Leading & Managing Employees During COVID-19

This page has information and FAQ for managers and supervisors related to managing COVID-19.

Last updated May 22, 2020 at 4:00 p.m.

Top 3 points for managers to consider

  1. Review, share, and seek information regularly.
  2. Employees have the right to education about safe work.
  3. Continue to follow guidelines from public health authorities. 
    • Promote and practice good hygiene habits, including hand washing.
    • Convey the importance of staying home if ill.

HR Memos

  • April 15: The university provided guidance on managing vacation requests. Read more.
  • March 26: The university approved temporary measures for employees regarding sick leave provisions. Read more.
  • March 23: The Public Sector Employers’ Council Secretariat provided information and direction to UBC regarding compensation and employment continuity. Read more.

FAQ

The specific circumstances that may arise in your unit or department are contextual and may not be captured within these FAQs. Please contact your HR Advisor or Faculty Relations Senior Manager with further questions.

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Managing employees

What is the current impact to faculty and staff regarding employment and compensation?

It is important to maintain employment continuity for employees whose work would not have otherwise been interrupted except for the pandemic response. Read the full memo from Marcia Buchholz, Interim Vice President, Human Resources, that was distributed to UBC Executive and Deans on March 23, 2020.

What should I do if an employee is unsure as to whether they have COVID-19?

All employees should be self-monitoring their health for symptoms. If a faculty or staff member needs advice on whether they have COVID-19, they are advised to call HealthLink BC (8-1-1) or visit www.healthlinkbc.ca or contact their medical health care provider. Information on the prevention, transmission, symptoms, and treatment of COVID-19 can be found at the Government of Canada website Coronavirus disease (COVID-19): Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ).

My employee is home sick with fever, sniffles, and chills. Should I or can I ask them if they have been tested? 

It is appropriate for managers to inquire with their employees about the nature of their illness (not diagnosis). The only purpose to enquire about the nature of your employee’s illness is to encourage your employee who may have COVID-19-like symptoms to call HealthLink BC (8-1-1) or visit www.healthlinkbc.ca or contact their medical health care provider.

Information provided by an employee to you regarding their health is generally considered to be personal information under provincial privacy legislation (FOIPPA), and this information should not be shared with co-workers or your employee’s co-workers.

My employee showed up to work and was clearly exhibiting signs of flu-like and potentially COVID-19-like symptoms. Can I send them home?  

You can request that your employee go home in these circumstances. We are encouraging all employees to stay home if they are sick.

All employees should monitor their health and if they feel sick they should not come to work.

What should I do when an employee advises they must self-isolate because they are concerned they have been exposed to someone with COVID-19? 

If your employee is well and not experiencing any symptoms, you may encourage them to work remotely wherever possible.

My employee has called in sick and says that because they have influenza-like symptoms they won’t be coming in to work for up to two weeks. When should an employee return to work and what is the procedure?

Faculty and staff should keep their manager/supervisor advised of the situation and their anticipated return date. Following the direction given by the BC Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC), the University will not normally require employees to bring medical notification clearing them to return to work in these cases.  If you have questions about an employee returning to work, please contact your HR Advisor or Faculty Relations Senior Manager.

Who should I contact if an employee advises they have COVID-19? What are the privacy concerns?

Please contact your HR Advisor or Faculty Relations Senior Manager. 

Information provided by an employee to you regarding their health is generally considered to be personal information under provincial privacy legislation (FOIPPA), and this information should not be shared with co-workers or your employee’s co-workers.

What should I do if an employee has concerns about another employee who they believe is displaying COVID-19 symptoms?

If an employee is displaying symptoms associated with COVID-19, discuss with them the need for them to stay home if they exhibit the symptoms associated with COVID-19.

As a reminder, it is appropriate for employees to raise such concerns with you as the manager, however, it is not appropriate for you to engage in any further discussion regarding another employee’s medical circumstances.

What if an employee has an underlying health condition that may make them more susceptible to COVID-19?

The Public Health Agency of Canada continues to assess the public health risk associated with the virus.

However, should this change, your employee may require an accommodation. Accommodation requirements will vary depending on the nature of the work performed and the work location(s). If a request for accommodation is made by an employee, please contact your HR Advisor or Faculty Relations Senior Manager.

I’m not clear about how to code the pay of my employees who are self-isolating. What do you advise?

The context of an employee’s self-isolation determines how to code the pay.

  • If your employee is self-isolating because they are symptomatic, their pay should be coded as sick leave (paid or unpaid depending on whether they have sick leave available).
  • If your employee is self-isolating because they have returned to Canada after travelling, we are encouraging that employees work remotely if they are asymptomatic. If they can’t work remotely and they are asymptomatic, employees are expected to use vacation time or unpaid leave.
  • If your employee has come in contact with a person who has been diagnosed with COVID-19, and your employee is asymptomatic, they should work remotely if possible. If they cannot work remotely, their pay should be coded as sick leave. If they are symptomatic, it is also sick leave.
  • If your employee has come into contact with someone who is suspected of being symptomatic with COVID-19, they must obtain the appropriate instructions on self-isolation either by contacting 8-1-1, using the online self-assessment at www.healthlinkbc.ca, or contacting their physician. If your employee is asymptomatic but advised to self-isolate for precautionary reasons, they should work remotely if possible. If they cannot work remotely, their pay should be coded as sick leave. If your employee is symptomatic, then it is also sick leave.
  • If your employee is self-isolating because they have a family member who has returned from travel and they are required to self-isolate, they should work remotely if possible. If they cannot work remotely, we ask you to consult with your HR Advisor or Faculty Relations Senior Manager.

If you are uncertain about your situation please call your HR Advisor or Faculty Relations Senior Manager.

Does an employee have the right to refuse unsafe work?

Yes, all employees have a right to refuse to perform unsafe work as long as it is based on a reasonable belief. However, should an employee advise you that they feel their working conditions are unsafe, please contact Safety and Risk Services or Okanagan campus Health, Safety and Environment prior to granting any accommodations or making adjustments to the employee’s work situation.

Temporary Remote Work Arrangements

View the UBC Telecommuting page for guidelines, checklist agreement, and additional FAQ for employees. Please review these guidelines to ensure our obligations with respect to employee safety and information security are met. Additional resources to support employees working remotely:

Can my employee work remotely from anywhere in BC?

Yes, when working remotely, employees are permitted to work anywhere within the province. Our obligations as an employer under the Occupational Health & Safety Regulation and the Workers’ Compensation Act extend to the workplace of an employee, including when they are working remotely. Please review the Telecommuting checklist, available on the Telecommuting page, for each of your employees who will be working remotely. Furthermore, guidelines for proper workstation setup can be found on the Working Remotely Ergonomics page.

Can my employee work remotely from a different province or territory?

Staff Appointments

Employees are able to work remotely from a different province and territory. However, employees working remotely outside of British Columbia must be enrolled with that specific province’s or territory’s worker’s compensation authority.

Student Appointments

Student employees are also permitted to work remotely from a different province and territory. However, it is important to distinguish different types of student appointments to ensure that the appointment constitutes an employment relationship. Students who are award recipients working only under the supervision of the University but who receive their award payment from the University are considered student employees for the purposes of workers’ compensation and as such should be registered with the appropriate workers’ compensation authority.

Award recipients who are paid externally are not employees.

Process

To register a worker in another province or territory, the department or HR Advisor needs to alert UBC’s WSBC Claims Associate Aidan Gregory by email at aidan.gregory@ubc.ca

Where can I get more information related to the different provincial/territorial bodies advising on COVID-19-related detection, prevention, treatment, and consultation information? 

Employees and their managers are expected to follow the direction of the public health authority of the specific jurisdiction in which the employees are working from. Given the rapidly changing circumstances during these unprecedented times, please regularly review the guidelines of the appropriate public health and work safety authorities.

The relevant public health and work safety authorities are listed below each province/territory.

Alberta

British Columbia

Manitoba

New Brunswick

Newfoundland and Labrador

Northwest Territories

Nova Scotia

Nunavut

Ontario

Prince Edward Island

Quebec

Saskatchewan

Yukon

Can my employee work remotely from outside of Canada?

Due to the necessity to maintain appropriate work safety coverage and information privacy, employees are required to work within Canada. Please contact your HR Advisor or Faculty Relations Senior Manager to discuss circumstances that may warrant further discussion.

How can managers/supervisors support employees who are facing challenges with dependent care (i.e. with school and childcare closures)?

As each case is different, managers and employees are encouraged to work together to understand current needs and identify solutions that enable employees to be successful with their job responsibilities. Considerations may include flexible work arrangements (i.e. flexible hours of work, reduced hours etc.) and/or other existing leaves under an employee’s specific employment agreement.

Additionally, the Employment Standards Act is temporarily offering a new leave option for employees to alleviate the unprecedented challenges in balancing professional and personal responsibilities. Specifically, this leave allows an employee to take an unpaid, job-protected leave if they’re unable to work in order to provide care to their minor child or a dependent adult who is their child or former foster child for a reason related to COVID-19, including a school, daycare or similar facility closure.

Please note that this leave is retroactive to January 27, 2020.

If employees both need to stay at home to look after dependents due to school closures and are also unable to work remotely, will this be considered either vacation time or unpaid leave?

The university is currently reviewing such circumstances and considering all feasible options and solutions. More information will be forthcoming.

What should I consider when determining whether to allow a temporary remote work arrangement?

Factors to consider include but are not limited to whether there is enough productive work that can be performed remotely; the impact to customer, student, and client services; and the impact on co-workers and direct reports.

If only a fraction of the work cannot be completed remotely, managers may want to consider the feasibility of a rotating roster system where employees attend work to complete what cannot be done remotely.

What are the key safety factors I should consider when approving my employees’ remote work arrangements?

Our obligations as an employer under the Occupational Health & Safety Regulation and the Workers’ Compensation Act extend to the workplace of an employee, including when they are working remotely. Please view the Telecommuting checklist, available on the Telecommuting page, for each of your employees who will be working remotely. Furthermore, guidelines for proper workstation setup can be found on the Working Remotely Ergonomics page.

Do these guidelines also apply to employees in the Okanagan, at Robson Square and at the hospital sites?

Yes, the guidelines apply to all employees.

Many of our employees work at the various teaching hospitals. What are our obligations to meet the protocols or requirements of other organizations in these situations?

Employees working in locations such as the teaching hospitals should follow UBC’s advised protocols as well as the other organizations’ protocols. If the protocols are differing, please contact your HR Advisor or Faculty Relations Senior Manager.

How do we ensure the confidentiality of UBC work is preserved in off-site offices of employees temporarily working remotely?

Prior to approving a temporary remote work arrangement for an employee, review the UBC policies and department policies on privacy and confidentiality. Also, ensure your department creates a checklist of all computer security requirements necessary. Review all policies and checklists with the employee prior to the employee commencing the temporary arrangement. Additionally, view the Privacy Checklist on the UBC IT Guide to Working off Campus page.

What should happen with employees who can’t work remotely?

The Public Health Agency of Canada continues to assess the public health risk associated with the virus. Anyone who is unable to work remotely should come to work as normal. Refer to the Guidelines for Telecommuting for additional information.

Are employees able to access Professional Development Funds to help set up their home office?

No, employees are not able to access Professional Development Funds to set up their home office. As per the telecommuting guidelines on the Telecommuting page, employees with a temporary work from remote work arrangement are responsible for maintaining a suitable and secure off-site workspace at their own expense. Furniture is not an eligible expense under any of UBC PD funds. However, many other professional development expenses are eligible and the details can be found online. Visit the PD Funds page or the Faculty fund eligibility page for more information.

Vacation and Leaves

What should I do if an employee has exhausted their entitlement to paid sick leave?

The university has approved temporary measures for employees who do not have access to paid sick leave as part of their employment, as well as those who have used up their paid sick bank.

Faculties/Departments should provide paid sick leave for COVID-related symptoms until June 30, 2020 for up to 10 consecutive days within the 14-day self-isolation period. For employees who have sick leave provisions as part of their employment but have used up all of their sick leave, any sick time taken will be deducted from their future sick leave accruals. Discuss this funding option with employees who don’t have paid sick leave provisions, or who have utilized their sick bank and have no sick time remaining.

Read the original memo (March 26, 2020) for information on the process for administering this approach.

If an employee advises me that they will be away from work to care for family members with COVID-19, will they be entitled to paid leave?

The provisions for paid leave to care for dependents can be found in the various employment agreements. You can also contact your HR Advisor or Faculty Relations Senior Manager.

As a supervisor, how do I manage vacation requests?

With the university’s Remote Work Arrangements in place, and as COVID-19 related travel restrictions and physical distancing protocols continue, supervisors may need to consider how best to manage vacation requests, including any requests to cancel pre-scheduled vacations. Read the full memo from Marcia Buchholz, Interim Vice-President, Human Resources, that was distributed to the HR Networks community of practice on April 15, 2020.

Business Continuity Planning

UBC Safety and Risk Services are able to support you with your business continuity planning.

If your continuity planning requires work that is specialized, or requires your employees to be certified such that you will need to contract the work out if your staffing levels fall short of the identified critical service levels, please immediately contact Human Resources through your HR Advisor or Faculty Relations Senior Manager.

If the critical services you provide do not require trained or certified staff, and you are not able to re-deploy others within your unit to reach the appropriate critical service levels, you can contact Hiring Solutions at 604.822.8107 for assistance in accessing additional staff. In the Okanagan, contact your Human Resources Advisor.

Further Information

Learn about recruiting and onboarding as well as travel and immigration during this time.

See https://covid19.ubc.ca/ for university wide updates.