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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Employees donate extra vacation for those in need

UA employees racking up extra vacation days, as budget cuts tie them to their desks, can give the hours to a colleague in need — if they can find one.

Under the school’s Compassionate Transfer of Leave program, employees affected by an illness or other crisis can apply donated, paid time to their leave of absence. Employees in staff-strapped departments have more vacation hours than people who can accept them, according to some department business managers.

“”Periodically, we’re all faced with use or lose,”” said Sandy Holford, business manager for the atmospheric sciences department. “”With the cutbacks, it can be hard to take time off.””

Eligibility to transfer and accept leave is dictated by a policy written by the Arizona Board of Regents. Employees seeking compassionate transfer of leave must be affected by a catastrophic event or injury, leaving them unable to work for 45 consecutive days, according to the Division of Human Resources’ website.

“”It’s intended to help people, and I think the intentions are fantastic,”” said Joan Feldman, director of benefits and technology solutions in the UA’s human resources department. “”Sometimes the execution is more complicated.””

Those seeking leave also must have exhausted all other forms of paid leave and cannot receive worker’s compensation or long-term disability benefits. Those donating their hours must have at least 80 hours of vacation time left after the transfer.

Employees have more vacation than they can use, according to Patty Zeigler, business manager in the physics department. They can carry forward 1.5 times the number of vacation hours earned in a year while the rest expire.

“”Lately, we have more vacation than we can ever take because we’re so shorthanded,”” Zeigler said.

Holford said employees in her department frequently look to donate their extra vacation hours. She said the last successful transfer of leave of an employee in her department was about 10 years ago.

“”We’ve (had) people who’ve wanted to donate, but there’s never been anyone out there,”” Holford said.

The restrictions of compassionate transfer of leave limit the situations in which the measure can be used. Requests are first handled at the departmental level.

“”I’ve been here 15 years and have never done one,”” said Kimberly Young, business manager for the linguistics department and the communication department.

Young said there was a case several years ago when an employee almost needed to take extra leave to receive treatment for cancer but had enough sick-leave.

“”It ended up working out well,”” Young said. “”It’s not always a clean, storybook ending. It’s different for everyone.””

Zeigler said she has handled about 12 transfers of leave in 14 years, normally after a crisis such as a car accident or family emergency.

“”I feel as if it’s been very fairly applied,”” Zeigler said. “”I don’t think there’s ever been a case where someone’s needed it and been denied.””

Feldman said the measure is selfless but does have financial implications for the department from which the employee is on leave. Though employees might think departments save money from unused vacation time, their budgets are planned accordingly, she said.

“”It’s not like magic money that pops up,”” Feldman said.

Zeigler said compassionate transfer of leave presents a burden to the accepting department. Departments may have to pay for a temporary worker or ask employees to work extra hours.

“”Everyone now is at 100 percent max,”” Zeigler said. “”That’s where the financial burden is.””

Zeigler said compassionate transfer of leave is used as a stop-gap measure for a few weeks or a month until the employee receives other benefits or can return to work.

“”The community has always been so compassionate,”” Zeigler said. “”Often, when somebody needs transfer of leave, more people are willing to donate (days) than they can ever use.””

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