VP of Human Resources McQuade: letter to Notre Dame staff

Author: Amanda Skofstad

Dear Staff,

The University of Notre Dame has been engaged in efforts to prepare for and contain the spread of COVID-19 in our community. Our highest priority has been to safeguard the health of members of the Notre Dame community and our neighbors while doing everything possible to continue our central work of education and research. Although there are currently no reported cases of the coronavirus at the University, the probability of its spread to our region is very high.

Earlier today, our University President, Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C provided important updates on the steps the University is taking to reduce the likelihood of transmission of the virus. We want to provide further information on how we can all help keep our community healthy and on our benefits policies that may be especially relevant at this time. This guidance is effective beginning immediately, through April 13, 2020. As Fr. John Jenkins indicated in his letter we will continue to assess the situation and may extend or increase our levels of protection.

Help keep our community healthy through prevention, exposure management and isolation when necessary. We each play an important role in preventing the spread of communicable diseases to others and are offering the following guidelines to do so.

1. Follow the preventive measures recommended by the CDC:

  • Stay home if you are sick.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol if soap and water are not available.

2. If you have symptoms or have been exposed to the virus, or if one of your dependents needs to be quarantined or isolated:

  • Call your primary health care provider, or schedule a visit with the Notre Dame Wellness Center or with LiveHealth Online (telehealth) to be evaluated. Additionally, the Notre Dame Wellness Center will start offering telehealth visits on March 16.
  • Please make use of the considerable personal and family illness leave policies available to our benefit-eligible faculty and staff.
  • To help accommodate the changes that may occur with both child and elder care arrangements, the Bright Horizons Back-Up Care benefit
    program is available to help provide short-term, last-minute child and elder care services for low, University-subsidized co-payments.

3. If a healthcare provider or agency says you should be quarantined or isolated:

  • If you are able to work from home, you may do so.
  • If you are not able to work from home, the University will pay you for the 14 days you have to be quarantined or isolated. This time off will be provided in addition to the paid time off you have already accrued.

4. Seek emotional support from the Employee Assistance Program.

  • If you are experiencing feelings of stress or anxiety about these events, please contact LifeWorks, the University’s Employee Assistance Program
  • By contacting LifeWorks, you will be able to reach a person to talk to in order to receive emotional support as well as referrals to resources and services.

Continue with normal operations until further notice and enact social distancing practices. Even though student presence will be limited at this time, the University will remain open and will continue with normal operations with practices enacted to encourage social distancing to lessen the risk of the virus spreading.

Social distancing practices will include preparing to work remotely, preparing for limited staffing and adhering to the events/conferences/meetings/travel guidelines communicated by Fr. John Jenkins earlier today. Below are some things we ask you to begin discussing in your areas of control.

1.Staff who can adequately carry out their job duties from home should make sure they are immediately prepared for the possibility of doing so.

  • Employees should discuss potential alternate work options with managers before making any changes to their work schedule or work location
  • The Alternative Work Site policy provides guidance as to how to provide alternative work site options for their staff. For the time being, managers have flexibility to approve and do not need to send the form to HR for review and approval. Managers have complete authority to execute this policy.
  • Non-exempt employees who work remotely should ensure they follow all rules related to breaks, meal periods, and overtime.

2. Preparing for limited staffing.

  • As in the case when the University is affected by adverse weather, we may need to prepare for conditions where only certain staff are present on campus
  • Additional measures and policies are being considered at this time, and
    we will work with division leaders to ascertain a list of staff who need to be present if a limited staffing situation should become necessary.
  • During this time, all full-time and part-time regular employees will continue to receive the regular pay and benefits for work hours for which they are normally scheduled. This will apply even if their department goes to limited staffing or they are not able to work due to organizational decisions.

3. Delaying or suspend events and meetings that bring large numbers of people together in close proximity.

  • These instructions apply to any type of meeting or event that brings large numbers of people together in close proximity.
  • Moreover, gatherings of any size should ensure that appropriate social distancing (six feet between attendees) is provided
  • We encourage those organizing meetings on campus to use remote technology if possible, such as conference calls video conferencing, or to delay or suspend large-scale events.

Thank you for everything you are doing to help us manage our efforts, especially those of you involved in the growing, cross-functional teams working around the clock to address this situation. As circumstances continue to unfold, we will continuously review our policies and processes to support our University operations. I am proud to be part of an organization where we are all committed to finding the best solutions possible to safeguard our community, our neighbors and our mission.

In Notre Dame,

Robert K. McQuade
Vice President, Human Resources