Policy Manual

Suspension of Normal Operations (Formerly Emergency Closing policy)

Under normal circumstances, the University of Pennsylvania never stops operating. The University recognizes that there are times, due to emergencies such as severe weather conditions, when classes may be canceled and/or schools/centers may be closed, except for areas that provide essential services. In an effort to ensure the safety of faculty, staff and students, timely decisions to modify work schedules due to emergencies will be made.

Modifications of work schedules may take the form of either a partial or a full closing of the University's on-campus and/or online operations. In either situation, employees are generally not expected to work unless they are designated “essential.” Essential employees are defined as workers who support the University’s critical operations (e.g. Public Safety, Dining Services, and Facilities and Real Estate Services). Positions outside of these schools, centers, or offices may also be considered essential if the position is deemed necessary for the University to continue operating. Essential workers may also support certain academic operations.

Staff members who provide essential services are expected to continue working if the closing occurs during their regular work schedule. If the closing announcement is made before their regular work schedule begins, they are still expected to report to work.

Normally a supervisor would communicate with a staff member at the time of hire if their position is essential. However, based on business necessity and/or extenuating circumstances, the staff member may be informed of their status on short notice.


The University will announce a closing or other modification of work schedules through the following means:

the University's emergency information number: 215-898-6358 (215-898-MELT);

communications from the Division of Public Safety;

the UPennAlert Emergency Notification System (for University-related incidents and crises);

KYW News Radio (1060 AM), the City of Philadelphia's official storm emergency center.

The University's emergency radio identification code numbers (KYW News Radio) are "102" for day classes and schools/centers and "2102" for evening classes. The message that accompanies the code number will provide the operating status of the University.

Please note that radio and television stations other than KYW are not to be considered "official" sources of information. 


Please note that decisions affecting work schedules and cancellation of classes are made by the Senior Executive Vice President in consultation with the Provost. These decisions will be communicated through the channels listed above.

Schools/centers may not deviate from the University decision without the prior approval of the Senior Executive Vice President and Provost. With such prior approval, the following areas may follow different closing decisions:

  • Clinical programs
  • Academic programs that are designated as fully online (where 100% of instruction is delivered online)
  • Academic programs that are designated as executive format programs
  • Academic programs that operate from a different geographic location (for example, Wharton San Francisco)

Each school/center will communicate any approved deviations from the University decision.

Types of Schedule Modifications:

Full Closing: A full closing occurs when conditions warrant cancellation of classes (with the potential exception for programs listed above if approval has been given to continue such classes) and closing of schools/centers (except for the provision of essential services).

Partial Closing: A partial closing occurs when circumstances warrant the cancellation of classes while schools/centers remain open, or vice versa. A continuation of some operations may continue virtually.

Delayed Opening: Occasionally, circumstances will warrant a delay in the opening time of schools/centers.

Close Before the End of the Normal Work Day: When there is a closing of schools/centers before the end of the work day, the Division of Public Safety will contact the Division of Human Resources. The Division of Human Resources will contact the appropriate school/center representatives so that they may release staff members in their respective areas. Individual schools/centers should remain in operation until such an announcement is received. 


The following practices should be followed by supervisors to record time lost when a staff member is absent due to suspension of normal operations:

If the University is closed after the start of the workday, staff members who reported to work are compensated for the time lost during the period of closing. The time lost is not charged to paid time off balances and is not considered time worked for the purposes of overtime calculation. For staff members who did not report to work, the time prior to closing should be charged to their paid time off balance (refer to Policy 607: Paid Time Off). If a weekly paid staff member does not have any paid time off available, the time lost should be considered time off without pay.

If the University is closed before the start of the scheduled work day, staff members are compensated for the entire scheduled work day. The time off should not be charged to paid time off balances and should not be considered time worked for the purposes of overtime calculation.

If the University is not closed, staff members who do not report for work will be charged paid time off, and the absence must be approved by the supervisor. If the staff member does not have any paid time off available, the staff member may not be compensated for that day. Sick time may not be used in place of paid time off.

If the University is not closed and a nonexempt staff member requests permission to be released before the end of the work day, the time lost should be charged to the staff member's paid time off balance. If a weekly paid staff member does not have any paid time off available, the hours not worked are without pay. If a closing announcement is made after the staff member's request to leave early was approved, the lost time from the time of the announced closing should be paid and not charged to paid time off balances. These hours are not considered time worked for the purposes of overtime calculation.

If the University is not closed and a nonexempt staff member arrives late to work due to emergency conditions affecting transportation, the supervisor may excuse the lateness. Late arrival beyond reason should be charged to staff members' paid time off balance.

Deductions from pay for exempt (monthly paid) staff must be in agreement with Policy 307.3.

Staff members who work in positions designated as “essential,” and who work when the University is closed, will be paid at their regular rate of pay and will receive compensatory time equal to the time worked after the closing. The compensatory time must be used within ninety (90) calendar days from the date earned. Overtime compensation should be computed as normal.


University staff members covered by collective bargaining agreements should refer to the appropriate article in their contract.


University staff assigned to work at the University of Pennsylvania Health System (UPHS), the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) or the Wistar Institute may be required to work during a suspension of normal operations. University pay practices, benefits and policies apply to these staff members.

Policy Number: 707
Effective Date: 10/03/2023
Last Reviewed: 09/27/2023
Revised Date: 09/30/2023
Supersedes Policy Number(s): 707 (12/06/1994, 12/05/1995, 10/07/1997, 10/19/2000, 10/11/2001, 12/04/2003, 11/02/2004, 11/15/2006, 12/21/2010)
Applicability: All University Employees & Students
Cross-reference: Policy 307Policy 607Policy 612Policy 613

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