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Employees in favor of sharing sick leave

Some McDuffie County School System employees soon will have the option of sharing their sick leave days with co-workers suffering from catastrophic illness.

Members of the McDuffie Board of Education voted on a new sick leave policy at their July 30 meeting after months of discussion and an online survey of all employees in March and April.

"I like it. I think this is a very good idea," District 6 Representative Dexter Lovins said during the meeting.

As is the case with all policy changes, the revision must wait 30 days before the board can give their final approval.

Concerns that were discussed among the board members included how to account for the days, who would keep the records, how would it affect retirement, could it be retroactive, what would happen to employees who shared all of their days and suddenly became ill themselves and what would happen if the days ran out or the program needed to be stopped.

The survey, which included 23 questions and left room for comments, showed that the employees shared the same concerns. One concern -- bringing 41 comments -- was that they be able to designate with whom they share days. They also were concerned with the system being abused and its fairness, as short- and long-term disability plans already are available to all employees.

But the survey made one thing very clear to the board.

"They said 'yes,' " Superintendent Jim LeBrun said.

In fact, 267 people said "yes" and only 39 said "no" to the first question: "Are you in favor of a sick leave bank?"

The board decided a "bank" was not the way to go because it "would be too challenging to administer and keep track of," Mr. LeBrun said. Instead, the policy will be an actual transfer of days from one person to another. After they've reserved 10 days for themselves, non-certified employees can select eleven to 60 days that they've saved and donate them to a co-worker of their choice.

"It's an actual transfer, not a bank," Mr. LeBrun said. "It's not as challenging for accounting to keep up with it, and they can designate who and how many days they want it to go to."

Each employee receives 1.25 days of sick leave for every 20 working days, according to Sheilah Johnson, the administrative assistant of fiscal operations. The total number of sick days received per year depends on the number of working days for that employee.

Teachers, counselors, administrators, secretaries, security officers, paraprofessionals and supervisors are not included in the new policy because they are covered under the Teacher Retirement System, which applies unused sick days toward retirement.

Non-TRS employees who will benefit from the policy and can share their sick days among themselves are bus drivers, mechanics, maintenance workers, custodians and nutrition workers.

"This program will help a lot, and it will help the people who need it," Mr. LeBrun acknowledged. "The certified TRS employees have the option of disability plans. The non-certified have that option, too, but they probably could not afford it because it's so expensive. I was glad to put this in place for them."

The new policy will not cost the system any money to administer, Mr. LeBrun said. Employees wishing to transfer their sick leave days must fill out a form and turn it in to their principal. The policy will go into effect immediately upon the board's final approval, expected at the September regular meeting.

Web posted on Thursday, August 20, 2009

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