COVID-19 has changed the way we work, learn and live. Information contained in these pages provides resources for employees. Visit the One VCU: Responsible Together website at together.vcu.edu, for the most up-to-date information regarding university operations, health and safety measures, and requirements.
Please keep in mind that this guidance is subject to change based on information provided by federal and state agencies. Schools and units may implement internal guidelines more specific to the mission of the unit. Continue to check this webpage for updates. Questions may be sent to email@example.com.
Who to contact
- What if an employee comes into work with symptoms similar to COVID-19?
- The employee's manager should instruct the employee to return home and call the VCU COVID hotline at 1-804-MYC-OVID (1-804-692-6843). If the employee with Covid symptoms does not leave the work area, contact your manager or your HR Professional about your concerns.
- What do I do if I’m concerned about another employee’s health status?
- Speak with your manager or your HR Professional about your concerns. Do not confront the employee on your own.
- How should managers advise employees who have recently traveled and may have been exposed to COVID-19?
- Please refer employees to the VCU COVID hotline 1-804-MYC-OVID (1-804-692-6843) where the call will be routed to Employee Health Services. Learn more at One VCU: Responsible Together.
- What happens to my benefits during this time?
- Employee benefits for Faculty members, University and Academic Professionals, and classified employees continue automatically while employees continue to work (on campus or teleworking), are on paid leave, or are receiving short-term disability benefits. In the event of unpaid leave, covered employees are required to remit health plan premiums in order to continue health coverage. No retirement contributions are made during unpaid leave since there is no creditable salary; however, Virginia Retirement System members may purchase retirement service credit for periods of unpaid leave covered by the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).
- Will the COVA employee health plans cover the cost of COVID-19 testing?
- Refer to guidance from DHRM.
- Do the COVA health plans have any special coverage for COVID-19?
- COVID-19 testing is covered by the COVA health plans with no out-of-pocket cost when medically necessary and ordered by an authorized provider. In addition, to avoid in-person office visits and possible exposure to COVID-19, the out-of-pocket cost for any virtual medical visit is waived for COVA Care and COVA HealthAware through December 31. This includes LiveHealth Online (Anthem), Teladoc (Aetna) and other providers who offer virtual visits. For the COVA High Deductible Health Plan, the $0 cost applies only to COVID-19-related virtual visits through December 31. The COVA plans are also offering early prescription refills for a limited time. See important details and keep up with any changes by reviewing the Your State Health Plans and COVID-19 Update on the DHRM website.
- Can I use funds from my health flexible spending account (FSA) to purchase personal protective equipment (PPE)?
- Expenses for masks, gloves, and hand sanitizers (not including cleaning products of any kind) are currently eligible for reimbursement from a health FSA. Since approval of PPE expenses is temporarily due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the FSA debit card cannot be used at most retailers for these items and participants will generally need to file claims. For more information on submitting claims for PPE expenses, visit www.payflex.com or contact PayFlex at (855) 516-8595.
- Can I change my flexible spending account (FSA) election if my planned dependent care expenses are changing due to COVID-19?
- Can I take a loan or withdrawal from my retirement plan for unanticipated financial needs due to COVID-19?
- Hardship withdrawals, in-service withdrawals over age 59½, and loans are available from the VCU 403(b) Tax Defferred Annuity Plan for non-COVID-19 related reasons. To initiate a loan or withdrawal, contact your account provider (TIAA and/or Fidelity Investments) directly. No VCU authorization is required. Loans and withdrawals are not available from the VCU Optional Retirement Plan, the VCU Cash Match Plan, or the Virginia Retirement System Defined Benefit Plans (VRS Plans 1 & 2, VaLORS Plans 1 & 2).For information about in-service withdrawals from the Commonwealth of Virginia 457 Deferred Compensation Plan (DCP), the Virginia 401(a) Cash Match Plan, and/or the VRS Hybrid 457, contact VRS Defined Contribution Plans customer service at 1-877-327-5261.
- If I am quarantined, or become infected with COVID-19, what rules apply to the privacy of this information?
- As your employer, VCU may ask you for a doctor’s note or other health information as needed for administering leave, worker’s compensation, or disability benefits. For additional information, see “Employers and Health Information in the Workplace” at The US Department of Health and Human Services website. If you participate in state employee health coverage, please see the State Health Benefits Program’s HIPAA Employee/Retiree Privacy Notice.
- What types of emergency leave are available to faculty and staff?
- Under circumstances outlined in these FAQs, additional state leave is available to faculty and staff whose ability to work is impacted by COVID-19. Available hours may be used continuously or intermittently.
- Review the emergency leave guide (PDF) for a side-by-side look at leave information.
Number of hours
Public Health Emergency Leave (PHEL)
State emergency leave
Effective March 2020
Renewed for 2021
Public Health Emergency Leave (PHEL) – State emergency leave
The state of Virginia’s Public Health Emergency Leave (PHEL) provides all classified and non-classified employees with up to eighty (80) hours of emergency leave due to a pandemic. Governor Northam declared a public health state of emergency on March 12, 2020 invoking PHEL.
I was given the COVID-19 vaccination and I am now experiencing normal side effects described as flu-like symptoms. Am I eligible for PHEL?Employees may use PHEL for vaccine side effects. If experienced at all, these side effects typically subside in less than 48 hours.
- Under what circumstances can I use PHEL?
- Employees are expected to work remotely to the extent possible. If employees are unable to work remotely, employees may use PHEL:
- To attend to their own medical needs or the medical needs of an immediate family member being tested, quarantined or treated for COVID-19;
- To actively seek alternative childcare arrangements due to closure of day care centers/schools due to COVID-19;
- If an employee’s job is not conducive to telework or other alternatives are not possible.
- To recover from an adverse reaction to the COVID-19 vaccination (typically no more than 48 hours).
- Employees are expected to work remotely to the extent possible. If employees are unable to work remotely, employees may use PHEL:
- Who is eligible for PHEL?
- If a wage employee normally works 20 hours per week, the maximum amount of paid leave should be 20 hours per week.
- Up to 80 hours of Public Health Emergency Leave is currently available to all state employees, including university and academic professionals, classified staff, faculty, adjunct faculty, wage, graduate research assistants and hourly student workers (wage) provided they are actively employed at the time the leave is needed.
- PHEL is prorated based on the number of hours employees are normally scheduled to work. The maximum paid leave may not exceed the maximum number of hours an employee would normally work each week.
- Full-time employees will receive up to 80 hours.
- Part-time employees (less than 1.0 FTE) will receive pro-rated paid leave based on FTE or the hours normally scheduled to work. For example:
- When a wage employee’s hours vary, use an average as the maximum.
- Affordable Care Act (ACA) considerations and the 1,500-hour threshold still must be taken into consideration.
- What leave code should be used in RealTime for PHEL?
- 91 - "Public Health Emer Lv" for salaried staff.
- 90 - "Wage Paid Leave" for hourly staff.
- I am an hourly worker and I've completed all assigned development activities and cross training. There are no more assignments for me. May I use PHEL for 2 weeks prior to applying for unemployment?
- You are eligible for two (2) weeks of PHEL based on your normal schedule. If you have applied for unemployment, you are not eligible for PHEL.
- I’m working to make arrangements for my children during this period of daycare/camp/after school closure. May I use PHEL?
- PHEL is not intended to be used for long periods of time to care for children who are out of school or whose daycares are closed.
- I am immunocompromised and have been advised by my doctor to self-quarantine. May I take leave instead of working remotely?
- All VCU employees are expected to work remotely to the extent possible. If an employee is unable to work remotely, the employee may use PHEL (up to 80 hours in 2020 and again in 2021) and then may use other personal leave (if available) after consulting with their manager.
- What options are available if an employee or a family member is quarantined with COVID-19?
- All employees may request up to 80 hours (see max amounts in previous question) of Public Health Emergency Leave (PHEL) if unable to work remotely while self-quarantining or supporting a quarantined family member.
- Faculty and adjunct faculty should teach remotely or arrange coverage (PHEL).
- What leave may employees use if they or a family member are diagnosed with COVID-19?
- PHEL (a maximum of 80 hours in 2020 and again in 2021) is available to all employees during this public health situation. It does not carry over or get paid out upon separation. Faculty and staff should contact their management to ensure coverage of courses and work responsibilities.
- Faculty and staff in the Traditional Sick Leave plan (TSLP) may use their annual leave or TSLP for personal illness, annual leave for family illness, or may use a portion of their TSLP for a family illness that is covered by FMLA.
- Faculty members, university and academic professionals, and classified employees who are in the Virginia Retirement System and covered by VSDP may apply for VSDP short-term disability benefits for their own illness by contacting Reed Group. PHEL may be used to cover the waiting period for short-term disability benefits. For family illness, annual leave, university leave,VSDP personal/family leave, and/or VSDP sick leave may be used. For a family member’s illness, use of VSDP sick leave is limited to FMLA covered illness and a maximum of 33% of the balance.
- University and academic professionals who are in the Optional Retirement Plan, or are in the Virginia Retirement System with less than one year of VSDP coverage, may apply for short-term disability benefits for their own illness by contacting The Standard. PHEL may be used to cover the waiting period for short-term disability benefits. For family illness, University Leave may be used. Please refer to VCU HR website leave for guidance.
- If I can’t come to work because of a quarantine, am I eligible for short-term disability benefits?
- Quarantine, on its own, is not a medical condition that qualifies an employee for short-term disability benefits.
- What documentation do I need to be eligible for PHEL?
- Employees should consult with their manager about their need to use PHEL and should be expected to provide information and documentation regarding their need to take PHEL. Managers should be understanding if an employee’s is unable to immediately provide a doctor’s diagnosis, proof of illness or other reason for being out of work, but managers should request and employees should be expected to produce information and documentation about their illness, diagnosis or other reason for being out of work as a result of this public health emergency within a reasonable period of time, such as 15 calendar days.
- If I am diagnosed with COVID-19 or if I am caring for a family member who has been diagnosed with COVID-19, am I eligible for leave share or caregiver leave?
- If you are a faculty member or classified employee in the Traditional Sick Leave Program (TSLP), you are eligible to receive leave share donations for your own COVID-19 illness if you have exhausted your own leave balances, are eligible for FMLA, and have entered a leave without pay status. If you are a faculty member or classified employee (VSDP or TSLP), you are also eligible to receive leave share donations for a family member’s COVID-19 illness that is covered by FMLA if you have exhausted your own leave balances and have entered a leave without pay status. VCU Leave Administration administers the university’s leave share program. If you have questions, contact VCU Leave Administration at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (804) 828-1712 with questions. Review general leave policies.
- If you are a university and academic professional with at least one year of service, and are caring for a family member who has been diagnosed with COVID-19, you are eligible for caregiver leave after using 40 hours of your own leave balances. If additional leave is needed, please contact VCU Leave Administration (804) 828-1712 or email@example.com or your HR Professional. Review caregiver leave information.
- What can I do if I believe I have been exposed to COVID-19 at work?
- If you believe you have been exposed at work and are therefore subject to quarantine, you may file a workers’ compensation claim for any lost wages. The state employee workers’ compensation program determines eligibility for workers’ compensation benefits. In many cases, you may be provided with an alternate work arrangement that prevents you from losing wages. If you choose to decline work that is offered to you, you will not be eligible for lost wage benefits under workers’ compensation. Workers’ compensation lost wage benefits are offset by any wages you earn.
- If you are diagnosed with a COVID-19 infection due to exposure at work, you may file a workers’ compensation claim for medical care. The state employee workers’ compensation program determines eligibility for workers’ compensation benefits. Learn more about filing a workers’ compensation claim.
- If I require greater than the 2 weeks of available PHEL, due to a personal COVID-19 diagnosis or family member with the diagnosis, am I eligible for leave share or caregiver leave?
- If you are a classified employee or faculty member who participates in the Traditional Sick Leave Program (TSLP), and have exhausted your paid leave balances, and require continued absence covered by FMLA due to your own diagnosis of COVID-19, you are eligible to receive leave share donations.
- If you are a classified employee or faculty member (TSLP or VSDP participant), and have exhausted your own paid leave balances and require continued absence due to a family member’s COVID-19 illness that is covered by FMLA, you may be eligible to receive leave share donations. If you have questions, contact VCU Leave Administration at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (804) 828-1712 with questions. Review general leave policies.
- If you are caring for a family member with COVID-19 illness and you are a university and academic professional with at least one year of service, you are eligible for caregiver leave after using 40 hours of your university leave balances. If additional leave is needed, please contact VCU Leave Administration at (804) 828-1712 or email@example.com. Review caregiver leave information.
- I am experiencing stress or anxiety around COVID-19. Who can I talk to?
- If you participate in state employee health plan with Anthem (COVA Care, COVA High Deductible Health Plan), Aetna (COVA HealthAware), Optima Health (Optima Health Vantage), or Kaiser Permanente (Kaiser Permanente HMO), you may speak with a counselor by contacting your Employee Assistance Program (EAP). The EAP covers up to four consultations at no cost. Telephone and telemedicine services are available. EAP benefits also extend to your family members.
- If you do not participate in a state employee health plan, you can still access the online resources of the Anthem EAP by using the employer name “Commonwealth of Virginia” to log in, or access online self-help resources available through University Counseling Services. You may also consult your local Community Services Board for assistance in accessing resources. The listing of Community Service Boards is available on the Virginia Department of Behavioral Health & Development Services website.
- I am an HR Professional or Department Head at VCU and need to request on-site counseling for employees in my department due to COVID-19 related issues.
- Is there a hotline for mental health support?
- Visit Mental Health Association of Virginia anonymous support line to learn more.
Mental health training for leaders
A virtual mental health training "Creating and Fostering Healthy Work Environments" is now available. This training, designed for VCU leadership yet open to anyone, will explore mental health topics, characteristics of a healthy work environment, and mental health tools for managers and employees. Participants will learn how to address and reduce stigmas related to mental health conditions. Register in Talent@VCU.
Employee Assistance Program
All health plans offered to state employees and their dependents have employee assistance programs (EAPs). Included are up to four sessions at no charge for such services as mental health, alcohol or drug abuse assessment, child or elder care, grief counseling and legal or financial services. EAP counselors are available to assist employees with problems related to:
- Mental health
- Child care
- Elder care
- Spousal/child/parent abuse
- Career planning
In general, care must be authorized in advance. You or your eligible dependent will speak to an EAP specialist who will assess your problem and coordinate assistance. Should your problem require mental health or substance abuse care, you will be referred to a provider, under your mental health and substance abuse benefit. Your EAP specialist or care manager will arrange a referral according to your specific needs. Contact your plan's Member Services department for more information.
COVA Care and COVA HDHP resources
Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield
Member Services: 1-855-223-9277
Kaiser Permanente HMO
(866) 517-7042 (toll free)
Optima Health Vantage HMO
(866) 846-2682 (toll free)
VCU Human Resources Employee Relations
Lindsey House - HR Welcome Center
Phone: (804) 828-1510
TDD: (800) 828-1120
Phone: (804) 828-1712
VCU ADA Services
Crystal Coombes, University Accessibility Administrator
Phone: (804) 828-8532
Emergency Medical Services
University Counseling Services
Employees can access online self-help resources
VCU Center for Psychological Services & Development
612 N Lombardy St, Richmond, VA 23284
Offer outpatient services to members of the VCU and Central Virginia communities
Mental Health Association of Virginia
Virginia Department of Behavioral Health & Development Services
National Alliance on Mental Illness
National Suicide Prevention Hotline
National Domestic Violence Hotline
Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration
(SAMHSA) 1-800-662-HELP (4357)
Office on Women’s Health Helpline
Coping with stress and staying healthy – Virginia Department of Health (VDH)
For information regarding parking and transportation at VCU, visit the COVID-19 Parking and Transportation updates page.
- FCC agreement: Providers will waive late fees, provide open hot-spots and will not disconnect service for lack of payment.
- Comcast COVID-19 response: Offering free WiFi for two months to K-12 and higher education students. All Xfinity hot-spots are free to the public during this time.
- AT&T COVID-19 response: Offering open hot-spots, unlimited data to existing customers, and $10/month plans to low-income families.
- Verizon COVID-19 response: Offering free international calling to most countries. Customers should call to receive temporary plan upgrades, including data options.
- Sprint COVID-19 response: Offering unlimited data to existing customers and allowing all handsets to enable hot-spots for 60 days at no extra charge.
- T-Mobile COVID-19 response: Offering unlimited data to existing customers, and, coming soon, will allow all handsets to enable hot-spots for 60 days at no extra charge.
- Charter Free Internet offer for 2 months: Offering free Spectrum broadband and Wi-Fi access for 60 days to households with K-12 and/or college students who do not already have a Spectrum broadband subscription and at any service level up to 100 Mbps. To enroll call 1-844-488-8395. Installation fees will be waived for new student households.
- Am I eligible for unemployment?
- The Virginia Employment Commission determines an individual’s eligibility for any/all unemployment benefits. However, you may be eligible if you are a VCU employee and you become unemployed through no fault of your own or if you are working fewer hours than you were previously due to a lack of work.
- How do I apply for unemployment?
- Individuals should apply for unemployment benefits through the Virginia Employment Commission to determine if they are eligible. When completing the application be sure to give complete and correct information to ensure that your claim is not delayed.
- Do I need a note from my department stating that I am not working?
- As individuals are applying for unemployment benefits through the Virginia Employment Commission they may be asked to provide supplemental documentation showing a lack of work. If a department has sent out communication, advising individuals not to report for duty, this can be used as documentation.
- If this information was communicated in a way other than in writing, the individual can apply for unemployment without supplemental documentation. The Virginia Employment Commission will ask VCU to confirm that an individual is not working, or working a reduced schedule. VCU is completing all of these requests promptly.
- When will I start receiving payments?
- All payments are handled and dispersed by the Virginia Employment Commission. Due to a high volume of requests the Virginia Employment Commission may take longer to process these requests. It is recommended that you apply for unemployment benefits as soon as you are made aware of complete unemployment, or a reduction in hours. The Virginia Employment Commission has attempted to make applying for benefits easier by waiving the waiting period and by not requiring any job search when filing for unemployment benefits.
- Once approved for unemployment benefits it is important to remain responsive to the Virginia Employment Commission. You must submit information to them each week to ‘continue a claim’. For more information on this process you will need to review the information available on the VEC website.