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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, 07 Aug 2020 4:43 PM

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

COVID-19 impact scale

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

Working on campus

Managing Staff

Being sick

Travel

Support

Remote teaching & working from home

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.

Q: Some people are finding that they are more productive working from home. Will it be possible for some staff and faculty to work from home once the pandemic is behind us?

The COVID-19 pandemic has provided an opportunity to re-think the future of work, including the advantages and disadvantages of both remote and onsite work. We will be gathering feedback from employees and unions/associations over the coming months as we explore possibilities for what the future of work could look like at SFU.

Q: If I feel more safe working from home or have personal circumstances that make it easier to work from home, can I continue to do so even if my department resumes activity on campus?

Faculty and staff are encouraged to discuss individual circumstances with their supervisor who can work with them to plan a suitable work arrangement while balancing the needs of the department. Health and safety of staff and faculty is the priority. If your role is needed on campus, your manager will work with you directly to plan a safe return. Supervisors are encouraged to be creative and flexible, factoring personal circumstances of team members into planning for a safe return to campus.

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Working on campus

Q: Some people are finding it difficult to find a quiet and uninterrupted work space. Can staff and faculty choose to work on campus a few times a week?

For the most part, employees continue to work remotely at this time. The primary exception to this is activities that SFU has decided to resume as part of a gradual and careful recovery plan. See SFU’s COVID-19 impact scale and related resources on the SRS website. Faculty and staff are encouraged to discuss individual circumstances with their supervisor who can work with them to plan a suitable work arrangement while balancing the needs of the department.

Q: What specific criteria will trigger a return to work on campus for SFU staff members?

Decisions regarding delivery of in-person teaching are made well in advance of the semester to enable students and faculty to confirm their plans. Staffing needs are being factored into this planning as well. 

To support planning for loosening and restricting on-campus activity surrounding COVID-19, SFU has developed a COVID-19 Impact Scale. The COVID-19 Impact Scale outlines at a high level what university activities will be allowed/can be expected as SFU moves through different recovery phases (extreme, high, moderate and low risk). As the risk level drops, additional activities may be permitted on campus.

The majority of faculty and staff continue to work remotely over the summer. Researchers who require on-campus resources are resuming some on-campus research, based on an established approval process, with safety plans in place and factoring in staffing considerations.

Q: Will parking for staff and faculty continue to be complimentary in the Fall? If not, will there be discounted rates for those employees who have to work on campus?

Currently, Burnaby campus visitors including contractors must pay daily parking rates. Faculty, staff & students have complimentary parking until the end of August on the Burnaby campus, however, they must ensure that their vehicle licence plate is registered with the Parking & Sustainable Mobility Office prior to taking their vehicle to campus. Individuals who had a parking permit in place at March 2020, do not need to advise the office.

Parking and Sustainable Mobility is working to determine what all transportation options will look like for the upcoming Fall Semester and beyond in terms of parking, transit, etc. More updates will be shared as they become available. 
 
At the Surrey Campus, the SFU Surrey team and Central City property management (who manage parking enforcement) are also discussing options for the fall.

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

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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 10 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.

Q: Will staff be alerted in the event of a confirmed COVID-19 case on campus? 

If an employee tests positive for COVID-19, they will be required to follow the directions of Public Health, who will contact any individuals at risk and provide advice. Public Health will contact SFU if they need our assistance.

Public Health is not expecting organizations such as SFU to do contact tracing, and supervisors should not disclose health information of employees. An employee with symptoms should inform their supervisor, contact Wellness & Recovery by completing the confidential Absence Reporting Form, get tested for COVID-19 and isolate for 10 days. A department can request additional cleaning of areas if there are concerns about a community member who has been on campus that may have been contagious, as per SFU COVID-19 Cleaning and Disinfection Protocol.

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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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