UMass Amherst will provide a full college experience in fall 2021, including face-to-face instruction, full residence halls, and a complement of student events and activities. It is expected, therefore, that staff resume their on campus work this summer. Below is a list of frequently asked questions related to Fall 2021. This information was updated May 17, 2021.
Building and Office Space Safety
Q: How will the university keep me safe as we return to campus?
A: The University will continue to follow guidance provided by the CDC and DPH related to mandatory safety standards and will maintain all health and safety protocols as required. Any changes to current campus guidance will posted to the university’s website.
Q: Is there a plan to provide rotating schedules or find single occupant office/work space for those in shared work spaces?
A: The University will continue to follow CDC and DPH guidelines for safe and appropriate use of space. Subject to public health and vaccination data, buildings will be permitted to be populated at full capacity and resume normal operations for the fall with likely no need for staggered or rotating schedules.
Q: How will staff workspaces be accommodated and be aligned with health and safety protocols (i.e. installation of Plexiglas, etc.)?
A: The University will continue to follow CDC and DPH guidelines. It is expected that we will return to pre-pandemic standards once offices re-open at 100% capacity and barriers will not typically be necessary. Final decisions related to physical modifications will be determined by Environmental Health and Safety (EH&S). Facilities and Campus Services will continue to utilize cleaning protocols pursuant to state and federal guidance.
Q: Will we be able to use bathrooms or kitchens safely?
A: Yes, the University will continue to follow DPH/CDC guidelines regarding Covid19 safety standards until rescinded or amended by the state.
Q: Will we continue using the daily Covid self-checklist?
A: Yes, every member of the UMass community has a role to play in maintaining a healthy and safe campus. With that said, all individuals will be required to comply with all current Covid19 safety protocols, including using the daily Covid self-checklist.
Q: Has environmental health and safety reviewed and addressed building ventilation systems in older buildings?
A: Yes. EH&S has worked closely with Facilities and Campus Services to review and address building ventilation. If there are concerns or questions related to a specific building, the building coordinator can contact the Environmental Health & Safety office.
Q: How do I report a safety concern?
A: Employees may report safety concerns to their supervisor and/or the Environmental Health & Safety office.
Q: Will masks be provided?
A: The University encourages employees to provide their own face covering whenever possible, and many members of our community have already purchased or made them for their own use.
Testing Requirements and Vaccination Information
Q: What will testing requirements be for Fall 2021 for all employees?
A: Employees onsite will continue to be tested in accordance with current campus testing requirements. Testing requirements can be found at the University's COVID-19 Testing Programs website. These requirements will be examined over summer and any adjustments will be issued for fall.
Q: Are supervisors allowed to ask staff if they have used the daily self-checklist?
A: Employees are expected to monitor their own health condition using the daily self-checklist. If a supervisor notices that an employee is exhibiting symptoms from the checklist, they may speak with the employee and send them home if necessary.
Q: Will I have to be tested for COVID-19 if I choose to not be vaccinated?
A: Yes, staff who regularly work on campus will be required to be tested according to the campus testing requirements.
Q: How will green check marks be used on campus for Fall 2021?
A: The green check mark will be used to indicate that the employee is in compliance with campus testing protocols.
Q: Is it a requirement to be vaccinated to return to work?
A; While vaccines will not be mandated, all faculty and staff are strongly encouraged and recommended to get vaccinated prior to the fall semester. Employees may be vaccinated at a variety of locations across the state including the university’s public COVID-19 vaccination clinic. To encourage staff to get vaccinated, the university is providing 2 hours of paid time off for employees to receive a vaccination (2 hours per dose of Moderna/Pfizer and 2 hours for the Johnson and Johnson/Janssen). More information is available at the University's COVID-19 Vaccine Clinic website.
Q: Are there any protocols related to student staff that are different than PSU, USA, and non-unit staff?
A: Student employees should continue to use the daily self-checklist and follow student testing requirements. They should also communicate with their supervisor regarding questions and departmental safety protocols.
Flexible Work Arrangements
Q: Are Flexible Work Assignments available for Fall 2021?
A: We expect the majority of employees to return to campus in order to fully support our students during the transition back to campus. Employees who have a compelling need for additional flexibility in the fall due to specific personal circumstances should consult with their department with the understanding that any flexible work arrangements will be temporary and must be approved by the Provost or relevant Vice Chancellor.
Q: Will there be an opportunity for Flexible Work Arrangements after we transition into the fall?
A: Identifying and managing hybrid and remote work opportunities will be a complex process, requiring additional data collection and consultation to ensure that it is implemented in a reasonable, equitable manner which meets the operational needs of a normally-operating campus. This process will be undertaken in the next 12-18 months.
Q: Will the process for submitting a Flexible Work Request/Assignment be the same as it was for Spring 2020, Fall 2020 and Spring 2021?
A: No. Individuals seeking a medical accommodation should fill out the Medical Accommodation Request Form. Individuals with a compelling non-medical need for additional flexibility in the fall should consult with their department who will, in turn, seek guidance from its Vice Chancellor and/or Human Resources.
Q: Can USA members, under their current collective bargaining agreement, work remotely?
A: The USA collective bargaining agreement does not currently have a provision that allows for remote work for its members.
Q: Can PSU members, under their current collective bargaining agreement, work remotely?
A: Section 18.4 of the current PSU collective bargaining agreement provides an opportunity for flexibility in work schedules where both the needs of the University and the needs of the employee are met. These arrangements may be approved, for a specific time period, so long as the bargaining unit member can demonstrate to the satisfaction of the supervisor that the proposed schedule will not interfere with or detract from the delivery of services provided or the day to day operation of the department. These schedules must be approved by the Provost or relevant Vice Chancellor.
Q: Is there flexibility in remote work for dependent care this summer due to lack of available options?
A: It is the expectation of the university that employees will work to make arrangements for childcare as they return to working on campus. The Massachusetts Department of Early Education and Care has a site that provides a listing of childcare programs throughout the state. If an employee is unable to find childcare, they should speak with their supervisor to determine if there is any flexible work arrangements available for the summer.
Q: What are leave options if an employee chooses not to return onsite? Can sick time be used?
A: Employees may consider options available to them under the applicable collective bargaining agreement, however permissible leaves (those not required to be approved) will be reviewed to determine if the leave would negatively impact university operations. Sick leave may only be used in in accordance with the employee’s collective bargaining agreement.
Medical Issues and Accommodations
Q: What if I live with someone who has not been vaccinated? Does that qualify me for a Flexible Work Arrangement?
A: Accommodations that include remote or hybrid work schedules are only for an employee’s own serious health condition.
Q: I have a health condition that doesn’t allow me to return to work on-site at this time. Will I need medical documentation to submit an Accommodations Request?
A: If you have a health condition that impacts your ability to work on campus, you may request an ADA accommodation by using the Medical Accommodation Request Form that will require medical documentation.
Q: Will there be assistance available for those experiencing stress related to returning to campus?
A: The FSAP (Faculty Staff Assistance Program) is available for anyone struggling with stress related to returning to work or any other difficulties they may be experiencing. Visit the FSAP website for contact information.
Q: When should I return university items that I took from my office such as my desktop computer?
A: Employees should return to campus with their university equipment as scheduled by their supervisor. If assistance is required to reconnect technology related items, employees should contact their appropriate Information Technology resource.
Q: Who can I contact with additional questions?
A: Please email Covid19HR@umass.edu with any questions. Your Human Resources Director for your business unit, school, or college is also available to provide guidance and assistance with any additional questions or concerns.