HR Operations

Maintaining healthy workplaces

Last updated: November 14, 2023

In order to protect the health of ourselves and our community, the University encourages employees to stay home when sick, get an annual flu vaccine, and stay up-to-date with COVID-19 vaccines. Use guidance provided below to learn more about supports for prioritizing workplace health.

Release time for vaccination

Vaccination is the most effective way to prevent serious and contagious respiratory diseases and to protect vulnerable patients, students, and staff. In the event that an employee is unable to secure an appointment to receive a flu or COVID-19 vaccination (including boosters) outside of work hours, the University grants employees reasonable paid release time of up to two hours to get vaccinated. The release time may include the amount of time to travel and receive a vaccine.

Employees should follow their department’s procedures for requesting release time and should 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). 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 a vaccine or who need to take time off for a family member to receive a 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. Contact your leave specialist if you have questions about vaccine-related absence not covered by release time.

Is release time for getting COVID vaccines entered in Workday or Kronos? How is release time for taking the COVID-19 vaccines recorded in Workday?

No. Overtime eligible employees record it as hours worked, meaning 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.

What types of time off can an employee request if they need more than the two hours of release time in order to get vaccinated?

An employee can account for missed time using sick time off, vacation time off, personal holiday (for a full day absence), compensatory time off, and holiday credit. If balances are exhausted, unpaid time off may be used.

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.

Are 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?


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Caring for yourself or family members

The University supports you in making your health a priority. University benefits and programs are available to allow you to focus on getting better or to focus on family members during their illness.

Time off options

If an employee does not have enough accrued time off, use unpaid time off until they return to work.

Employees who are unable to report for or remain at work due to a family care emergency must be allowed to apply up to three (3) work days per calendar year of each of time off types available to the employee (vacation time off, sick time off, unpaid time off, personal holiday) to account for time away from work:

Temporary telework arrangements

Employees are encouraged to take the time off they need to rest and recover. However, if you have mild symptoms or need to stay home to take care of a mildly ill family member, requesting a temporary telework arrangement is an option. For temporary telework to be successful, you should be able to reasonably accomplish your work by telework and you should be well enough and have sufficient time to accomplish meaningful work during some or all of the time at home.

Emergency ride home

If you are feeling ill at work and need help getting home your manager may encourage you to have someone pick you up from work. Additionally, the Emergency Ride Home program reimburses up to 100% of an emergency taxi or ride hailing service fare and is available to U-PASS holders and/or employees with a permit for one of Transportation Services’ secure bike facilities on campus.

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Promoting a healthy workplace

Communicate to employees that you expect them to take time off when they’re sick.

Frequently asked questions about supporting employees are provided below.

How should I prepare my department for flu season and illness due to COVID-19?

  • Remind employees of your unit’s procedure for calling in sick and what to do if they begin to feel ill while at work.
  • Review telework information so that temporary telework arrangements can be set up quickly and easily after approval.
  • See how to connect to UW networks from home.
  • Discuss with your team the challenges flu season can pose; think about cross-training and what kind of support may be needed in a situation where several team members could be out for several days and at the same time.
  • Keep your own health in mind and be prepared to call in sick to work if you experience symptoms.
  • Contact your Human Resources Consultant at any time.

Can I send an employee home if the employee demonstrates or complains of flu-like or COVID-19 symptoms?

You should encourage an employee who is not feeling well to return home. Explain that returning home is in the employee’s best interest and that of others in the workplace. An employee may use sick or other eligible accrued time off to cover such time away from work.

If an employee will not voluntarily return home to recuperate, contact your Human Resources Consultant (HRC) for assistance. Your HRC will help you determine whether the employee should be directed to leave and remain home until they have recuperated.

If the employee does not have paid time off available, unpaid time off should be used. However, overtime exempt employees will not be charged unpaid time off for partial day non-FMLA absences related to illness.

What should I do if a colleague or my manager is sick and comes to work?

If a coworker or manager is exhibiting symptoms that cause you concern, bring your concern to the attention of that person’s manager. If you remain concerned, contact your Human Resources Consultant.

Will an employee need to report that they have COVID-19 when they call in sick?

Employees who test positive for COVID-19 regardless of their vaccination status should report it to Environmental Health & Safety (EH&S). However, they do not need to tell their manager that they have COVID-19 when they call in sick.

Can I apply for Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)-covered leave if I get the flu or COVID-19 or if I have a family member who is ill with flu or COVID-19?

In most situations these illnesses do not meet the definition of a serious health condition under the FMLA unless you develop complications. If you or your family member require inpatient care or continuing treatment by a health care provider for flu or COVID-19, the FMLA may apply. Please contact your HR leave specialist for assistance if you believe that your situation may be covered by the FMLA.

Can I receive Shared Leave while I’m out with the flu, a flu-like illness, or COVID-19?

Typically the flu or COVID-19 does not meet the requirements of the Shared Leave Program unless an eligible employee experiences a severe, extraordinary, or life-threatening illness or injury. However, if an individual develops complications that require hospitalization their situation may meet the program’s requirements.

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