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Essential Services Personnel Info for Managers

It is important for departments to have contingency plans for adverse weather conditions and to identify those employees who are “essential services personnel.” “Essential services” are those indispensable functions that are required to maintain the well being of students, faculty, staff and facilities during a period of weather emergency. "Essential services personnel" are employees who are required to report to work even when a campus of the university is declared closed because of adverse weather conditions.

There is a difference between the "closing of a campus" and the "cancellation of classes" on a campus. Cancellation of classes does not excuse staff employees from reporting to work nor does it excuse them if they leave work before the end of the normal workday. It is encouraged that managers review the terminology and definitions included in the policy regarding Attendance During Adverse Weather Conditions.
Because of unique and changing needs of university units, each manager should review their unit’s contingency plans and take the following steps:

  • identify the conditions under which specific employees, or groups of employees, within your area become essential; and
  • notify those employees that they are essential services personnel. 

Identifying Essential Services Personnel

Department heads should to decide whether, under various circumstances, some or all of the employees within that unit must report to work even if the campus is declared closed. Whether or not a particular employee or group of employees is essential may depend upon the reason for the closing as well as the time of the closing. It is not necessary to predict exactly which employee(s) may be essential to the function of the department; it is necessary to have a contingency plan to ensure that employees who are essential on that occasion know that they must come to work.

An Example:

A contingency plan might state:

  • "If the campus is closed while students are on campus, all four employees in “X” area must report for work.”
  • “If the campus is closed, employees in this laboratory may be required to come to work; those employees who are required to come to work will be notified at that time.”

Even when it is not possible to be precise in predicting a future need, the contingency plan will identify employees who might be required to work during a closing. A department that is unable to predict any future need may still require employees to report to work if, on the day of the closing, an essential need develops; in that case, the essential employees should be given as much notice as possible.

In making these decisions, it is important to bear in mind the economic consequences of mandatory premium pay for certain employees who are required to work while the campus is declared closed. It is not acceptable simply to identify a group of employees as essential services personnel and then to direct them routinely to report to, or stay at, work when a campus is declared closed. Consideration must be given to whether the employee furnishes an indispensable function, as noted above.

Notifying Employees

Department heads should advise, in writing, those employees who might be considered essential services personnel. This notice may be accomplished either by conspicuous posting and/or periodically mailing a general notice to affected employees, or by writing to individual employees explaining the circumstances under which they are considered to be essential services personnel and are required to come to work even though their campus is declared closed. A department that has failed to give employees notice of the requirement to report to work during a closing cannot expect those employees to report.

Giving employees notice of the circumstances under which they are essential services personnel is important for the following reasons:

  • Employees who are not advised that they are essential services personnel are not required to work during a campus closing, do not receive any sort of extra pay if they do report, and may not be docked pay or disciplined for not reporting.
  • Employees who are advised that they are essential services personnel and must come to work, unless otherwise advised, during such a closing, will receive premium pay if they are otherwise eligible for overtime, and maybe docked pay for not reporting.

If you need further assistance please call the Office of Labor Relations at 848-932-3020.