Human Resources

COVID-19Employee AbsencesTelecommutingHuman Resources Officers

Wednesday, March 11, 2020 – These FAQs do not apply to UW-Madison, which has a separate Human Resources system.


Minimizing the spread of virus is critical.  If you are showing symptoms, contact your health care provider and/or local health authorities.  You should also contact your supervisor.  You should not report to work if you believe you may have a contagious disease.  Use of sick or other leave such as vacation will be handled pursuant to existing policies and procedures.  If you are showing symptoms, your supervisor may direct you to leave work and use available leave until you are cleared to return to work by a health care provider.

UW System employees should report to work until directed otherwise.  We are public university employees and have obligations to keep the university running to the extent possible during an emergency.  We are making every effort to reduce exposure in the workplace and provide information regarding disease prevention.

UW System employees may request leave time in accordance with existing leave policies.  At this time, employees are encouraged to keep working. 

Social distancing measures are designed to reduce the spread of virus by reducing direct contact between individuals.  The UW System recommends hygienic practices including disinfecting surfaces, frequent hand washing, limited touching of the face, keeping distances from others where possible, reducing sharing of paper, and reducing travel or group meetings.

The UW System makes every effort to provide a safe workplace.  If you are injured in the workplace--including contracting disease--as a direct result of your work with animals or pathogens, you would likely be entitled to Worker’s Compensation.  However, the Worker’s Compensation System is a complaint process and the normal procedures regarding proof of injury and causation would be followed.

Yes, in times of emergency all UW System employees must remain flexible to make sure the work gets done and may be asked to do work outside of their normal duties.  If the University were to remain open during the COVID-19 pandemic, employees should anticipate being asked to perform work in place of absent or ill co-workers.

You should contact your supervisor about the advice received and request the time off.  Your supervisor may require medical documentation from you in accordance with normal leave policies.  You must use sick leave or other leave time if you are advised to self-isolate unless your supervisor is able to plan for you to work remotely. 

You should discuss the situation with your supervisor.  You should not confront the individual yourself.

Employees who provide a letter from their medical practitioner may use sick or other leave such as vacation pursuant to policy if there is a risk to their health in coming to work.  This documentation should be provided to your Human Resources Department.  If your supervisor approves, you may arrange to work remotely.

This situation will be addressed at the time of need; however, at present there is no policy providing for payment of staff who are neither working remotely or on leave. 

The University is a state entity and has immunities and liability limitations particularly where we operate by following the advice of those charged with advising us in this area (chiefly the Wisconsin Department of Health Services).  Decisions should not be made based upon fear of liability.  Rather decisions should be based upon facts, informed by experts and government agencies, and justified by the University’s need to protect the health and safety of campus.

Employee Absences

Employees who are sick or have cold, fever or flu-like symptoms should remain at home.

Sick leave may be used when appropriate and in accordance with UW System policies. When employees are sick or experiencing cold or flu-like symptoms, they should remain at home and sick leave is permissible.

An interim policy on short-term telecommuting has been approved.  The interim policy is designed to provide a short-term (up to two-weeks) telecommuting arrangement based on an employee, department, or system-need.  Not all positions are eligible for short-term telecommuting.  All short-term telecommuting agreements must be approved by the appropriate institution official.

Institutions are encouraged to explore options which include but are not limited to: reassigning work that is normally not included in the employee’s job description; redirecting an employee to another employer workstation, site or building that has not been isolated or quarantined; and making use of available leave accounts.  All such options require approval by the appropriate institution official.

An official quarantine may only be imposed by an authorized governmental body such as a local public health authority.  Isolation is the separation of a person who either has or has been exposed to a communicable disease.


The interim policy on short-term telecommuting is designed to provide a framework for a short-term telecommuting agreement between a UW System employee and their supervisor.  The UW System has adopted the State of Wisconsin Telecommuting Guidelines as its policy governing long-term telecommuting practices. These state guidelines specifically do not apply in the case of an employee who works from home on a short-term basis. This policy is intended to provide guidance for circumstances in which a short-term (up to two-week) telecommuting arrangement is desired for a UW System employee based on an employee need, a department need or a system need.

This policy is not applicable to employees working under regular (not short-term) telecommuting agreements, or employees telecommuting as part of a disability accommodation approved by their institution. This policy is not intended to prohibit informal single-day telecommuting arrangements verbally agreed upon between an employee and their supervisor.

The interim policy on short-term telecommuting applies to all UW System Institutions, except UW-Madison.

The interim policy on short-term telecommuting  temporarily supplements the UW System’s adoption of the State of Wisconsin Telecommunications Guidelines.

The interim policy on short-term telecommuting will be in effect from March 10, 2020, until July 1, 2020.

Telecommuting is defined as an employment arrangement in which an employee performs their job functions from home or another remote location, in lieu of reporting to work at their normally assigned headquarters location.

If the employee and their supervisor both agree that the employee’s essential job functions can be performed from a remote workspace for the time period covered by the proposed short term telecommuting arrangement, and the other provisions of this policy are met, then the supervisor may authorize a Short-Term Telecommuting Agreement.

Employees can find and fill out the Short-Term Telecommuting Agreement on the UW System web site.  The Short-Term Telecommuting period may begin as soon as both the employer and the employee have signed off on the Agreement.

You can view the interim policy on short-term telecommuting on the UW System website. 

Human Resources Officers

These FAQs provide guidance for UW System Human Resources Officers and departments in responding to epidemics or pandemics impacting university operations.