COVID-19 and faculty members

Last updated February 15, 2023.

Current member concerns and questions

Please see the University of Waterloo COVID-19 Information site for the most complete and up-to-date information. 

Teaching/working in person

Accommodations for faculty

  • If you have a health condition that puts you at risk, you need to go to Occupational Health to get a medical accommodation. 
  • There is a work refusal process to address unresolved concerns where work is thought to be unsafe after consulting with your chair.
  • The agreement with the University regarding compassionate accommodations based on Family Status was only in place for winter 2022. You can still talk to your dean about similar arrangements, but they are not obligated to consider them.

Outside of these processes, all of the legal information we have from CAUT and OCUFA indicates that you can’t refuse to teach in person as long as the University is following public health guidelines.

Accommodations for students

Accommodations for students related to COVID-19 should be the same as normal for missed classes due to illness. There is no expectation or obligation for instructors to accommodate students who are not specifically self-isolating or ill. 

Classroom guidelines and safety measures

Please see Instructor information and Health & Safety on the University's COVID-19 website.

Planning for your own absence

The Registrar’s Office guidelines say that if an instructor has symptoms, “generally, in-person classes do not need to be cancelled if it is possible for you and your supervisor to arrange a replacement instructor.” The University has confirmed that other arrangements are also acceptable and "will depend on the nature of the course and the particular sessions that need to be replaced" and that you should "discuss contingencies with the academic leadership of your program."

If you're not sick but fail the daily screening or otherwise need to self-isolate, you "may choose to teach a few classes remotely or provide materials and instructions for students learning."

If you are sick, you should refer to the disability management guide to learn about the sick leave process.


Masks are not required on campus, but the University still strongly recommends wearing them in crowded areas. 

Mask supplies: The University currently provides “appropriate options for face coverings available centrally at no cost to units for employees performing essential in-person work (including teaching)", including a limited supply of N95 respirators for "individuals who may require the additional protection of an N95 respirator for source control." 

Departments can order non-medical masks, disposable filters, and medical masks from the Central Stores catalogue. N95s and KN95s do not need to be fit-tested unless they are required in your workplace (in other words, you can bring your own and don't need to get fit-tested). You cannot use your FPER to purchase masks, but your department can order them for free.

Tenure and performance review


All tenure-track faculty members who started probationary appointments prior to July 1, 2021, have the option to extend their tenure clock by one year. You may make the decision to take the COVID-19 extension at any point up until your original tenure application date. We've confirmed that the COVID-19 extension is in addition to any other probationary contract extension you may be entitled to (e.g., parental or medical leave). You get the usual tenure clock extension for your leave and the one-year COVID extension.

When asked about faculty members starting on or after July 1, 2021, the administration responded that "there were few limitations to in-person research activity during the most recent lockdown. Campus access has been possible for researchers for the majority of this period."

Performance review

For 2020 only, Faculty Relations Committee agreed to develop an agreement between the University and FAUW to allow faculty to choose between a regular performance review process and the process spelled out in MOA 13.5.4 (b), whereby a performance review process that does not involve evaluation of the year 2020 can be applied according to pre-established methods. MOA 13.5.4(b) outlines how performance ratings are to be assigned when it is not possible to assess performance during the evaluation period The precise details of this agreement are available on the university's Employee Communication website and were emailed to members on October 9, 2020.

The University did not agree to any pandemic provisions for 2021 or 2022 and believes a case-by-case approach is sufficient. We encourage all faculty members on review committees to help ensure that the ongoing effects of the pandemic (on workload, mental health, the ability to conduct research, the teaching environment, and so on) are meaningfully accounted for in performance reviews.

More information and support

Remote course delivery: Visit the Keep Learning website and the EdTech Hub for options. You can direct questions about teaching not answered there to your associate dean.

Working remotely: Visit the IST knowledge base for information about connecting to the campus network, your email, voicemail, and colleagues from home.

Support for members: If you are struggling and need support, we encourage you to use the Employee & Family Assistance Program. Counselling is available by phone and online.

If you need help with your own working conditions, contact our Academic Freedom & Tenure Committee

Archived information and emails

Archive: Responses to January 2022 demands for a safe return to campus

In January 2022, FAUW asked for nine conditions to be met before more classes resumed in person. The University's email titled "Updating you on our plans to return to in-person experiences" was essentially a response to this. Here are the highlights, with some additional information from the February 2 President's Forum.

We also asked follow-up questions in February and compiled the answers here.

FAUW asked "that an adequate supply of N95 or KN95 respirators be provided for our members and for all members of the UWaterloo community who must be on campus."

The University has committed to “pursuing options to obtain N95 or KN95 masks and we will provide them on a limited basis for those that request them when available.”

The University currently provides “appropriate options for face coverings available centrally at no cost to units for employees performing essential in-person work (including teaching).” Departments can order non-medical masks, disposable filters and medical masks from the Central Stores catalogue.

At the February 2 President’s Forum, President Goel explained why N95s are not a panacea and other masks may be more suitable for many people.

FAUW asked "that Rapid Antigen Tests be provided to faculty who are required to be on campus as soon as they are available."

The University has committed to making tests more available, including to those teaching in person, when the supply improves. They’ve also noted that rapid tests are designed to be used in frequent, serial testing programs.

FAUW asked "that the University conduct an assessment to determine when COVID-19 booster shots should be mandatory."

The University is following public health guidance on this: “The Ontario Chief Medical Officer of Health (OCMOH) instructions of October 5, 2021, requiring a vaccine mandate are still in effect, but the definition of fully vaccinated has not changed to include a third dose. We understand that the provincial and federal governments and the OCMOH are closely monitoring the relevant data and evidence and will continue to advise the PSE sector on this issue.”

FAUW asked "that the University provide an update about safety upgrades to campus infrastructure, including air exchange rates and carbon dioxide levels in offices, classrooms, and other spaces that have taken place since July 2021, and information about how air quality will continue to be monitored and reported to the campus community."

The University has added a Ventilation Strategy page to the COVID website.

The University says they have “implemented all recommendations for use of the air systems that are possible without fully replacing our ventilation infrastructure.

The University has identified some classroom spaces withfewer than four air exchanges per hourand are rebooking classes in those rooms while doing further analysis.

FAUW asked "that faculty have the autonomy to consult with their students and to decide whether their courses should continue online or in-person."

The University has responded directly to this, saying: “While faculty may wish to consult with students about their preferences to understand their needs and how to address their concerns, the decision for whether courses originally scheduled to be taught in-person must be made by appropriate University officers. This is to ensure that the overall student and program level needs are considered in the decision process.”

FAUW asked "that Faculty Councils and Senate have robust discussions of the conditions required for a safe return to campus; that faculty be meaningfully consulted on decisions related to a safe return to campus and our pedagogical duties; and that until such meaningful consultation with faculty takes place, the administration stop claiming it is occurring.

The University said this about its current decision-making approach:

“This approach is also a necessity born of the pandemic, which has frequently required us to make decisions under a rapidly changing set of circumstances. Timelines and procedures for normal long-term planning – where we can consult very broadly in open forum discussion and where planning decisions can be widely known before coming effective – are not well suited to decision-making in this environment. Where conditions have allowed, we have opted to communicate our decisions as early as possible and with clarity on when the next decision must be made. We hope that this approach provides time for appropriate faculty-level planning and debate to take place.”

At the President’s Forum on Februrary 2, Provost Jim Rush admitted that much of the flow of information up to the administration probably hasn’t been visible to employees, but he insisted that they are hearing what faculty are saying, through campus leaders.

FAUW asked "that the results of the recent survey asking employees how they feel about returning to campus be released to the campus community, and any parallel survey results for students."

The University has shared aggregate results from this survey. We are asking for results for faculty specifically. We have not heard anything about surveys of students or evidence of students’ desire to return to campus.

Archive: Older member concerns (2020)

Some of this information might be out of date.

Also see: the CAUT COVID-19 and the Academic Workplace question-and-answer page and the archive of our emails about COVID-19.

On-campus COVID-19 testing

To book a COVID-19 test on campus, fill out the online COVID-19 Assessment Registration Form and someone will contact you with an appointment time.

As of November 9, 2020, your familiy members (living at the same address) can also get tested at the campus COVID-19 testing centre at Health Services.

Claiming home office expenses

The University has provided T2200 tax forms, as applicable, so that employees can claim work-space-in-the-home expenses as a tax deduction.There is information about T2200s on the Human Resources website: Claiming Employment Related Expenses via a T2200 Declaration of Conditions of Employment. You can also refer to the Canada Revenue Agency page on work-space-in-the-home expenses.

Finance has a chart that explains which work-from-home expenses are eligible for FPER, a tax deduction, or both. Note that chairs and other furniture are not eligible for either, but, as per an email from the provost and Finance on October 30, employees are welcome to take chairs, computer monitors, and other small furniture/equipment home, and we encourage you to do this!

Definite term contracts

FAUW remains committed to fair treatment for definite term lecturers. We will rigorously defend definite-term lecturers’ right to six months’ notice if their contract is not being renewed, or termination pay in lieu of this notice. We will also fight for the proportion of teaching done at UW by our members to remain consistent—we don’t want to see our members replaced en masse by sessional instructors.

We encourage definite-term lecturers who may have had their conversion to a continuing appointment affected by the pandemic to contact FAUW so we can work together to understand the impacts and try to help move that process forward.

Building access

Please see the Guidelines to access workplaces for more information.

Layoffs and financial exigency

Some of our members are concerned about faculty layoffs. Articles 16 and 17 of the Memorandum of Agreement between FAUW and the University set out the conditions under which FAUW members can be laid off due to financial exigency. Simply put, this would require a long-term situation with recurring deficits that threaten the financial viability of the University as a whole, and we're not there yet.

From the MoA: “The term financial exigency denotes the extraordinary and rare condition in which substantial and recurring financial deficits in the total University budget have occurred or, on the basis of generally accepted accounting principles, are projected to be ongoing, thereby placing the solvency of the University as a whole in serious jeopardy.”


Anyone with a planned sabbatical that has not yet started has an opportunity to cancel their sabbatical. This applies to both those who have an upcoming approved sabbatical and those who have applied for a sabbatical. If you have an upcoming sabbatical and the option to delay interests you, contact your Faculty Executive Officer.

Please note that FAUW is unable to provide advice on the merits of cancelling and thus delaying your sabbatical. The decision to cancel a planned sabbatical is a personal one fraught with incredible uncertainty. No one is currently able to say at what point your rescheduled sabbatical request will be approved, for example. What happens to your teaching assignments upon cancelling your sabbatical is a department-level decision.

We tried to discuss considerations for current sabbaticals with the University but were not successful on this front. Be sure to make note of the impacts of COVID-19 on your sabbatical in your sabbatical report and plan to do so for next year’s performance evaluation (and any other year that might be affected) as well.

Teaching workload

We recognize that the amount of time you devote to teaching may increase as a result of the recent changes. If you are teaching additional courses, keep track as usual to account for this later. If the balance between your research/teaching/service changes significantly over multiple terms, contact our Academic Freedom & Tenure Committee (AF&T).

Chairs and directors are responsible for the equitable assignment of teaching duties. Recognizing that workloads may vary over time and circumstances such as those we all currently face, if you feel that you are experiencing unreasonable increases to workload and/or inequitable workload assignments arising from the transition to remote delivery, approach AF&T.

What you are able to deliver may not be up to your usual high standards and that’s ok. Try to focus on the few core concepts or experiences that you want your students to have in the limited time available. Help your colleagues. Reach out and help others get to where you are if you have experience with or have figured out a workable remote platform.


Faculty Professional Expense Reimbursement

The University extended the 2019-20 FPER deadline to June 1, 2020. The 2020-21 deadline did not change.

Parking passes 

Parking fees will resume in November 2021.

Health insurance coverage while travelling

We cannot provide travel advice. Please contact Canada Life directly at 1-800-957-9777 (our plan number is 57130).

Physical/social distancing

At its most basic, physical distancing is about decreasing the contact you have with others, for example by staying at home as much as possible. Working from home is a key distancing strategy. Other advice is available from various public health organizations, and the links are on the University’s coronavirus website. If you want information faster, check the Twitter feeds for these organizations (e.g., @CPHO_Canada).

University pandemic management

We are taking steps to make sure our members feel supported and empowered to protect themselves and others according to the advice of public health officials and use their expertise to figure out how to best continue their academic endeavours. FAUW will advocate for a post-event assessment and for the results of the assessment to be shared widely with the UW community.

May 8, 1:18 p.m. – FAUW COVID-19: 2020 teaching & potential changes to your employment status

Survey about spring and fall teaching

FAUW wants to capture a snapshot of our members' experiences preparing for teaching in the 2020 spring and fall terms as of early May. This information will help us to properly advocate for your interests now and in the future.

Please complete this short survey by Wednesday, May 13, at noon. The survey should take you about three minutes to complete. [The survey is now closed and links have been removed.]

Potential changes to your employment status

We’re aware that administrators are starting to reach out to members regarding reduced workload to retirement, early retirement, and unpaid leaves of absence. If you are considering any of these options, we encourage you, in the strongest possible way, to talk to our AF&T team first as they will help you identify the most appropriate solution for your situation (which could be an alternate to that being offered). This way, you can be as informed as possible when you speak to your chair or dean.

March 19, 12:10 p.m. – FAUW COVID-19: New remote assessment resources

Dear members,

I sincerely hope you are doing as best you can during this incredibly stressful and worrisome time. FAUW is doing our best to figure out how to help you adjust to our new reality. The FAUW Executive team is meeting remotely twice a day and of course working many hours beyond that.

We know that you are working hard, too. We are cognizant of information overload for all of you. We know you might be getting some messages multiple times, but we also know that some key information might get lost, so we want to communicate the most important messages to you.

– Bryan Tolson

FAUW President

New remote assessment resources

Crowdmark is running webinars twice a day right now. The Centre for Extended Learning (CEL) recommends Crowdmark when students need to give full solutions, draw graphs or figures, or show their work. It also allows TAs to participate in marking remotely. It doesn’t offer auto-grading; for auto-graded multiple-choice exams, CEL recommends Mobius or LEARN quizzes. The Crowdmark webinars are running every day at 11:30 a.m. and 4:00 p.m., including the weekend, until March 24. This is the link to join a webinar.

Keep Learning has new resources online today about final exams, including information that will help you determine whether the Crowdmark “Assigned Assessment” tool will work for you. Step-by-step instructions for creating these assessments are on the UW Crowdmark website.

Getting through this together

Adjusting the ways in which we teach, do research, and provide service may not be easy and is likely to have far-reaching impacts (e.g., your ability to publish). FAUW is monitoring the administration’s response as well as those from other agencies. Please know that we have your back, even if we are unable to respond to individual emails quickly right now.

Some things to keep in mind as we all navigate this situation:

  • In emergencies, triaging is necessary. Take a moment to take stock and triage the onslaught of decisions that need to be made, knowing that you cannot deal with everything at once. Use the resources provided by the university, ask your colleagues for their input if you think they can help, provide assistance to others if you think you have come up with innovative ways to deal with teaching or research issues.
  • Everyone copes differently in a crisis. The compounding effect of changes to our professional and personal lives may be hard to keep up with. If someone’s responses seem off the mark, please consider the possible underlying anxiety, frustration and/or exhaustion. Let’s be easy on ourselves and each other.
  • Like you, our chairs, directors, associate deans, and senior administrators have been working non-stop to address the concerns pouring in. There will be gaps, but we ask that you consider the work behind the scenes and offer some understanding and appreciation for those trying to help. They are triaging as well. Consider how you can be helpful (for example, you may wish to limit email communication to critical, time-sensitive issues).
  • Students are among the most vulnerable groups impacted in our university community. Checking in to see if they are ok and acknowledging the challenges they are facing can go a long way. Compassion and readjusted priorities will likely be necessary for the time being.

March 16, 5:13 p.m. – FAUW COVID-19: Frequently asked questions

Hi everyone,

We are working hard to keep up with this fast-moving situation. Please remember that we are in extraordinary times and the university is not functioning anywhere near capacity given the directive to work from home if possible. Know that we are committed to supporting you, but we ask you to remain patient. At this point, we are prioritizing collective issues. We realize individual issues are also important to you and FAUW will pick up on them once the university is back at full capacity.

It is time for faculty to unite in support of each other, our students, and our staff colleagues. We should begin by heeding the advice of public health officials, while providing students with the essentials to adequately complete the term. We now have responses to common concerns about teaching evaluations, tenure, performance reviews, etc. on our website.


March 16, 11:16 a.m. – FAUW COVID-19 – Appeal to students re: Ezra Avenue party

We know from the recent student engagement survey that students see faculty as a highly trusted source of information on campus. You may wish to build on this trust and reach out to your students right now about the importance of social distancing in relation to the Ezra Avenue St. Patrick’s Day party planned for tomorrow. Here is a sample message you can use or adapt if you choose:

We know there is a lot of buzz about the Ezra Avenue party. Please understand that this year it is imperative that you avoid it. Please decide right now that you are not going and advocate as aggressively as you can that all your friends and colleagues do not gather. Please, you need to be worried about your health, the health of your family and friends, and the health of your community.

March 16, 10:34 a.m. – FAUW COVID-19 – Update March 16

FAUW has received many questions from you about how to move forward at work, given the rapid changes and the various levels of guidance (from UW, from public health, etc.). We hear you, and here is where FAUW is at as of 10:30 this morning:

  1. Last week I reached out and brought in Dr. Shannon Majowicz from our School of Public Health and Health Systems, as a temporary advisor to FAUW on the COVID-19 pandemic. She is an infectious disease epidemiologist who worked for 10 years with the Public Health Agency of Canada (including during the 2009 H1N1 pandemic). She is helping us craft our plans and messages, and we are grateful she is stepping up in this way.
  2. We will send more guidance very soon. By the end of the today, there will be new measures and guidance for you provided via:
  • An 11 am ET announcement by Premier Ford.
  • A 1 pm ET announcement by the Prime Minister.
  • An expected announcement by the University by the end of the day.
  • One more email from FAUW by end of day addressing some common questions we are hearing. This email will be informed by what we hear provincially, federally, and from the University.

Support each other. Listen to public health officials and work to enact their suggestions (e.g., now we should all be practicing social distancing). These are unique times. We can weather the storm.

Bryan Tolson

FAUW President

March 13, 3:30 p.m. – FAUW COVID-19 – In-person class suspension

Good afternoon,

FAUW strongly supports the University’s decision today to end all in-person class activity for this term. We believe that social distancing is the right move for the University and the broader community at this time and encourage our members to embrace this approach. We are in a rapidly changing situation and expect more details to emerge as things evolve.

For our part, all FAUW events are postponed indefinitely and we are working to move meetings online, including the Spring General Meeting.

The University is providing time and resources to help you determine how best to deliver the rest of your courses. The University is allowing you to use your expertise and academic freedom to decide the best way to wrap up your classes this term. The Provost’s memo from earlier this week still stands: You may assign a final mark based on work to-date if appropriate, or have an alternative assignment or a take-home or online exam.

Remember: You are trying to help your students across the finish line at a difficult time. Be compassionate with them and yourself, and don’t expect that your hastily-transitioned course will be a model of technology mediated learning. It’s ok if it’s just ok. This is a challenging time for everyone, but we are confident that our members will rise to this occasion.

More information

Visit the Keep Learning website for options for online course delivery. Please refer to the University’s Coronavirus Information website for resources and up-to-date information. We will post our own updates on our website. You can direct questions about teaching to your associate dean. We are also in direct communication with the administration.

If you are struggling and need support, we encourage you to use the Employee & Family Assistance Program. Counselling is available by phone and online.

March 13, 10:19 a.m. – FAUW COVID-19 – General Update


We have heard from many of you this week about COVID-19. Thank you for sending your questions and concerns, which we share. I want to tell you what FAUW is currently doing, and what you can expect from us in the next few days.

RE: teaching, we understand your concerns about the vague instructions sent to instructors yesterday. We hope to have clarity from the University mid-day today about what this means for each of you/your courses. We will communicate more about this later today. If we don’t get clear guidance from the University today, we will provide you with our interpretation of the memo and options for implementing changes in response.

For our part, all FAUW events are postponed indefinitely and we are working to move meetings online. We’ll provide more details about this shortly on our website.

I know there are other issues unfolding as well, and I will communicate with you regularly as I get information. We will respond to your emails in priority order, starting with issues that impact many of you. Please note that we will likely not respond to individual-level concerns very quickly, and that this timeline will no doubt be affected by how the pandemic plays out.

We’ve heard that not all of our members are receiving communications from the University. We’ve included at the end of this email that was intended for all employees yesterday. We will continue to forward University communications until we get confirmation that this issue has been resolved. You should have also received communication from your Faculty about options for teaching.

Our most important priority is the health, safety, and well-being of our community of faculty, staff and students. I recognize this is a stressful time for all of us, and I will do my best to help by providing regular communication.

Take care,

Bryan Tolson

FAUW President