The University of South Carolina is committed to supporting our staff during the current crisis. We are working with managers and supervisors to maintain productivity; coordinating with the State of South Carolina to give employees access to sick leave, benefits, and other social supports; and taking steps to connect employees with a variety of resources to help them manage physical and emotional stress.
So how exactly are we helping?
1. By keeping staff engaged and productive
First and foremost among our efforts is our “Keep Working” initiative. As non-essential personnel are not to report to campus, all supervisors and managers have been encouraged to identify appropriate alternatives for remote work. Many employees are able to complete their normal work assignments remotely using technology to connect with coworkers, students, and cloud-based resources.
In instances where normal work assignments are not practical, alternative work assignments which promote the goals and mission of the university and the unit are encouraged. Employees can engage in online training to develop their skills, review and document existing procedures, or research issues of concern to the unit. Units can redeploy personnel to support areas where needs may surge in an emergency. To whatever extent practicable units should be proactive and innovative as they identify ways that staff can keep working and supporting the university mission.
To facilitate this effort we have authorized a blanket exception to certain elements of the university telecommuting policy so that employees of less than six months are eligible to telecommute and units do not need to file a formal telecommuting plan. The Division of Instructional Technology has curated information on the most commonly used remote work technologies, and the Division of Human Resources as done the same for remote work strategies. These resources are prominently featured in the Employee Policies and Procedures section of the university’s COVID landing page.
2. By sustaining staff income levels
For employees who are unable to work, or able to work only part of the time, the State of South Carolina has authorized employees to draw upon their sick leave balance to cover time not worked. This means that leave earning employee can use sick leave, annual leave, or compensatory leave to sustain their income levels. Employees who have exhausted their available sick leave may request an advance on their sick leave of up to 15 days. During this event, the application process is expedited and employees do not need to provide medical documentation. Employees who meet certain requirements may also request sick leave from the university leave pool. New federal legislation will provide additional options for our employees and we are actively tracking those developments. We know that some of our employees will have no other recourse than to apply for unemployment benefits. We are coordinating with the South Carolina Division of Employment and Welfare, providing any necessary information so that any claims originating from our workforce are processed and resolved as quickly as possible.
3. By addressing physical and emotional health
Beyond the important considerations of maintaining productivity and income, the university is also providing a wide variety of resources to support the whole person. Healthy Carolina is offering daily meditation on facebook, the Campus Recreation is offering fitness classes via Instagram, and of course employees have access to the suite of resources, including counseling, available from our Employee Assistance Program.