Please distribute this information widely amongst your colleagues.
We find ourselves in unprecedented and uncertain circumstances this month. Thank you for your patience and understanding while we respond to different directives, sometimes received daily from various levels of government, and for your support as we implement institutional measures aimed at containing and responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.
We have engaged in a process of identifying the roles needed to continue working physically onsite in order to maintain the University’s critical operations. This included a process of identifying critical research, defined as COVID-19 related research and time-sensitive critical projects, that would be permitted to continue onsite. On March 24, 2020, the Ontario government implemented a Regulation under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act ordering the closure of places of non-essential business. The Order requires places of non-essential business to close their physical premises temporarily. Only businesses listed on a Schedule of essential businesses may be permitted to continue operating onsite. The Order does not prevent providing services online.
The University remains committed to ensuring that students can complete their term, that residences can accommodate students who cannot return home, and that critical research can continue. As well, we need to continue providing critical services that enable these activities to be delivered. Therefore, our goal, which is in line with directives and recommendations from all levels of government, is to maintain as few people on our three campuses as possible. This includes having people who might be involved in aspects of the University’s operations that fall within the list of essential businesses in the government Order working remotely if they are able to do so. Working remotely is a part of our shared responsibility to limit the spread of COVID-19, and to safeguard the health of our employees.
With respect to research labs, as of March 20, the following applies:
- Only labs for which an exemption has been issued by the Office of the Vice-President, Research and Innovation, and Strategic Initiatives (VPRI) can continue operating onsite. VPRI has contacted Principal Investigators in these labs to identify staff who are supporting their research and, as such, are required to work onsite. All other research should continue remotely to the extent possible.
- Labs for which an exemption has not been issued by the Office of the Vice-President, Research and Innovation, and Strategic Initiatives, must temporarily close their physical premises and continue their work remotely to the extent possible.
- If your research cannot continue remotely, your research lab may need to be temporarily closed. Principal investigators whose labs may be closing should contact their Divisional HR Offices to understand the impact of any closures on staff members within the lab. Funding agencies, including the research granting councils are developing further guidance regarding support. It is our hope and expectation that Principal Investigators will find continued work for their highly qualified personnel and assure pay continuity.
With respect to teaching of courses: Individuals who absolutely need to come to the University to complete work for teaching purposes, such as recording courses, may continue to come to campus and enter their spaces if they wish. However, they may not compel others who are not deemed essential by the Province of Ontario to join them. All individuals who currently have access to buildings continue to have access.
Nevertheless, in order to ensure effective social distancing and compliance with the emergency orders, faculty members who have been delivering their courses by alternate modes are strongly encouraged to deliver these courses from a remote location and not an onsite location. As a reminder, The Centre for Teaching Support & Innovation (CTSI) has information to help instructors with continuity planning, including a checklist and quick guide, as do many divisions.
As always, equity, diversity and respect must remain paramount as we continue to transition during these challenging times. COVID-19 is not isolated to people of any particular ethnic origin, place of origin or race. We are committed to human rights, equity and inclusion and acknowledge the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on various parts of our community. We do not condone any discrimination or harassment against any persons or communities related to COVID-19. As a reminder, all Equity Offices are available to all employees to consult, advise, and support on these matters.
We will continue to share information with our community, as it becomes available, regarding critical services and pay and benefit continuity. Should you have any questions about which staff can and cannot work on campus, please contact your Divisional HR Office.