On November 20, University of Toronto President Meric Gertler made some major announcements regarding the winter 2021 semester in a letter addressed to the U of T community. The most significant change was made to the term start date which has been delayed by a week from January 4, to January 11, 2021.

This recent development will impact students in both undergraduate and graduate studies. However, in order to avoid further administrative complications, staff-appointed employees are required to resume their work on January 4, as initially scheduled. These individuals will be granted three supplementary paid days off, which can be used individually or consecutively at any time—with managerial approval—from November 23, 2020, until August 31, 2021.

The human resources website states that these days off referred to as “staff wellness days,” can be taken for any reason and employees will not be required to disclose why they wish to use them.

“The Covid-19 pandemic has been a very stressful time for our entire community,” states the division of human resources and equity. “Granting three paid staff wellness days demonstrates our gratitude to our staff for their incredible efforts and resilience during 2020 and provides them with time to either rest or focus on activities that enhance their own or their family’s wellness.”

It is important to note that the change in the start date of the winter term and the implementation of staff wellness days will not influence employees “who have an appointment in a course” with CUPE 3902 Unit One or Unit Three contracts.

Some professional programs also require students to return to their studies on January 4 due to program time constraints.

“The pandemic will be with us for some time, and we will continue to face periods of heightened stress and discouragement,” read Gertler’s letter. “But the U of T community has shown itself to be wonderfully adaptable and resilient.”

Students are encouraged to consult the UTogether website for additional information and faculty-specific details. Similarly, President Gertler directs faculty and staff to examine the Human Resources and Equity website for a more detailed explanation of the university’s response to Covid-19 and its impacts on employees.

“The spirit of dedication and collaboration that has brought us this far will continue to carry us forward,” stated Gertler. “And while we appreciate the enormous challenges in developing and delivering a safe and effective Covid-19 vaccine, we can nonetheless take heart in the very promising recent news on that crucial front.”

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