UUP looks to developing telecommuting policy with SUNY

Although the statewide pilot telecommuting agreement that’s been available to UUP members since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic has just ended, that doesn’t mean that telecommuting will be immediately closed to all members.

UUP President Fred Kowal conveyed that important information to members in a recent email, which followed up on a discussion that began at the Chapter Presidents’ Retreat, June 24-25.

“Campuses have been informed that they may choose to continue to operate under the pilot telecommuting agreement’s terms to allow for phased return to in-person status between July 2 and September 7,” Kowal told members in his recent message. “This is already happening at several campuses, illustrating that there will be a patchwork of situations across SUNY and – obviously – across all state agencies. After September 7, the state has clearly announced that all state agencies and authorities (included SUNY) are expected to return to ‘pre-pandemic, in-person workplace presence with limited exceptions.’

“In other words, we expect that COVID-related telecommuting will be ending on all campuses on or before September 7,” Kowal told members.

That means that telecommuting will end by that date for members who faced temporary COVID-specific family issues, including the need to provide child care and elder care.

The “limited exceptions” that Kowal referenced acknowledges that some members may be medically at high risk for COVID. For those members, telecommuting may continue after September 7, if it is necessary for the purpose of providing reasonable accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the New York State Human Rights Law (NYS HRL). Kowal urged such members to note that the continuing need and justification for telecommuting to accommodate medically high-risk situations will likely diminish, assuming COVID vaccination rates continue to climb and COVID case numbers continue to decline across the state with the approach of fall.


As UUP looks ahead, however, the coming changes do not mean that telecommuting will forever end for UUP members. UUP plans to work with SUNY to develop a SUNY-specific telecommuting policy.

“As our campuses return to “fully in-person” operations, we obviously will not see the kind of mass telecommuting that was necessary to protect us from COVID over the last year,” Kowal wrote to members. “However, we are hopeful that the telecommuting policy that is developed for the time after September 7 will prove to be an important available tool, both for interested employees and for campuses desiring to address operational issues such as recruitment and retention concerns and reducing our carbon footprint.”

Nationally, news stories have noted that employers are beginning to offer incentives to workers to meet a national hiring shortfall. Among those incentives: greater flexibility and a move away from the traditional 9 a.m.-to-5-p.m., Monday-to-Friday work week, with more employers offering the option of working fully or partially from home.

In his message to members, Kowal wrote that “the process will be challenging and will involve much work at the chapter/campus level by all of us in conjunction with our LRS staff. Working together, we will get the best for our members.”

He urged members to contact him at fkowal@uupinfo.org if they have questions, concerns or issues that develop with administrators during the transition.