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OPA COVID-19 Updates

Returning to Work

Where do I find the VPGE FAQ page about COVID-19 issues, including returning to work? 
That page is found here:

Postdoc Telecommuting Agreement

Postdocs will be paid while working remotely from home. To ensure payment, please download and complete the Postdoc Telecommuting Agreement. All Postdocs need to complete a telecommuting form. If you have never set up a digital signature before, see the FAQ below.

Postdoc tasks:

  1. Sign form (electronic signature).
  2. Have your faculty sponsor sign form (also electronically).
  3. Forward signed form to your departmental postdoc administrator.

Click to download OR right-click and save: Postdoc Telecommuting Agreement


This is a rapidly-evolving situation, and the most timely updates can be found here, including directions for what to do if you are feeling unwell or have been exposed to someone who has tested positive for COVID-19:

Email if you have an FAQ you want added. 

Benefits FAQs

How do I access Postdoc Benefits? 
Go to

What happens to my health plan if I want to leave the area? 
If you are enrolled in Stanford Health Care Alliance (SHCA) and traveling outside the SHCA service area, you have coverage for urgent and emergency care only. This is adequate for casual work or vacation travel but is not a viable option for long-term care during the COVID-19 pandemic.

  • If you are enrolled in the Aetna Choice POS II (PoS) plan, in-network coverage is available nationwide. If traveling outside the country, you have coverage for urgent and emergency care only.
  • If you are enrolled in SHCA and decide to move out of the SHCA service area in response to COVID-19, you must enroll in the PoS plan.

What is the SHCA service area? 
You can view a map here. Note that the map does not list all providers.

Where can I find a list of SHCA providers? 
You can search the directory here.

I'm moving out of the SHCA coverage area. How do I change my health plan to PoS? 
You must process a change request in Benelogic. Once you move back, you can switch back to SHCA.  

Are there additional costs associated with PoS? 
Yes -- and there is a premium increase. Review the PoS's Summary of Benefit and Coverages for information related to deductibles, co-pays, and out of pocket maximums.

Telecommuting FAQs

I completed a Temporary Telecommuting Form meant for staff. Do I need to complete the Postdoc Telecommuting Form?
No. We will accept the Temporary Telecommuting Form distributed to staff. Please make sure that your departmental postdoc administrator has a copy of your form.

Do I need to provide OPA with a copy of my signed telecommuting agreement? 
No. Please do not send OPA your telecommuting agreement. You sign, your PI signs, and you provide a copy to your departmental admin.

I am a postdoc. Do I need to fill out the telecommuting agreement? 

Does the telecommute agreement mean that all postdocs are required to work from home at least one day a week? 
According to the email sent by Vice Provost Bent, " this time all non-essential personnel should be working from home." 

I've never signed something electronically before. How do I that? 
Adobe allows digital signatures. Digital signatures are more secure than wet signatures. If you've never set up your digital signature before, that is a required step -- but then you never have to do it again. This link explains the process.

I'm ready to send the signed form to my departmental admin, but I don't know who that is. What do I do? 
Visit this page to find your departmental postdoc admin.

Why is this form required? 
A few reasons, all related to University operations. First, we want to make sure that we are in compliance with funding agencies: if a funding agency hears that campus is shut down, we need to be able to demonstrate that postdocs are still working, the research is continuing, and funding doesn't need to be returned to the funding agency. Second, postdocs are rightfully concerned with ensuring that they continue to be paid, and the University is interested in finding ways to ensure that postdocs continue to work. Documenting these telecommuting agreements provides a layer of protection for postdocs, PIs, and the University: research continues, funding continues, and paychecks continue.  

Can new postdocs telecommute?
Yes. If the PI finds it acceptable for a postdoc to start their appointment while telecommuting, the new postdoc completes the telecommute form according to the instructions above. However, there could be tax and benefit implications of this route, so make sure you understand them ahead of time.

Can I shelter-in-place outside of California?
Yes, but you need to submit an Out-of-State Employee Approval form. Departments must notify Payroll of the employee's return to work in California by emailing Please submit this notification prior to the end of the pay period during which the employee returns. Out-of-State fees will be waived at this time, but fees will be applied if the postdoc continue to work out of state after the shelter-in-place order is lifted.

Can I work overseas? 
Maybe. Please review the Overseas Postdoc page here:

General FAQs

Will I still get my paycheck?
Most postdocs have direct deposit, so that should not be affected. There are a small number of postdocs, however, who opted for paper checks. If you usually have a paper check sent to your department, you might be impacted. Review Payroll's FAQ here for more details. 

What do I do if have COVID-19 or think I might? 
Follow the instructions here:

What additional resources are available? 
Visit OPA's COVID-19 Resources page for more details.

Will there be an increase to the postdoc minimum compensation this year? 
Yes. The Provost has approved the FY21 minimum compensation. Starting 1 September 2020 the minimum compensation for postdocs will be $64,268.

Does the hiring freeze apply to postdocs? 
No. But please note that due to travel restrictions, some postdoc travel may be delayed. If the PI cannot accommodate these delays, the new postdoc should be informed that the start date is a material term of the offer, and the offer will need to be withdrawn if the postdoc cannot commence work by X date.

How do I onboard a remote postdoc? 
See the page here:

What is the University's plan to restart the research? 
You can follow the plan here:

What's the Health Check? 
You can review Health Check here:

How can I practice social distancing when I have roommates?
The CDC provides guidance here:

What about childcare? 
Childcare is particularly tricky right now, and it's also an evolving situation. Check out this site, but be sure to consult with the WorkLife office, as not all options are applicable to Postdocs:

How do I self-isolate when returning to Northern California, and can I self-isolate if I have roommates? 
See guidance here:

Visa FAQs

How does COVID-19 affect J-1 visas?  
The Department of State may permit a two month extension for exhausting J-1 visas. This extension is intended to allow the postdocs time to get affairs in order and a schedule a flight back home; it is not intended as an authorized work status extension. Please contact Bechtel I-Center if you have specific questions.

Will my visa be affected by COVID-19?
Possibly. Consult Bechtel's COVID-19 resources regarding your specific situation.

Term Limit FAQs

I'm about to reach the end of my fifth year, but my research was delayed due to COVID-19. Can my appointment be extended? 
Postdocs who will reach the end of their fifth year of training before September 1 may be extended for up to six additional months without a formal request to the Vice Provost. This extension must be initiated by the faculty sponsor and depends on adequate funding and, where appropriate, a commitment to support a transition to an H visa. The September 1 date may be revised based on further delays to research continuity.

What if I am at the end of my fifth year but need more than 6 months (as provided for in the question above) to finish my work? 
Extensions of more than six months into the sixth year continue to require a written request from both the faculty sponsor and the postdoc. These requests will generally be granted if the request indicates that COVID-19 impacted the research progress. This provision may be considered in evaluating future requests from all current postdocs unless updated, but is expected to apply primarily to those in the final year of their postdoc appointment during the pandemic.

I was supposed to become research staff, but then the hiring freeze took effect. What can be done? 
Postdocs and their faculty sponsors who have planned a transition into a research staff position in the faculty sponsor’s group or similar area will be given due consideration for a waiver from the University’s staff hiring freeze contingent upon demonstrated external financial support for the position from a faculty sponsor.

I already applied for a sixth year extension, and now my research is delayed due to COVID-19. What can be done? 
Petitions for a special COVID-19 exception to extend training into the seventh year will be considered for those postdocs finishing their sixth year who do not intend to or cannot transition to research staff due to exceptional circumstances. Examples of exceptional circumstances include external postdoctoral fellowships requiring postdoc status that are extended by the funding agency, or postdocs on H visas whose transition to a staff position is delayed in visa processing. These special exceptions are contingent upon adequate funding and will be reviewed by OPA, approved by the Vice Provost for Graduate Education and Postdoctoral Affairs, and in most cases will be expected to last not longer than six months.