University enacts emergency sick leave policy after COVID-19 concerns

President Joan Gabel authorized an emergency paid leave assistance policy for all eligible University employees, including students.

A passerby gazes across the Mall on Saturday, March 21.

Kamaan Richards

A passerby gazes across the Mall on Saturday, March 21.

Brooke Sheehy

University of Minnesota President Joan Gabel authorized an emergency paid leave assistance policy for eligible University employees, including students, who are unable to work in-person or remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The purpose of this temporary aid is to support staff while they practice social distancing in order to manage the health and welfare of the campus community, said Ken Horstman, the University’s interim vice president for Human Resources, in a statement.

The policy allows up to 80 hours of paid leave for all eligible workers. This benefit is only available for employees who are not able to work in-person or remotely because of reasons associated with COVID-19, which include personal illness, a need to isolate due to exposure or necessary child care due to unavailability or facility closures.

Not all employees eligible for emergency paid leave will receive 80 hours, as the amount allocated to each individual is determined on the percentage of time worked. For example, a part-time employee working 20 hours a week will only be eligible for 40 hours of emergency paid leave and an employee working 15 hours a week would only be eligible for 30. 

The Board of Regents approved the authorization of a University Declaration of Public Health Emergency Wednesday evening, Gabel said in a statement. This emergency declaration enables the University to apply for state and federal funds to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Eligible employees are able to use this leave beginning March 23. Workers are able to request this leave in the same way they would request other paid leaves, and medical documentation is not necessary.

Employees qualified for emergency leave will be compensated for their routinely scheduled hours for the week of March 16 to March 23, except for those who used any time that week for a pre-approved vacation, personal holiday, or any other leave of absence without compensation, Horstman said in email. 

This also means that workers who were ill or used sick time to self-isolate or care for someone sick during the week are not required to submit an absence request or use paid leave.