Non-essential University of Georgia employees unable to work remotely will receive non-closure emergency paid leave, according to a Wednesday Archnews announcement.
This includes full-time and part-time employees not considered essential during the suspension of in-person instruction for the remainder of the semester. Temporary workers, including students or rehired retirees, aren’t eligible for the paid leave, the announcement said.
Employees should be placed on paid leave if they haven’t been deemed essential by their unit head or have not been given a telework or work-from-home assignment, according to UGA Human Resources.
All public events for the spring semester have been canceled, and certain facilities, such as the Main Library and Zell B. Miller Learning Center, are closed, according to a March 17 Archnews announcement. Housing is still open for students with extenuating circumstances, and dining services cut its operations to take-out service at Bolton Dining Commons.
The emergency paid leave will last for 120 days after March 23 or after the Georgia state of emergency ends, according to Human Resources.
The University System of Georgia granted UGA President Jere Morehead and other university presidents the authority to implement these procedures, according to the announcement.
This amendment to the USG Board of Regents’ policy was requested by the United Campus Workers of Georgia in a March 19 press release. The union has advocated for emergency paid leave since the transition to teleworking due to a reduction in campus operations, said Joseph Carter, UCWGA founding member.
“This is not a time to delay,” Carter said. “[Emergency paid leave] needs to be extended for everyone. This is an issue of equity.”
However, Carter also said there should be more clarity as to the logistics and timeliness of the implementation. Carter said the university should reduce the number of employees deemed essential to minimize the overall risk of exposure to COVID-19 for personnel.
Human Resources advised managers and supervisors to use rotation schedules in an “equitable manner,” reducing the hours an employee is required on campus, and to implement social distancing measures while employees are working.
Carter also expressed concerns about the lack of transparency with the policy change. The policy change, Carter said, was initially sent to UCWGA from an anonymous source on Monday afternoon, but UGA faculty and staff were not notified about the amendment until the Archnews announcement Wednesday morning.
Carter said the amendment of the emergency leave procedure addressed one of the union’s initial demands, but UCWGA is still requesting protection for essential personnel on campus, including adequate personal protective equipment, healthcare coverage and double wages due to their increased risk of exposure to COVID-19. Additionally, Carter said the university should cease all permanent and temporary layoffs during this period of time.
“While they did the right thing — the good thing — to issue emergency paid leave, it needs to be extended to everyone, and it needs to be announced to everyone in a public way,” Carter said. “University of Georgia is a public institution, and as such, accountable to all taxpayers.”