On a recent weekday afternoon, Tsinghua University electrical engineering teacher Zhang Yiwei sat reading at a coffee house where customers often spend half a day over a cup of tea. She was being paid to be there. Because she lives off campus, Ms Zhang was asked to take a three-week break from teaching to ensure that classrooms not be infected with Sars. But as a full-time employee of a government-owned university, she still collects a salary. 'It's like a vacation,' she said. In contrast to Ms Zhang's paid vacation, workers at private companies are being sent home without pay as their employers cope with low consumer demand. A public relations worker with a Beijing music recording company is on half pay until next month. A manager for a Beijing hotel chain has been put on a two-day week. But university teachers and other government employees are still being paid - work or no work. A city law requires that full-time state employees who are quarantined or have no work during the Sars outbreak continue to be paid. Employees of non-state companies with detailed contracts may also collect their normal income, said Wang Changjiang, general manager of Beijing Haozhu Headhunter Company. But a consultant with another head-hunting firm said most contracts do not specify what happens in a Sars-like situation, where workloads drop off and employees feel safer at home. According to city laws, no one should be laid off for lack of work under Sars, but the laws were less clear on pay, said Peking University labour law professor Jia Junling. 'It will be worked out, and specific methods will emerge,' Professor Jia said. Until then, she said, 'if the workload isn't there, every situation will be different'. But she said employees paid for down time could still be asked to work. Teachers should prepare lectures, for example, she said, and factory workers might end up doing overtime in the long run. Ms Zhang said her students were happy. They felt safe on the closed campus, and sat on lawns playing cards and getting to know one another, she said. 'Usually they're nervous about study,' she said. 'They know they can't get Sars, so it's a happy thing.'