Fiscal Report
Public Education's Point of Reference for Making Educated Decisions

Managing Human Resources in a Crisis Environment

In light of our ever-changing work environment, human resources is challenged now more than ever to provide support to employees, while managing operational responsibilities in response to changing rules and procedures. The COVID-19 outbreak and its impact on us, our employees, everyone’s families, and our communities is stressful to all at varying levels. The fear and anxiety that comes with not knowing what tomorrow might bring can be overwhelming and cause strong emotions which require a thoughtful response from employers. In order to manage our current challenges, and prepare for the road ahead, it is critical that communication systems that engage employees are implemented. As everyone navigates these uncharted waters, human resources should continue to respond by reviewing policies and procedures to ensure they provide the information employees need in order to stay informed. 

In compliance with Executive Order N-26-20, local educational agencies (LEAs), along with many employers in California, initiated a telecommuting work environment. Working remotely and/or sheltering in place can cause people to feel isolated and disengaged, as communications using technology are more difficult and stilted. In addition, many employees are not experienced in working outside of their work environment and may need additional support to work effectively from home. The implementation of a telecommuting policy, which requires employee acknowledgement of receipt, helps provide guidance while creating a sense of accountability while working remotely. A sample telecommuting policy can be accessed here

Due to the necessity of rapid implementation of school closures, many LEA employees were sent home with no real sense of how they would be compensated during this time, or in some cases, if their employment would continue. This was not the fault of the employer, as there was an absence of direction regarding employee management at the time. However, now that we have settled into our “new normal”, information regarding pay status for employees who are telecommuting and not ill—and leave laws pertaining to employees who are ill, or are caring for a family member who is ill—have been provided. More information regarding details involving employee leave and compensation during school closures can be found in the articles: “Ask SSC . . . How Do We Document Employee Absences During School Closures?”; “Emergency Family and Medical Leave Act Revisions and Emergency Paid Sick Leave—Updated”; and “Guest Article: COVID-19 Employee Leaves Chart,” in the current Fiscal Report. Communication with employees regarding compensation and their leave entitlements is key in establishing a sense of ease in economic impacts to employees and their families during a school closure. 

Employee Schedules and Working Environment

In addition to a change in work environment and leave laws, the current crisis can cause a number of changes in the way employees work. We have provided the following informational matrix to illustrate how particular changes can impact details regarding employment for both classified and certificated employees. These factors require review and a possible change in policy, and in addition, may require engagement with legal partners. 

Schedule/Work Environment Classified Employees Certificated Employees

Work Day/Work Year

Changes in work school year and impacts to work calendar (this varies for nine-, ten-, eleven-, or twelve-month employees)

Planned vacations and time off

Extension of school year and impact to work calendar

Preparation time

Breaks and nonwork days

Summer school and extended school year considerations

Employee Leaves

Changes in law due to emergency legislation (Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 and emergency paid leave)

Managing employees absent from work due to school closure (not illness related)

Safety and Security Employer’s responsibility to provide a safe work site

Compensation and Benefits

Compensation for employees absent from duty during emergency and school closure

Determination of essential employees who are required to work during a school closure

Training and Resources

Employer-provided resources for employees to work remotely and communicate with staff and students during closure

Remote teaching requirements—instructional and curriculum training

Communication regarding access to the Employer Assistance Program (if applicable)

Teacher collaboration remotely

Other Considerations

Address other employment conditions such as probationary periods, evaluation timelines, and other operational considerations impacted by school closure 

Employees respond to an environment of change and challenge in a variety of ways. Providing consistent communication in multiple formats gives context for employees and a road map for how the challenges on the horizon may be addressed.