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Terri Winbush.

Q&A: What Employee Leave Options Are Available?

UC San Diego’s fall plan is continually evolving, informed by the university’s Return to Learn program. We invited the campus community to submit their questions about what paid leave options are available, what happens when an employee receives a yellow or red thumb on the daily symptom screening, and the remote support employees can access.

To address several of these important topics, we spoke with Terri Winbush, senior director of Labor Relations and Employee Relations for the main campus. In her multifaceted role, Winbush oversees union contract negotiations and interpretation, performance management, departmental reorganizations and more.

Q. What paid leave options are available for employees during the COVID-19 pandemic?

A. We are fortunate to be able to offer extensive leave options for both policy-covered and represented staff employees at UC San Diego. These include:

  1. UC Expanded Paid Administrative Leave
    Amount: Up to 128 hours, which may be used in blocks or intermittently based on need.

    Use: This leave may be used for a variety of reasons, including if you or a family member has symptoms or has been diagnosed with COVID-19; if you or a family member have been exposed to someone with COVID-19; if you are over 65 years of age and/or immunocompromised and it is not feasible to work remotely; or if you are caring for a dependent or children and cannot work remotely.

  2. Emergency Paid Sick Leave
    Amount: Up to 80 hours, which must be taken in blocks. Each block is comprised of one workday.

    Use: This leave may be used to fulfill a quarantine or isolation order; those who are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and are waiting for a diagnosis; and employees who are caring for a family member who is quarantining or a child whose school or place of care is closed due to the pandemic.

  3. Emergency Family Medical Leave
    Amount: Up to 12 weeks. The first two weeks are unpaid, but employees can use the two-week emergency paid sick leave to cover this as needed. This must be taken in blocks of a minimum of two weeks. (Health care employees and emergency responders are not eligible for this option).

    Use: Employees can use this leave when they are caring for a child whose school or place of care is closed due to COVID-19 and they are not able to work remotely.

  4. Chancellor’s Supplemental Leave
    Amount: Up to 80 hours, which must be taken in full-day increments. (Not available to UC San Diego Health System employees).

    Use: Developed by Chancellor Khosla to ensure employees affected have continuity of pay, this leave option is available for employees seeking testing for COVID-19 based on a medical professional’s written recommendation and those who have tested positive, are fulfilling isolation requirements and cannot work remotely. In order to return to the worksite after use of Supplemental Leave Hours, employees must provide a medical professional’s release to work.

Learn more about employee paid leave options.


Q. How can employees find out more if they would like to use one of the leave options?

A. Staff employees who would like to use supplemental leave should work with their direct supervisor and their Human Resources departmental contact. The HR representative can also communicate with Employee Relations for further information. An important note: all of these leave options currently expire on Dec. 31, 2020. For all but the Chancellor Supplemental Leave, we must take direction from the federal government and UC system on their leave actions. At that time, we will assess whether to extend the Chancellor Supplemental Leave.


Q. What happens if an employee receives a yellow or red thumb on the symptom screener?

A. All UC San Diego employees and students who are reporting to campus or any other physical UC San Diego location must complete and submit a daily self-screening for COVID-19.

Yellow Thumb

yellow thumb.

For campus staff, a yellow thumb means you have been exposed and you are not permitted to work on-site. You should be tested five to 10 days after exposure and quarantine for 14 days. You may work remotely if your supervisor has authorized you to do so. Employees will then need a Cleared for Work note from UC San Diego Health’s Center for Occupational and Environmental Medicine, even if they never developed symptoms or tested negative.

Red Thumb

red thumb.

A red thumb indicates you have symptoms that could be related to SARS-CoV-2 and you are not cleared to work on-site. You will be contacted by UC San Diego Health to determine if you need to be tested and offered a no-cost COVID-19 test if deemed necessary.

If you test positive at one of our UC Health locations, and if you are feeling well enough and your supervisor has authorized you to do so, you may work remotely. Before you are able to return on campus, you must submit a return to work note from your physician.

If you are an on-site employee who tests positive at a non-UC San Diego Health location, you must report your results to UC San Diego Health’s Center for Occupational and Environmental Medicine at COEMexposure@health.ucsd.edu to support contact tracing efforts. Your health care provider should provide you with a Release from Work note initially, and later a Cleared for Work note to provide to your supervisor/HR contact.

Learn more on the testing and screening page.


Q. How are remote employees being supported during the pandemic?

A. We offer numerous resources for employees who are working remotely during this extended time period. With supervisor approval, employees can take home their computer, monitor, monitor stand, desk chair, headphones, keyboard and mouse and other individual equipment from their campus office. Note: A manager’s approval is required before employees come to campus.

If employees are seeking other options, we have ways to help them achieve an ergonomic home workspace. Several on- and off-campus partners are offering a select catalog of home office equipment at pre-negotiated prices. And supervisors and employees are encouraged to explore the vast array of used equipment from Surplus Inventory.

I also encourage employees to get the virtual ergonomic assessment that Environmental Health and Safety offers. They provide a lot of suggestions for how to use simple things in your own home to achieve efficiency and comfort.

Have more questions? We invite the campus community to submit your inquiries online. A new Q&A with a Return to Learn expert will be published each Thursday in This Week @ UC San Diego for the next several weeks.