COVID-19 Temporary Work From Home Policy

NIPISSING UNIVERSITY

Policy Category:                      Human Resources

Policy Number:                        

Policy Name:                           COVID -19 Temporary Work from Home Policy                                                 

Responsible Department:       Human Resources

Original Approval Date:          March 17, 2020

Approval Authority:                Vice-President, Finance and Administration

Last Updated:                         March 9, 2021

Review Date:                            1 year from date of approval

PURPOSE

Nipissing University continues to closely monitor the COVID-19 situation and maintains this policy to help supervisors and employees assess the suitability of a temporary work from home arrangement.

Based on the University’s operational requirements and the employee’s specific role and responsibilities, temporary work from home arrangements may not suitable for all positions and situations.

OVERVIEW

This temporary work from home arrangement is a policy whereby an employee fulfills their job responsibilities in a remote location that is not operated by the employer e.g. office space in an employee’s residence.

PRINCIPLES

During a work from home arrangement, the University retains its rights under the applicable collective agreements and administrative guidelines.

The work from home arrangement does not change the employee’s basic terms and conditions of employment with the University under the applicable collective agreement, employment contract, policies, and laws.

The work from home arrangement should maintain an employee’s regular hours of work and income, such that it does not affect the employee’s pension and benefit plans provided by the University.

In some cases, a supervisor may require the employee to report to the supervisor in different ways or with a different level of frequency than when the employee is working on University property, to keep the supervisor up-to-date on the work of an employee who is not on-site every workday. For example, the supervisor may wish to schedule additional update meetings, have updates provided by email, phone or video conference, or implement other schedules and methods of reporting.

The University will not typically subsidize the cost of the employee’s remote workspace, including equipment or supplies. Nonetheless, the supervisor can consider requests relating to equipment or supplies required by an employee to work from home that are beyond what an employee would ordinarily have at home or would keep at home following the end of the work from home arrangement under this policy. All equipment and supply purchases must be pre-approved by the supervisor to be eligible for reimbursement.

DUTIES AND RESPONSIBILITIES OF EMPLOYEES

Although working from home does not, in and of itself, amend the terms and conditions of an employee’s employment, there are various arrangements that need to be made for this policy to be successful. Additionally, employees may need to be aware of employment terms and conditions that are more relevant or apply differently to them while working from home. All employees should pay particular attention to the following:

Performance of job duties during working hours

Just as the employee is required to do while working on University premises, the working from home employee is expected to perform work duties in the normal course and must be available and accessible during agreed upon working hours. The employee is intended to be prioritizing work during normal working hours, although supervisors are expected to allow appropriate flexibility for employees.

Requesting vacation, overtime, personal days etc.

The normal departmental processes apply for seeking approval for overtime, and requesting vacation, personal days, or other absences. Supervisors who are uncertain whether such requests are compatible with the work from home arrangement can contact the Human Resources office at carried@nipissingu.ca for clarification. For clarity, working from home, in and of itself, shall not trigger overtime.

Equipment and supplies

For purposes of this policy, the term “Equipment” includes but is not limited to any information technology, hardware, software, and connectivity. The University will not typically subsidize the cost of the employee’s remote workspace, including computer hardware or internet service at home. Specific requirements in terms of equipment (e.g., connectivity via internet, Virtual Private Network (VPN), remote desktop), may be set out in a work from home arrangement agreed upon between a supervisor and employee. If the University provides any equipment or supplies, this will also be specified in writing. Such equipment or supplies are to be used solely for the purposes of the employee’s duties for the University. They remain the property of the University and subject to the employee being required to maintain them and return them at the end of the work from home arrangement or earlier if requested by the University.

Communications

The employee who is working from home must be reachable by telephone, text or instant messaging, email or other agreed upon method of contact during the agreed upon hours of work to the extent that they would be available if working on University property.

Reporting obligations

The employee will be advised if required to report to their supervisor (and maintain contact with co-workers) in a different way or with a different level of frequency while working from home. The employee is responsible for notifying their supervisor as soon as possible in the event of equipment or connectivity malfunction. In such cases, it is expected that every reasonable effort be made by the employee who is working from home to minimize work disruption. Those who are working from home are also reminded that all usual reporting obligations exist during times they are working offsite, including the obligation to report to the supervisor in accordance with normal departmental practices in the event the employee is sick or otherwise unable to work during scheduled working hours (including, for example, attending a medical appointment or other personal obligations).

Return of university property

When the work from home arrangement ends for any reason, or at any time the supervisor determines, in its sole discretion, that the work from home arrangement is no longer required by the employee, the employee will return any University property that was provided to them for purposes of working from home. This includes all University owned equipment (computers, monitors, office chairs, printers), ergonomic devices (sit/stand desks, footrests, ergonomic chairs, lumbar supports, wrist supports) and office supplies, as well as documents, material, files, etc.

Health and Safety measures

When employees are working from home, they should meet the same health and safety standards as those available while at work on campus. For example, they should make sure that:

·       Their workstation is set up properly: that the keyboard is at the right height (wrists are in a neutral position), that the mouse is on the same level as the keyboard and that the table or desk they are using is sturdy enough to handle the weight of the equipment.  

·       Their workspace is appropriate for work – allowing for easy concentration

·       Lighting is properly arranged as to minimize any reflections or glare on the computer monitor

·       They check in with their supervisor on a daily basis or as necessary

Privacy and confidentiality

At the University, information that is not public must be treated as confidential. The University is subject to various requirements regarding privacy and confidentiality that arise out of legislation and policy. All such requirements must be met by the employee who is working from home in respect of any electronic or hardcopy information or records outside secure University environments or that the employee accesses electronically from offsite. Employees should be familiar with the Nipissing University Confidentiality Agreement.

The employee working from home must take all reasonable steps to secure and maintain the confidentiality of all University information and documents while they are being transported to and from the employee’s off-site workspace, and while the documents are in the off-site workspace. Such steps will include protecting such documents from being damaged, destroyed, stolen, copied or otherwise accessed by unauthorized individuals.

University documents that are to be disposed of or destroyed in the course of the employee’s work are to be disposed of or destroyed on site at the University. There may be some documents that the employee working from home will not be permitted to take out of the departmental office due to privacy/confidentiality concerns.

If a breach of privacy/confidentiality occurs, the employee must inform their supervisor as soon as reasonably possible. Breaches of privacy/confidentiality arising during the course of telecommuting will be assessed on their individual facts and may result in disciplinary action up to and including the termination of employment.

Information security

The employee working from home is responsible for protecting University data by adhering to the Nipissing University Computing Acceptable Use Policy. Employees working from home must comply with all University guidelines to protect University data and the use of computer hardware and software, including, but not limited to:

• Using strong passwords as required for any departmental accounts

• Using a University-sanctioned VPN (virtual private network) to securely connect back to University systems.

• Storing sensitive documents on Office 365 or local area network storage, not local or removable devices. Sensitive documents temporarily stored on a local device must be copied to an approved location (Office 365 or local area network storage) and deleted after use.

• Only University owned computers are to be used to perform University work and must have up to date operating system and software patched and antivirus definitions installed. Preference is given to employees using fully managed computers. 

• The employee working from home must report any suspected data security breaches to their supervisor and local IT department immediately.

·  All employees must complete the required cyber security training modules and should contact the help desk for more information on how to complete the training.

RELATED POLICIES

• Nipissing University Computing Acceptable Use Policy

• Nipissing University Confidentiality Agreement