Section 2.4 Office Hours and Supplies


Hours

The University of Maine has established office hours from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., with a lunch period of one-half hour and two fifteen minutes breaks one in the morning and one in the afternoon. Cooperative Extension staff members are expected to follow these office hours, and offices are expected to be open from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Use of Volunteers/Temporary Employees for Office Coverage

There may be times when support staff members are on leave and it is necessary to secure office/reception coverage. Here are office coverage guidelines we ask staff to follow:

  • Trained Extension volunteers can be used occasionally or for specific project/tasks; this practice is not meant to replace clerical University employees
  • When funds allow, hiring temporary clerical support on an occasional basis is also helpful. This type of support can be secured and set-up within the UMaine system as on call
  • Provide the individual with an orientation to the office (including fire exits and fire drill procedures), Cooperative Extension, and the type of work they are being asked to do
  • Provide and review in advance written guidelines for answering phones, including access to our Cooperative Extension web homepage
  • Clarify the limits of handling client phone and walk-in calls so they do not engage in answering complex questions that raise issues of liability; referral to appropriate resource people or accurately taking the information to refer a call later is all that is needed.
  • It is important to have a UMaine Cooperative Extension staff member on-premises when the temporary person or volunteer is covering reception duties, if that is not possible the temporary person should know how to contact a UMaine Cooperative Extension staff member to receive guidance.

Office Closings

On occasion there are reasons other than inclement weather that may require the office to close. Situations such as no heat or water, a burst pipe/office flooding, an office move are just some examples. When these situations arise, please contact your program administrator, Fran Sulinski or Hannah Carter to discuss the circumstances before making a decision to close and sending a message to all staff. If you are in danger, you should leave the office immediately and call from a safe place.

Inclement Weather Policy

Inclement Weather Policy for the University of Maine Cooperative Extension

In the case of inclement weather (such as snowstorms, floods, ice storms, etc.), the safety of staff and client travel should be considered. Each Extension office should use their “Inclement Weather Guidelines” to decide whether to keep an office open or to close the office. Each office should develop guidelines that are specific to each office location and should be distributed to the appropriate Program Administrator. It is important to acknowledge that Extension has a role to play in weather-related emergencies and the emergency-related needs of the community should be considered in the development of closing guidelines and as part of any decision to close a County office. These guidelines should include:

  • Identifying the nearest University of Maine System campus or the appropriate county government office that you will use as “a gauge” to determine if your office closes. For example for some offices this could be a University of Maine System Campus and for other offices it may be a county building. The one location you select, as “your gauge” should be the location that best reflects your office’s weather.
  • A plan for notifying staff that may be out in the “field” when the decision to close the office is made. It is suggested that staff “in the field” call in to determine if the office is closing early.
  • A plan to change your office voice mail to reflect the office is closed.
  • A plan to send email to “All Staff” to indicate that the office is closed as a courtesy. You will need to identify a person(s) that would be responsible for sending out this e-mail.

(Refer to the “inclement weather guidelines template” to assist your office in developing your guidelines.)

If the inclement weather occurs before the office opens, then “the gauge” that is selected by the office would be the determining factor and staff should tune into their local media outlets for that information.

If the inclement weather occurs during the workday then it is expected the office staff present would make the decision together if possible and the staff should contact their Program Administrator, Hannah Carter or Fran Sulinski to discuss their decision. The office “inclement weather” guidelines would be used in making this decision. It is also acceptable and encouraged to use your discretion in deciding to close the office if the “gauge” your office has selected decides to close early. For example, if your “gauge” is a commuter school and the reason they are closing early is to prevent their commuter students from traveling to campus for evening classes and the weather is not expected to be bad before your office normally closes then you should decide to remain open. Also if classes are canceled at your “gauge,” but the administrative staff has to report or remain on campus, then Extension staff would need to report to or remain at work. On some campuses that are residential, the “inclement weather” closing announcement could state that all personnel essential to campus operation (for example, snow removal staff, kitchen staff, public safety … etc.) will be expected to report to work. In this regard, Cooperative Extension does not have personnel essential to the campus operation and would therefore not report to work.

Staff are encouraged to include a statement such as “in case of inclement weather, please call (indicate #) to find out if the event/meeting/class/consultation/activity/workshop is still occurring,” in all program announcements/fliers/information.

Safety is always a priority and if an office is not closed then staff members have the option to take vacation time if they choose to leave early or not report to work.

See also UMaine’s Inclement Weather Policy.

Comp Time for Hourly Staff

The University of Maine Cooperative Extension completely supports and complies with all collective bargaining agreements negotiated with the unions by the University of Maine System. UMaine Extension abides by all the tenets of these agreements. This means that if a university hourly staff member is required to work overtime, that employee is entitled either to wages or compensatory time, at the rate specified in the agreement in effect at that time.

Extension does not support requiring employees to work overtime. This practice is not normally approved and is not condoned by the administration. All work of Extension should be done during normal working hours. For support staff, this usually means Monday – Friday from 8 AM to 4:30 PM. For professional staff, faculty and some Program Aides who normally work flexible hours, this means during any time necessary for completing the required tasks; their job descriptions specify that normal hours include some evenings and weekends.

The issue of overtime for hourly staff is addressed in the UMS ACSUM contract in Article 9. Section B numbers 1-7 (PDF). Service and Maintenance hourly staff members can find this issue addressed in the UMS Service and Maintenance contract, Article 19, number 7 (PDF).

In addition, if an invitation is extended to an employee to attend an event, voluntarily, that is not within normal work hours, for the purpose of recognition or staff development or for some other reason, and that employee accepts the invitation, it is understood by all parties to be not only voluntary but entirely outside of work-time. If a classified employee is invited to a recognition banquet and that employee accepts, he or she is not considered to be working during that time. There is no obligation for that person to go. This should not be considered “work” by either party, and is not compensated. If it unclear about whether the event is voluntary, the supervisor should withdraw the offer of funding any costs of the development opportunity during non-work hours. Employees are encouraged to clarify with their supervisors the status of an activity prior to their attendance in the event.

The same applies to staff development opportunities. If a staff development opportunity occurs during normal work hours, the supervisor can give release time for that activity, and under these circumstances it is considered part of the employee’s work. However, voluntary development opportunities pursued during non-work hours are not considered work related, and they are not compensated. If the employee desires to attend a development opportunity during his/her own personal time, it is possible for the employee to ask for help in funding that opportunity. If the supervisor believes that the development opportunity is appropriate and might be helpful to the organization, he or she can agree to assist by paying a registration fee or other costs. This does not, however, make it a work activity, and does not mean that the employee should be paid in any way for time spent in attending. It is entirely voluntary. If there is any question about “voluntary” it should be resolved by NOT agreeing to pay for any costs of development activities during non-work hours.

Finally, there are some circumstances where an employee asks a supervisor for “time off” to pursue a personal development opportunity. Full-time employees are expected to use vacation or comp time for approved time away for such activities. An employee may propose, subject to supervisory approval, to make up such time during the week in which the absence occurred, the same applies for part-time employees within their established work schedule.

Working At Home

An integral part of the work responsibilities of UMaine Cooperative Extension staff is responding to phone calls and/or people that come to the Extension office seeking information. To accommodate the need to provide on-site support, Extension staff are expected to use the office provided by Cooperative Extension to carry out the office portion of their work responsibilities.

The University of Maine allows regular employees to use accrued disability leave to care for themselves, an ill or injured family member or in connection with the adoption of a child. Details about the appropriate use, leave duration, and required notice/approvals are contained in your union contract or employee handbook.

Staff who must remain at home to provide unexpected child care for healthy children are expected to claim annual leave or comp time (comp time applies to hourly paid staff only).

In the cases described above, if an employee anticipates the need and the ability to perform essential* University related work while at home, he/she should discuss the nature and scope of the proposed work activity with the supervisor. Prior supervisory approval is required for work to be performed at home.

Continuing or recurring at home work arrangements is governed by the University of Maine System’s Guidelines for Telecommuting (PDF). Requests for such arrangements will be considered in accordance with these guidelines. Supervisors should consult with the administrator of the work unit before approving such an arrangement. Only those with an approved Telecommuting arrangement should work from home on any regular recurring basis.

*The work is essential if it must be done at this time, can not be done by another employee or is organizationally advantageous if performed by this employee at this time. If the work can be postponed or carried out by another staff member, it should not be approved as an at home work activity.

Supplies and Purchasing

County office supplies and support materials are the responsibility of the county. Normal office supplies and support materials for area specialists should be provided by the county where housed. Special supplies and equipment needed by statewide and area specialists should be requested of the appropriate supervisor.

Technology Purchases

All staff should work with Sheila Vaillancourt when making technology purchases (computers, printers, and associated IT related equipment). Working with Sheila will result in cost effectiveness and advocacy if the equipment fails.

Purchasing

Please refer to Purchasing policies and guidelines from UMaine Extension’s Operations Unit.

Additional information about UMaine procurement policies is available from University Services Strategic Procurement.

Telephones

Normally, county offices of the University of Maine Cooperative Extension have two separate sets of telephone lines, each with a 1-800 number. One set, considered a “local” line or lines, has a 1-800-287-xxxx telephone number associated with it. This “local” line is paid for by the county and is for local county business and client use. This 1-800 number is publicized in the county and is given out to clients.

The other county telephone line is paid for by UMaine Cooperative Extension administration and is used primarily for statewide business within Extension. Its 1-800-924-xxxx number is not generally made available to clients. This line is used for calling other county offices, for calling the University campus in Orono and for calls to the county initiated at the University. To place a call, simply pick up the receiver, push the 924-line button, and then dial the 581 campus number of the person you wish to talk with; this will connect you directly with that person without having to be transferred. Staff handling the 1-800 line in Orono, which is for client use, have been asked not to forward calls from county offices to other university units or Cooperative Extension campus offices.

Cost of any personal telephone calls made by employees should be reimbursed to Cooperative Extension. Contact the financial administrator with questions.

Counties have the responsibility of procuring requested information for clients who telephone the office. Cooperative Extension serves its public through the county offices and the public should become familiar with their local resources.

When a county educator will be out of the office for an extended period he/she should make arrangements with other faculty to cover calls. Prearranged back-up will help the administrative specialist be responsive when clients call. It would be desirable for the administrative specialist to call the prearranged back-up person and ask him/her to call the client, rather than tell the client to call the back-up person. This will prevent the caller from being “bounced” from number to number if the back-up person is not available. Normally, county offices of the University of Maine Cooperative Extension have two separate sets of telephone lines, each with a 1-800 number. One set, considered a “local” line or lines, has a 1-800-287-xxxx telephone number associated with it. This “local” line is paid for by the county, and is for local county business and client use. This 1-800 number is publicized in the county, and is given out to clients.

The other county telephone line is paid for by UMaine Cooperative Extension administration, and is used primarily for statewide business within Extension. Its 1-800-924-xxxx number is not generally made available to clients. This line is used for calling other county offices, for calling the University campus in Orono and for calls to the county initiated at the University. To place a call, simply pick up the receiver, push the 924-line button, and then dial the 581 campus number of the person you wish to talk with; this will connect you directly with that person without having to be transferred. Staff handling the 1-800 line in Orono, which is for client use, have been asked not to forward calls from county offices to other university units or Cooperative Extension campus offices.

Cost of any personal telephone calls made by employees should be reimbursed to Cooperative Extension. Contact the financial administrator with questions.

Counties have the responsibility of procuring requested information for clients who telephone the office. Cooperative Extension serves its public through the county offices and the public should become familiar with their local resources.

When a county educator will be out of the office for an extended period he/she should make arrangements with other faculty to cover calls. Prearranged back-up will help the administrative specialist be responsive when clients call. It would be desirable for the administrative specialist to call the prearranged back-up person and ask him/her to call the client, rather than tell the client to call the back-up person. This will prevent the caller from being “bounced” from number to number if the back-up person is not available.