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SFU community frequently asked questions about COVID-19

Get answers to your questions about COVID-19 and how we are responding at SFU

Last Updated: Fri, 29 May 2020 10:45 AM

SFU follows the latest information and recommendations about COVID-19 from regional and provincial medical health officers. For the latest number of confirmed cases in British Columbia, please visit the BCCDC website.

New information:

If you are concerned that you may have COVID-19, try the BC government COVID-19 self-assessment tool to help guide you on what to do. The province of BC has also set up a dedicated COVID-19 hotline at 1-888-COVID19 or text 604-630-0300. The service is available daily from 7:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. with information available in over 110 languages.

As COVID-19 continues to spread globally, watch out for associated scams. Review these tips to protect yourself

For information specific to students, staff/faculty and campus services, please check out the links below. For answers to common questions about COVID-19 please check out BC CDC's FAQs.

FAQs for staff and faculty

Remote teaching & working from home

Managing Staff

Being sick

Travel

Support

Remote teaching & working from home

Q: Are staff expected to go to work?

To support all employees in caring for their health and reducing their risk of exposure to COVID-19, supervisors and their teams have been asked to implement creative solutions to promote physical distancing including the opportunity for employees to work from home, if possible.

Because of the variety and nature of work at SFU, one solution will not work for all jobs. These decisions need to be taken at the supervisor’s discretion, and fairness for teams should be considered while maximizing measures for health and safety.

For those employees who are not able to work from home, please consult with your supervisor to find ways to minimize person-to-person contact, including alternate work locations, staggering shifts, physical distancing protocols and increasing the use of technology.

Q: Where do I find support for remote teaching?

The Centre for Educational Excellence has many resources to support you.

Q: Is working from home or other alternative work arrangements an option?

In an effort to support all employees in caring for their health and reducing their risk of exposure to COVID-19, supervisors and their teams are asked to think of creative solutions to how work can be done differently including consideration of strategies for physical distancing if it is necessary to come to campuses and the opportunity for employees to work from home. Because of the variety and nature of work at SFU, one solution will not work for all jobs.

These decisions need to be taken at the supervisor’s discretion, and fairness for teams should be considered while maximizing measures for health and safety. 

For those employees who are not able to work from home, please consult with your supervisor to find ways to minimize person-to-person contact, including alternate work locations, staggering shifts, physical distancing protocols and increasing the use of technology.

Supervisors should consider alternative arrangements for employees of any employment group. Such arrangements will be temporary in nature and are specific to the COVID-19 situation only.

Q: My child’s school or daycare is closed, can I work from home?

Where schools and daycares are closed, employees unable to come to work in order to care for children may request work from home arrangements if operationally feasible or use vacation time or taking an unpaid leave of absence. Please see the FAQ regarding working from home.

Q: Will SFU reimburse my expenses for incidental supplies or office equipment?

Since most employees have personal computers and many residential telephone and internet service providers are waiving long distance charges and data overage fees, it is unlikely that SFU employees working from home will incur many additional costs.

If employees have incidental out-of-pocket expenses in order to adapt their home equipment to work remotely, such as special cables, adapters, audio/mic adapters, headphones, computer cameras etc., they can submit these expenses through the normal Business and Travel Expense process. Expense claims for these costs should note ‘COVID’ in the reference field.

Employees should check with their supervisors as to which items may be purchased, and whether there are limits on spending for a particular purchase. Receipts will be required in order to claim these expenses. Please note that non-expendable items purchased through this process are the property of the University.

Q: Can I claim other work related expenses that are NOT reimbursable by SFU on my 2020 tax return?

Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) form T2200 Declaration of Conditions of Employment is typically completed by an employer to certify that an employee is required to work from home and that any employment expenses not reimbursed by the employer may be claimed on their annual tax return.

In normal times, most SFU employees do not qualify to claim employment expenses because the University provides the workspace and necessary equipment and supplies. However, expenses incurred by employees during the 2020 “stay home” directive may be eligible when filing a tax return for the 2020 calendar year required by April 30, 2021. 

While the CRA has not announced any special tax provisions due to the pandemic, we expect that this will be addressed by the Canadian government. In the meantime, SFU employees should retain receipts of all purchases necessary to perform their duties remotely. They should also note the square footage of the office area used and the total square footage of their residence, keeping track of home costs such as heating, hydro and water. These will be required if the tax rules allow employees to claim expenses incurred during the 2020 pandemic “stay home” directive.

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Managing staff

Q: As a supervisor, can I require that an employee go home if they are visibly ill?

Yes.

As a supervisor, you are required to provide for and maintain a safe workplace for all of your employees. It is your responsibility to request that an employee to go home if they are exhibiting clear signs of illness (e.g., coughing, obvious signs of a fever). Not coming to work when sick is a strong recommendation related to COVID-19 prevention.

Q: With physical distancing, some of my staff may be working alone in our area on a campus, what do I need to know?

Faculty and staff are reminded of SFU's Working Alone Policy, which requires the assessment of risk and the development of safe work procedures to protect the health and safety of, and minimize the risk to, any worker who works alone or in isolation.  

The safe work procedures should address the identified risk(s), specify the types of activities that may be conducted, and any limitations on and/or prohibitions of specific activities, and procedures for securing assistance.

Please contact Environmental Health and Safety at ehrs_sfu@sfu.ca for additional guidance.

Q: How do I code Payroll timesheets for staff with COVID-19 related absences, including:

  • Staff who are sick
  • Staff who need to provide caregiving and are not sick themselves
  • Staff who need to self-isolate and are unable to work from home

For the above absences, select the appropriate Payroll Code:

  • Temporary (hourly) employees: Code 286
  • Continuing (salary) employees: Use the normal “sick leave” code applicable

Q: Are temporary employees eligible for pay, when there is no available work remaining in their current temporary appointments?

Yes. Supervisors are first asked to consider whether there is other work in the department that can be performed remotely or safely onsite and if so, to make the appropriate arrangements in line with the terms of current appointment.  If no appropriate work can be assigned, their salary will continue for the remainder of their appointment by calculating  the hours they would have normally be scheduled to work for the duration of their temporary appointment.  For temporary part-time employees who work variable hours (e.g., 0 to 70 hours bi-weekly), estimate the average number of hours they would have worked.  Code as normal for the Payroll timesheets.

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Being sick

Q: I have symptoms of COVID-19 – will I continue to be paid if I am off sick?

Yes.

It's critically important if you are sick that you do not come to work – for any reason. This will help ensure that you are taking the time to recover but also to help ensure that the rest of the community is not put at risk.

Employees experiencing symptoms related to COVID-19 will be treated in the same manner as other sick employees, and regular sick leave policies will apply.

Employees who do not have sick leave entitlements (e.g., temporary CUPE employees, contract employees) will be paid if they are ill and unable to work. More information on how this time should be coded can be found here

Q: What if I have been instructed to self-isolate due to possible COVID-19 exposure, but feel well enough to work?

If you have been directed to self-isolate, you should not come to work. Your supervisor will consider if working from home is feasible. This will apply to all employee group members. If feasible, your supervisor will work with you to facilitate an appropriate arrangement and you will receive your regular pay. See the FAQ relating to working from home.

If working from home is not an option, you must continue to remain at home until the self-isolation requirement is lifted. Your pay will be maintained.

If you have been instructed to self-isolate please complete the Absence Reporting Form and submit it to the Wellness & Recovery office.

Q: Who do I inform if I have been required to self-isolate or have tested positive for COVID-19?

Contact your Supervisor first, then the Wellness & Recovery Department to report. All active COVID-19 cases in BC are presently being managed by Public health officials. If you have tested positive for COVID-19, you will be required to self-isolate for a minimum of 14 days, track and report on your symptoms, and be retested before being cleared to return to work. They will provide you with documentation that clears you to return to work.

If you have been asked by a qualified medical practitioner to self-isolate, or have tested positive for COVID-19, inform your supervisor first, then contact the Wellness & Recovery team in Human Resources by completing the confidential Absence Reporting Form within 24 hours. This will help us work with health authorities to put in place appropriate strategies to help trace and prevent the spread of the virus.

Q: Do I require a medical note if I have a COVID-19 or a flu type illness?

No, not at this time.

Although medical notes are part of normal procedures for sick time, we will not be requiring medical notes for illnesses related to COVID-19 or flu at this time in order to prevent overburdening the medical system.

We encourage supervisors to check in with employees who are away with any illness at least once per week.

At this time, if your illness is not related to a flu type illness and may be of a prolonged nature, please check with the Wellness and Recovery team for advice on when medical documentation is required. We want to ensure that we are able to properly support you to manage your health issues and put in place an appropriate return-to-work plan.

Q: What if I have to be absent from work in order to provide care to a family member who has a confirmed case of COVID-19?

Employees who notify their supervisor that they must absent themselves from work in order to care for a family member who has a confirmed case of COVID-19 will be placed on a leave of absence without loss of pay regardless of whether they have access to dependent care or emergency leave provisions.

As all active COVID-19 cases in BC are presently being managed by Public health officials, you will be asked to monitor yourself for symptoms and to comply with their instructions for self-isolation.

Please inform your supervisor first, then contact the Wellness & Recovery team in Human Resources by completing the confidential Absence Reporting Form within 24 hours. This will help us work with health authorities to put in place appropriate strategies to help trace and prevent the spread of the virus.

Q: What if I have concerns about someone else who is ill in my work area?

All faculty, and staff can take measures to help reduce the risk of respiratory illnesses, such as handwashing and regular cleaning of shared surfaces. Employees in the workplace who are ill with flu-like symptoms should advise their supervisor/manager, stay home and seek out medical advice accordingly. If you are concerned about someone in the workplace who is exhibiting flu-like symptoms, speak to your Supervisor/Manager. Supervisors/Managers can contact the HR Office for further information as needed.

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Travel

Q: I have decided to proceed with my travel plans even after the government's announcement advising against all international travel, including to the United States. How will my time in self-isolation upon my return be treated?

As of March 12, the Public Health Agency of Canada has recommended that travelers avoid all non-essential travel outside of Canada and that any person returning from international travel (including the US) self-isolate for 14 days upon return to Canada. During the 14 day self-isolation period, where possible, supervisors will consider if it's operationally feasible for you to work from home (for any employee group). If feasible, your supervisor will facilitate such arrangements and you will continue to receive your regular pay. If it is not possible to work from home, you have the option of using vacation time or taking an unpaid leave of absence.

You are reminded that it is mandatory by law to remain at home until the self-isolation period is lifted. Such employees are required to complete the Absence Reporting Form and submit it to the Wellness & Recovery office.

 

Support

Q: Who do I contact if I receive a request for emergency equipment or supplies? 

All levels of government are increasingly concerned about the availability of Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) and related supplies. Universities across Canada are being called upon to provide support to our health care system and frontline workers. Requests may include access to facilities, housing, infrastructure, PPE and related supplies, and manufacturing and research capacities.

In order to respond to each request in a coordinated manner, all new requests for SFU support should be directed to the designated point of contact below for appropriate vetting and triage:

Q: I’m feeling a bit stressed at this moment with all of the issues around COVID-19 and wondering where I can get some extra support?

We understand that this situation may be very stressful for you and your family. If you would like extra support please feel free to connect with our Wellness & Recovery team or our Employee and Family Assistance Program (EFAP) provider through Homewood Health at 1-800-663-1142. We have been advised they have additional staff on board to help meet the need for extra support.

Also, during the COVID-19 crisis we have extended access to our EFAP to all temporary and contract employees. To access you will need to have your employee id number when calling in.

Q: How to support staff to practice their faith with the closure of SFU’s Interfaith Centre and while working from home?

The Interfaith Centre has closed faith & prayer spaces on all three campuses until further notice during this unprecedented time.  As directors, managers and supervisors we still have a duty to allow staff, faculty and students to practice their faith through the day. This will probably be very important at this time and in some cases be a requirement of their faith. This might mean giving them time to practice their faith and coming up with innovative solutions.  Have proactive conversations with any of your staff who might be affected. Victor Thomas, Director & Head Chaplain, Interfaith Centre is available for any questions (victor_thomas@sfu.ca).

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