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Campus & Community

Harvard to guarantee workers’ pay, benefits amid coronavirus disruptions

4 min read

Changes to human resources policies to run through May 28

Amid the upheavals to campus life brought by the coronavirus pandemic, Harvard announced today it would guarantee pay and benefits through May 28 to its employees and contract workers who have experienced job disruptions since March 10, when the University announced the move to virtual classes.

“For our workforce, who each day are so critical to the success of this institution, this unprecedented public health emergency has created innumerable challenges,” wrote Executive Vice President Katie Lapp in an email to University leaders announcing the changes to human resources policies. “The steps I share today are aimed at providing greater certainty for them in these uncertain times with regards to their pay and benefits, and greater stability for them and their families.”

The extension of regular pay and benefits to Harvard employees, including administrative, professional, support staff, and service and trade workers, covers those who are well and available to work, but whose duties cannot be performed remotely, including dining and custodial services. Harvard will also expand eligibility for this guarantee to part-time contingent employees who work less than half time.

“This is a positive announcement for HUCTW members that we’re very pleased to see,” said Carrie Barbash, president of the Harvard Union of Clerical and Technical Workers. “We’ve been in serious ongoing conversations with University administrators about how the virus affects our members, and they have been responsive and positive. At such an incredibly challenging and unprecedented time for so many people in the U.S. and in our community, it’s heartening to see this good citizenship from the University — Harvard taking care of its committed and hard-working staff, both union and nonunion.”

Contract employees from Harvard’s 14 major service suppliers working in security, dining, and custodial roles will also be eligible for extended pay and benefits. Harvard is working directly with these supplier companies to ensure continued support for those who are well and available for work, but displaced from their contract assignments by the coronavirus pandemic and therefore unable to obtain new assignments.

“We applaud Harvard for doing the right thing and implementing a leave policy that will allow both contracted and directly employed workers to make ends meet during this unprecedented crisis.”

Roxana Rivera, 32BJ Service Employees International Union

“UNITE HERE Local 26 commends Harvard for making the right decision for its dining hall workers and the public at large,” said the union’s president, Carlos Aramayo. “Nothing can reopen until we tackle this public health crisis head-on. Compensating workers, whether they are direct employees or subcontracted employees, who are staying at home to help solve this crisis helps ensure no one has to face unnecessary financial burdens during this already difficult time.”

“We applaud Harvard for doing the right thing and implementing a leave policy that will allow both contracted and directly employed workers to make ends meet during this unprecedented crisis,” added Roxana Rivera, vice president of 32BJ Service Employees International Union. “Having access to pay and health care benefits will give the 1,000 cleaners and security officers 32BJ represents at Harvard peace of mind knowing they can stay safe and healthy while continuing to feed their families. These workers have been at the frontlines of fighting this virus, keeping the campus clean and safe for the entire Harvard community even as students go back home, and we’re glad that Harvard is acknowledging their important service.”

Harvard also announced today that it is providing financial stabilization for the six independent nonprofit child-care centers on the University’s campuses. The support package will enable the centers to ensure employment, pay, and benefits for about 180 employees through June 30, even if closures related to COVID-19 remain in effect. Under normal conditions, these centers serve 380 families in the Boston, Cambridge, and Harvard communities.

The new updates to Harvard’s human resources policies build on previous enhancements that continued pay for 30 days for employees who no longer had work available after the majority of the University’s student population left campus and allowed workers to use up to 14 days of unearned sick leave in advance.

“As the situation regarding COVID-19 has evolved, the human resources community at Harvard has continued its commitment to updating our policies to best support the University’s workers,” said Vice President for Human Resources Marilyn Hausammann. “These enhancements to the pay continuation policy and to the extension of coverage to employees of our key vendors illustrate how important it is to adapt during these challenging times, and more importantly, they show the deep appreciation the University has for its staff members and the contributions they make to Harvard every day.”