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Leave pay sped up for Spotsy school workers

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Under a revised leave policy, Spotsylvania County Public Schools employees soon will be able to receive disability benefits faster.

In their Tuesday meeting, the School Board passed the Revised Leave Policies 6–0 after a short discussion with Michelle Colbert, the school division’s executive director of human resources. Amanda Blalock of Lee Hill District was absent and did not vote.

The revised policies, which take effect at the beginning of the new fiscal year July 1, reflect the school district’s new insurance vendor, Standard Insurance Company, as well as clarifications determined by the Employee Leave Policy Task Force.

“We tried as much as possible to offer benefits to all employees,” Colbert said. “We wanted these policies in place in time for the new fiscal year.”

The task force, which included educators, finance officers, human resource directors and Chancellor District School Board representative Dawn Shelley, eliminated the current sick leave bank in favor of a new short- and long-term disability policy, as well as adjustments to the policies for sick or extended leave.

Colbert said that the sick-leave bank was removed because it would be a duplicate in light of the revised policy.

However, Shelley elaborated that the overall benefit for employees would be increased by the new policy.

“It’s no longer needed with the way we have the short-term and long-term leave that will kick in on the eighth day [an employee is off],” Shelley said, “It’s an increased benefit because someone could have gone up to 30 days without pay. But now they’re going to get paid on day eight.”

According to the proposal’s language, absences exceeding seven days “due to physical disease, injury, pregnancy or mental disorder” are eligible for disability insurance.

Under that insurance, employees will receive 60 percent of their current salary. To make up the potential shortfall, employees may exchange four-tenths of an accumulated sick-leave day for each day of disability to be fully compensated.

“That’s another benefit to employees that we were pleased to see. Previously, if you needed to use leave for an emergency, it was unpaid,” said Peter Pfotenhauer, president of the Spotsylvania Education Association. “So if you have the sick leave, you can be paid, which is certainly a good thing.”

The revisions also reflect the task force’s interpretation of the U.S. Department of Labor’s Family and Medical Leave Act, illustrated in a provision that allows extended leave “for the serious illness of a member of the employee’s immediate family.”

Sick leave will remain capped at 240 days—instead of an anticipated 90-day cap—for eligible employees, something that Pfotenhauer called “a pleasant, unexpected change.”

“You don’t want to be in a situation where you take away something that had been previously earned,” he said.

Though Colbert said it was too early to determine the fiscal effects of the policy changes, she and Spotsy schools spokeswoman Rene Daniels said they had not fielded major concerns as the revisions were communicated well in advance to employees.

“I think that’s because we did a good job in pointing them to resources,” Daniels said. “We tried to be proactive putting it out that way.”

Dawnthea Price: 540/374-5403

dprice@freelancestar.com

Permalink: http://news.fredericksburg.com/newsdesk/2014/06/25/leave-pay-sped-up-for-spotsy-school-workers/

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