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Employment and Human Resources

COVID-19 Employment FAQs

Updated January 5, 2021

Decision Tree for Requests for Remote Work

Supervisor Checklist - On-Site Work Preparation

Supervisor Checklist - Working Onsite

Return to Work Guidelines

As part of USM’s response to COVID-19, employee FAQs are provided below.  The University is monitoring the situation closely and reserves the right to alter the arrangements contained in these FAQs as necessary. You are encouraged to check the University's official COVID-19 website regularly in order to keep up to date with latest information. If you have any queries that are not covered by the FAQs, please contact your supervisor or HR Partner for assistance.

The University does not tolerate any forms of discrimination or harassment and wishes to remind all employees, including student workers, that any such behavior as a result of COVID-19 is not acceptable.

Mississippi Department of Employment Security (MDES) posting.

Important Update: The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) expired December 31, 2020 and was not extended by Congress.  Therefore, we must expire policies 5.11 Emergency Paid Sick Leave (COVID-19), and 6.14 Expanded FMLA Leave (COVID-19).  These leaves are no longer available, and the FAQs below describe our updated processes. 

Faculty/Staff

What if I have symptoms of COVID-19 or have tested positive?

You should not report to work if you have symptoms (refer to the USM health protocols for more information) or have tested positive. You should report your absence in accordance with your school/unit call-in procedure, even if you are working remotely.  Absences due to illness or injury of an employee or member of the employee’s immediate family related to COVID-19 should be treated as sick time as described in Employee Handbook policy 6.3 Major Medical Leave.  Please contact your supervisor for more information. 

What if I am sick but unable to get a doctor’s appointment or note?

USM is waiving the requirement to provide a doctor’s note for short-term COVID-19 related illnesses during this time. Medical documentation may be required when requesting longer-term sick leave (more than 2 weeks duration) and other types of FMLA.  

What if I need to take care of a family member who has COVID-19 symptoms or has tested positive?

If you have sudden caring responsibilities for a family member, you should report your absence in accordance with your school/unit call-in procedure.  Absences due to illness or injury of an employee or member of the employee’s immediate family related to COVID-19 should be treated as sick time as described in policy 6.3 “Major Medical Leave” of the Employee Handbook.  Please contact your supervisor for more information.  Remote or alternate work possibilities may also be discussed with your supervisor.  

Can I continue to work remotely?

Remote work arrangements are at the discretion of your supervisor (with approval through the chain of command). If you have specific issues or concerns to believe remote work might be a possibility for you, please discuss with your supervisor. You can also submit a request for accommodation through the Office of AA/EEO.

What if my child’s daycare or school closes and I have to stay at home?

If you are unable to work due to daycare/school closures, you should report your absence in accordance with your school/unit call-in procedure.  Absences due to COVID-19 school closures should be treated as personal time as described in Employee Handbook policy 6.2 Personal Leave. If you are able to make remote working arrangements with your supervisor, you will not be charged personal leave. Please contact your supervisor for more information.  

What if I need to self-isolate?

The answer is condition specific.  For instance, if you have been exposed to COVID-19 and have been ordered to self-isolate, these absences will be treated as sick leave. Please refer to the USM health protocols for more information on when to self-isolate. 

If you are self-isolating out of personal choice, these absences will be treated as personal leave unless you have made remote working arrangements with your supervisor.

If you are self-isolating due to underlying medical conditions for yourself or a family member, you should contact Human Resources to explore if FMLA is an option. Otherwise, these absences will be treated as personal leave unless you have made remote working arrangements with your supervisor or received approval from the Office of AA/EEO for a reasonable accommodation.

If you are returning from international travel, consult CDC guidance on quarantine requirements.  If quarantine is required, you should factor that time into your request for leave.

What if I or a family member am at high risk for the virus?

We encourage you to discuss your situation with your supervisor so that they are aware of your circumstances, can support you appropriately and discuss your personal needs with you as this situation develops.  HR will ask supervisors to work with the individual to agree how they are best protected.  We will address this compassionately on a case-by-case basis considering individual circumstances and current guidance from healthcare officials.  You can also submit a request for accommodation through the Office of AA/EEO. 

Do I need to complete FMLA paperwork?

We are not requiring FMLA documentation specifically for short-term COVID-19 symptoms or quarantine. However, if the absence involves hospitalization or more than a 2-week absence, FMLA paperwork should be requested. For other medical conditions unrelated to COVID-19 (such as surgery or pregnancy), our usual FMLA policy will remain in effect.

Can I receive or donate leave for COVID-19?

Per Employee Handbook policy 6.13 Donated Leave, the leave must meet the definition of “catastrophic” in order to qualify.  Human Resources will respond to requests on a case by case basis. 

Can I continue to take paid administrative leave?

According to the Governor’s Executive Order No. 1495 issued on June 10, 2020, paid administrative leave is no longer available to state employees, effective July 1, 2020.  If you have specific concerns about your ability to meet normal work expectations as assigned by your supervisor, please discuss with your supervisor or contact the Office of AA/EEO for further guidance.     

Do I have to take personal or sick leave if I am working remote?

Yes, if you need time off of work exactly like if you were working in the office.  You and your supervisor agreed upon the schedule you would work on your Agreement to Work Remotely.  If you miss work for personal or medical reasons during that agreed upon schedule, you would need to enter personal or sick leave just as usual.  If you intend to make up those hours by working earlier or later in the day, for instance, that is a conversation you need to have with your supervisor in advance and gain approval for such alterations to your work schedule.  

I don’t think it’s fair that some people get to work from home or are placed on administrative leave while others have to come to work.

We are seeking to address individual needs consistently during this evolving situation. Some roles simply cannot be performed from home and as long as the University remains open must continue to be performed.  You are encouraged to speak to your supervisor or you may contact the Office of AA/EEO for further guidance.  

Are student workers or other non-benefit eligible employees eligible for any paid time off related to COVID-19?

No, as these employees do not accrue personal and sick leave.

What happened to the special leave options of EPSL and EFMLA?

Congress expired those leaves as of December 31, 2020; therefore, these leave options are no longer available.

Have any changes been made to the payroll cycle?

No.  We are operating on our usual payroll cycles.

Can exempt employees complete monthly time and attendance report remotely?

Yes, exempt employees can log into SOARHR from remote locations.  Please contact your school/unit timekeeping liaison if you need assistance. 

Can non-exempt employees submit time sheets remotely?

Yes, non-exempt employees can log into SOARHR from remote locations. Please contact your school/unit timekeeping liaison if you need assistance. 

Are there any special reporting requirements for exempt employees placed on an approved leave who complete monthly time and attendance reports in SOARHR?

No. Monthly time and attendance reports should be completed by employees and approved by supervisors each month as usual, including entering any personal or sick leave taken.  

Are there any special reporting requirements for non-exempt employees placed on an approved leave who complete biweekly time and attendance reports in SOARHR?

Yes. Biweekly time and attendance reports should be completed by employees and approved by supervisors each pay period as usual, including entering any personal or sick leave taken. 

What if I do not have remote access to complete my timesheet?

Please contact your supervisor. Make sure your supervisor has the hours you worked including any personal, sick or compensatory time. 

Who should I contact for payroll questions or concerns?

Please send an email to PayrollFREEMississippi

Supervisors

As a leader, what should I be doing for my team?

  • Keep up with the alerts the University is posting on the University's official COVID-19 website and that employees know about this website as well.
  • Encourage employees to communicate with you if they have special circumstances or needs so you can support them accordingly as the situation develops.
  • Ensure all employees have access to these FAQs.
  • Consider contingency plans such as remote work or flexible schedules to support social distancing and/or to address needs to stay at home (such as closed schools or caring for a family member with COVID-19).
  • Establish lines of communication to update employees on any operational changes within the school/unit.
  • Remind employees of the importance of treating all people with respect and address any issues of casual discrimination or harassment as a result of COVID-19.
  • Review and follow the workplace guidelines, available from your manager or Human Resources.

What should we do if our school/unit is exposed to COVID-19?

Consult the USM health protocols and immediately contact your HR Partner for advice and guidance.  Moffitt Health Center may also be contacted. You may also consult the Supervisor Checklist- Working Onsite.

Can I approve working remotely?

If a person’s job allows them to work productively from home, then yes we would like to accommodate that as reasonably possible. However, these decisions must be reviewed and approved by the supervisor utilizing the Decision Tree for Requests for Remote Work.

If approved, an Agreement to Work Remotely, which outlines guidelines for remote working arrangements, must be completed, signed and returned to Human Resources for the personnel file. Remote working possibilities will be dependent upon the specific position and school/unit needs and may be denied given the circumstances. Supervisors should also require remote workers to submit a status report of their activities at least weekly, and HR has provided a Remote Work Log for these purposes. This requirement applies to Graduate Assistants as well. Please discuss with your HR Partner if you have questions about the forms/guidelines.

What if it is believed someone is abusing this situation?

We very much hope that this isn’t the case but if you do have concerns please contact your HR Partner. 

What do I do if someone is being harassed for their national origin due to COVID-19?

The University does not tolerate any forms of discrimination and harassment so these instances should be reported and addressed immediately. Please contact your HR Partner for advice.  

Should I require employees to provide FMLA documentation?

We are not requiring FMLA documentation specifically for short-term COVID-19 symptoms.  However, if the absence involves hospitalization or more than a 2-week absence, FMLA paperwork should be requested.  For other medical conditions (such as surgery or pregnancy), our usual FMLA policy will remain in effect.  

What if I do not have work available for an employee?

Contact your HR Partner to discuss further.  

What if I do not have work available for my GA/student workers?

Graduate assistants and student workers should not be hired unless specific work has been identified for them, preferably work that can be done remotely if necessary. Also, you must be sure that physical distancing and other safety precautions can be maintained.  Schools/Units should contact the Graduate School or Human Resources to discuss further.  

What if an employee does not have remote access to complete their timesheet?

The Supervisor will notify payroll to enter the hours. Payroll will enter the hours and the Supervisor will approve. 

Who should I contact for payroll questions or concerns?

Please send an email to PayrollFREEMississippi.

Contact Us

Employment and Human Resources
301 McLemore Hall (MCL)
118 College Dr. #5111
Hattiesburg, MS 39406

Hattiesburg Campus

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Email
hrFREEMississippi

Phone
601.266.4050