COVID-19: Manager and Employee FAQ

In light of the COVID-19 crisis, the university finalized emergency agreements with three of the campus labor unions (PSU Unit A & B, USA, and AFSCME-Unit A) this week. Unless otherwise specified, these updates apply to members of all these three unions (PSU Unit A & B, USA, and AFSCME-Unit A). This information is subject to change. For the most recent updates, see

I am an onsite employee. Can I stay home following Governor Baker’s emergency order that only “COVID-19 Essential Services” remain open?

The university’s previously announced policy that “only onsite personnel should report to campus, unless contacted by a supervisor” is in accordance with the Governor’s new emergency order. The university is committed to the lowest number of onsite staff as possible, while maintaining critical support for remote teaching, learning and current campus operations. Onsite staff lists remain in effect.

If you haven’t already, please contact your supervisor and follow the onsite rotation schedule assigned to your group/department.

I have been designated as an onsite employee. What precautions is the university taking against COVID-19?

The university is committed to the health and well-being of the entire campus community. All actions implemented since the start of the COVID-19 public health emergency seek to reduce social density on campus and as a result, lower the risk of possible exposure to the virus for everyone.

  • Onsite rotation schedules allow critical employees (designated as ‘onsite’) to take turns coming to campus and alternate onsite and remote assignments. Supervisors of ‘onsite’ employees have also been asked to stagger employee shifts as much as possible in order to minimize physical proximity.
  • Enhanced cleaning techniques in addition to standard custodial cleaning protocols are in place. These include more frequent cleaning and disinfecting of common areas and commonly touched surfaces and use of disinfectants that meet EPA criteria against COVID-19. Enhanced Cleaning FAQ
  • Sanitation supplies, including soap, hand sanitizer, and  tissues, are available in campus buildings and university vehicles.

University staff who must come to campus are urged to avoid carpooling, practice social distancing, and take the recommended steps to protect themselves against COVID-19.

I have been designated as an onsite employee, but I also fall into one of CDC’s high-risk categories (60 or older, pregnant, have a serious chronic health condition, such as heart disease, diabetes, or lung disease). Do I have to come to campus?

Employees who fall into a high-risk category are eligible for alternative work assignments. You and your manager can work with central Human Resources (413-687-2283 or on remote work assignments. Please remember that you may be required to provide a doctor’s note to support placement in a high-risk category.

I am working from home, but my assignments do not cover an entire workday. Do I have to use personal time for the remaining hours? Does this affect my pay?

  • You do not need to use personal time or other accrued time and you will be paid for your regular hours if you are available for work and are ready to accept assignments during your regular scheduled hours. This is irrespective of how long it takes for you to complete currently assigned tasks. Be sure to check with your supervisor on your remote work assignments.
  • You need to use sick, personal, or vacation time if you are unavailable for work during your regular scheduled hours. This includes being sick, spending time with family, or attending to other non-work commitments. 

What about pay for March 16, 17, and 18, 2020? Were these considered snow days?

March 16, 17, and 18 are considered transition days while the university updated its essential employee designations.

  • If you were on site, you will be paid according to the collective bargaining agreement of the union to which you belong.
  • If you were at home, full pay status applies on a straight time pay basis for regular hours worked.

I am a designated onsite employee, but for several days a week, I am home following the onsite rotation schedule. Will I still get paid?

Campus employees who are relieved of assignments as part of a rotation will remain in full pay status. Please check with your supervisor on any remote work assignments (these may not be available to all employees).

I am sick, but I do not have enough sick time accrued. What’s next?

Your options depend on the union to which you belong:

 PSU - Unit A & B and University Staff Association (USA)
If you have exhausted your accrued time, options are available to you in accordance with the collective bargaining agreement of your respective union, including but not limited to sick leave bank and other types of relief offered by federal and state legislation and the University. If you find yourself in a situation where you are suffering from severe financial harm as a result of loss of pay and you are a PSU Unit A & B or USA bargaining unit member, please contact us at the COVID-19 HR Response Team at 413-687-2283 or

For the duration of the COVID-19 public health emergency, employees who have exhausted all accrued time can borrow up to 10 days of future paid sick leave for illness-related issues. This may be extended with demonstrated hardship. The borrowed sick leave is subject to being repaid within one year of return. Please note that the sick leave bank is not available to AFSCME employees during the COVID-19 emergency.

I am a designated onsite employee, but I am sick. Should I still come to campus?

No. Please stay home, notify your manager, and use your accrued sick time until you feel better. See question 7 for options if you do not have enough leave time accrued.

If you believe you have been exposed to COVID-19, please:

  1. Contact your primary care physician or University Health Services Triage Advice Nurse at 413-577-5229 for further guidance.
  2. Alert your manager/supervisor.
  3. Notify the COVID-19 HR Response Team at 413-687-2283 or and wait for further instructions.

I am an onsite employee. Do I need to come to campus every day?

Please check with your supervisor for details. To minimize physical proximity and ensure the health and safety of all employees:

  • The university is implementing rotation schedules for onsite staff. This means that you will take turns coming to campus using a rotating schedule. Most employees will have periodic onsite and off-site responsibilities. Trades employees who are members of AFSCME-Unit A union will eventually be  included in a single rotation list by category regardless of location.
  • Your supervisor may also stagger shifts of all those required to be on site.

I worked a lot of extra hours since the start of the COVID-19 emergency. Am I eligible for overtime/compensatory time?

Yes. Employees who are working additional hours to meet campus operational needs during this time are eligible for overtime/compensatory time as agreed in their collective bargaining agreement. Any additional comp time/overtime must be pre-approved by your supervisor.

The university references COVID-19 as a public health emergency. Am I eligible for emergency work pay?

No. Double time emergency work pay is not available per the university agreement with the campus labor unions. You are eligible for full pay status (on a straight time basis) for regular hours worked as well as compensatory time/overtime as applicable.

My job duties have changed in the past few weeks. What else can I expect?

As the university navigates this unprecedented transition, your manager may ask (or may already have asked) you to transfer work locations, assignments, and/or shifts. Your responsibilities may also change from one week to the next to address this emergency, and they may depend on whether you are onsite or offsite.

While you may be asked to complete work outside of your job duties or hours, you may not be asked to perform work outside of your skill level or licensure requirements.

What is the process for requesting alternative work assignments based on CDC risk factors?

Whether you are designated as an onsite employee and are unable to come to campus or you have other extenuating circumstances, you can contact Central HR (413-687-2283 or to request an alternative work assignment. 

When will all staff be able to return to campus and resume onsite work schedules?

At this time, only onsite personnel should report to campus, unless contacted by a supervisor, until further notice. UMass Amherst will follow guidance from public health officials, federal and state agencies, as appropriate. Updates will be provided as they become available.

My supervisor changed my schedule (e.g., from second/third/weekend shift to first shift Monday through Friday). Is this allowed?  Will I lose my shift differential?

During this emergency, supervisors may change your shifts, assignments, even work locations to meet the health and safety of our community and campus operational needs. Shift differentials will continue to be available as provided in your collective bargaining agreement. 

I am new to remote work. What considerations should I keep in mind as I connect with my manager/other team members?

Remote work comes with a unique set of opportunities and challenges. In a nutshell, communication is key. Supervisors will communicate reasonable parameters for remote work, including tasks, assignments, and priorities; workflows; time reporting; and other best practices for a positive work environment. Employees will communicate assignment progress as well as times when they are (or they are not) available to accept work. Remember that as a remote employee, you are entitled to breaks during the workday, including lunch break, under state and federal guidelines.

Support is available to managers and employees as they transition to virtual work environments.

More resources are available on the UMass Amherst Response to the Coronavirus website and Workplace Learning & Development.