Clarification of UCSC policy and expectations on funding researchers during the temporary cessation of non-essential on-campus research due to COVID-19

To: UCSC PIs, researchers, and research support staff

From: Lori Kletzer, interim Campus Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor, Scott Brandt, Vice Chancellor for Research, Grace McClintock, Assistant Vice Provost for Academic Personnel

Over the past several weeks you have received a number of memos regarding employee pay during the COVID-19 pandemic. We are writing to further clarify UC policy and expectations with respect to pay for researchers during the temporary cessation of non-essential on-campus research due to COVID-19. In VCR Brandt’s March 26 memo, he discussed some principles and made recommendations. This memo supersedes that one and formalizes those principles into official UCSC policy.

Our overriding concern is to ensure that all members of our research community continue to receive paychecks during the COVID-19-induced cessation of on-campus activity and return to full productivity once we are able to return to campus.

We recognize—and the entire US research enterprise, from agency heads on down, recognizes—that this will be a period of reduced research productivity. UC is in active discussions with our state and federal government representatives and agency heads about how to mitigate that impact. Agencies have already signaled that they will extend great latitude regarding deadlines and deliverables and we have hopes for supplemental funding to cover this period. We do not have all the answers now and we will continue to press on this moving forward. Today, our concern is the well-being of our researchers and the continued viability of UCSC’s outstanding research enterprise.

Paid Administrative Leave: On March 16, UC President Janet Napolitano announced by Executive Order that all employees will be eligible for up to 128 hours of paid administrative leave for absences due to various COVID-19-related reasons. By UC policy, this leave is available to all employees, regardless of funding source. Like other types of paid leave—vacation, sick leave, etc.—this is now UC policy and thus payable from all extramural funding sources. All employees taking such leave, including extramurally-funded researchers, will continue to be paid on their existing funding source(s).

No-Layoff Policy: On April 2, UC President Napolitano and the Chancellors sent out a letter promising no COVID-19-related layoffs through the end of the fiscal year. This policy was further clarified in an April 4 memo providing FAQs about UC job protections through June 30. That guarantee applies to all “current academic and career staff employees.” Career staff employees are defined as those “working a fixed or variable percentage of time at 50 percent or more of full-time, and the position is expected to continue for a year or more.” This policy also applies to undergraduate researchers, GSRs, postdocs, and all academic researchers regardless of percent time or duration of appointment. Per the FAQs, this policy explicitly guarantees that grant-funded researchers will continue to be paid (from their grants) at least through June 30. This policy does not apply to researchers whose positions were set to end on or before June 30 for reasons unrelated to COVID-19.

Accordingly, except in circumstances described above, all UCSC researchers and research support staff—core-funded, grant-funded, and recharge-funded—shall continue to be paid on their existing funding sources (whether they take their allocated administrative leave or not) and shall not be laid off during the current fiscal year ending June 30.

Beyond these minimum guarantees, PIs supporting researchers and students are expected to continue funding them as planned throughout the on-campus research cessation. PIs funding researchers on grants have great freedom to determine what activities will be performed with the funds in pursuit of the research and as discussed above, funding agencies have indicated that they will give grantees wide latitude with respect to deadlines and deliverables in recognition of the severe impact that COVID-19 is having on many researchers’ abilities to perform their research and meet agency deadlines. PIs are directed to find productive activities for their researchers to perform while they are unable to get into their lab.

We have heard concerns that some PIs might lay off their researchers rather than pay them to do research outside of their planned activities. While we respect every PI’s right to conduct their research as they think best, except in special cases as outlined above, such a response is prohibited before June 30 and, in the unfortunate event that this situation extends beyond June, strongly discouraged beyond that. As discussed in the March 26 memo, there are many non-lab research activities that people can productively work on. Be creative and make this work for the good of our entire research community.

Recharge-funded researchers: Recharge-funded researchers and research support staff are in a unique position in that their funding depends upon providing service to, and charging, researchers for their services. While the employees may be able to perform relevant tasks while locked out of their labs, recharge centers do not generate funds while the labs they support are idle. Therefore, until further notice, all recharge centers are directed to continue paying their employees as outlined above. We will determine later how to cover any deficits they incur.

Any recharge-funded employees who are receiving pay while not working for their recharge center may be assigned other tasks as determined by the Office of Research and/or their divisional leadership, or they may be granted paid administrative leave if applicable.

Contracts: Any PI who is working on a contract and is concerned about their ability to meet their deliverables should reach out to OSP so that we can contact the sponsor and discuss the terms. We fully expect them to be willing to make accommodations for the circumstances.

As before, please refer to the Research Continuity with COVID-19 webpage for additional guidance and/or email any comments or questions to