Some HUCTW members have reached out to the Union office with questions about how Harvard’s response to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak affects our membership. On Monday, March 9, Harvard President Larry Bacow announced that after the spring break, and beginning on March 23, Harvard will be holding all undergraduate and graduate classes remotely (online rather than in person) and that students should not return to campus if possible.
As of now, Harvard is still asking all healthy union and non-union staff to work as normal. HUCTW leaders want to ensure that members experience no loss in pay as a result of Harvard’s response to the Coronavirus and that all members have access to adequate sick time for themselves or affected loved ones. We also recognize that HUCTW members work in hundreds of diverse jobs across Harvard with unique health needs and family commitments, so very different questions may arise for individual members depending on their personal circumstances. HUCTW leaders are available to help you work through any workplace concerns or questions that may arise. You can email the HUCTW office at at firstname.lastname@example.org or call us at 617-661-8289 and we will put you in touch with a union organizer who works with your deparment. All conversations are confidential.
In the context of the Harvard-HUCTW contract, there are several things to be aware of:
- The Harvard-HUCTW contract supports and encourages flexible work arrangements, including working from home (telework/remote work). And Harvard is currently encouraging as many staff as possible to get prepared to work from home. If you need help negotiating a flexible schedule or work from home arrangement with your supervisor, an HUCTW organizer can help you. According to our contract, flexible schedule requests and telework requests may not be unreasonably denied. (HUCTW Agreement, pages 17-18). Hundreds of HUCTW members already work flexible schedules and work from home.
- The HUCTW contract also contains language that indicates that “…the University should not require any employee to perform a task that endangers her/his health or safety.” (HUCTW Agreement, pages 19). If you feel like your health or safety is endangered by coming to work, talk to your doctor about your concerns and your chance of risk. You can also talk to your supervisor or call or email the HUCTW office and we can help you figure out next steps.
- If you have other specific concerns about your particular workplace situation in light of the virus, please contact HUCTW and we can help you strategize about how to address those concerns. All conversations are confidential.
We have also pulled some key excerpts from Harvard’s Coronavirus Information that are particularly relevant to staff:
- Employees who are at increased risk for complications from COVID-19 due to underlying health conditions are urged to consult their physician 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 their exposure to others or chances of being infected. If an employee at risk for complications from COVID-19 and their physician agree that increased social distancing in the workplace is prudent, the employee should contact their local HR office to formally request a temporary change…
- If departments, offices or operations are closed by Harvard or public health authorities due to COVID-19, Harvard will provide affected non-remote employees with alternate work assignments or an emergency-related paid excused absence. If this occurs, Harvard would make commitments to pay continuation for a defined period of time (e.g., 30 days), with review and possible extension as conditions change…
- If large-scale remote work is implemented, those who will continue to work on campus – because their jobs require it and they are well, will likely be advised to maintain physical distance from others of at least 6 feet. If they have an underlying health condition or concern, they may request a change in job duties, location, hours, etc. by contacting local human resources…
- Employees may exceed the annual limits on the use of family and dependent care sick time (normally 2 to 12 days per year for staff) to care for dependents who are ill, or whose schools or care arrangements have been disrupted due to COVID-19…
- Employees with insufficient accrued sick leave may use up to 14 unearned sick days (they may accrue negative sick leave balances of up to 14 days) for illness, to meet self-isolation or quarantine requirements, or for the active care of others because of disruptions relating to COVID-19. Harvard will review this threshold periodically as conditions change…
- Normally, Harvard’s flexible work guidelines prohibit remote workers from simultaneously caring for dependent family members. Those guidelines are being relaxed in these extraordinary circumstances … If working remotely with relatively self-sufficient dependents or household members at home due to COVID-19 disruptions – no need to report the use of paid time off.
These are excerpts are taken from Harvard’s Coronavirus Workplace Policies document, but you should read the complete document to see all of the new Harvard policies. These are new policies that Harvard leaders have implemented in response to the outbreak, but HUCTW leaders are in close touch with the University and may wind up negotiating with Harvard leaders to adjust policies to better meet members’ needs.
Below are links to resources that members may find useful:
- Harvard Coronavirus Workplace Policies:
- Harvard Coronavirus Travel Guidance:
- Harvard Coronavirus FAQ:
- Center for Disease Control (CDC) Fact Sheets About Coronavirus:
- Massachusetts State Government Coronavirus FAQ: