University of Minnesota  Administrative Policy

University State of Emergency: Human Resources Implications

Policy Statement

The president or designee, in accordance with the University Emergency Operations Plan, may declare a University State of Emergency due to unexpected events affecting University operations, public health, or the well-being and safety of students, faculty, staff, and visitors, including but not limited to:

  • inclement weather;
  • a natural or human-caused disaster;
  • the outbreak of pandemic illnesses; or
  • any other unforeseen circumstances, including instances requiring suspension of services, reduction of operations, and/or closure of operations such as emergency closings.

The declaration of a State of Emergency could cover any, some, or all of the campuses of the University. This policy and associated procedures address the human resources implications of a declared State of Emergency, including the recovery period following a State of Emergency in which portions of this policy would remain in effect.

The University will use information provided by local, state, and federal agencies and subject matter experts in making decisions related to the preparation, response, and recovery from such events.

This policy is intended to provide direction when faced with unique emergency situations. The policy terms and provisions should not be viewed as a general reflection of the value placed on particular University functions or personnel. For example, the term "Essential employee" as used in the policy refers to employees whose duties must be performed on site, and must continue to be performed during a period of closure or reduced operations. It is not intended to discount or dismiss mission critical duties performed by other employees.

Supervisors are responsible for communicating to their employees their department, campus, college, or administrative unit Continuity of Operations Plan (COOP) and the University Emergency Operations Plan.

In Anticipation of a University State of Emergency

  • University Relations staff and other designated University officials will communicate broadly and repetitively throughout any emergency situation.
  • Unless directed otherwise, individuals who are able to work are expected to report for work.
  • University departments are encouraged to be as flexible as possible to enable all faculty, staff and students to work remotely, have flexible schedules, etc.
  • Faculty, staff, and student workers may be assigned alternate duties to support the University in whatever capacity is needed.
  • If it pertains to the State of Emergency, Health, Safety and Risk Management is responsible for communicating guidelines and responding to questions related to the prevention and handling of exposure in the workplace. The guidelines will be developed with the advice of local, state, and federal authorities and subject matter experts, and will be updated as the situation evolves.
  • Only employees and officials with the requisite training and responsibilities will be asked to perform work that could endanger their health and safety. Depending on availability of personnel, training for new employees may or may not be available.
  • If directed, employees should not report to the workplace and should follow procedures outlined by their departments or unit for maintaining communication and direction about assignments.

During a Declared University State of Emergency

  • Essential employees must report for work on site, unless they are specifically directed to work remotely.
  • Back up and non-Essential employees must not report to campus. However, such employees must maintain regular contact with their supervisors as instructed, and will be expected to perform duties remotely to the extent possible.
  • Pay and health care benefits for all employees will continue throughout a University State of Emergency in accordance with University policy, consistent with any directives issued by the University and pursuant to Appendix: Pay Provisions During Emergency Closings or Reduced Operations and for a duration determined by the University. Adjustments to compensation and to leave balances may be made following the University State of Emergency as required by circumstances. Health care benefits will not be discontinued during a University State of Emergency (for example, due to lack of paid status or an employee's inability to provide the employee portion of the cost).
  • Supervisors are responsible for tracking the status of their employees throughout the State of Emergency in order to make the proper adjustments to leave balances, if necessary, after the University State of Emergency has ended and all employees return to work as usual.

Essential Positions

Essential employees are expected to report to campus during a University State of Emergency unless specifically directed by their department not to report, or if directed by civil emergency or medical authorities not to report for health and safety reasons.

Departments/units are responsible for identifying Essential positions and individuals who may be in back-up positions to those designated as Essential, and notifying these individuals of their role. Central administration, through the senior administrator, may also designate certain positions as Essential. The senior administrator for a campus, college, or administrative unit has the authority and responsibility to determine which employees are designated as Essential for particular types of emergency, and will inform such employees in writing  . Any position may be designated as Essential at any point during a University State of Emergency, even if not designated Essential or alternate for an Essential position prior to the University State of Emergency, depending on the type of emergency. Employees may be designated as Essential on a situational basis, (e.g., in the event of an emergency) or for a defined period of time.

Back-up Positions

Employees in positions designated as back-up for Essential positions whose designation changed to Essential during a University State of Emergency must report to work upon notification of this changed designation. Back-up employees must contact their departments for instructions during a University State of Emergency.

Non-Essential Positions

Non-Essential positions are those not designated as either Essential or back-up to Essential positions essential during a University State of Emergency. Employees in non-Essential positions will not report to campus during a University State of Emergency.

Employees in these positions may expect their department to attempt to contact them, and should attempt to contact their department during a University State of Emergency, according to the department's check-in procedures. For units with a  Continuity of Operations Plan (COOP), those details will be found there.

Departments that identify a need for ongoing work by non-Essential employees should offer alternative work arrangements, such as working from home or another work location. To the extent possible, such arrangements should be agreed upon in advance of any University State of Emergency. Refer to Appendix: Position Description and Responsibilities for further explanation including communication to employees with expectations.

Paid and Unpaid Leave during a University State of Emergency

During a University State of Emergency, and due to a possible inadequate number of payroll personnel, the University will continue to provide pay and benefits to all employees as if they were working their normal work schedules, pursuant to Appendix: Pay Provisions During Emergency Closings or Reduced Operations and for a duration determined by the University. This status will continue until there are adequate payroll personnel able to work, at which time adjustments will be made to reflect usage of various leave time (e.g. sick leave, vacation, leave without pay). In addition to regular leave times, the University will provide emergency paid leave to assist employees during a University State of Emergency. Actual amounts of such leave and the process for utilization will be declared upon assessment of the emergency, including an analysis of any fiscal constraints, and communicated to employees.

Departments are responsible for tracking hours worked and hours assigned to various leaves throughout the University State of Emergency. These will be utilized to adjust payroll records following the crisis. Employees will be required to report, as instructed, on their attendance status throughout the University State of Emergency.

Other Human Resource Issues during a University State of Emergency

Refer to Appendix: Other Human Resource Issues during a University State of Emergency for information regarding other human resource issues (working outside a classification and home campus/college/administrative unit, paychecks, grant-funded employees, labor represented staff, compensatory time off, probationary periods, recruitment and selection, timekeeping, and other).

Following a Declared University State of Emergency

The president will determine whether policy provisions that apply to employees prior to and during a University State of Emergency will remain in effect during the recovery period that follows and will communicate broadly those provisions to the University community in a timely manner.

Evolving Situations

While this policy provides direction for addressing emergency situations, the University also recognizes that such situations are often unpredictable, and that each situation is different. The University must be flexible in order to respond appropriately and effectively as situations develop. During any situation covered by this policy, the University is committed to providing open and timely communications regarding its decisions and response plan, including any amendments to this or other applicable administrative policies and procedures.

Reason for Policy

The University recognizes the need to prepare for the management of unexpected events affecting University operations, public health, or the well-being and safety of people on campus, including but not limited to inclement weather, a natural or human-caused disaster, the outbreak of pandemic illnesses, and/or any other unforeseen circumstances, including instances requiring suspension of services and/or closure of operations. The policy provides information to leaders, supervisors, and employees related to human resource practices in the event of a declared University State of Emergency. The ongoing delivery of routine compensation and benefits is a priority. The University will undertake measures to avoid the interruption of key benefits, such as health care coverage, for its employees during a period of emergency.


General Information or Procedural Assistance
  • Primary: Responsible administrator/ supervisor
  • Secondary: Local campus, college, or administrative unit HR administrator
  • Other (as needed): Office of Human Resources specialist or consultant
612-624-UOHR (8647); 800-756-2363[email protected]
Document ProcessingOffice of Human Resources Call Center612-624-UOHR (8647) [email protected]
Responsible Individuals
Responsible Officer Policy Owner Primary Contact
  • Vice President, Office of Human Resources
  • Senior Director - Total Rewards
  • See Contacts Table above


Campus, College, or Administrative Unit

The large unit that directly reports to a chancellor, dean, vice president, or a senior vice president.


The organizational group with which an employee is identified; a department or division within a college or an administrative unit. University research and outreach centers are considered departments for the purposes of this policy.

Emergency Closing

Covers closures due to severe weather, major utility failures, natural disaster, or conditions considered a state of emergency by either the state or national government, the duration of which is five days or less. An emergency closing has neither the catastrophic effect nor the duration of impact on the University community of a University State of Emergency. Emergency closings and University State of Emergencies are identified as such when they are declared.


Faculty, staff or student worker. Graduate assistants are also included in this category.


Refers to positions responsible for the health and safety of the University community and the operational continuity throughout the University State of Emergency and generally must be performed on site.

Essential Employees

An employee who has been designated as vital to the operations of the University, whose presence is required regardless of the existence of an emergency condition, or whose absence from duty could endanger the safety and well-being of the campus population and/or physical plant. Essential employees may be designated in a unit’s Continuity of Operations plan, on a situational basis, (e.g., in the event of a snow emergency only or in the event of a public health crisis), or for a defined period of time. Those employees deemed Essential employees will be notified of such designation and the location from which they can perform their duties. Designations can be changed at any time. The term Essential employee, under this policy, is not the same definition as an "essential employee" used in the Public Employment Labor Relations Act (PELRA).

Immediate Family Member

Spouse, household member, and siblings, parents, or wards of the employee or spouse.

Report for Work

Refers to time spent engaging in approved University work activities from any approved location.

Student Worker

Non-exempt graduate and professional students, and all undergraduate students who work for the University. Graduate assistants are not included as student workers in this policy.

University State of Emergency

A University State of Emergency is in effect when the University president, or delegate, declares such a state under the guidelines set forth in the University Emergency Operations Plan. The University State of Emergency may be campus specific, restricted to particular areas of any campus, or may be campus or University-wide, depending on the circumstances at the time. During a University State of Emergency, special procedures will guide the utilization of paid and unpaid leave time in order to continue compensation and benefits throughout the period of emergency.



  • Determines the University's appropriate course of action in managing high rates of absenteeism or threat to public health due to unexpected catastrophic event.
  • Declares a University State of Emergency when appropriate.

Senior Leader Group

  • Facilitates communications and policy decisions where necessary.

University Relations

  • Communicates regularly and repetitively to the campus and neighboring communities about the emergency status.

University of Health and Safety

  • Advises and consults on issues related to workplace exposure.

Department of Emergency Management

  • Directs people to the Emergency Operations Plan.

Office of Human Resources

  • Provides resources and tools for units to track employee payroll status throughout the State of Emergency.
  • Provides guidelines and consultation on human resource policies and issues such as compensation, flexible scheduling, assignment of work, benefits, telecommuting, job sharing, etc.
  • Provides an emergency employee placement service to match employees willing and able to work with units that have a particular need for their skills.
  • Communicates changes to standard processes and procedures.
  • Determines continuation of leave programs based on the conditions of the emergency.

Campus/College/Vice President Unit

  • Maintains confidentiality of emergency contact information to the extent allowed by law.
  • Provides workforce with regular, repetitive information regarding emergency, work continuance measures, and the status of the campus, college, or administrative unit and its departments.
  • Facilitates advance planning for emergencies; communicates such plans to employees and student workers.
  • Ensures that employees are trained and well informed regarding emergency procedures.

Department (Unit)

  • Determines essential positions and their back-ups. Discusses designations with impacted employees and communicates to employees annually.
  • Maintains confidentiality of emergency contact information to the extent allowed by law.
  • Provides employees, supervisors, and leaders with regular, repetitive updates using a variety of communication mechanisms.
  • Plans for and provides flexible work arrangements in response to a variety of disturbances and individual needs.
  • Communicates work expectations to faculty, staff, graduate assistants, and student employees regularly and repetitively.
  • Facilitates employing unit support networks to the extent possible and as appropriate (e.g. care for property, family, or pets, sharing rides, sharing jobs, etc.)
  • Refers employees to University Employee Assistance Program or other support resources as needed and appropriate.
  • Implements directives.


  • Respond to emergency paid leave requests.
  • Determine if an eligible individual can perform work remotely and assist with any equipment requests or set-up, as deemed appropriate.
  • Provide additional information with regard to Administrative Policy: Family and Medical - FMLA Leave and other available leave options per administrative policy, governing rules, or collective bargaining agreements.
  • Ensure that emergency paid administrative leave is documented in the Human Resources Management System (HRMS).


  • Provide department with current emergency contact information, and update that information on an on-going basis if it changes.
  • Discusses alternative work arrangements such as working from home or another location in case of a State of Emergency with the responsible administrator supervisor.
  • Contact department to determine need to report for work on site.
  • If approved by the department, report for work when able and appropriate, whether on campus, at home, or at another location.
  • If unable to report to work, update department of condition or whereabouts as soon as possible.
  • Communicate specific requests and needs to the
  • Request leave for related absences necessary to care for self or an Immediate Family Member as outlined in Appendix: Emergency Paid Administrative Leave for COVID-19.

Related Information



March 2020 - Added new appendix addressing COVID virus.


November 2016 - Comprehensive Review, Major Revision. 1. Eliminates specific language around pandemic influenza to broaden application of policy. 2. Aligns definitions and policy with related policies (COOP and Campus and building Closing). 3. Eliminates two appendices specific to pandemic influenza. 4. Simplifies language and provide clarity where possible.


October 2009