Working Remotely During Covid

UMS Workplace Policies and Guidance regarding COVID-19

For Together for Maine

As the University of Maine System continues to monitor the local, national, and worldwide incidence of the coronavirus and the illness it causes, COVID-19, faculty and staff members are encouraged to work remotely to the maximum extent feasible. Extensive further guidance is provided below.

Potential Additional Policy Changes

If public health conditions worsen, the University of Maine System’s policies may be further adjusted. This would be done to address the effects of more widespread illness or absences, more frequent needs for self-isolation or quarantine, disruption of care arrangements or UMS priorities for pay continuity. Faculty and staff will be notified as necessary of such changes and should also check Together for Maine for updates.

Questions may be directed to your Employee Benefits Center at 207-973-3373 and/or your campus Human Resources Office.

Workers at Higher Risk: Employees who are at increased risk for complications from COVID-19 are urged to consult their healthcare provider about steps they can take to protect their health. These may include requesting a temporary change in job location, hours, assignment or duties, or implementation of additional protective measures to reduce exposure to others or chances of becoming infected. Please consult your supervisor to explore your work-from-home options. Supervisors are encouraged to work with their Human Resources Partners for guidance.

Detailed guidance follows below.

Important Information About Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) Benefits and the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021: On Thursday, March 11, President Biden signed into law the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARPA). The University of Maine System has elected to continue to provide Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) benefits to eligible employees through the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). The expanded use of FFCRA through the ARPA helps individuals and their families meet the variety of challenges associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.

The new benefits under FFCRA/ARPA are effective April 1 through September 30, 2021.

What’s New?

  • FFCRA Sick Leave and Family Care benefits of 80 hours (prorated for part-time employees) will begin anew on April 1, 2021, regardless of prior usage.
  • The legislation added reasons for using sick leave to include vaccination related time, such as getting vaccinated or recovering from the health related effects of a vaccination.
  • The American Rescue Plan Act also extended FFCRA Emergency Family Medical Leave Act (EFMLA) benefits through September 30, 2021. EFMLA benefits have been expanded to a total period of 12 weeks up to a maximum of $12,000.

While this news is most welcome for University of Maine System employees, it does hold the possibility of creating some confusion about how to account for time spent obtaining a COVID-19 vaccination in the weeks to come.

Important Information about Time Reporting for the COVID-19 Vaccination: You may recall, on March 5, Chancellor Malloy authorized all UMS managers to help make vaccination a workplace priority and provide faculty and staff with the flexibility needed to get vaccinated when appropriate.

In addition, the Chancellor authorized two hours paid administrative leave (COVID leave for time reporting) for anyone to use to get their first vaccination.

Time used under the relevant FFCRA vaccination time reporting code and any other FFCRA Sick Leave/Family Care time taken cannot exceed 80 hours in total.

To record time for COVID-19 vaccinations obtained during scheduled working hours, use the following time reporting codes:

Prior to April 1: Use “COVID Leave” not to exceed two hours

April 1 or after: 

  • FFVXH (for hourly employees)
  • FFVXS (for salaried employees)
  • COVID Leave time

For more details on how to enter your vaccination related time on your timesheet, please visit the Human Resources Operations COVID19 Information Site (External Site).

To apply for FFCRA benefits for reasons other than the use of a vaccine, please complete the online form on the site linked above.

For more information on FFCRA or the ARPA, please contact your HR Partner or Employee Benefits Center at benefits@maine.edu or 1-207-973-3373.

Your HR Team

The 2021 Wellness Program is now in place. Please visit the 2021 Wellness Guide for important information. Employees will have until 4/30/2021 to satisfy Level 1 for 2021.

Should you have any questions, please contact your Employee Benefits Center at benefits@maine.edu or 207-973-3373.

The following checklist is designed to help you assess the safety of your home office.

  • Is the work area quiet and free of distraction?
  • Are temperature, noise, ventilation, and lighting levels adequate for maintaining your normal level of job performance?
  • Is all electrical equipment free of recognized hazards that would cause physical harm (frayed wires, bare conductors, overloaded circuits, exposed or loose wires)?
  • Will the home’s electrical system permit the grounding of electrical equipment (a grounded 3-prong receptacle)?
  • Are aisles, doorways, and corners free of obstructions to permit visibility and movement?
  • Are file cabinets and storage closets arranged so drawers and doors do not enter walkways?
  • Are phone lines, electrical cords, and surge protectors secured to prevent tripping or entanglement?
  • Is the area in which the University equipment and files will be kept secured from unauthorized users?
  • Is your chair adjustable?
  • Is your back supported by a backrest?
  • Are your thighs parallel to the floor and your knees at a right angle when sitting at your workstation?
  • Are your feet flat on the floor or supported by a footrest?
  • Is the monitor approximately an arm’s length from you? Note: If you work with a monitor that is 17 inches or larger, you may need to move it a few inches farther away.
  • Is the top of the monitor slightly below your eye level? Note: If you wear glasses, you may need to position the monitor differently.
  • Is the monitor directly in front of you?
  • Is the screen positioned to minimize glare and reflections from overhead lights, windows, and other light sources?
  • Are documents placed next to the monitor and at the same distance and height as the screen? If not, use a document holder.
  • Are the height and angle of the keyboard adjusted to keep your wrist in a straight (neutral) position?
  • Are your elbows bent at a right angle when your hands are resting on the keyboard?
  • Are the screen’s brightness and contrast controls set for optimal viewing?
  • Are your head upright and shoulders relaxed when you are looking at the screen?
  • Is the mouse positioned close to the keyboard and at the same level?
  • Do you have adequate leg room under your desk?
  • Are your arms and elbows close to your body when typing?
  • Do you use a headset or speaker phone if you use the phone frequently?
  • Do you periodically change positions, stand up, and/or stretch?

(Last reviewed/updated: 01/13/2021)