Paid Time Off Sharing: Make Policy Fair

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Question: Several times in the past we’ve allowed employee “A” to donate unused sick leave to employee “B” who needs help. Now again an employee has requested permission to donate sick time.  We don’t have a written policy on this.  We don’t have a problem allowing this but think it’s time we make some decisions and put our policy in writing.  Can you give us some guidance?

Specifically, should an employee in need have exhausted all of his or her time before receiving time from someone else?  Should we put a limit on the number of days that can be given to an employee? If a high paid employee donates to a lower paid employee, how is the donated time valued?

Answer: What you’re asking about is a limited form of leave sharing.  A few firms, mostly large and unionized, are doing this, as are some states and government institutions.

For example, Arizona University has this “compassionate transfer of leave” policy for employees:

If you should become unable to work due to a catastrophic personal illness or injury and you have exhausted your available balance of paid leave (vacation, sick leave, and compensatory time), you may receive contributions of vacation hours from other employees which can be credited to your sick leave.  You must be eligible to earn and use vacation hours in order to accept contributions of hours from other employees. Also, if you earn vacation hours, you may contribute any vacation hours you have earned to an employee who is eligible to receive a compassionate transfer of leave, so long as you retain a minimum balance of 80 vacation hours after your contribution.

Colorado has a “leave sharing” policy for state employees that includes this:

Leave sharing is permitted when an employee or an immediate family member… is experiencing a catastrophic illness or injury… defined as a tragic condition that poses a threat to life and requires inpatient, hospice or resident health care… Employees may transfer annual leave to another employee if the transfer is approved by the executive director of their department or the president of their university or college… To request donated annual leave, the employee must have a minimum of one year of service and exhaust all accrued annual leave and sick leave…

Some Suggestions For Your Policy:

  • Require employees to exhaust their paid leave before they can receive contributions from coworkers.
  • Limit numbers of hours, days or value of paid leave contributions employees can share or contribute.
  • Require a physician’s certification of an employee’s need only as you do in your paid sick leave benefit.

As to what to do when a higher paid employee donates leave to a lower paid employee: This may happen quite often.  The easiest approach is simply to allow employees to share the time, the hours or the days.  To share and keep track of the value of the time shared between employees could be an accounting nightmare.

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