Coronavirus Workplace Policies

Most Important Actions to Take Now

  1. Follow public heath directives about staying home as much as possible, and continue basic preventive measures
  2. Know the signs of COVID-19, as compared to other illnesses. If you are ill, contact your health care provider to seek advice. Don’t let costs stand in the way of getting the care you need – see these recently expanded COVID-19 benefits from Harvard’s employee health plans.
  3. Please report a presumptive or confirmed COVID-19 diagnosis to HUHS by email at, even if you do not get your care from HUGHP. HUHS is monitoring cases and trends for our whole community.
  4. Attend to your mental health. Contact the Employee Assistance Program at 877-EAP-HARV (877-327-4278) for help with feelings of stress or anxiety, or consult this advice from HUHS. Remember that Harvard's employee health plans provide comprehensive coverage for physical and mental health care.
  5. Work remotely if you can, and express appreciation for those essential Harvard co-workers who are still working on campus. Understand recent enhancements in Harvard’s Workplace Policies, below.

Enhanced Harvard Workplace Policies (effective 3/27/20)

Harvard continues to place the highest priority on the health, safety and wellbeing of its faculty, staff and students, as well as the wider community. Because of this, most Harvard students are no longer in residence and we have moved many academic programs online.

Staff have now shifted to remote work wherever possible (and indefinitely), and sustaining the essential on-campus services that protect the Harvard campus and community.

On the home front, many are grappling with the personal effects of Massachusetts-wide school closures and public health directives to stay at home, while monitoring their own health and the health of loved ones.

These workplace policies have been updated to address these recent, highly disruptive changes. Not every question has been answered, nor every situation anticipated. Please apply them with equal measures of common sense and compassion, consulting with managers, leaders and local HR as needed.

Use of Sick Time and Dependent Care Sick Time

  • Paid Sick Time: Harvard provides significant paid sick time for all benefits-eligible faculty and staff.  Visit this summary, the Harvard Staff Personnel Manual, your union contract or your faculty handbook for additional details.
    • Note: Other workers may have paid sick time under Massachusetts law.
    • Advanced Use of Paid Sick Time: Employees with not enough accrued sick time may use up to 14 unearned sick days (that is, 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 policy periodically as conditions change.
      • Harvard reserves the right to recoup this time from the final paycheck of employees who terminate before they rebuild their accrued sick time.
    • Reporting Sick Time: Please report sick time taken, or time taken for family/dependent care online in PeopleSoft or other Harvard timekeeping systems promptly, or ask that it be done for you. Public health authorities may ask employers like Harvard to monitor and report trends in absences.
    • Return to Work: In general, written medical clearance will not be required for return to on-campus or remote work. (Harvard departments with specific health and safety requirements, such as food services, may have different policies.) This is being done to avoid overtaxing health care resources.
    • Documentation: A “doctor’s note” or documentation of dependent care responsibilities will not be required, except in very rare cases where abuse of paid sick/dependent care time is suspected. It is assumed that Harvard employees are honest and trustworthy in their dealings with each other and the University.
    • Flexible use of sick time: Employees may use paid sick time for self-isolation or quarantine, even if they are not sick, when it is required or recommended by public health authorities/guidelines or by health care providers.
    • Flexible use of dependent care sick time: Employees may use paid family and dependent care sick time to care for immediate family and household members who are not ill but need care due to any COVID-19 related disruptions in schools, childcare, or elder care.
      • Normally, Harvard’s flexible work guidelines prohibit remote work while caring for dependent family members. Those guidelines are being relaxed right now. That means:
        • If you are not working in order to actively care for dependents or household members – use dependent care sick time
        • If you are 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.
      • Employees may exceed the regular 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. Use of family and dependent care sick time is still subject to the availability of regular sick time, plus an additional 14 days of "unearned" (i.e., not yet earned) sick time. For example, if an employee has 15 sick days already accrued, all 15 days plus an additional 14 days of unearned sick time could be used for family and dependent care.
        • As noted above, "negative" sick balances will be deducted from the final paycheck of employees who terminate before they can rebuild their accrued sick time. For this reason, staff may prefer to use personal or vacation days for this purpose.  
    • Remote Work: Harvard asks all staff who can work remotely to do so, and plan to do so indefinitely. This will help the University sustain workplace social distancing, comply with government and public health directives, contribute to the public health, and reduce exposure for our essential personnel still working on campus.

    Emergency Excused Absence

    This policy addresses the anticipated need for pay continuity through May 28, 2020 (Harvard's Commencement day) with a new, temporary benefit for Harvard staff, whose work is disrupted by the COVID-19 emergency. Please read this information carefully as it addresses most anticipated questions. For advice on exceptional or complex situations, please consult local HR. 

    This temporary benefit may be used to sustain regular pay if an eligible employee is well and available to work, but cannot work remotely and is not actively caring for dependents or household members.

    It is intended to “keep people whole” during the period from March 10 to May 28, or up to the originally planned termination/appointment end date if earlier than May 28.

    In a given week, an employee may do some work remotely, take some paid time off, and use an Excused Absence for the balance of their standard or average workweek.

    Who is Eligible?  

    Members of Harvard’s core administrative staff are eligible for this benefit, including:

    • Service and Trades (Empl_Class L or U)
    • Support Staff (Empl_Class S)
    • Administrative/Professional (Empl_Class A)

    If an employee is regularly scheduled for hours that include a shift differential, Excused Absence pay will include the differential.

    These members of Harvard’s contingent staff are eligible for this benefit:

    • “LHT” Contingent Employees (Empl_Class T, Job Codes 710010 and 710020 only) 
      If the overtime-eligible LHT has a schedule that does not change from week to week, the maximum benefit each week is the employee’s standard hours. For those with variable schedules, the maximum benefit will be the average hours worked weekly between January 17 and March 15. 

    Temporary Staff: Non-student temporary staff (those in Empl_Class T, excluding LHTs and Interns in Empl_Class E) will be paid for time worked, reported and approved. They are not eligible for a paid Excused Absence.

    See the Financial Matters for Students FAQs for more information about financial support available for students who are unable to work remotely.

    Essential Personnel Working on Campus

    • Essential employees who are well and do not need to attend to dependent care responsibilities are expected at work unless they:
      1. Are caring for someone with a presumed or confirmed case of COVID-19, in which case they are required to self-isolate;
      2. Have travelled to CDC Level 3 area of concern;
      3. Are instructed to refrain from attending work by Harvard University Health Services (HUHS) or public health officials
      If any of these situations apply to you, please complete the HUHS confidential health form.
    • Social Distancing at Work: Essential personnel working on campus should maintain physical distance from others of at least 6 feet. Those with an underlying health condition or concern may formally request a change in job duties, location, hours, etc. by contacting local human resources.
    • Sickness: Essential personnel who have symptoms of respiratory illness must stay home and not come to work until they are free of fever, and any other symptoms for at least 24 hours, without the use of fever-reducing or other symptom-altering medicines (e.g., cough suppressants). A fever is defined as a temperature of 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit or 38 degrees celsius taken by an oral thermometer. Those with concerns or questions about their illness or seeking advice about whether to come to work are invited to email Harvard University Health Services. (This is different than completing the confidential health form, which is to self-report situations relating to COVID-19.)

      Managers and supervisors of essential personnel must not pressure others to come to work if they are ill or need to stay at home to care for dependents. Conversely, if employees are well, they should not be pressured to stay away from work for reasons such as their ethnic or racial background or home address.