Working during COVID-19

Release time for taking the COVID-19 vaccine

This page was updated September 21, 2021.

Release time for the COVID-19 vaccine

Governor Inslee’s proclamation 21-14.1, requires all employees of Washington higher education institutions to be fully vaccinated by October 18, 2021 as a condition of employment unless a documented medical or religious exemption is approved. As of August 18, time spent by employees to get a COVID-19 vaccine is considered time worked, including the amount of time to travel and receive each dose of the vaccine whether it occurs during, or outside of, scheduled work hours.

Staff and student employees will be granted reasonable paid release time of up to two hours (per shot) to get vaccinated during work hours. The University strongly encourages staff to get vaccinated during working hours. Appointments are available at a UW site or can be found using WA’s Department of Health vaccine locator tool. However, if an employee receives their vaccine outside of work hours, overtime eligible employees should report those hours as time worked.

Employees should follow their department’s procedures for requesting release time and provide as much notice as possible.

Employees should work with their managers to ensure that time away from work does not impede critical operations. Managers may grant additional release time as appropriate and reasonable (e.g., travel distance is great, wait times and lines were lengthy). When more than two hours is taken, the employee must be paid for that time as it is considered hours worked, subject to manager approval. Employees may be asked to provide proof of appointment when making the request and/or proof of vaccination following the appointment.

Employees who experience side effects from the COVID-19 vaccine or who need to take time off for a family member to receive their COVID-19 vaccine may request to use other types of time off including sick time off, vacation time off, personal holiday, compensatory time, holiday credit, and discretionary time off. Employees may also request shared leave or may qualify for FMLA depending on the circumstances. Contact your leave specialist if you have questions regarding COVID-19 vaccine related absences not covered by release time.

Consistent with Governor Inslee’s Proclamation 21-08 Safe Workers, the University will not take any adverse employment action against an employee as a result of the employee receiving a COVID-19 vaccination or taking a reasonable period of time off to receive a COVID-19 vaccination or recover from side effects of the vaccine.

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Release time FAQs

When an overtime eligible employee is vaccinated outside of scheduled work hours, how is this recorded in Workday or Kronos?
Overtime eligible employees record hours spent to get a vaccine as work hours. Timekeeping in Workday or Kronos will look the same as if the employee was performing their regular duties. Overtime exempt employees who do not track time should not enter time off for the two hours of paid release time.

Can an employee who is out of accrued time off take unpaid time off for COVID-19 vaccine related absences not covered by release time?
Yes. If an employee does not have accrued time off, unpaid time off may be requested for absences not covered by release time such as absences caused by side effects from the COVID-19 vaccine or assisting a family member to get a COVID-19 vaccine. The University may request documentation to support the request. For more information about requesting unpaid time off and potential impacts on employment, view UWHR’s Unpaid time off webpage.

Can release time be applied retroactively if an employee previously used their own time off for their own COVID-19 vaccine before the policy was announced? Can release time be applied retroactively if an employee used their own time off after the Governor’s August 18 vaccination requirement was issued?
Yes, release time may be applied retroactively if a staff or student employee used paid or unpaid time off (of up to two hours per shot) during work hours to get vaccinated prior to the announcement of the release time policy.

Are temporary hourly staff or student employees eligible for release time?

Am I authorized for additional release time if the vaccination site runs out of the vaccine prior to my scheduled appointment or my appointment was cancelled right before I arrived?

Does vaccination status make a difference as units consider return-to-work options for individual staff?
No. Do not treat vaccinated and unvaccinated employees differently as you develop plans for returning staff to the workplace. Regardless of vaccination status, all employees who return to onsite work must follow the UW’s COVID-19 prevention guidelines.


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