From the County Manager Column from Oct. 19, 2021

Update on employee vaccination/testing requirement, flexible workplace policy

With the Nov. 1 implementation date for both our new vaccination/testing requirement and flexible workplace policies now just two weeks away, I’d like to share another update with you. If you’ve happened to miss previous announcements, please find links to those communications at the bottom of this column.  

Proof of COVID-19 vaccine/testing requirements

We have several developments to announce today as we approach the Nov. 1 implementation date for the proof of vaccine/testing requirements.

The Employee COVID-19 Vaccination or Testing Requirements Policy – which goes into effect on Nov. 1 – is now posted at RamseyNet in the Administrative Policy Manual and at RamseyCounty.us/Employees under “Vaccination or testing requirements." I encourage you to find some time to review this new policy carefully in the days ahead.

Read the Employee COVID-19 Vaccination or Testing Requirements Policy

Beginning Wednesday, Oct. 20, employees will be able to access a new "Health and Safety" tile through the self-service function in Summit to certify their vaccination status. All employees must certify their vaccination status by accessing the Certification page under the Health and Safety tile by Nov. 1. Going forward, this will also be the method by which employees who are not fully vaccinated or who do not to provide proof of vaccination will provide weekly testing results.

  • Training will be assigned to all employees through the Learning & Development Center that provides a how-to tutorial on using the self-service feature in Summit to upload vaccination and testing certifications. How-to guides will also be posted on RamseyNet and RamseyCounty.us in the days ahead.
  • Human Resources will also be scheduling interactive sessions with employees to walk through this process and answer questions in real time.  

Certification is required by Nov. 1, 2021. Employees who provide certification of vaccination will receive a $100 incentive in a future paycheck.

Testing requirements are also outlined in the policy – including options for community and at-home tests – and guidance around how to use work time for testing. We also continue to pursue on-site testing options through cooperative agreements with the state of Minnesota and will have updates on that in the weeks ahead.

The process for medical and religious exemptions is also detailed in the policy. Human Resources will work with employees and their departments on exemption requests.

Employees who do not comply with the policy may be subject to discipline up to and including termination.

I’d like to acknowledge the hard work of the cross-functional team that has put in a lot of research, planning, thought and effort into bringing forth a well-rounded policy that strives to keep us all healthy and safe while providing for individual employee options. This policy will continue to be regularly reviewed as it goes into effect – your feedback will continue to be very important as we move through implementation together.

Flexible workplace policy

Although the flexible workplace policy will go into effect on Nov. 1, the three-phase, six-month operational rollout will begin only after Ramsey County is identified by the Centers for Disease Control as “moderate” or “low” for community transmission of COVID-19. As our COVID-19 daily case dashboard shows, we currently remain in “high” transmission status (along with all other Minnesota counties).

Due to this, the organization will continue in a “remote first” work environment and those in the Phase 1 group currently working primarily off-site will continue to do so. The Phase 1 group includes:

  • All full-time employees already working on-site.
  • Community-embedded or mobile employees.
  • Employees working at Saint Paul City Hall – Ramsey County Courthouse, which includes the County Manager’s Office, the County Board Office and other leaders and staff that represent each Service Team.
  • The other departments within the Strategic Team (Human Resources and Finance).

These employees in Phase 1 will be notified today by managers/supervisors and Workspace Alerts that they are expected to continue working in the "remote first" designation on Nov. 1. [Side note: I encourage all employees to double-check your information in Summit to ensure that it is accurate and that you receive Workspace Alerts in the way that works best for you.]

When the community transmission level for Ramsey County drops from “high” or “substantial” to “moderate or “low,” Phase 1 employees who are "remote first" will receive two weeks advance notice to prepare for the return to workspaces per their department plan. Phase 1 department leaders have been and will continue communicating with their teams about department-specific plans.

We continue finalizing the designation of departments that will make up Phase 2 and Phase 3 and expect to announce them in November – as previously announced, however, staff located in our East Building have been designated for Phase 3.

We are planning for each phase to take two months (60 days) to fully implement, and that schedule will begin only after all Phase 1 employees return to their workspaces. So for instance, if Ramsey County were to hypothetically move into “moderate” status for community transmission of COVID-19 on Jan. 1, 2022, Phase 1 employees would receive two weeks notice before returning to workspaces on Jan. 15, and that date would mark the start of the 60-day operational rollout for Phase 1. Phase 2 would then begin after about 60 days (around March 15) and Phase 3 would begin after about another two months on about May 15.

We will use lessons learned in each implementation phase to inform and improve the next one. Much of our success will rely on all employees continuing to raise concerns and propose solutions, while also remaining flexible throughout our adjustments and showing grace to one another. Please know that we’re doing our best to balance many factors in this policy and rollout and I appreciate your engagement and patience with this process.

Survey reports available

As you may recall, two of the most significant inputs to the development of the flexible workplace policy are the employee survey that was conducted in June 2021 (which received a very strong response with nearly 2,000 employees completing it) and focused conversations with employees across the organization. The Policy & Planning team has now finished pulling together the final reports on both the survey and focused conversations. The reports are linked below. Kudos to the Policy team and thanks to them for their hard work on these informative and valuable engagements.

I’d like to again share this message of thanks to all of you who have provided feedback and have reached out with your input on these new policies. I have personally strived to answer every message and question that has come in on this topic, and I sincerely appreciate the opportunity to hear from and connect with so many of you. These are challenging topics for a large and varied organization – many employees have very strong feelings, and we can all appreciate the commitment to our organization shown through this useful, frank and respectful feedback. Thanks to all for continuing to participate as we work through these topics together and do our best to keep our staff and community safe. We are in this together, and that is something we must never forget.

Previous updates and resources: