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Northwestern will take winter recess Dec. 27-29

Academic and administrative offices will be closed; HR answers FAQ for faculty and staff

Northwestern University academic and administrative offices will be closed Dec. 27, 28 and 29. These three Winter Recess days will be in addition to the already scheduled University holidays of Dec. 23, 26 and 30, 2016, and Jan. 2, 2017.

Related: Memo from President Morton Schapiro

Certain areas of the University will be unable to close completely during this time because some operations and services must continue to be provided. In these circumstances, staff members who are not able to be off Dec. 27, 28 and 29 will be allowed to take the equivalent number of approved days off prior to August 31, 2017.

From Dec. 8 to Jan. 2, the Henry Crown Sports Pavilion and Norris Aquatics Center will operate on a winter break schedule of 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. on weekdays and 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekends. Those facilities will be closed Dec. 24, 25, 31 and Jan. 1.  

The Office of Human Resources has provided an extensive list of answers to frequently asked questions. See the complete list below.

Frequently asked questions

1. What is Winter Recess? 
Winter Recess refers to the closing of the University’s academic and administrative offices Dec. 27, 28 and 29, 2016. This is done in recognition of the season and dedication of Northwestern’s faculty and staff. These three Winter Recess days are not holidays but are provided in addition to the already scheduled University holidays of Dec. 23 (Christmas Eve Observed), 26 (Christmas Day Observed), 30 (New Year’s Eve Observed), 2016, and Jan. 2 (New Year’s Day), 2017.

2. Will all academic and administrative units be closed? 
Certain areas of the University provide critical, essential services and therefore will not close during the Winter Recess. Those areas will maintain appropriate levels of staff for operations and continuity of service during this period. Staff members in those areas who are not able to be off during the Winter Recess period will be allowed to take the equivalent number of approved days off prior to Aug. 31, 2017.

3. How should individuals at Northwestern notify the community of the Winter Recess?
Those who will be away during Winter Recess are encouraged to provide advanced notice of the Winter Recess to customers and collaborators and should consider indicating the Winter Recess period in their email auto-signatures well in advance of the Dec. 23 holiday. Before leaving for the holiday and Winter Recess, it is suggested that auto-reply messages on email and voicemail greetings be updated to indicate time away from work and identify a point of contact for emergencies. However, it is up to the discretion of the department to provide guidance on the use of and/or messages for auto-replies. Here is suggested language you may wish to use for an auto-reply email message:

Happy Holidays! In observance of Northwestern’s Winter Recess, the University will be closed Friday, December 23, 2016 through Monday, January 2, 2017. If this is an urgent matter, please contact <name>, <job title> at <email address> or <9-digit phone number> for assistance. Otherwise, I will read and respond to your email when I return.

OR

I am currently out of the office and will be returning on Tuesday, January 3, 2017. Please note that the University will be closed Friday, December 23, 2016 through Monday, January 2, 2017. If this is an urgent matter, please contact <name>, <job title> at <email address> or <9-digit phone number> for assistance. Otherwise, I will read and respond to your email when I return.

4. What faculty and staff are eligible for Winter Recess? 
All Northwestern, benefits-eligible and part-time, non-benefits eligible faculty and staff are entitled to participate in Winter Recess; however, it is at the discretion of the department to grant Winter Recess days. Temporary staff should not be scheduled to work during the Winter Recess period.

5. What is meant by “essential staff?” 
Essential staff members provide services that relate directly to the health, safety, and welfare of the Northwestern community and ensure continuity of key operations.

6. Are (not just “essential”) staff allowed to work between Christmas and New Year’s Eve? 
The goal of Winter Recess is to close non-essential functions and provide staff with time off from work. Unit leadership determines individual department observance of Winter Recess and the roles that are essential to maintain key operations. Staff members not designated as essential may not work during Winter Recess unless directed to do so by their supervisor.

7. How do staff members confirm if a position will or will not be designated essential during the Winter Recess? 
Unit leadership determines the roles that are essential to maintaining key operations and is responsible for ensuring that its staff receive the necessary communication. If there are questions, staff should direct those to their respective supervisor.

8. Are Principal Investigators (PIs) able to identify essential roles within individual labs and/or research in order to maintain lab research/operations during the Winter Recess? 
Yes. Staff members who are required to work one or more days during Winter Recess will receive their regular compensation for the time worked. An equivalent amount of time off will be granted to staff who worked on the designated days during Winter Recess. Alternate Winter Recess days must be taken by Aug. 31, 2017, and will not carry forward to the next fiscal year or be cashed out.

9. Will essential staff members be paid at a special rate for time worked during Winter Recess? 
No. Essential staff members will be paid at the normal pay rate.

10. Are Winter Recess days paid or unpaid?

  • Benefits-eligible faculty and staff members: Staff members must be in a benefits-eligible position in order to receive pay for time spent not working during Winter Recess. 
  • Union members: Staff members covered by a collective bargaining agreement should contact their respective union representative to determine eligibility. 
  • Temporary staff and student workers: Temporary staff and student workers are not eligible to participate in Winter Recess. Temporary staff and student workers who work during Winter Recess will receive their regular pay and should enter time working during the Winter Recess into Kronos using the appropriate codes.
  • Part-time staff: Staff members in part-time, benefits eligible positions are paid on a prorated basis for days worked during Winter Recess.

11. Will Winter Recess time used during the fiscal year count toward the hours worked for overtime purposes? 
No. Winter Recess days will not count toward hours worked for overtime purposes.

12. Will there be adjustments to the December pay dates
No. Nonexempt staff can still expect to receive pay on Dec. 22, 2016, and Jan. 6, 2017; exempt staff can still expect to receive pay Dec. 29, 2016, and Jan. 31, 2017.

13. Are Winter Recess eligible staff required to use vacation or personal floating holiday time during the Winter Recess? 
No. Winter Recess is being given in recognition of the season and the dedication of faculty and staff. Staff should not claim vacation or personal floating holiday time during the Winter Recess; staff should use the Winter Recess Code (WRC) when completing the timesheet in Kronos.

14. Does vacation time accrue during Winter Recess? 
Yes. Vacation time continues to accrue while staff is in paid status.

15. Will Kronos automatically populate with the Winter Recess Code (WRC) on Dec. 27, 28 and 29, 2016? 
No. Kronos will not automatically populate with the Winter Recess Code (WRC) Dec. 27, 28 and 29, 2016. WRC is an option in the dropdown menus (nonexempt and exempt) for selection by staff. Staff members are responsible for ensuring their Kronos records are accurate.

16. How should essential staff members enter time worked in Kronos during the Winter Recess? 
Essential staff members required to work one or more days during Winter Recess should follow the standard time reporting process. Staff members will receive regular compensation for the time worked during Winter Recess.

17. Can Winter Recess days be taken in half-day increments? 
Yes. Essential staff members who must work during a portion of a day during Winter Recess may take Winter Recess in full or half-day increments. No less than half-day increments should be taken.

18. How should staff members enter time in Kronos if there is a need for incidental sick time, bereavement, or jury duty during the Winter Recess? 
Staff members should use the Winter Recess Code (WRC) when completing the timesheet in Kronos. Paid leave for incidental sick time, bereavement, or jury duty only occurs when scheduled to work. No alternative days are given in the event of illness, bereavement, or jury duty during Winter Recess because staff are already being compensated for the Winter Recess time.

19. How should nonexempt staff members enter time in Kronos when required to be on-call during Winter Recess? 
Nonexempt staff members should record all time spent responding to phone calls or engaged in work as hours worked in Kronos and should enter the Winter Recess Code (WRC) for the remaining balance of the day. Staff members covered by a collective bargaining agreement should contact their respective union representative to discuss on-call provisions.

20. If an essential staff member works during Winter Recess days, do they get to take another day off during the year? 
An equivalent amount of time off will be granted to staff members who worked on the designated days during Winter Recess. Alternate Winter Recess days need to be taken by Aug. 31, 2017, and it will not carry forward to the next fiscal year or be cashed out.

21. How do essential staff members who work during Winter Recess use the Winter Recess time at a later date? 
Staff members should use the Winter Recess Code (WRC) when completing the timesheet in Kronos. This time off should be approved by their respective supervisor and needs to be taken no later than Aug. 31, 2017 and it will not carry forward to the next fiscal year or be cashed out.

22. Do staff who plan to retire effective Dec. 30, 2016, still receive pay for the Winter Recess? 
Yes.

23. If a staff member transfers to another department at the University, will they retain alternate Winter Recess days? 
Yes. When transferring positions, alternate Winter Recess days also transfer with the staff member. While a staff member should make efforts to take the alternate days off before he or she transfers, if this is not possible, he or she should work with his or her new supervisor to schedule this time off for alternate Winter Recess days.

24. FMLA Leave is available to staff members who have worked at least 1,250 hours during the past 12 continuous months of service. Do Winter Recess days count toward the 1,250 hours FMLA eligibility requirement? 
No. Only time worked counts toward the 1,250 hours FMLA eligibility requirement.

25. If a staff member is on paid continuous FMLA leave, does the holiday and Winter Recess period (Dec. 23, 2016 – Jan. 2, 2017) count against the staff member’s 12-week FMLA allotment? 
Yes. The FMLA would continue and run concurrently with the holiday and Winter Recess period.

26. If a staff member is on paid FMLA leave, would the staff member be allowed to change the designation of paid leave time and substitute eligible Winter Recess time? 
No. The staff member will remain in FMLA status.

27. 2016 will be the first time in many years, if ever, that Northwestern has provided a Winter Recess. Does Northwestern plan to provide Winter Recess in future years? 
Northwestern reserves the right to determine if there will be Winter Recess in the future.

28. Does Winter Recess apply to staff at NU-Q? 
Please check with management to learn how and if Winter Recess will be handled for NU-Q.

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