Written Responses to Remaining Questions Human Resources and Benefits

Time did not permit Jack Heuer, Vice President for Human Resources, Susan Sproat, Executive Director for Benefits, and R. Joy Azikiwe, Executive Director for Human Resources and Chief of Staff, to respond to all the questions submitted during the Faculty Senate Seminar held on July 15, 2020.  Our guests submitted answers in writing to those questions.

Complete video of the seminar can be found here.



  1. Questions Answered During Seminar
  2. Tuition Benefits
  3. COVID/PennOpen Pass Webform
  4. Childcare


1. Questions Answered During Seminar

Complete video of the seminar can be found here.

A. What categories of faculty and teaching support staff are covered by which HR policies, and do they differ in schools?

B. What kinds of HR policies cover lecturers, senior lecturers, and other academic support faculty?

C. What benefits are under consideration for being reduced or eliminated (e.g., tuition benefits for faculty, staff, and dependents)?

D. What examination has been done of the effectiveness of outsourced employee benefits and human resources services (e.g., WageWorks and Health Advocate)?

E. Do you foresee any impacts to health plan costs as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic?

F. Other universities suspended paying into the faculty retirement accounts.  How will the University decide whether and when such payments are no longer feasible?

G. What, if any, changes to retirement benefits and associated policies are anticipated as a result of the pandemic and its economic effects?

H. Why is everyone being asked to report on their personal health status, including those who will not be working on campus?

I. The hiring freeze is halting faculty hiring.  Can we loosen the system so that faculty with funds to pay for their needs can hire within two weeks?

J. If the University must reduce headcount, can we do so with dignity?

K. Will the University be offering early retirement packages as some places do try to cut ongoing expenses?

L. Are there any efforts to use University resources to help faculty manage childcare disruption associated with daycare and school closures?  How will the crises influence ongoing, long-term efforts to increase childcare capacity and help for faculty and staff?

M. Does the benefits pool have reserves?

N. Where does the money for benefits come from? Does all the money in the benefits pool come from the benefits rate that the schools pay as part of faculty and staff salaries?

O. Do the schools get the same amount back in benefits for their faculty and staff that they pay in?

P. What does it mean to say that Penn is self-insured?

Q. Did Penn save money on medical costs as a result of the decision to move to remote operations?  If so, what use was made of those savings?

Complete video of the seminar can be found here.



2. Tuition Benefits

If both parents are Penn faculty, does their child receive the college tuition benefit from each parent? Is there an implied “marriage penalty” otherwise?  

The dependent tuition benefit policy is aligned to recipient dependents rather than to employee-parents. In other words, if both parents are employed at the University of Pennsylvania, tuition assistance is limited to the benefit that would be provided to one faculty/staff member. This means that only one parent can use the benefit for the dependent at a time. The dependent’s tuition benefit record could be transferred to the other parent at any point in time but the usage details will also be transferred so as to ensure that the dependent does exceed the limits of coverage of the benefit.



3. COVID / PennOpen Pass Webform

A. What employee medical information, including that from PennOpen Pass and Wellness programs, is shared with third parties? 

No data from PennOpen Pass is shared with third parties. When users sign up to use PennOpen Pass they will be given a Privacy Statement. The privacy statement may be read to provide for sharing with third parties in very limited circumstances (e.g., to administer the program – which could include a contractor such as Allied Barton; or to comply with legal requirements which may include public health agencies).  As an example, an Allied Barton employee may have access to the information if a student does not have their phone and therefore must respond “offline” to questions verbally.  Technically, that is a third party, but the purpose is very much in line with the specified purpose list in the Privacy Statement. 


B. What advantages exist for all faculty and staff to report their health status information using PennOpen Pass, even those who are working 100% from home? 

Any employee who uses PennOpen Pass will have access to the PennOpen Pass Call Center 7 days per week for guidance on next steps (this is in process), including COVID-19 test scheduling at Penn Medicine test sites.  PennOpen Pass gives all users “one stop shop” access to testing, contact tracing, and clearance for return, all coordinated by the program.  This means our faculty and staff don’t have to piece together their own care or worry about where to go with questions.  We are not requiring employees who work 100% from home to enroll in the program, but we do encourage it, since we believe it provides a service to the individuals and the community and avoids traditional hassles of navigation and having to piece together your own care if you do have symptoms.



4. Childcare

A.  Backup care is currently only based on 10 days of use, regardless of number of hours used per day. This was already not enough before for dual working parents or single parents. Is there any way to (1) make it by the hour rather than by the day and (2) substantially extend the amount of time, especially during the pandemic?

Caregiving needs for less than four hours are best filled by using Care.com Personal Assistance to hire a caregiver to work with the family for their needs that are less than four hours.  If the minimum number of hours for backup care was reduced, there would not be a financial incentive for a backup caregiver to fill the request. Once a caregiver takes a position (even for 4 hours) it is unlikely that the caregiver will be able to fill another job for that day.


B. How is HR planning to work with Penn faculty who are parents of young children and will be working without childcare in the fall--an impossible situation for many?

We continue to partner with Care.com, PennnCare.com and Health Advocate EAP to navigate through the needs of our working caregivers. To help answer these questions in a more detailed way, we have presented the answers in the below graph. 

Area of Concern Resources Details
I am not comfortable with sending my child to school in the fall, and I need to hire an in-home caregiver while I return to work. Care.com Personal Assistance or penn.care.com Care.com puts you in touch with professionals who meet your family’s specific needs and expectations. Consider adding cooking and personal assistance in the job description.  The Care.com team can help you find and hire caregivers through a personal assisted search.  Call 1-855-781-1303 ext. 4 or visit penn.care.com. Assistance in finding and hiring caregivers is covered by your Penn benefit; the hourly pay for the caregiver is covered by you.
I am concerned about a new caregiver coming into my home. Care.com

Care.com has compiled a set of Guidelines for In-home Backup Care for families and an article “4 Questions to Ask Child Caregivers During Coronavirus.”  

I am going to need assistance with care and virtual learning for our children one or two days a week. Care.com Backup Care Penn’s Backup Care program offers benefits-eligible faculty and staff up to 10 days of subsidized backup childcare (minimum 4 hours) per fiscal year through Care.com. Care can be offered in your home or in a childcare center, with some of the cost covered through a subsidy program that depends on your annual base salary.  Schedule one day per week for 10 weeks or call to schedule when you have a breakdown in regular care.  To register, just call 1-855-781-1303 or go online to the easy-to-use registration system at penn.care.comCall 1-855-781-1303 ext. 4 or visit penn.care.com.
I feel overwhelmed and don’t know where to start.  I need to talk to someone today. Health Advocate Employee Assistance Program Penn’s Employee Assistance Program (EAP) provides you with access to free, confidential, 24/7 counseling and referral services for personal and professional life issues from any location. EAP services are available by phone, email, webchat, video, and through face-to-face sessions. The Health Advocate EAP counselors will connect you with the right experts at the right time: masters level clinicians, work/life specialists, medical bill negotiators, and financial and legal professionals.  In addition, Health Advocate offers multi-language capabilities.  Call 1-866-799-2329, email eapinfo@healthadovcate.com or visit www.hr.upenn.edu/eap.
It's hard to work remotely and be a teacher, and a cook.  I need help coping with my stress, working with my partner on sharing care and supporting my family. Health Advocate Employee Assistance Program Penn’s Employee Assistance Program (EAP) provides you with support and coaching on time management, strategies for managing stress, and professional life issues. EAP services are available by phone, email, webchat, video, and through face-to-face sessions. Call 1-866-799-2329, email eapinfo@healthadovcate.com or visit www.hr.upenn.edu/eap.
My partner and I need help with housekeeping. Care.com You can conduct a self-directed search for housekeeping help in your neighborhood by going to penn.care.com or work with the Care.com team to  help you find and hire help with housekeeping through a personal assisted search.  Call 1-855-781-1303 ext. 4 or visit penn.care.com.  Assistance in finding and hiring housekeeping help is covered by your Penn benefit; the hourly pay for the caregiver is covered by you.
I need to find time to take better care of my physical and emotional health. Penn Well-being and Work-life Workshops and Resources You have access to mindfulness, resilience, and other workshops through Penn’s Well-being and Work-life resources.  Visit www.hr.upenn.edu/worklife.

For more strategies and tips, review Health Advocate’s webinar, Working from home with children webinar, view a Linkedin Learning course, Balancing Work and Life as a Work-from-Home parent, or for more information about Penn’s dependent care benefits, visit Penn’s Caring for Your Family webpage.


Complete video of the seminar can be found here.