COVID-19 Accommodation for Faculty & Librarians (PDAD&C #44)

From: Kelly Hannah-Moffat, Vice-President, Human Resources & Equity
Heather Boon, Vice-Provost, Faculty & Academic Life
Date: February 10, 2021
Re: COVID-19 Accommodation for Faculty & Librarians (PDAD&C #44)

Please distribute widely, especially to academic leaders in your units who have faculty members and librarians reporting to them. We also encourage you to bear these issues in mind when it comes to staff in your units, and to consult with your divisional human resources office as needed about providing support to these employees.

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, we know that academic administrators have been working to support their colleagues in light of the many challenges, both personal and professional, that the pandemic creates, and we thank you for your efforts in this regard. We know that the circumstances of the pandemic may result in requests for accommodations from faculty members and librarians who have identified medical limitations and restrictions, or who may be struggling to balance their work responsibilities with those for childcare or eldercare. We note that the pandemic continues to have disproportionate social, familial and health impacts on Black, Indigenous and racialized communities; understanding these challenges is an important component of inclusion.

As you continue to implement strategies to support your colleagues, we ask you to consider the following approaches:

  • Create an environment in which colleagues feel comfortable talking about challenges they may be facing so that they can be supported.
  • Provide as much sensitivity and flexibility as reasonably possible when scheduling meetings or workshops, including avoiding lunch hours (when caregivers may be busy), polling potential participants to get a better understanding of constraints, and/or varying the time slots for regular workshops or seminars to accommodate diverse schedules.
  • Encourage colleagues to communicate the impact that caregiving responsibilities may have had on their teaching, research, responsibilities and goals in their activity reports for the purposes of progress through the ranks (PTR) assessment, and in the case of faculty, their teaching and research statements for the purposes of academic and performance review processes. Please bear in mind that this information should be treated as confidential.
  • Adopt creative approaches to the distribution and assignment of workload in view of caregiving responsibilities, including alternative scheduling/timing of teaching and service assignments, and asynchronous teaching where appropriate.
  • Extend deadlines for the use of start-up funds, applications to internal funding competitions, and nominations for internal awards where appropriate.
  • Remind early career faculty and librarians about the possibility of requesting delays to tenure, continuing status, and permanent status reviews where the COVID-19 pandemic has had a negative impact on their work.
  • Remind faculty members and librarians in exceptional circumstances that they may request a shift to part-time status based on accommodation needs.
  • Offer increased TA/grading support as appropriate.
  • Offer increased access to, and assistance from, post-doctoral fellows as appropriate.

When reviewing requests and considering solutions, we encourage you to continue to treat colleagues fairly, reasonably and equitably – and bear in mind that this may not mean treating all faculty and librarians exactly the same. Assessments of accommodation needs must be conducted on a case-by-case basis, considering the personal circumstances of the faculty member or librarian who is making the request. Taking a reasonable and thoughtful approach to these considerations is an important part of meeting our obligations as an employer under the Ontario Human Rights Code, including accommodation based on family status.

Please reach out to our offices, or to your Dean’s Office or the Office of the University Chief Librarian, if you have questions or need advice on these matters. Any requests for accommodation related to illness or disability should be referred directly to the Health & Well-being Programs & Services Office, which can evaluate and assess the employee’s medical information with appropriate confidentiality. A reminder that confidential support is also available to you and your colleagues through the University’s Employee & Family Assistance Program, which is accessible 24 hours a day, seven days a week at 1.800.663.1142. In addition, the Wellness Hub contains a number of resources for faculty and librarians that you can share widely.

Thank you for all that you have done, and continue to do, to respond to the current challenges.