to ask for a “change fee waiver” which some airlines are granting under the current circumstances. 
  • All documentation from the airlines regarding the cancellation must be attached to the travel expense report for the reimbursement to be processed. This should include scanned or emailed receipts, change fees, plane tickets, etc... directly related to the expense and should indicate clearly that it was canceled or is nonrefundable.
  • Submit requests to your supervisor for approval as you would any other reimbursement and submit a travel expense report as normal.
  • While an airline ticket or other expense may be considered non-refundable, in many instances you are given a “credit” that can be used towards future travel within a certain time period for these types of expenses.  These details should be noted in your documentation and you are expected to apply that “credit” towards future university business travel.  These credits should be reported to the Controller’s Office Travel Department. 

We want to provide the following information and guidance as it relates to business and personal travel. Please visit the University’s website on Coronavirus for daily updates.

For the foreseeable future and until further notice, we strongly encourage employees to reconsider personal international or domestic travel. Your choices could have serious adverse impacts on your family, other employees, students, and the community. Please review your personal and family emergency plans so that you will be prepared as the COVID-19 virus spreads throughout the United States.

We anticipate as this situation evolves, there will be additional screening and quarantine requirements mandated by government entities. Additional advisories will be issued as warranted. Thank you for your cooperation with these efforts to protect the health and well-being of our students, faculty, staff and community members. Should you have any questions, please do not hesitate to reach out to the Controller’s Office Travel Department of questions.

The CDC has determined certain populations are at higher risk of complications from coronavirus (COVID-19). Any member of the University’s community who is included in the CDC's high-risk description should refrain from all travel until the virus is contained. Your health and well-being are important, and we urge you to reconsider travel that may pose additional health risks. Please visit the CDC to learn if you are part of the high-risk group

Everyone should remain vigilant and take necessary precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19, including the following:

  • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze.
  • Throw all used tissues directly into the trash.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with the inside of your elbow when coughing or sneezing if you do not have a tissue.
  • Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds often throughout the day, especially after you cough or sneeze, and also before preparing food or eating. Alcohol-based (60%) hand cleansers are also effective.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth.
  • Limit your contact in areas that are highly populated.

Self-quarantine for COVID-19 is recommended for individuals who have been directly exposed to the virus or who have traveled to areas where there are large numbers of people infected in order to prevent further transmission. Follow the steps below for self-quarantine.

  • Stay home except to get medical care.
  • Monitor your symptoms: Fever, cough, shortness of breath.
  • Seek prompt medical attention if you become ill.
  • Before seeking care, call your healthcare provider and tell them that you have, or are being evaluated for, COVID-19.
  • Put on a facemask before you enter the healthcare facility. These steps will help the healthcare provider’s office to keep other people in the office or waiting room from getting infected or exposed.
  • Ask your healthcare provider to call the local or state health department. Persons who are placed under active monitoring or facilitated self-monitoring should follow instructions provided by their local health department or occupational health professionals, as appropriate.
  • Restrict activities outside your home, except for getting medical care. Do not go to work, school, or public areas. Avoid using public transportation, ridesharing, or taxis.
  • Separate yourself from other people and animals in your home.
  • People: As much as possible, you should stay in a specific room and away from other people in your home. Also, you should use a separate bathroom, if available.
  • Animals: Although there have not been reports of pets or other animals becoming sick with COVID-19, it is still recommended that people sick with COVID-19 limit contact with animals until more information is known about the virus.
  • When possible, have another member of your household care for your animals.
  • Facemasks should be used by people who show symptoms of COVID-19 to help prevent the spread of the disease to others. CDC does not recommend that people wear a facemask to protect themselves from respiratory diseases, including COVID-19.
  • Cough or sneeze into the fold of your elbow. Alternatively, cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze.
  • Clean your hands often.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains 60-95% alcohol, covering all surfaces of your hands and rubbing them together until they feel dry.
  • Soap and water should be used preferentially if hands are visibly dirty. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Clean all “high-touch” surfaces every day.
  • High touch surfaces include counters, tabletops, doorknobs, bathroom fixtures, toilets, phones, keyboards, tablets, and bedside tables. Also, clean any surfaces that may have blood, stool, or body fluids on them.
  • Use a household cleaning spray or wipe, according to the label instructions. Labels contain instructions for safe and effective use of the cleaning product including precautions you should take when applying the product, such as wearing gloves and making sure you have good ventilation during use of the product.
  • If you have a medical emergency and need to call 911, notify the dispatch personnel that you have, or are being evaluated for COVID-19. If possible, put on a facemask before emergency medical services arrive