Department Pandemic Planning

During a pandemic or other disease outbreak, increased employee absence may affect university operations. Departments, offices, and units of the University of Kansas should have plans in place to prevent the spread of illness in the workplace and continue operations in the event that an increased number of staff cannot report to work due to illness.


The best way to ensure a healthy workplace is to reduce the risk of exposure to disease by implementing appropriate hygiene and cleaning practices.

  • Actively encourage sick employees to stay home.
    • Review KU’s full Sick Leave policy.
    • Employees may be absent for an extended period of time for personal illness or to care for sick family members under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).
    • If an employee reports to work with symptoms of illness, separate them from other employees and send them home.
    • Do not require a healthcare provider’s note for employees to validate their illness or to return to work.
  • Emphasize respiratory etiquette and hand hygiene in the workplace.
    • Place posters with this information in places where they are likely to be seen (i.e. entrances or breakrooms).
      • Remember to cover your mouth with a tissue or your elbow (not your hands) when you cough or sneeze.
      • Wash your hands with soap and water frequently and avoid touching your face with unwashed hands.
  • Provide tissues and no-touch disposal receptacles for use by employees.
  • Ensure adequate supply and access to soap and water for hand washing and alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Routinely clean all frequently touched surfaces (tables, counters, door knobs/handles, phones, computers, etc.) with disinfectant products, especially in shared workspaces and breakrooms.
  • Provide disposable disinfectant wipes for employees to clean their workstations.
  • Avoid meetings or close workspaces when possible.
  • Before traveling, monitor health notices for the area you are traveling to and review international travel tips from KU's Office of Global Operations & Security.

Increased Employee Absence

During a disease outbreak, an increased number of employees may be absent due to illness, illness of a family member, or childcare if schools are closed. Having a continuity plan in place can help manage operations with reduced staffing. Here are some things to consider when planning for continuity:

  • Identify your unit’s essential functions.
    • Essential functions are those activities that are crucial to the operations of the unit, the University, or to external partners.
    • Identify essential functions that must be continued during a disruption. Consider disruptions lasting days, weeks, or months.
    • Identify non-essential functions that may be reduced to focus on essential functions.
  • Identify your unit’s essential staff.
    • Identify staff with the authority to make decisions or authorize certain actions.
      • Create a line of succession in the event that person is unavailable.
    • Identify staff with specialized training to perform essential functions.
    • Consider cross training employees to perform essential functions in another’s absence.
  • Identify your unit’s vital resources and records.
    • Identify those resources and equipment that must be available to perform essential functions.
    • Identify access and security requirements for records that are vital or sensitive.
  • Consider options for employees to work from home.
    • Review the Alternate Work Location for Staff policy.
    • Identify functions that can or cannot be performed from home or other alternate location.
    • Identify technology or systems in place to support employees working from home.
  • Identify venders or customers and notify them of delivery cancellations or alterations.
  • Identify how to communicate with employees during absences.
    • Maintain a list of employees with current contact information.
    • Identify how employees will be contacted regarding changes to the unit’s operations, status, or reporting requirements.
  • Plan for recovery and resumption of services.

Campus Closure

Under severe circumstances, it may be necessary to cancel classes or curtail other campus operations due to illness. In some cases, campus may be closed. If certain campus operations are reduced, university administrators will notify the KU community and provide guidance as necessary. In the event that campus is closed, only essential personnel will be required to come to work to perform essential services. These include, but are not limited to:

  • maintaining building operations (prevention of irreparable damage to animals, research, and mechanical systems)
  • providing emergency maintenance or ice/snow clearance
  • student residence hall and dining services
  • public safety.

University departments are responsible for identifying their essential functions and emergency staff. Supervisors are required to notify employees if they are designated as emergency staff. Employees who have been identified by their department heads as emergency staff are expected to report to work in accordance with the supervisor’s instructions. Departments and supervisors must plan to cover essential services if essential staff are unable to report to work due to illness.

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