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To protect against the spread of COVID-19, Tufts is enacting emergency staffing measures, offering more flexible sick leave benefits and providing additional opportunities to work from home. These emergency guidelines and interim measures were developed to best respond to the COVID-19 pandemic and are subject to change as the impact on the university and its community evolves. You can read the last staff update in full here.

Guiding Principles for Employment at Tufts During COVID-19 Pandemic

The university remains open and our important work in the world continues. Although much of the university staff is now working from home, and may be for some time, this does not mean that the university is closed. Wherever you are working, we thank all of our staff for their efforts in support of the university during this difficult time.

Our goal is to remain focused on the safety and wellbeing of our colleagues and their families, as they balance the new and evolving demands placed upon them both at work and at home. As a community, we ask for all management and staff to work together collaboratively, compassionately and creatively to continue the important work of the university.

Understanding Tufts Staffing During COVID-19 Pandemic

Essential On-Campus Staff

Consistent with Governor Baker’s March 24, 2020 Executive Order, colleges and universities, have been designated as “Essential On-Campus Services.” As a result, some Tufts’ staff members will be able to continue working on campus during this period. Supervisors will inform staff if it is essential that they continue to report to work on campus, pursuant to the Governor’s Order.

We are grateful for the critical contributions these staff are making to our community and for their dedication and service. Because the university remains open and the university’s operations will continue under the Governor’s Order, it should be noted that the “Essential On-Campus” designation is separate and distinct from references to “essential personnel” that appear in the university’s collective bargaining agreements and handbooks and which are applicable only to university closures.

For more information about the Governor’s Order and Tufts Emergency Staffing model for Essential On-Campus Staff, see the following FAQs.

A copy of Governor Baker’s Executive Order can be found online at: COVID-19 Order No. 13.

Essential Staff (Off-Site or On-Call)

  • Off-Site. A number of our staff members remain “essential” as described in university policy. However, in light of the Governor’s Order, Essential Staff who have not been specifically identified as “Essential On-Campus” will be expected to take all necessary steps to be able to work from home immediately. Essential staff whose work may not lend itself to working from home should speak to their supervisor to plan alternative options to off-side work.
  • On-Call. Certain essential staff members may also remain in an “on-call COVID-19 essential” status, and as such, will be called upon to report to work on an on-call or regular basis as required.

Non-Essential Staff.

  • Working from Home. Staff who are not in the essential group should continue to work from home until further notice.
  • Alternative Options for Off-Site Work. The university appreciates that some of our staff will not be able to perform their traditional on-campus work from home and that others may not be available during normal or peak business hours. Tufts is considering options to keep staff who fall into these categories engaged in the mission and work of the university through off-site work alternatives. Some of these options may include cross-training; professional development training and/or content creation; and long-term projects within the individual’s work unit. More information about this is forthcoming.
  • Academic Staff. Postdocs and graduate students have received specific information related to their work via an additional communication from the Provost’s Office. Additional information and resources for Academic Staff can also be found here: https://coronavirus.tufts.edu/3-18-20-grad-prof-postdoc/

For additional resources, please see the general FAQ as well as a Guidance for Research Continuity.

Q: Who qualifies as an Essential On-Campus Employee?

A: The university has identified certain critical job functions necessary to support a strong response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The selection of these job functions was informed by guidance at the federal, state and local level. Consistent with that guidance, Essential On-Campus Employees include, but are not limited to, the following job functions:

  • Medical professionals
  • Veterinary health professionals, including animal care attendants, and those involved in the distribution of animal medical materials, animal vaccines and animal drugs
  • IT staff members
  • Research laboratory staff associated with basic maintenance and limited approved research exceptions afforded by the OVPR
  • Law enforcement officers/dispatchers
  • Food service workers
  • Plumbers, electricians and others necessary to maintain safe operation of essential facilities
  • Custodial workers/cleaning personnel/waste removal
  • Educators and staff performing critical student support functions

To the extent that essential employees in these categories can work from home, they should do so. However, the nature of these job functions may require some essential employees to be physically present on campus to perform duties critical to Tufts’ COVID-19 response.

Q: If my staff are uncomfortable coming to work because of COVID-19, what should I do?

A: Most of the staff should be working from home, unless they have been deemed “Essential On-Campus Staff” for the operational or academic continuity of the university and consistent with Governor Baker’s March 24th Executive Order. Supervisors should inform staff if they fall into this category.

If “Essential On-Campus Staff” are not ill and have not been exposed to COVID-19, they are expected to come to work (please see possible exceptions below). Please remind staff working on campus to take preventive measures, such as frequent hand washing, and not touching eyes, nose, or mouth. Staff will also be required to adhere to recently published state advisories associated with Governor Baker’s Executive Order that require all staff to practice social distancing (keeping a 6-foot distance from others) and to refrain from congregating in groups of more than 10 people. If staff have concerns about exposure, including feeling they have been exposed to the virus or that they have health-related reasons that may support temporary work at home flexibility, you may speak with your HR business partner about whether FMLA or ADA processes may be appropriate.

Q: What steps can we take to help keep Essential On-Campus Staff safe while they are working on campus?

A: Essential staff who need to report to work on campus should observe public health guidelines while at work, including social distancing requirements—staying 6 feet away from other people and making sure never to congregate in a group of more than 10 people.

Essential staff should also continue to follow these preventative measures:

  • Wash your hands frequently with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds, or use hand sanitizer.
  • Cover your cough. Keep germs from spreading by coughing into your sleeve, not your hand.
  • Avoid sharing drinks, food, and/or cigarettes or vaping products.
  • Avoid touching eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Keep your personal space as clean as you can.

Q: What if I have a staff member who is afraid to come to work because they have a medical condition that makes them vulnerable to COVID-19. Do I have to mandate them to report to work if they have been designated a “Essential On-Campus Staff”?

A: Individuals with high-risk factors for COVID-19 severe illness who are concerned for their health may seek reasonable accommodation by contacting the university’s Office of Equal Opportunity and/or exercise the university’s generous leave benefits, as needed and appropriate. If you have questions or concerns about staff with “Essential On-Campus” status seeking reasonable accommodations or leave for this purpose, speak to your Human Resources Business Partner or you may also contact the university’s Office of Equal Opportunity.

Please note that the Center of Disease Control has identified high-risk factor for COVID-19 severe illness as:

  • Older adults (CDC notes those age 65 or older are at higher risk for severe illness)
  • Individuals with underlying health conditions like heart disease, diabetes, lung disease, HIV
  • Individuals with compromised immune conditions
  • Pregnant women

Q: When do I contact Human Resources if my staff member calls out sick with COVID-19?

A: If a staff member has called in sick with confirmed COVID-19, you will need to notify our COVID-19 operations group at covid19@tufts.edu right away.

  • Please include the staff member’s work location, hours, and general role description (one to two sentences).
  • Please share any known vectors provided by the staff member, such as recent travel and locations of travel, recent contact with someone else who was later determined to be infected, etc., and what likely contacts they may have had with Tufts faculty, staff, and students.
  • Please do not ask any questions of your staff that would violate their medical/health privacy. The operations group will notify HR and this information will be treated as a confidential record disassociated from regular personnel information.
  • Please see the questions in the Staff FAQ section regarding self-quarantine and self-isolation. Current CDC recommendations for self-quarantine (possible exposure but no symptoms) is 14 calendar days (depending on an individual staff member’s work schedule, approximately 10 business days of absence) and self-isolation (confirmed illness) is of indeterminate length requiring case-by-case review with state and local health departments.
  • Please review the staff FAQs and be prepared to answer questions for staff regarding our interim policies and procedures for addressing COVID-19, including sick and other leave options (e.g., sick time, any telework options, and ADA accommodations).

If you have questions, please contact your Human Resources Business Partner.

Q: My “Essential On-Campus Staff” member has someone at home with COVID-19. Should they report to work nonetheless?

A: No. Consider that a staff member sharing a household with someone who has COVID-19 may be exposed themselves. Staff who are exposed to COVID-19 are required, per CDC guidance, to self-quarantine for 14 calendar days. Alternative work options may permit an affected staff member to work at home during this time. See Staff FAQ regarding self-quarantine protocol.

Q: When can my staff resume work if they have had COVID-19?

A: Medical clearance from a staff member’s physician or from a public health authority is required for staff to resume work after a confirmed COVID-19 infection. If your department has additional requirements, please adhere to those as well.

Q: Whom should I contact to report incidents of bias against Tufts community members?

A: If you or someone you know at Tufts has experienced an incident of bias, please contact our Office of Equal Opportunity at oeo@tufts.edu or (617) 627-3298, or you may report the incident anonymously at http://Tufts-OEO.ethicspoint.com

Q: My department is short-staffed because of COVID-19. What are my options?

A: Consult with your supervisor/manager and EAD or VP.

Q: Can I temporarily assign my staff to work in short-staffed departments?

A: Yes, as a manager you may be able to re-assign your staff to help in short-staffed departments, but please consult with your Human Resources Business Partner and relevant collective bargaining agreements. Temporary re-assignments may be necessary to ensure continued service to the Tufts community. Please note that unionized staff are subject to collective bargaining agreements that may limit re-assignment and/or provide for additional pay or other requirements following re-assignment.

Q: Can my staff work more than their normally scheduled work hours if needed?

A: The short answer is yes. Keep in mind that you will need to pay overtime for non-exempt staff who work over 40 hours per week. Exempt staff are not eligible for overtime, but may be asked to work more than their normally scheduled work hours.

Q: What do I do if I have an open position? Will I be able to fill the position?

A: Contact your Human Resources Business Partner for guidance.

Q: My employee who handles time entry is out sick. What should I do?

A: Standard best practice is to have several staff in your department trained as timekeepers. In the event of an emergency when none of your trained timekeepers is able to enter time, Tufts Support Services can help you with timekeeps of 20 staff or fewer. Contact Tufts Support Services at 617-627-7000 for guidance.

Q: Who can I go to with finance questions?

A: The Finance Division seeks to maintain business operations through remote work during this period. For general financial questions, please reach out to your Budget Center contact. Please see the dedicated Finance FAQ page for more.

Q: What if I have questions about how to handle a work-related issue involving COVID-19 that is not addressed here? 

A: The university is regularly posting updates to its guidelines, procedures, and approach to COVID-19. If you have questions, you may also contact your Human Resources Business Partner.

Please remember that we have a shared interest in maintaining a campus community free from discrimination. We must remain committed to preventing and containing, as necessary, an outbreak of COVID-19 within the Tufts community that is not in any way discriminatory or exclusionary. Our goal is to promote a culture of awareness and vigilance that is universal, and not specific to any nationality, race, ability, or other protected category.