Updated March 27, 2020
The University of Texas System Administration is coordinating with local, state and national public health authorities to ensure it is doing all it can to minimize risks to its employees and the community. These FAQs are intended to provide guidance to UT System Administration employees on the application of System Administration policies and best practices related to COVID-19. The information on this page is not legal advice and is subject to change. Specific practices may vary depending on each department’s unique circumstances and needs. The Office of Risk Management will update these questions and answers as the situation evolves.
If you have questions that you would like considered for inclusion on this FAQ page, please submit them to COVIDfirstname.lastname@example.org. If you have a question that requires a direct and prompt response, contact the appropriate System Administration department office.
Timely or emergency messages about the status of UT System operations and the building will be sent by text. Employees should make sure that their cell phone information is enrolled and correct through this link: How to Contact Me in the Event of an Emergency.
UT Systemwide Resources
- UT System COVID-19 Website
- UT System Office of Employee Benefits COVID-19 Key Benefit Details
- CDC COVID-19 Website
- CDC Resources for Healthcare Facilities
- Interim Guidance for Administrators of US Institutions of Higher Education
- Letter from Governor Greg Abbott, March 13th, 2020
- Governor Greg Abbott's Disaster Declaration
- Governor Greg Abbott's March 26, 2020 Executive Order
- UT Systemwide Policies
UT System Administration Resources
- UT System Administration HOPs
What is System Administration doing to protect employees in response to COVID-19?
A task force made up of representatives from multiple UT System Administration departments is carefully monitoring information provided by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and local, county and state public health authorities. The System Administration’s Pandemic Response Plan has been activated and changes to our daily operations have been made to help protect employees and the community. Many local jurisdictions, including the city of Austin and Travis and Williamson Counties, have issued shelter-in-place orders that restrict business and government operations and social gatherings. The UT System is complying with all federal, state and local government orders.
What is the UT System doing to support the institutions and the state?
Chancellor Milliken, Executive Vice Chancellors Leslie and Zerwas, Vice Chancellor for Health Affairs and Chief Medical Officer Lakey and Chief Compliance and Risk Officer Dendy meet virtually at least twice per week to discuss challenges facing the institutions, determine the support needed and share best practices. Representatives from UT System’s HR, legal and risk management offices are also meeting regularly with their counterparts at the institutions to offer assistance and guidance. A cross-functional team representing multiple System Administration departments is also meeting twice-weekly to communicate and coordinate responses to and from the institutions and federal, state and local government and health officials.
Governor Abbott recently appointed Dr. Zerwas to serve on a statewide strike force with responsibility for hospital relations and preparedness. Dr. Lakey is also coordinating with state officials on the COVID-19 response and protections. Both are working closely with the UT health institutions to ensure they are able to most effectively serve patients and protect employees.
What steps can department heads and employees take to respond to the current situation with COVID-19?
- Familiarize yourself with your individual department’s business continuity and contingency plans.
- Identify all critical business operations and designate and inform the responsible individuals and backup personnel.
- Update your department’s emergency contact lists.
- Provide telecommuting options and adjusted job duties for employees working remotely.
- Support employees who are telecommuting by sharing resources and keeping them informed of training and other opportunities.
- Consider allowing flexible schedules for employees working remotely who are also taking care of young children or other family members at home.
- Ensure that supervisors in your department stay up-to-date on System Administration communications related to COVID-19 and encourage them to reach out to you and the Office of Talent and Innovation (Human Resources) with questions.
- Contact ORM for assistance if needed.
- Know how to use remote access, whether using a work-issued laptop or personal computer. OTIS has information posted on UT4U and is available to help with various remote access options.
- Use available technology, such as Zoom, Skype for Business, and Microsoft Teams to maintain contact with coworkers.
- Maintain personal health and safety practices (wash hands frequently, avoid touching your face, keep distance between you and others). Refer to CDC guidance for best practices on how to protect yourself.
Are employees permitted to travel for business?
Governor Abbott’s letter to state agency heads dated March 13, 2020, cancelled all international travel for System Administration and other state agencies. Furthermore, the governor has required that any non-essential travel also be cancelled.
Essential travel may be permitted but must be approved by your department head as well as an Executive Officer, Phil Dendy, or Julie Goonewardene. Many cities and counties, including in Central Texas, have issued stay-at-home orders banning all travel of any kind except for essential activities.
Those traveling should allot additional time for airport screening measures, which generally include temperature checks and questionnaires, and should follow directives from authorities. No one should travel while sick, lest they risk additional screening measures, potential entry denial, and quarantine. Additionally, anyone who is sick risks spreading germs and infection to others. The CDC answers other common travel-related questions, including the risk of infection on airplanes, here.
Are employees required to report personal travel to their department?
Effective March 15, 2020, employees who travel outside of Texas for personal reasons are required to work from home and self-isolate for 14 days following their return. During self-isolation, employees are expected to telecommute. If remote work is unavailable, then employees must use paid leave. For additional guidance see this question below in the HR section.
On March 26, 2020, Governor Abbot issued an Executive Order mandating a 14-day self-quarantine for every person who enters the State of Texas as the final destination through an airport, from a point of origin or point of last departure in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, or the City of New Orleans.
Please evaluate your personal travel plans to consider how your planned trip may affect your ability to return to work.
If you decide to travel, please understand the rapid dynamics associated with the spread of this virus may require you to alter your plans mid-trip. The CDC Travelers Health Notices site and the CDC COVID-19 Travel site are the best sources for the latest information and guidance regarding possible travel concerns.
Refer to the Health & Safety section below.
Refer to the Human Resources section below for information on employee telecommuting or leave during self-isolation.
Are employees required to report travel (business or personal) by employees’ household members?
Employees must notify their manager if they have a household member who travels internationally or out-of-state. An employee may be required to work from home and self-isolate for 14 days after the family member’s return from a trip.
During the Town Hall meeting, Dr. Lakey mentioned a helpful article about the coronavirus and how it spreads. Can I get a copy of it?
The article Dr. Lakey mentioned appeared in the March 20, 2020, issue of The Atlantic. “Why the Coronavirus Has Been So Successful” explains scientists’ theories about where it came from and why it’s behaving in such an extreme way.
Do employees have to report to anyone at System Administration if they suspect they have COVID-19 or have a positive diagnosis of COVID-19?
Yes, employees should report this information to their immediate supervisor orally or in writing.
Employees should limit the information they provide to their immediate supervisors to the basis for their report - whether they suspect they have COVID-19 or have a positive diagnosis of COVID-19. Employees should not send any medical documentation unless requested by HR. If HR requires further information, they will contact the employee and will keep the information confidential in accordance with state and federal laws related to employee health records.
What should immediate supervisors do if one of their employees reports they suspect they have COVID-19 or have a positive diagnosis of COVID-19?
Supervisors should treat the information confidentially and send it to HR. Supervisors and department heads must exercise the same level of confidentiality and treat the information and records they receive from an employee as they would with any ADA or FMLA documentation.
Will System Administration share employees’ reports of suspected or positive COVID-19 cases with anyone outside of System Administration?
System Administration may provide information to local, state, or federal health authorities as requested to facilitate ongoing measures to address and prevent spread of the illness. System Administration will follow the CDC recommendations related to reporting.
If someone develops symptoms of respiratory illness and has traveled from an affected geographic area within 14 days of symptom onset or has other reason to believe that the symptoms are related to possible COVID-19 exposure, what steps should they take?
According to the CDC and other public health authorities, anyone exposed to COVID-19, even if asymptomatic, should self-isolate for 14 days. Those who contract COVID-19 will also be isolated and should follow the advice of medical personnel. Call your medical provider to seek guidance. Many providers are providing guidance through telehealth services or other means that could prevent a trip to the doctor’s office. If needed, the medical provider may direct you to come into the clinic or go to the emergency room if your symptoms are severe. Again, it is important to call ahead so that they are ready for your visit.
Your healthcare provider will work with the local health department to decide if COVID-19 testing is needed. Drive-through options for testing are currently being developed in the Austin area, and you may be advised to visit one if your healthcare provider believes testing is needed.
The individual should be isolated from others while arrangements are made for transport to appropriate medical care.
Employees who suspect they have COVID-19 or have received a positive diagnosis should notify their immediate supervisor verbally or in writing (email). System Administration may require the employee to follow any quarantine or isolation orders. In those cases, department heads should determine how best to allow employees to work remotely if not already doing so.
What should an employee do before returning to work after a period of self-isolation?
After the 14 days of self-isolation, individuals should contact their supervisor for updated guidance and requirements before returning to work in the building. Employees who are working remotely may be able to continue working during the self-isolation period.
Are any additional efforts being taken to clean the building?
The cleaning staff continue to more frequently wipe down high-touch surfaces, including door handles, printers and countertops. Disposable flatware, cups and plates have been provided in the breakrooms.
Does the UT System have authority to restrict access to our business locations?
Yes. To limit the possibility of employees being exposed to COVID-19, System Administration may opt to restrict access to its locations by anyone other than employees, including visitors and vendors. At this time, access to the building is allowed only through badge access. The Army Futures Command and UTIMCO have agreed to follow UT System’s lead in limiting access to the building. UFCU customers are no longer able to access the lobby and garage.
Will System Administration notify its employees if it receives notice that a System Administration employee, occupant of or visitor to the UT System building or other System Administration location has tested positive for COVID-19?
A positive COVID-19 diagnosis is confidential health information. System Administration will notify employees in a timely manner if it is notified of a positive COVID-19 case among its workforce, tenants, or visitors (including vendors) if it determines that health and safety concerns warrant notification and if disclosure is consistent with guidance from federal, state, and/or local health authorities.
Because most System Administration employees and building tenants are currently telecommuting, the risk of exposure has decreased. If the positive case is an individual who has not physically worked or been in a System Administration location in 14 days or more, notification may not be warranted. Also, not all System Administration employees work in the same city, and a confirmed positive case of a Houston-, Dallas-, or Midland-based employee may not warrant a notification to all Austin-based System Administration employees, for example.
If a notification is made, it will be (1) to employees believed to have been in contact with the positive individual (e.g., who were in the same area of the building within a relevant timeframe); and (2) limited to information necessary to protect the health of those possibly exposed to the positive individual.
For Human Resources-related questions not addressed below, supervisors should contact their HR Business Partners. For leave-related questions, employees may email email@example.com.
For the purposes of on-site work during the pandemic, who is defined as “essential personnel” at System Administration?
Department heads should determine essential personnel for on-site work according to departmental functions and business needs. At this time, the goal is to limit essential personnel to employees whose job functions require them to be in the building.
What are the expectations for employees who telecommute during the COVID-19 outbreak?
Telecommuting employees are expected to complete their job responsibilities as established by their supervisors and to work their regular total number of weekly hours. Supervisors may allow employees to perform work outside of regular business hours and must approve flexible work arrangements in writing (email) with the employee.
Employees who continue to work in the building based on business needs and in consultation with their supervisors should take whatever technology and/or materials are needed to work remotely home with them on a daily basis. Employees who need to take a sick day or wish to take a day off should request the use of personal leave as they typically do.
During the period that System Administration is encouraging the workforce to telecommute, may a supervisor allow telecommuting by independent contractors, contracted temporary employees, or UTemps who provide services physically located in their department?
Yes. Independent contractors, contracted temporary employees, and UTemps may be allowed to telecommute if department heads determine that their work may be performed remotely and is necessary for business continuity purposes.
If System Administration requires all but essential personnel to telecommute and an employee’s job duties cannot be performed remotely during that period, how will the employee’s time be treated?
- The employee’s job duties may be temporarily adjusted to require work that can be performed remotely;
- The time may be designated as paid emergency leave if the employee requests it and System Administration finds good cause to grant the request; or
- The employee may use their accrued paid leave (e.g., vacation leave or compensatory time) until it is exhausted.
After employees have exhausted accrued paid leave, System Administration may require the employee to take unpaid leave, or grant emergency leave on a case by case basis.
For employees who are not leave-eligible:
- The employee may be temporarily assigned work that can be performed remotely;
- If remote work is unavailable, the employees may be required to take unpaid leave; or
- The employee may request emergency leave.
To request emergency leave, an employee should contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Does the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) entitle an employee to take leave to avoid contracting COVID-19?
No. Generally, the FMLA provides protected leave for an employee’s own, actual serious health condition or for the employee to care for a family member (defined by law) who has an actual, serious health condition. A “serious health condition” does not include concern that COVID-19 or any other disease could be contracted.
Should a department head require an employee who is out sick (not due to COVID-19) to provide a health care provider’s note before returning to work?
UTS policy (HOP 3.3.1) requires an employee to provide their manager a doctor’s note indicating the cause or nature of the condition when an employee returns to work after an absence of three or more consecutive workdays. This requirement may be modified as the current situation requires.
If an employee becomes sick or must care for a family member who is sick (due to COVID-19 or another illness), can the employee’s time be designated as sick leave?
If an employee or family member becomes ill from COVID-19, the employee’s leave may be designated as FFCRA leave as described above or, if the employee elects, as state sick leave. UT System sick leave policies and practices will apply if an employee or family member becomes ill unrelated to COVID-19. If an employee is sick or caring for a family member and not working, they should notify their supervisor. Depending on the circumstances, including employee eligibility, the leave may also be designated as Family and Medical Leave.
Employees may want to discuss with their supervisor the possibility of using leave intermittently. Supervisors should reach out to HR for guidance regarding employee leave.
Since primary/secondary schools and/or childcare centers have closed at least temporarily, can employees who are parents or caregivers take time off from work to care for family members impacted by the school closure?
A department head should first decide if the employee is able to telecommute. If the answer is yes, the employee should follow UT System guidance above regarding telecommuting. UT System encourages supervisors to be flexible, such as allowing employees to perform work outside of regular business hours and to take partial days of leave. If the employee cannot telework due to school closures or the unavailability of child care, the employee may be eligible to use paid leave under the FFCRA as described above.
If personnel are required to work despite a worksite closure, will they be eligible for hazard pay?
By Texas law, only certain law enforcement personnel are eligible for hazardous duty pay.
If an employee is confirmed to have contracted COVID-19 in the course and scope of employment, is the employee eligible for workers’ compensation benefits?
Any UT employee who believes he or she has suffered an on-the-job injury or illness should contact their WCI Representative to report the injury or illness.
Will UT SELECT provide coverage for COVID-19? What out-of-pocket costs should a member expect to pay?
- Effective immediately, the UT SELECT and UT CONNECT plan will not require prior authorization and will waive member copayments, coinsurance, and deductibles associated with testing for COVID-19 when medically necessary and consistent with Centers for Disease Control (CDC) guidance.
- With regard to treatment for COVID-19, UT SELECT and UT CONNECT will cover medically necessary services consistent with the terms of each plan, including physician services, hospitalization, and emergency services.
- A primary care physician copayment will apply for medically necessary treatment delivered to a patient who may be quarantined under CDC guidelines in a setting other than inpatient.
- For specific questions about UT SELECT coverage, members should call a Blue Cross and Blue Shield Health Advocate at 866-882-2034. For UT CONNECT, please contact the CONNECT customer service team at 888-399-8889.
- Virtual doctor visits through MDLIVE continue to be available with no out-of-pocket costs and can be used when appropriate. UT Benefits highly encourages employees and their covered family members to pre-register for MDLive so services are readily available when needed. Registration takes approximately 10 minutes, just like “new patient” patient registration at any doctor’s office.
- Any person experiencing illness should contact their doctor or MDLIVE.
- Should members need to access an early refill of prescription medication, they may do so through their UT SELECT and UT CONNECT prescription benefits. Express Scripts, our pharmacy benefit manager, has lifted the “refill too soon” limitations to accommodate early refills for prescription medications up to a 90-day supply.
- All other UT Benefits programs will continue to operate according to the plan specifications outlined here. This includes dental, vision, short -term disability, long-term disability and life insurance. For disability and life insurance purposes, COVID-19 will be considered just as any other illness.
I appreciate the opportunity to work from home but I miss my usual routine and my coworkers. How can I make the most of this new working arrangement?
Adjusting to fulltime telecommuting can be more difficult than one might expect. It may feel isolating if you’re home alone, or challenging to balance work/life issues when working with spouses and/or children nearby. UT System’s Employee Benefits offers tips for working productively—and staying emotionally healthy—while working remotely.