Paula Brantner

By Paula Brantner

We live in extraordinary and uncertain times. Your decisions now are virtually guaranteed to have unintended consequences. There will be a ripple effect, even from making the best informed decisions that you have the capacity to make. Now is not the time to focus on liability and risk prevention, or to act conservatively in providing assistance to those acutely dependent on it. 

Institutions of higher education typically play key roles as major employers — sometimes even the single largest employer in some cities. This article will focus on what higher ed institutions should consider as an employer during the COVID-19 pandemic, specifically emphasizing the following:

    • Unemployment & Paid Sick Leave
    • Worker Safety for Essential Workers
    • Work from Home/Telework Policies
    • Diversity Equity Inclusion (DEI) Considerations

While the COVID-19 pandemic will undoubtedly force some fundamental changes to the employer/employee relationship, prioritizing these particular considerations will make it easier to maintain the mutual bonds of safety and security on which we all critically depend.

As a leading local employer, how well you protect your workers will not only determine your institution’s reputation as a good neighbor, but will almost certainly play an outsized role in determining the local community and economy’s health and vitality, and how quickly the community will recover following the pandemic’s most acute stage.

While this pandemic will undoubtedly impact enrollments, endowments and investments, you cannot singularly focus on economic consequences while neglecting those who make it possible for your institution to be an academic leader and community pillar. You must consider your institution’s most medically and financially vulnerable members to ensure their safety and stability. By keeping the following in mind, your goal is to lessen the grave harm everyone now faces and do everything possible to ensure it does not have the typical outsized impact on the most vulnerable.

The full article is available to CHEL members. Visit our member portal to check out our benefits and join to read this, and other, members-only content.

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