I. General Policy
Rice University provides flexible work arrangements for staff and organizational units to create a productive work environment, attract and retain talented employees, and provide increased flexibility in employees’ work lives.
Rice is a community built through in-person interactions and relationships and it is expected that most staff will work on campus. Some functions and organizations may be suitable for alternative work arrangements, and this policy provides for those alternatives, with appropriate approval.
Flexible work arrangements may be appropriate for some employees, jobs and organizational units but not for others. They are not an entitlement, are established at the university’s discretion, and in no way change the terms and conditions of employment at Rice. All university policies, and appropriate school, division, department, or office work expectations continue to apply, regardless of work arrangement, or whether or not staff are working on campus or remotely.
This policy does not cover short-term, temporary work arrangements, or address a specific, non-recurring situation. Supervisors have the authority to approve these as needed.
This policy applies to all benefits-eligible staff employees.
II. Roles & Responsibilities
A. Employee: Requests a flexible work arrangement, subject to the supervisor’s review and approval. Employees must adhere to the terms of the approved flexible work arrangements. Staff are expected to be available to Rice during normal business hours unless their approved work arrangements provide for limited hours.
B. Supervisor: Reviews requests for flexible work arrangements submitted by employees and works with the appropriate Dean, Vice President or other senior leader, and Human Resources, to make a determination about the request. The supervisor will communicate flexible work arrangement expectations, conduct regular reviews of the flexible work arrangements to determine if they are still viable, monitor performance to ensure the employee continues to meet expectations, and is integrated into on-campus office work activity.
C. School, Division: Deans, Vice Presidents and other senior leaders establish guidelines for their schools and divisions, consistent with this policy. Reviews and approvals for flexible work arrangements follow the supervisory chain with the final approver being at the school / division level. In addition to approving flexible work arrangements for roles that can be performed remotely, organizations are responsible for consistent application of this policy and managing resources that the employee requires for remote work. Only arrangements consistent with both university policy and school / division guidelines may be approved.
D. Human Resources: Responsible for development and consistent application of flexible work programs. Reviews and approves school / division guidelines. Consults with supervisors and employees on all flexible work arrangement requests and documentation, and ensures compliance with applicable employment laws and regulations.
E. Disability Resource Center: Works with Human Resources, departments and employees on evaluating requests for disability accommodations under various laws and regulations and facilitates a process to explore reasonable accommodations.
F. Environmental Health & Safety: Provides information and guidance for safe practices for employees when they work at off-campus locations.
G. Controller’s Office: Responsible for managing and monitoring university compliance with payroll tax codes related to employees working outside the state of Texas, paying employees regardless of location, and maintaining an inventory of Rice-owned property and equipment.
H. Risk Management: Responsible for managing Rice’s workers compensation program.
I. Information Security Office: Responsible for data security, privacy oversight, and provides guidance and training for ensuring data security when working from remote locations.
A. Campus: The Rice University campus in Houston, Texas, and other Rice owned or leased properties in Houston where Rice employees are engaged in instruction, research, and Rice business activity.
B. Flexible Work Arrangement: An agreement between an employee and supervisor that includes a change to the employee’s work schedule or location on an ongoing basis or agreed period of time.
C. Remote Work: An employee routinely working one or more days per week at a location that is not the campus or regularly designated work location.
D. Compressed Workweek: A weekly full-time work schedule of 40 hours, but completed in fewer than five full workdays.
E. Alternative Work Schedule: A weekly work schedule that allows the employee to adjust their arrival and departure times around a core set of hours, but does not alter the total hours worked per week.
F. Reduced Work Hours: The total number of hours worked per week is less than 40, resulting in an adjustment to the employee’s salary and other time-related benefits.
G. Partial Year Arrangement: The employee does not work a full 12-month schedule (e.g., takes time off in the summer other than Paid Time Off) resulting in an adjustment to the employee’s salary and other time-related benefits.
IV. Elaboration of Policy
i. Flexible work arrangements may be suggested by the employee or supervisor. All flexible work arrangements must be approved in advance by the immediate supervisor, department, and school/ division, be appropriately documented, be in accordance with the school/division guidelines, and must meet the needs of the university.
ii. School / division flexible work guidelines should address the types of arrangements that will ordinarily be approved, as well as any collective goals such as sufficient in-office staffing to assure a maximally productive, creative and cohesive work environment.
iii. All campus offices must be appropriately staffed or accessible during normal business hours, with the exception of emergency situations.
iv. All flexible work arrangements will be on a trial basis for up to three months, after which the employee and supervisor will evaluate the arrangement and determine whether to continue and under what terms. They may be discontinued at any time at the request of either the employee or the supervisor.
v. The university recognizes that many employees have responsibility for childcare, eldercare or other dependent care needs. Although an individual employee’s schedule may be modified to accommodate these needs, the primary focus of the flexible work arrangement must remain on job performance and the needs of the university.
vi. Individuals seeking remote work arrangements for work at a location outside of Texas or the United Sates must comply with applicable Rice policies dealing with out-of-state work and with applicable employment laws for the location where the work is occurring.
Before entering into any flexible work arrangement agreement, the employee and supervisor, with the guidance of Human Resources and school/division as needed, will evaluate the suitability of such an arrangement, by reviewing the following:
i. Job responsibilities. The nature of the employee’s work and responsibilities, as defined in the job description, must be conducive to a flexible work arrangement without causing significant disruption to performance and/or service delivery.
ii. Employee suitability. In considering a request for flexible work, the employee and supervisor will assess the ability of the employee to work independently to meet the performance standards expected, regardless of the work arrangement. If a supervisor has concerns about performance or the employee’s ability to work toward goals independently, the supervisor may use discretion to deny the request.
Individuals requesting a flexible work arrangement as an accommodation for a disability or as they return from short-term or long-term disability leave (including those based on pregnancy or Family Medical Leave Act situations) should work with the Disability Resource Center, Human Resources and their immediate supervisor in determining the work arrangement.
C. Flexible Work Options
i. Remote Work. Allows work from a location other than the employee’s regular campus or designated work location, either full time or split between on campus and a remote location. Resources required for remote work arrangements must be agreed upon with the employee, supervisor and department, with data security, compliance, safety and ergonomics taken into account.
ii. Alternative Work Schedule. Permits flexibility in the employee’s scheduled starting and ending times. The alternative work schedule should be built around the core hours identified by the supervisor to ensure sufficient coverage of ongoing university needs, while allowing employees flexibility in completing the remaining work hours, as agreed upon with their supervisor. The total number of hours worked per week remains the same and is not affected by this arrangement.
iii. Compressed Workweek. Employees work the same number of hours per week, but in a fewer number of days. The options generally available are:
a. Employee works 40 hours in four work days.
b. Employee works 80 hours in nine workdays over a two-week period. (Available for exempt employees only, as this schedule may result in working more than 40 hours in one of the two workweeks.)
iv. Reduced Work Hours. The total number of hours worked per week is less than 40, with a corresponding reduction in salary or hours paid. This may affect benefits eligibility (employees must work a total of 1,000 hours per year to be eligible for benefits) and the accrual of paid time off.
v. Less than Full Year. The total number of hours worked per year is reduced (e.g., no work for a period of time in the summer), with a corresponding reduction in salary or hours paid. This may affect benefits eligibility (employees must work a total of 1,000 hours per year to be eligible for benefits) and cannot result in a change in an employee’s exempt status.
D. Time Worked
Nonexempt employees (staff who are not exempt from the overtime requirements of the Fair Labor Standards Act) will be required to accurately record all hours worked using the university’s official time-keeping system. Supervisors are required to monitor these hours to ensure that work is performed in accordance with expectations. Hours worked in excess of those scheduled per day and per workweek require the advance approval of the employee’s supervisor. Failure to comply with this requirement may result in the termination of the flexible work agreement and other disciplinary action.
Exempt employees must schedule, request and record leave taken each month.
E. Compensation Adjustments
Departments shall not pay employees a stipend or additional pay because they are working remotely.
F. Payroll Taxes
Payroll taxes are based on the state or country of the employee’s residence. The university will withhold all appropriate taxes from an employee’s paycheck based on the employee’s location. It is the employee’s responsibility to ensure that they have appropriately informed Human Resources of any changes to their residency and ensure that appropriate taxes are being withheld.
G. Travel Related Expenses
Travel between an employee’s home (or alternative work location) and Rice University is considered part of an employee’s normal commute and is not reimbursable. While an employee may choose to live out-of-state or a considerable distance from the university, the employee will not be reimbursed for travel to and from the university, unless the supervisor deems the travel to be required and essential to the performance of the job.
H. Equipment & Services
i. On a case-by-case basis, Rice University may provide appropriate university standard equipment (see Equipment Checklist) needed for remote work. Whether, and how much, equipment will be provided should be stipulated in school/division guidelines, and each instance requires approval by the Department, Dean or Vice President. If equipment is purchased with Rice funds, procurement policies must be followed and documented that the purchase is for business use.
ii. Equipment supplied by the university is to be used for Rice business purposes only with only de minimis personal use consistent with Policy 831. The employee must sign an inventory agreement, to be maintained by the employee’s department, that records all Rice University property received by an employee, and agree to take appropriate action to protect the items from damage, theft, or loss of information. Upon termination of employment or termination of remote work, all university property will be returned to the department.
iii. The university will not provide a stipend or otherwise pay employees for the cost of internet service unless required by law.
I. Information Security
Employees with flexible work arrangements are expected to ensure the protection of confidential, sensitive and personally identifiable information that is accessible to them from their remote work location. Steps include the use of locked file cabinets, regular password maintenance, use of secure and encrypted university-provided digital storage and any other measures appropriate for the job and the environment. Up-to-date guidance about securing systems and digital records can be obtained from the Information Security Office.
Employees are expected to maintain their remote workspace in a safe manner, free from hazards. Rice will provide a safety checklist that should be completed prior to starting the remote work arrangement. Injuries sustained by employees in the course and scope of their employment while in a remote work location must be reported immediately to their supervisor as required by Rice’s Workers Compensation Policy 407.
V. Cross References to Related Policies
Policy 402 - Access and Accommodation for Individuals with Disabilities
Policy 407 - Workers Compensation
Policy 441 - Out-of-State Employment
Policy 808 - Protection of University Data and Information
Policy 809 - Control of Equipment and other Property
Policy 814 - Procurement Policy
Policy 831 - Stewardship and Personal Use of University Property
Policy 832 - Appropriate Use of Information Technology
VI. Responsible Official and Key Offices
Responsible Official: Vice President for Finance and Administration
Responsible Official: Human Resources; Risk Management; Environmental Health and Safety; Controller’s Office; Information Security Office; Disability Resource Center
VII. Procedures and Forms and Additional Information
- Flexible Work Tool Kit
- Equipment Checklist
- Work from Home Ergonomics
- Staff Compensation Policy
- Fair Labor Standards Act
- Workers Compensation Policy
- Office of Information Technology Policies
David W. Leebron, President
November 8, 2021
November 11, 2021 - Section (IV)(H)(i) to clarify name of referenced list
January 18, 2023