COVID-19 Related Leaves of Absences and Accommodations

While the university is taking all of the necessary precautions to keep our students, faculty and staff safe during the COVID-19 pandemic, we recognize that some employees may be unable to return to work on and/or off campus for a variety of reasons.  In response to the unique challenges presented by COVID-19 that impact employees’ ability to work, the following leave options and accommodations may be available:

Employees who are able to work but are unable to return to campus due to one of the following reasons should consider remote work so long as they are still able to perform their job functions and provide services to students, employees and the community as applicable.

  1. Presence of an underlying medical condition resulting in a higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19;
  2. A positive COVID-19 test result requiring 14 days of at-home quarantine;
  3. Exposure to someone with positive COVID-19 test results or symptoms associated with COVID-19;
  4. Caretaker obligations for a family or household member.

Utilizing this Option

Employees should discuss with their supervisor a remote work plan that supports both the needs of the department and the circumstances of the employee.  The plan should ensure that required duties of the employee can be fulfilled in a remote capacity.

Approval

The agreement between the supervisor and the employee is all that is needed for approval. Employees working remotely will not be required to complete Work-At-Home Agreements through the end of the 2020 calendar year.

Employees who are unable to work for reasons related to COVID-19 can use their personal accrued benefits (Sick time and Vacation time) for absences. Employees can view available leave balances on their pay advice.

Utilizing this Option

Employees should follow their normal call-in procedures related to the use of sick time. If sick time will be used for an extended period because of COVID-19, employees should communicate their plans to their supervisors. Employees can use accrued vacation time if sick leave is not available. The same notification procedures should be followed.

Approval

The use of sick leave does not have a formal approval process when employees are providing appropriate notification. Employees are encouraged to discuss their needs and plans with their supervisors. Vacation time is subject to supervisor approval. When it is being used for COVID-19-related absences, supervisors should be flexible to accommodate employees’ needs.

Personal and Family Sick Leave

On a fiscal year basis, the university provides full-time employees with 25 working days of non-accumulative sick leave for their own personal illness and 25 working days of non-accumulative sick leave to care for a member of their immediate family or household. The availability of these days is prorated for new hires and part time employees. Employees can view available leave balances on their pay advice.

Employees who are unable to work or choose not to work for personal reasons related to COVID-19 can utilize their personal non-accumulative sick leave benefits during this time.

The university remains committed to being flexible and understanding for employees who are balancing work with child and/or elder care needs during this time. Employees who are unable to work for this reason can access the family non-accumulative sick leave benefits during the COVID-19 period. 

Employees represented by a union are encouraged to refer their collective bargaining agreement regarding use of paid benefits as these agreements will take precedence on the use of the non-accumulating sick leave benefits.  Please contact your union representative for assistance with the application of the union contract. 

Utilizing this Option

Employees should follow their normal call-in procedures related to the use of sick time. If sick time will be used for an extended period because of COVID-19, employees should communicate their plans to their supervisors. The NIU Payroll department will utilize non-accumulative sick leave benefits to pay employees based on university procedures.

Approval

The use of sick leave does not have a formal approval process when employees are providing appropriate notification. Employees are encouraged to discuss their needs and plans with their supervisors.

Family First Coronavirus Response Act (FFRCA) provides for 10 working days (total, not per occurrence) of emergency sick leave if an employee is unable to work (or work remotely) for the following reasons:

  1. is subject to a Federal, State or local quarantine or isolation order related to COVID-19;
  2. has been advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine related to COVID-19;
  3. is experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and is seeking a medical diagnosis;
  4. is caring for an individual subject to an order described in (1) or self-quarantine as described in (2);
  5. is caring for a child whose school or place of care is closed (or child care provider is unavailable) for reasons related to COVID-19; or
  6. is experiencing any other substantially similar condition specified by the Secretary of Health and Human Services, in consultation with the Secretaries of Labor and Treasury.

FFCRA also provides for up to an additional 10 weeks of expanded Family Medical Leave (FMLA) for employees that are eligible and are unable to work (or work remotely) for reason #5 above.

Emergency sick leave for reasons #1 - #3 above provides for ten days of paid leave at 100% of base pay. Emergency sick leave for reasons #4 - #6 above provides for ten days of paid leave at two-thirds of base salary (or 67%). 

Expanded FMLA for reason #5 above is unpaid for the first two weeks, followed by up to 10 weeks of paid leave at two-thirds of base salary (or 67%). Employees can use emergency sick leave or their own accrued benefits to pay them in the first two-week period.

The paid leave benefits provided by FFCRA are in additional to any available accrued or non-accumulative time already provided by the university. 

The provisions of this Federal Act are currently set to expire on December 31, 2020.

Utilizing this Option

Employees with a need for FFCRA benefits should apply on the Human Resources Services website

Approval

Human Resource Services will review all applications received and will notify the employee and their supervisor if the request has been approved.

NIU is committed to providing a rich and accessible environment. In accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), we make every effort to provide helpful information about the procedures, policies, and resources for requesting a reasonable accommodation. If you are a current NIU employee with a qualifying disability and believe you would benefit from support with performing essential job functions, you can request an ADA reasonable accommodation.

Utilizing this Option

An Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) reasonable accommodation is a modification or adjustment to a job, the work environment, or the hiring process for a qualified individual with a disability. An accommodation is reasonable so long as it does not pose an undue hardship for the employer in terms of significant difficulty or expense to implement.

Accommodation request procedure:

  1. Submit a request for a reasonable accommodation. Feel free to contact us at ada@niu.edu or 815-753-6540 if you would like to discuss specific situations before submitting a request.
  2. Provide supporting medical documentation upon request. It should be signed by a licensed treatment professional and include:
    • A description of the nature of the impairment, including the severity and duration.
    • Specific activities that the impairment limits.
    • The type of accommodation that may be needed to carry out required duties of the position.
  3. Engage in an interactive communication process with us. We will contact you to discuss your needs, responsibilities and possible accommodations that will enable you to perform the essential functions of your job, engage in an equitable hiring process or make a visit to our campus.

Approval

A reasonable accommodation implementation form signed by the employee, the employee’s supervisor, the department head, and an ADA representative signifies the official approval of the accommodation request.

If all other paid leave options have been exhausted, employees can apply for an unpaid personal leave from their position.  This would be an approved leave of absence from the university and the employee would have the ability to return to their position when the leave ends. 

There is an impact to the cost of insurance while on this leave of absence.  Employees are required to pay their normal premiums but in addition must pay the portion the State pays on their behalf.  Please reference the FY21 Insurance Rates document for additional information. 

Utilizing this Option

Employees with a need for a personal leave of absence should apply on the Human Resources Services website.

Approval

Human Resource Services will review all applications received and will notify the employee and their supervisor if the request has been approved.

Contact Us

Human Resource Services
Human Resources/Document Services Building
1515 West Lincoln Highway
P: 815-753-6000
F: 815-753-2335
humanresources@niu.edu

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