Paid Time Off (PTO) Requests During COVID-19
As we approach the summer months, we are entering into the season of rest and rejuvenation for our faculty and staff. We know summer is an important time when people take vacation in order to reset. We continue to support employees taking time off. However, one of the many challenges that COVID-19 presents us with is the additional care and planning managers must take when scheduling and approving their employee time off requests. Staffing levels need to be managed carefully to ensure operations can remain at the appropriate levels.
Currently, employees are required to complete the online COVID-19 Screening & Reporting tool, and receive clearance to return to work, after certain events, including travel. Employees must be prepared to remain away from campus and from on-or off-campus events for up to 14 days following return from travel. Any employee planning personal travel will need to ensure they have enough PTO, which would include any remaining leave entitlement under FFCRA, to cover any self-isolation time required away from campus and from on-or off-campus events, in the event they are not able to telecommute, as determined by their manager. Those employees who are not able to telecommute and who are without sufficient leave to cover self-isolation time will be placed on LWOP status until Employee Health clears them to return to campus. Employees should discuss any potential travel with their managers prior to requesting PTO. Managers may ask if requested PTO will include travel inside or outside the state of Oklahoma. This does not mean that PTO will be denied, but your manager may ask you to be flexible in scheduling your leave, as managers will have to plan for the potential for self-isolation time off, in addition to the requested PTO to ensure staffing levels remain appropriate. PTO requests will be handled on a first-come first-served basis. If you plan to travel, it is recommended that you not purchase or book any non-refundable/non-changeable items, such as transportation tickets or hotel rooms, until your request has been approved.
Please keep in mind that the State of Oklahoma’s plan for reopening does not impact the potential need to self-isolate away from campus and from on-or off-campus events. Due to the evolving nature of data and public health guidance on COVID-19, OU is regularly evaluating the measures it has in place to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 and protect our campus. These measures may be updated or revised prior to your scheduled PTO. OU will continue to monitor the travel policy and will update as necessary. Current travel guidelines can be found here: travel guidance.
NOTE: NEITHER EMPLOYEE HEALTH NOR HUMAN RESOURCES CAN ADVISE OR MAKE DECISIONS REGARDING THE SELF-ISOLATION PERIOD IN ADVANCE OF TRAVEL.
The University continues to assess and monitor the situation and post new information here: http://www.ou.edu/coronavirus
for Norman employees and https://www.ouhsc.edu/coronavirus
for HSC employees. For additional HR information, employees should speak to their supervisor, Human Resources, or visit the HR website: https://hr.ou.edu/News/Coronavirus-COVID-19-Information
University Employees asking to Continue Working Remotely After Being Recalled to Campus
The University of Oklahoma will return to normal campus operations for the Fall 2020 semester. Faculty, staff, and students will be phased back to campus prior to the start of the Fall semester. Some employees who have been telecommuting or who have been on administrative paid leave may have health-related concerns about returning to campus, as normal campus operations are phased in.
Employees who believe they have an underlying health condition that may prevent them from returning to campus and/or resuming their normal job duties are responsible for requesting accommodation through the University’s formal interactive Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) process. This process requires employees to provide documentation from their health care provider that establishes and documents why normal duties cannot be resumed as assigned, taking into full consideration the mitigation measures the University has put in place. These measures include but are not limited to social distancing, additional sanitizing, masking in designated areas, and providing appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. Not all employee requests will be deemed reasonable under the ADA. Alternative accommodations may need to be explored; e.g., additional on-campus mitigation measures. The ADA stipulates that employees must be able to perform the essential functions of their position with or without accommodation. The great majority of staff and faculty positions across the University system require employees to be present on campus to perform some or all of the essential functions of their positions.
In the event that additional leave is deemed a reasonable accommodation under the ADA, any leave granted as an accommodation is unpaid leave. An employee who has accrued PTO and/or ESL can utilize their PTO and/or ESL during the approved leave period. Any additional leave provided as a reasonable accommodation under the ADA is not eligible for University Administrative Leave.
For information on the University's ADA policy, visit https://hr.ou.edu/Policies-Handbooks/ADA-Services-for-Faculty-Staff
Admin Leave during COVID-19
Reporting Admin Leave correctly is especially important now during the COVID-19 situation because these time reports help the university accurately track the costs of this emergency. Reporting time as worked when it was actually Admin Leave is against policy and could cause the university to underreport emergency expenses. This could affect future opportunities for reimbursement of these expenses and ultimately impact the financial resources available to the university.
Administrative leave is applied differently depending on the kind of employee. Hourly (non-exempt) employees report Admin Leave differently than salaried (exempt) employees. The employee, their supervisor, and their time approver are responsible for correct time reporting and the appropriate use of Admin Leave.
Benefits eligible employees who are unable to telecommute or work onsite, and cannot be assigned other responsibilities, will continue to be paid. Time should be reported as Administrative Leave-COVID. Employees who are not benefits eligible are not eligible for Administrative Leave.
Kinds of Telecommuting Work
At all times, but especially during telecommuting, it’s very important that hourly employees keep very accurate track of their work time. It is also important for you to discuss your work duties with your supervisor so you can determine together what you should work on while you are working from home. Ideally, your schedule should be as similar as possible to the work you do on-site. If there are certain portions of your job or tasks you normally do that you cannot now, you should speak to your supervisor about other options. These options could include cross-training, professional development, special projects, or other duties as assigned by your supervisor.
When to use Admin Leave for COVID-19
If none of the work options above are available or if they have been exhausted, your supervisor may approve you for Admin Leave during some or all of a workday. During this extraordinary time, you should report all time that you work and all time that you are on Admin Leave. If you have been approved for COVID Admin Leave, you should use the appropriate “Admin Leave” code for your campus time system. Look for the Admin Leave code with “COVID” in it.
It is possible for you to have part of your day or week as Admin Leave related to COVID-19 and part of your day or week as working time. If this is the case for you, be sure to report it accurately.
To help you determine how to record your work and Admin Leave for the day, please consult the flowchart below to help you and your supervisor decide how best to record your time.
Other Reasons for Leave
If you are not working because of illness, caring for another person, or childcare, or other COVID-related concern, visit this page and contact a Leave Administrator: https://hr.ou.edu/News/Families-First-Coronavirus-Response-Act-Information.
HR is here to help. If you have questions after reading this information, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tracking Work for Salaried Employees
Salaried employees do not report their hourly work time. Instead they report the workdays when they are not working. As with all employees, it’s important that time taken off for personal reasons (sick leave, personal time, etc.) is recorded as PTO or other eligible leave, even though employees may be telecommuting. Your workday should be as similar as possible to your onsite duties. However, if this is not possible, you should speak to your supervisor about other options. This could include normal duties, special projects, cross-training, professional development, or any other work needed by your supervisor.
When to Use Admin Leave
If none of the work options above are available or if they have been exhausted, your supervisor may approve you for Admin Leave. Under these circumstances, Admin Leave is reported by full day increments for salaried employees. During this extraordinary time, you should complete your timesheet as normal. As a salaried employee, if you work for part of a day, the day does not qualify for Admin Leave and the whole day should be reported as work time. It is possible for you to have part of your week as Admin Leave related to COVID-19 and part of your week as working time. If this is the case for you, be sure to report it accurately.
If you have been approved for COVID Admin Leave, you should use the appropriate “Admin Leave” code for your campus time system. Look for the Admin Leave code with “COVID” in it.
To help you determine how to record your work and Admin Leave, please consult the flowchart below to help you and your supervisor decide how best to record your time.
Other Reasons for Leave
If you are not working because of illness, caring for another person, childcare, or other COVID-related concern, visit this page and contact a Leave Administrator: https://hr.ou.edu/News/Families-First-Coronavirus-Response-Act-Information.
HR is here to help. If you have questions after reading this information, please contact us at email@example.com.
Temporary Telecommuting is Encouraged
To ensure University operations continue in an effective manner and that risk of the spread of COVID-19 is mitigated, managers are encouraged to immediately begin developing and implementing telecommuting plans for employees on the Tulsa, Health Sciences Center, and Norman campuses (for Norman, starting March 23 after the current closure ends), subject to the following guidelines.
This temporary measure for COVID-19 will apply to employees on all three campuses.
Circumstances can change, but this protocol will only be in effect as long as is necessary to respond to the impact of COVID-19 on our employees. The situation will be assessed on an ongoing basis and further direction will be provided before the close of the two-week period following the University's Spring Break for the possible continuance of this measure.
Who Can Telecommute
Telecommuting is not ideal for the vast majority of positions, and not all employees will be able to perform their duties away from the workplace. However, managers should have those employees who can perform their work at home do so, as long as doing so (1) does not interfere with continued operations of the University and (2) is consistent with the workplace flexibility guidelines found on this page and the Telecommuting Policy
To be allowed to telework, employees must have the tools to do their job at their alternate work locations. Central IT has provided information about remote working resources here: http://ou.edu/ouit/workanywhere.
Managers may contact their department-level IT teams to help identify resources.
While we encourage telecommuting, there is some work that simply cannot be done from home. In these situations, managers should:
- establish flexible or rotating work schedules for essential personnel where possible, to reduce the number of people working near one another on a given day
- implement social distancing practices meant to reduce close contact in the workplace (e.g., maintain an approximate distance of 6 feet from
- consider transitioning all meetings to phone or virtual formats
Required Tracking for Telecommuting
In light of the current circumstances, Telecommuting Work Agreements are
not required. Managers should work with their department leadership and
HR to approve “work from home” plans until further notice. Hourly
employees should manually track their work time and supervisors should
enter the time if the employee does not have remote access to the time
system. Telecommuting must comply with all Paid Time Off and time tracking requirements.
Managers should review their business continuity of operations plans with their teams and consider the following: Who are "essential" personnel and is their contact information current? Are there alternate work facilities that could be used? Will vendors be needed? What equipment and critical software must be available?
To be eligible to telework, employees must have the tools to do their jobs at their alternate work locations. Central IT has provided information about remote working resources here: http://ou.edu/ouit/workanywhere
. Managers may contact their department-level IT teams to help identify resources.
In light of the current circumstances, Telecommuting Work Agreements are not required. Managers should work with their department leadership and HR to implement "work from home" plans until further notice. Hourly employees should manually track their work time and supervisors should enter the time if the employee does not have remote access to the time system. Weekly documentation must be submitted by departments to HR. Read the Telecommuting section of this page to learn more.
While we encourage telecommuting, there is some work that simply cannot be done from home. In those instances, managers should:
- establish flexible or rotating work schedules for essential personnel where possible, to reduce the number of people working near one another on a given day;
- implement social distancing practices meant to reduce close contact in the workplace (e.g., maintain a distance of approximately 6 feet from others when possible); and
- consider transitioning all meetings to phone or virtual formats.
Emergency Child Care Services
The University understands that this is a difficult time, especially for parents. In addition to this stressful time, finding childcare may be difficult. As a resource to our working parents, we want to make you aware that the YMCA is offering emergency child care.
This is not an endorsement, but is offered as a resource and information for our parents who may be struggling to find reliable child care during the Coronavirus pandemic.
Read about their toddler childcare services here
Read about their childcare services here.
The YMCA also offers financial assistance to people who need it. You can apply for assistance here:https://ymcaokc.org/community/emergency-childcare/
Expanded Benefits Related to COVID-19
For employees covered under OU BlueCross BlueShield:
Your OU Benefits team would like to inform you about some enhanced benefits related to your OU medical insurance plan. If you are enrolled in OU’s BlueCross BlueShield PPO Plan or High Deductible Health Plan (HDHP) on any campus, your health care coverage has been expanded to cover the following COVID-19 related items.
COVID-19 Testing and Treatment:
COVID-19 testing and treatment are provided at no cost for BlueCross HDHP and PPO members. COVID-19 testing is covered at no cost through April 30, 2020; COVID-19 treatment is covered at no cost through May 31, 2020.
The University’s health plans will continue to cover behavioral health and medical services through telemedicine and telehealth visits. Members also have access to clinically appropriate medical and behavioral health services delivered through telemedicine with no copays or deductibles for in-network visits through April 30, 2020 in response to the coronavirus outbreak. This will make it easier for members to access care while reducing their risk of exposure. This change applies to both the PPO and High Deductible Health Plan.
Who can provide telemedicine?
BlueCross in-network providers who offer the service through two-way, live interactive telephone and/or digital video consultations may provide telemedicine, based on state statutes. Norman campus employees also have the option to have virtual visit benefits through MDLive.
The recently passed Cares Act restores the ability to use Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) and Flexible Spending Accounts (FSAs) to purchase over-the-counter (OTC) medicines that previously required a prescription from a physician and for the first time, making feminine hygiene products qualified. Click here to see a full list of items that no longer require a prescription.
Contact a Benefits Specialist
Responsibilities for Workplace Wellness
It takes effort from everyone to limit the spread of COVID-19. Employees should take Paid Time Off (PTO) and not report to work if they are ill, if they have a fever or COVID-19 symptoms, or if they live with someone who has symptoms. If an employee reports an illness or a fever while at work, the manager may ask them to leave the workplace and take PTO.
To be compliant with University and federal regulations, managers may require employees to follow the screening procedures described here http://www.ou.edu/coronavirus, except where clinic operations require other procedures. Managers must not provide medical advice, speculate about an employee’s medical status, ask employees
health-related questions, or require submission of medical documentation beyond the approved screening requirements. We encourage managers to support their employees who need to be absent for health reasons.
Screening Requirements for Returning to Work After A COVID-19 Event
All OU employees, students, residents, and mission-critical campus visitors/vendors returning a COVID-19 related event must be cleared through Employee Health before returning to campus. Contact information for each campus is included below:
Norman Campus: (405) 325-8732
OUHSC: (405) 271-2577 or firstname.lastname@example.org
OU-Tulsa: (918) 660-3102 or TulsaStudentHealth@ouhsc.edu
Managers are also encouraged to develop and implement telework plans for student employees and graduate assistants where the telework plan supports University operations. While we encourage work from home, there is some work for student employees that simply cannot be done from home, like work in laboratories that cannot be left unattended. Managers should establish flexible schedules for these student employees where possible to reduce the number of people working near one another on a given day.
Read Important Information About Your Student Job
Following are answers to your most frequently asked questions:
1. What if an employee cannot work from home?
During the COVID-19 outbreak, the University encourages work-from-home whenever possible, but we understand there are some jobs that must be performed onsite. To help mitigate the risk to employees, the OU community, and the general public from spreading infection, managers may consider some alternate working options:
Flexible work schedules that alternate days and times between employees can help keep employees an acceptable social distance away from each other and still allow them to maintain their working schedules.
- Use phone and online technologies for meetings and avoid gathering employees.
- Maintain a 6’ distance from other people
- If employees share an office and are in close proximity, the University recommends alternating work schedules and wiping down work environments with a disinfectant cleaner such as Lysol or Clorox wipes at the beginning and end of each work cycle, at the minimum.
If you have other ideas to keep employees and the public safe, please share these ideas with your HR Business Partner, so the entire organization can adopt these best practices.
2. Who may be eligible to work from home?
If an employee’s position involves working from a computer and is not heavily tied to interaction with the public or other employees, they may be in a position to work from home. Supervisors are encouraged to discuss telecommuting options with individuals who may be able to work at home. As the outbreak continues, social distancing will become more important; this makes working from home an important factor in curtailing the spread of COVID-19. Exempt and non-exempt employees are eligible for work-from-home arrangements as long as their job duties are conducive to a remote environment and the necessary tools to complete their work are available, such as University-approved equipment and an internet Telecommuting arrangement that must comply with the Telecommuting Policy
3. How do I keep track of my time while I’m working from home?
If you are able to access the online service, do so. If you are not, the Health Sciences Center, Norman and Tulsa campuses all have provisions for timekeeping in non-traditional methods. Visit the sites shown below for instructions on recording your time:
TAL Site: https://financialservices.ouhsc.edu/Departments/Payroll-Services/TAL-Resources/Payroll-TAL
Paper Leave Request
- Use this leave request if you do not have access to the TAL System (NOTE: Supervisor/Payroll Coordinator must input leave in TAL)
Hourly Paper Timesheet
- Use this time sheet if you do not have access to the TAL System (NOTE: Supervisor/Payroll Coordinator must input leave in TAL)
Norman Campus: http://ou.edu/content/dam/payroll/docs/Hourly%20Timesheet.pdf
4. As a supervisor, how do I determine if an employee is eligible to work from home?
Supervisors should consider several factors when determining if an employee can work from home:
5. If access to sensitive information is needed for an employee to work from home, can they still telecommute?
- Is the employee responsible enough to work unsupervised?
- Does the employee have the resources to work from home (i.e. Internet, space)
- Does the department have the resources to assign to the employee (i.e., computer, VPN, office supplies)
- Is there any sensitive information needed by the employee to do their job?
While the University does encourage working from home during the COVID-19 outbreak, it is also crucial that employee, patient, faculty, and student information remain confidential, just as it would under normal University working conditions. Above all considerations, the protection of confidential information must be maintained.
Departments and supervisors are responsible for ensuring all work-from-home scenarios are secure and do not endanger any confidential information. The supervisor should contact the area that has oversight of the protected data for specific guidance.
6. As a supervisor, I have decided that some of my employees are eligible to telecommute. What now?
Human Resources understands that each area at the University may operate a little differently, so at this time, we are leaving exact approval instructions to the discretion of each department. Most colleges and offices have established an approval process. Check with your main administrative office for specific guidance.
Generally, all telecommuting employees (staff, student employees, and Graduate Assistants) must be listed on the Telecommuting Tracking Template and approval from the following people or their designees is required in order for an employee to telecommute: Supervisor, Dean/Director, or Vice President. Managers don’t need to receive approval from HR, however, we do ask that departments consult with us if they need guidance. Also, departments should submit the
Teleworking Tracking Template (found here: https://apps.hr.ou.edu/dms/GetDocuments.aspx?q=634D3175424B5951374C6533574542344C5468724567253364253364
) to email@example.com
every Friday along with an email that confirms the requisite approvals from the departmental chain of command.
7. Are there restrictions on how many employees can request to work from home?
The University does not have any restrictions on how many people can work from home. We expect each supervisor to work with their department chairs, deans, and VPs to make those decisions.
8. As a supervisor, how can I avoid having to change my own work schedule to effectively manage employees with flexible work arrangements?
You need to be confident that the work will get done whether or not you are present. You will have the opportunity to review and make suggestions to any work-from-home plans before you approve them.
9. How long will working from home be permitted?
It's unknown how long this situation will last. Currently, working from home is encouraged on all three campuses. However, this is an evolving situation and we do not know for certain when all operations will return to normal. When university leadership and health officials determine it is safe to return to normal operations, we will expect all employees to return to their normal work arrangements.
10. Can the children of employees be brought to campus during the COVID-19 outbreak?
Students and employees may not bring children to the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center and Tulsa campuses at this time, unless the child is being seen as a patient in a clinical or hospital facility on campus. To limit the spread of COVID-19, the University is restricting access to the OU Health Sciences Center (Oklahoma City and Tulsa campuses) to only employees, students, patients and mission critical vendors. The Norman Minors on Campus Policy
should be followed in Norman.
11. Regarding community spread: If an employee has come into contact with someone who's been diagnosed with COVID-19 or with someone who has COVID-19-like symptoms, after completing the health screening at Health Services and being instructed to self-isolate for 14 days, will this be Admin Leave or PTO?
This would be PTO.
12. Immuno-compromised employees: If employees report that they are immuno-compromised or are caring for someone who is, and they do not want to report to work, are they required to take PTO if they cannot telecommute? What if they have been deemed an essential employee?
These employees would be required to take PTO while engaging in the interactive ADA process.
13. Student Employees and GAs & Telecommuting: If a student employee or GA can perform their job duties remotely, can they be allowed to telecommute?
14. Should they be included on the Telecommuting Tracking Template?
Fraudulent Claims with OESC
The Oklahoma Employment Security Commission (OESC) has reported an elevated level of fraudulent unemployment claims. Oklahoma University employees have also experienced these fraudulent claims.
If an employee has received any information from the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission (email, letter, debit card, or other communication) that they did not initiate, they should contact the OESC immediately to inform them the claim is fraudulent. Employees should also email firstname.lastname@example.org
In addition to contacting OESC, you will need to contact OU Human Resources to report the fraudulent claim. Here are the contacts for each campus:
Cathy Bowers email@example.com
or Tammy Porter firstname.lastname@example.org
Kyle McKnight Kyle-McKnight@ouhsc.edu
or Jessica Rodriguez at Jessica-A-Rodriguez@ouhsc.edu
Kim Little at email@example.com
OU Information Technology also suggests you report any fraudulent emails sent to an OU email address to OU IT Spam for OU IT Security review.
If You Suspect Fraud
Some employees may have concerns that their information has been used in a fraudulent claim, even if they have not received any information or indication a claim has been filed in their name.
To check if an employee’s information has been stolen: