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Division of Human Resources

FAQ for Return to Normal Operations Plan

From pre-arrival testing to maintaining a safe workspace, this page responds to many of the questions you may have about the Governor’s Order and our plans to implement the directive to return administrative personnel and staff to on campus work beginning the week of March 15, 2021.

Timing and Temporary Exceptions

  • Week of March 15, 2021 -- Administrative personnel and staff are to report to work on campus.  Limited exceptions for qualified employees:
    • Employees whose workspace requires safety modifications - requires departmental approval.
    • Employees who are primary caregivers of pre-school and school age children who need to make alternative care arrangements - requires school/division approval.
    • Employees who are at high risk for COVID and have not yet completed the vaccination protocol - requires school/division approval.
  • April 5, 2021 -- Latest date for return of employees for whom space modifications were required.
  • April 5, 2021 -- Latest date for return of employees who require time to make alternative child care arrangements.
  • April 17, 2021 -- Latest date for return of high risk employees who require time to complete the vaccination protocol.  An addiitonal extension is available for qualified high risk individuals whose vaccination is inprocess, but will not be fully complete by April 17, 2021. 

Information about exceptions is provided on the Return to Normal Operations page.


As a result of the Governor’s Executive Order, we are no longer operating in an emergency situation and employees must return to work expeditiously starting Monday, March 15, 2021. Returns may be phased in during the week of March 15, 2021, but except for employees who meet specific exemption criteria, all staff employees must return to the workplace no later than March 19, 2021.  

There are limited temporary exemptions to allow employees time to make arrangements for childcare or obtain a vaccine if they are in a high risk category.

Departments may also temporarily exempt an employee whose workspace requires modifications.

These exemptions have strict timelines.  Employees are expected to return to work as soon as accommodations have been made, but not later than April 5 for childcare or workplace modifications and no later than April 17 for vaccinations.

No.  Departments only need to issue formal return letters to employees whose schedule will change.  Departments must provide 7 days notice of a schedule change.  Departments who need to advise an employee of a schedule change should use the Schedule Change Notice Template email/letter for supervisors [docx] .

No.  This plan does not apply to student workers. 


Childcare Issues

Yes. All employees are expected to return to the workplace fulltime. However, parents with pre-school or school age dependents who attend school or daycare facilities not offering in-person instruction/care may be given additional time, not to exceed April 5, 2021, to make arrangements for alternative childcare accommodations.

Employee may use annual leave or leave without pay if they need to take time off of work to provide child care during the school closure.

If a child is ill, the employee may use family sick leave.


Medical Concerns

Yes. However, we still follow the Americans with Disabilities Act, as amended, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), and other federal and state laws. Therefore, if an employee has a disability (e.g., congestive heart failure) that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) identifies as placing the individual at higher risk for severe illness resulting from the COVID-19 virus, the interactive process should be utilized to evaluate a request for a temporary reasonable accommodation to work remotely until the individual has had an opportunity to be vaccinated. The CDC provides a list of conditions that place an individual at a higher risk of severe illness from the COVID-19 virus.

Yes. The Americans with Disabilities Act does not apply when the individual with a disability is a family member or household resident of the employee. Qualifying employees may be eligible for leave pursuant to the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) if they need to care for a family member with a serious health condition. Requests for FMLA leave will need to be made by the employee and processed in accordance with federal law and university policy.

Employees are to return to work unless they are working under a formal telecommuting agreement that was established prior to February 19, 2020. The supervisor should discuss with the employee and if necessary, elevate to UofSC Employee Relations Office.

Yes.  If an employee is required to stay home as a result of an isolation order or quarantine order and they are well enough to work and their work duties are amenable to remote work, they may temporarily engage in remote work during the isolation or quarantine period.


Remote Work and Telecommuting 

No, the Executive Order states employees should be returned to the workplace. 

Yes, employee schedules may be staggered.

If the schedule is different than their normal schedule, a 7 day-written notice must be given based on SC Payment of Wages Act. Please see the Sample Return to the Workplace Letter for Employees with New Work Schedules [doc]. 


Yes, departments may still use flexible schedules to accommodate employees who work non-standard hours or a compressed work week.  Flexible schedules must be documented using the Flexible Schedule Request Form.

Formal telecommuting agreement requests related to COVID will not be approved.

Formal telecommuting agreements which promote cost savings, space savings, or assist with talent acquisition may be submitted for review and approval consistent with the telecommuting policy, HR 1.22.


Risk Mitigation

Yes.  All safety protocols remain in place.

The university is requiring face coverings to be worn at all times inside all campus buildings – unless you are in your own private office or you are actively eating or drinking – and also on university shuttles. All individuals on campus in outdoor areas are expected to wear a face covering whenever physical distancing (six feet or more) is difficult or the risk of infection is high.

Supervisors/managers should continue to identify ways to modify the workplace to the extent possible to promote the safety of employees. Examples of modifications include:

  • Offering staggered start times to mitigate the congregation of employees at points of ingress/egress.
  • Spreading out workstations to increase the distance between work areas.
  • Utilizing common space (e.g., conference rooms) as temporary worksites for some employees to promote social distancing.
  • Installing sneeze guards or plexiglass barriers.

You must still follow all safety protocols.

Whenever possible continue to conduct group meetings via TEAMS to maintain social distancing.


Testing and Vaccination

Unless they were approved prior to COVID for telecommuting, they are expected to return to work on campus. If the person falls in a high-risk category based on CDC guidelines, they should follow the ADA process. See question concerning employees with medical conditions.

Yes, they are required to be tested for COVID unless they:

  • have received 2 doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, or
  • one dose of Johnson and Johnson vaccine, or
  • are within 90 days of a positive COVID test.

Documentation of their vaccination or their prior positive test MUST be uploaded to myhealthspace for exemption of the mandatory COVID testing.

Yes, if you are asking the question to determine the appropriate return to work on campus timeline.

Faculty and Academic Schedule 

This order will not change how we are offering instruction during the spring semester.

Faculty are offering instruction in a variety of modalities this Spring and they will continue to do so. Faculty work location expectations will not change as a result of this executive order.


Challenge the conventional. Create the exceptional. No Limits.