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Guidance Regarding Return to Onsite Work for Academic Appointees

Issued - June 23, 2021 (UCOP) & July 7, 2021 (UC Merced)

"The distinctive mission of the University is to serve society as a center of higher learning, providing long-term societal benefits through transmitting advanced knowledge, discovering new knowledge, and functioning as an active working repository of organized knowledge. That obligation, more specifically, includes undergraduate education, graduate and professional education, research, and other kinds of public service, which are shaped and bounded by the central pervasive mission of discovering and advancing knowledge."

University of California’s Mission Statement

 

Consistent with the direction provided by President Drake and the Council of Chancellors, the University of California is returning to in-person operations Fall 2021. Administration and Senate Leadership agree that the default mode of instruction and research must be in-person. As an in-person institution, the University will conduct its regular business, including teaching and research, with faculty, staff, and students physically present, with flexibility in the Fall given space limitations or public health guidelines. In the long run, the connectivity and common experiences afforded by campus presence are essential for building, strengthening, and maintaining a robust and inclusive university culture that supports our innovative work as a student-centered, research-focused, service-oriented university.

 

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the University community has risen to the challenge and shown that it is able to continue to fulfill the University’s mission when extreme circumstances require campuses to temporarily physically close. The health and safety of our University community is our main concern and if health restrictions, governmental guidelines, or other safety matters require such a transition in the future, short-term periods of remote instruction, research, and service may be appropriate. Individual cases may also arise in which the University, applying the below policies, guidance, and adhering to the University’s mission statement, determines that periods of remote work are appropriate.

 

As codified in Academic Personnel Manual (APM - 110 and APM - 671), an academic appointee is primarily engaged in teaching, research or other creative activities, clinical care, the cultivation of scholarly or creative competence, or the public service mission of the University and is critical to the educational experience of our students and trainees. As we plan and take steps toward re-opening in-person University operations, it is important to refer to the same policies for guidance on how we further the University’s mission of discovering and advancing knowledge in undergraduate education, graduate and professional education, research, and other kinds of public service. Consistent with APM - 025 (Conflict of Commitment and Outside Activities of Faculty Members), APM – 671 (Conflict of Commitment and Outside Activities of Health Sciences Compensation Plan Participants), and APM – 700 (Leaves of Absence/General), to fulfill obligations to students, colleagues, and to the University as a whole, academic appointees must maintain a significant presence on campus, meet classes, keep office hours, hold examinations as scheduled, be accessible to students and staff, be available to interact with University colleagues, and share service responsibilities throughout every semester of active service. For represented academic appointees, the relevant collective bargaining agreements (CBAs) provide information, including the management rights and work authorization provisions. The following guidance is offered as the campus develops plans to return to in-person operations in the fall.

 

  1. GUIDING PRINCIPLES

 

As UC Merced transitions to fall operations, the following principles should provide guidance for academic appointees:

 

  1. Fall 2021 Transition Considerations
  • The excellence of UC rests on the quality of its academic appointees and their engagement with the teaching and research mission.
    • The remote work necessitated by COVID-19 has opened possible new options for maintaining teaching of high quality through instructional experiences made possible by new technologies. UC Merced is returning to in-person instruction for Fall 2021. All courses will be taught in-person unless previously approved by the Senate for online delivery and scheduled as online by the department chair. Instructors and TAs may not make individual arrangements with students to allow them to participate remotely in in-person courses.
    • UC is a world-leading Research-1 institution and must support full recovery of research and creative activity. Laboratories, performance spaces, and other research areas should be re-opened as soon as possible in accordance with public health guidelines.
  • UC’s commitment to equity remains paramount. The University is committed to equitable treatment of its academic appointees and students as it transitions from a remote environment back to the campus experience that has traditionally defined UC work. Equity should be applied in all major decisions, especially given that the pandemic has disproportionately affected various communities, for instance, people of color, women, low-income communities, and caregivers.
  1. Long-Term Considerations
  • Many of UC’s curriculum and training opportunities are rooted in common, in-person experiences. In-person instruction provides community, intellectual exchange, and experiential interactions. UC remains committed to providing such instruction as the bedrock of its service to the State of California.
  • UC should consider the disruptions of the pandemic an opportunity for innovation and structural change.Decision-makers should take advantage of our upended processes to test and measure new ways to forward UC’s missions in teaching, research, and service.
  • The excellence of UC has a foundation in its established policy and practice, including principles of academic freedom, superior intellectual attachment, and peer review. As much as possible, Regents Bylaws, Standing Orders and Policy, Academic Senate By-Laws, Presidential Policies, and Academic Personnel Manual policies should undergird planning.
  1. Eligibility for Flexible Work Arrangements

Fall 2021 is a transition period when campuses are re-opening, and flexible work arrangements may still be needed. Each campus should exercise its judgment regarding range of flexible work arrangements for Fall, based on space restrictions, public safety, and programmatic needs. Reminder: UC Merced is returning to in-person instruction for Fall 2021. All courses will be taught in-person unless previously approved by the Senate for online delivery and scheduled as online by the department chair. Instructors and TAs are not eligible for flexible work arrangements for instruction.

 

In the long term, work arrangements of academic appointees should align with university policies and expectations. Faculty members must maintain a significant presence on campus; meet classes, keep office hours; administer examinations as scheduled; be accessible to students and staff; be available to interact with University colleagues; and share service responsibilities throughout every semester of active service, per APM. Non-faculty academic appointees can assume a more flexible work arrangement and agreement, if needed.

 

If an academic appointee requests a flexible work arrangement, the department, program, or unit will determine eligibility by considering the job duties, relevant policies such as the APM or CBA, and the considerations set forth above. Not all academic appointees and positions are suitable for flexible work. Each department, program, or unit will consider new or modified flexible work arrangements objectively and fairly. Flexible work arrangements are not a given right. A department, program, or unit should evaluate such arrangement on an ongoing basis to ensure that the academic appointee’s teaching, research, scholarship, and service are not compromised by the flexible work arrangement.

 

Campus decisions about which positions are eligible for flexible work will be based on the academic appointee’s job duties, relevant policies such as the APM or CBA, the considerations set forth above, as well as academic and programmatic needs. All academic positions in a department, program, or unit should be evaluated for flexible work eligibility, and such agreements should be arranged in the same timeframe to ensure fair treatment. A flexible work arrangement that is appropriate for one position may not be appropriate for another, for the reasons set forth in this section.

 

  1. Academic Personnel Considerations
  1. Compensation

An academic appointee’s salary must cohere with academic personnel compensation policies, even for fully remote academic appointees whose services are performed away from the job location in California or another state. Academic Personnel Manual – 600 series (Salary Administration), collective bargaining agreements (CBAs), and applicable local procedures govern academic compensation. Work expectations should not be affected by the academic appointee’s flexible work schedule.

 

  1. Health and Welfare Benefits

Academic appointees who live or relocate outside of a benefit plan’s coverage area may have limited benefits and provider options. If academic appointees have questions about specific insurance options when they move outside of their plan’s coverage area or out of state, they should be directed to our local Benefits Office (benefits@ucmerced.edu).

 

Academic appointees are responsible for updating their personal information in UCPath. Academic appointees who move out of their plan’s coverage area have the opportunity to select a new plan that will offer in-network care. If academic appointees have specific questions about updating their personal information or changing their benefit plan, they should contact UCPath.

 

  1. Disability Management

Requests for disability accommodation should be handled in accordance with APM – 711 Reasonable Accommodation for Academic Appointees with Disabilities or the applicable CBA. This includes situations where an academic appointee with a disability requests a flexible work arrangement as a reasonable accommodation. It also includes situations where a remote academic appointee with a disability or a hybrid remote academic appointee with a disability may need a reasonable accommodation to perform the essential functions of their position. Instructors with a qualifying disability: An instructor may request reasonable accommodations for a qualifying disability, following these guidelines: Local Procedures for Accommodations. Please contact Disability Management Services with questions.

 

  1. Other Flexible Work Considerations
  1. Ergonomics

The University is responsible for ensuring that work assigned to the academic appointee can be performed safely offsite and for providing the academic appointee with ergonomic equipment in accordance with local procedures. When performing work for the University, the academic appointee is responsible for maintaining a safe and secure work environment and for arranging the remote worksite in an ergonomically sound manner. Departments, programs, or units should direct the academic appointee to Environmental Health and Safety for assistance in setting up an ergonomically correct non-University worksite and may provide telecommuting academic appointees with information on a safe and ergonomically sound work environment. More information regarding campus furniture program can be found here. Also, see BFB-G-46: Guidelines for the Purchase and Use of Cellular Phones and Other Portable Electronic Resources and the Electronic Communications Policy. Generally, only one set of equipment will be provided by the university. Employees with flexible work arrangements are not entitled to dedicated work/office space on campus and may be assigned shared work/office space for in-person work.

 

  1. Workers’ Compensation

Work-related injuries incurred in the non-University worksite, during agreed upon working hours, should be reported promptly to the department, program, or unit. Such reports will be handled in the same manner as reports of injuries in the normal workplace. If an injury arising out of the course and scope of the assigned job duties while working at home/alternate site, the workers’ compensation provisions in place for the state or country in which a telecommuter is working will apply as applicable. The employee must notify the supervisor immediately and complete all necessary and/or management-requested documents regarding the reported injury. Please note: Risk Management at UCOP maintains Out-of-State Workers’ Compensation Policy for employees who work in a state outside of California.

 

Academic appointees working in California and outside of California should address any questions to the Workers’ Compensation manager at benefits@ucmerced.edu. Workers’ compensation laws vary by state. Additional information may be found: https://hr.ucmerced.edu/hr-units/benefits/workers-compensation.

 

  1. Payroll and Tax

The University is registered in all 44 states that impose an income tax. To ensure appropriate tax withholding, current UC academic appointees who relocate outside California must change their address and withholding information in UCPath to the state in which the academic appointee’s services are performed (not the UC job location).

 

Tax withholding for fully remote UC academic appointees who reside and work outside California is based upon the state where the academic appointee’s services are performed. Academic appointees should be aware of California tax residency rules and work with an outside tax adviser to ensure that they do not also have a California tax liability if they have not completely severed their residency in California.

 

Departments should be aware that there are some jurisdictions, such as the City of Seattle, that have a payroll expense tax that is imposed on the employer but not the academic appointee. Prior to entering into an out-of-state flexible work agreement, please send state employment tax withholding inquiries to UC Merced Payroll Services (payrollservices@ucmerced.edu).

 

  1. Technology Needs

Standard IT equipment needed to perform job duties should be provided in accordance with applicable policies and procedures. Additional equipment may be provided for accommodation needs identified by Disability Management as described in E. 3. The academic appointee is responsible for supplying any additional equipment needed for their workspace not provided by the University. Any University-owned equipment must be properly returned prior to separating from University employment. The academic appointee is responsible for working with the appropriate department to arrange timely return of equipment.

 

The University provides a wide range of tools that aid effective and productive teamwork, including but not limited to virtual private network (VPN) software, single sign on (SSO) & two-factor authentication, email and calendar, soft phone dialer, video and audio conferencing, electronic document storage, and other corporate technology tools such as financial, collaboration and productivity applications.

 

  1. Reimbursable Expenses for Remote Work

Remote and hybrid-remote academic appointees working outside of the job location at their own convenience are not on travel status as defined in Business and Finance Bulletin G-28, Travel Regulations, as “the period during which a traveler is traveling on official University business outside the vicinity of their headquarters or residence.” If an academic appointee must travel to their job location, that is considered a non-reimbursable commuting expense.

 

Reimbursement for work-related travel should be made from the academic appointee’s job location, not from where the academic appointee’s services are performed (for remote academic appointees, the academic appointee’s home or other work location).

 

Expenses related to work needs, such as internet connectivity or phone usage, are governed by Business and Finance Bulletin G-46: Guidelines for the Purchase of Cellular Phones and Other Portable Electronic Resources. Only business-related equipment that can be returned to the office at the end of the remote work arrangement should be reimbursed. If any item needs to be installed, charges related to the installation will be the responsibility of the academic appointee. Locations should evaluate on a case-by-case basis when reimbursements are necessary for academic appointees who have specific needs that are not already met through existing resources.

Academic appointees should work with their departments, programs, or units for regular office supply needs. Such supplies may be shipped to remote academic appointees, if needed.

Generally, the University will not pay for the following expenses, nor will it reimburse for expenses prohibited by University policy, including, but not limited to:

- Maintenance or repairs of privately-owned equipment;

- Utility and internet costs associated with the use of equipment or occupation of the home;

- Equipment supplies (these should be requisitioned through the department); and,

- Travel expenses associated with commuting to and from the central office (unless otherwise pre-negotiated with the Supervisor or Manager and in accordance with applicable UC policies).

 

  1. Academic Appointee Resources

An academic appointee’s mental health is as important as their physical health. Departments, programs, or units should inform academic appointees of available resources on well-being and self-care, including mindfulness practices and their local academic appointee assistance program. A description of behavioral health resources can be found at: https://hr.ucmerced.edu/hr-units/benefits/health-welfare-benefits/behavioral-health.

 

  1. Flexible Work Agreements

Flexible work is likely to succeed when there is a clear understanding and transparent agreement between the academic appointee and department, program, or unit on expectations and responsibilities. Flexible work agreements must serve the best interests of the University’s academic and programmatic needs. The agreements detailed here are likely to be developed for non-faculty academic appointees as all courses will be taught in-person unless previously approved by the Senate for online delivery and scheduled as online by the department chair.

 

The flexible work agreement must be written, signed, and dated by the academic appointee and the appointee’s supervisor and/or department, program, or unit head or designee. Agreements should be for a specified timeframe with a designated end date. A copy should be provided to the academic appointee and the original agreement should be kept in the academic appointee’s personnel file in the Academic Personnel Office (academicpersonnel@ucmerced.edu).

 

Flexible work agreements should be as specific as possible, and may include the following:

  • Begin date and end date, and renewability. Agreements shall not be longer than 1 year.
  • Times the academic appointee is expected to be working, as appropriate to the role.
  • Where the duties are to be performed.
  • Expectations about availability of the academic appointee, communication with the department, program, or unit head or designee and adequate means of communication

• When remote, the employee agrees to respond in a prompt manner as they would at an onsite location(s). Additionally, the employee agrees to have an online presence. Employee-initiated schedule changes must be discussed and approved in advance by the supervisor.

• The employee agrees to seek advance approval by their supervisor prior to any change in terms of the work schedule or for use of sick leave, vacation, compensatory time off, or any other leave of absence in accordance with University policies and procedures, departmental guidelines and/or the appropriate collective bargaining agreement. Any overtime work must be approved in advance by the supervisor.

  • Appropriate methods of contact, for instance, cell phone number, email, Teams, Zoom
  • Expectations about travel to job location, with reasonable notice based on academic and programmatic needs
  • A statement that regardless of the flexible work agreement, the duties, obligations, responsibilities, and conditions of the employee’s employment with the University remain unchanged. Employees are expected to meet the established performance standards and supervisors/managers are expected to use the same performance review criteria for all evaluations of performance and service. The employee’s salary, retirement, vacation and sick leave and Extended Sick Leave (ESL) benefits and insurance coverage shall remain the same.
  • A statement indicating that the academic appointee agrees to maintain a safe and healthy workenvironment, and that the academic appointee agrees to hold the University harmless for injury to others at the non-University worksite
    • The employee agrees to remain up to date on all safety-related training, including online ergonomic training available to employees. The employee agrees to maintain a safe and ergonomically-sound work environment. The employee further agrees to make workstation safety change, as recommended by Environmental Health & Safety (EH&S) and the supervisor. Principles of ergonomics may be found at: http://ehs.ucmerced.edu/general-safety/ergonomics.
    • The employee agrees to indemnify and hold The Regents of the University of California harmless from any and all claims, actions, suits, procedures, costs, expenses, damages and liabilities, including attorney’s fees brought by third parties including personal injury, accidents or illnesses (including death), and property loss arising from, but not limited to, their presence at the telecommute work location.
  • A statement that the academic appointee agrees to provide a secure location for University-owned equipment and materials, and will not use, or allow others to use, such equipment for purposes other than University business; and that the University is entitled to reasonable access to its equipment and materials

• All equipment, records, and materials provided by the University shall remain University property. The employee agrees that the equipment listed on this Flexible Work Agreement, will be returned by the employee for inspection, repair, replacement, as needed or requested or upon termination of this agreement. It is the employee’s responsibility to read and accept BFB-RMP-2: Records Retention and Disposition: Principles, Processes, and Guidelines

• The employee is responsible for maintaining and repairing employee-owned equipment at personal expense and on personal time.

• The employee agrees to use electronic equipment that has been encrypted and meets all of the University’s security requirements. If the University provides equipment for home use, the employee agrees to provide a secure location for University-owned equipment and will not use, or allow others to use, such equipment for purposes other than University business. The University is responsible for maintaining, repairing, and replacing University-owned equipment issued to employee. In the event of equipment malfunction, the employee must notify their supervisor immediately. If repairs take some time, the department will find alternative means to continue the employee’s work including, but not limited to, asking the employee to report to the main office until the equipment is usable.

• The employee agrees to comply with the following electronic policies: Acceptable Use Policy; Electronic Communications Policy; IS-3 Electronic Information Policy, Minimum Security Standards for Networked Devices.

  • A statement that the academic appointee must ensure that any University records in their possession will be available to the department when requested
  • A statement that the department, program, or unit retains the right to modify the agreement on a temporary basis as a result of business necessity, or as a result of an academic appointee request supported by the department, program, or unit head or designee
  • Reimbursable expenses, if any (see E. 5.)
  • An inventoried list of all equipment including serial numbers or other identifying characteristics (e.g. model numbers) the academic appointee is using in their remote work location

 

Flexible work agreements are subject to ongoing review by the supervisor and may be modified or rescinded with reasonable notice in accordance with local procedures. Examples of situations that may require an amendment or rescission of an approved flexible work agreement include but are not limited to:

  • Academic mission is not maintained
  • Programmatic needs change or are no longer being met
  • Job or job requirements change

The process used to alter or end a work arrangement should be as careful as the process to initiate it. If an academic appointee wishes to dispute the terms or conditions of their flexible work arrangement, the department, program, or unit should attempt to resolve the matter informally with the academic appointee. If needed, departments, programs, or units should consult with their dean’s office or equivalent leadership, or the Academic Personnel Office. If informal resolution cannot be achieved, departments, programs, or units should inform the academic appointee in writing that the academic appointee should file a complaint in accordance with the academic appointee’s applicable complaint process.