College Adjusts Sick and Vacation Time in New Staff Handbook

Sam Boudreau, Editor in Chief

In March of 2023, The College of Wooster released a “Staff Handbook,” containing important information on the general policies, rules and procedures of the College of Wooster’s staff, along with employee privileges and obligations. To clarify, the handbook’s policies, rules and procedures apply only to the College’s “staff and administrative employees of the College.” Additionally, custodial and dining staff are no longer regulated by the College’s staff handbook since they are no longer employees of the College. Melissa Anderson, Vice President of Marketing, Communications and Strategic Initiatives and Secretary of the College, said that this year’s handbook contains “big changes,” regarding the College’s vacation and sick leave policies. Under the vacation- benefits section of the 2015 handbook, the edition proceeding the 2023 edition, the policy reads that “[f]ull and part-time employees (at least 1,000 annual hours) begin to earn vacation from the date of hire.” The policy continues that “[t]he vacation year starts with the employee’s hire date.” In the 2015 handbook, exempt employees, meaning exempt from overtime pay, accrue 1.83 days per month of vacation time, with a maximum allowance of 44 days of vacation time. According to the 2015 report, non-exempt employees negotiated their sick time with the department head. Through the first 10 years of employ- ment, the vacation rate for non-exempt employees was one day per month. After 10 years, vacation time earned per month increased by a quarter every five years, according to the 2015 manual. Regarding sick time, the 2015 manual reads that “[p]aid sick leave is to be used for personal absences resulting from personal illness, childbirth or hospitalization.” The policy continues that paid sick leave may be used for medical appointments scheduled during work and absences from work to care for a dependent / immediate family member who is ill. For exempt employees, anyone working “at least half-time (1,000 annual hours) are eligible for sick leave during personal absences result- ing from day-to-day illness, doctor appointments and/or caring for an ill dependent/ immediate family member.” The purpose of sick leave is to provide a nor- mal paycheck in the event of a medical emergency. After working for one year at the College for 30 hours per week, exempt employ- ees were eligible to receive salary payments under the College’s salary continua- tion plan during a medical emergency, according to the 2015 handbook. For non-exempt employees, sick leave accrual followed the same framework as vacation time. The College also has a “Sick Leave Pool,” where College employees may voluntarily add vacation and sick time to a pool for employees with medical emergencies. Building off the 2015 handbook, Anderson said that HR wanted to bring “equity” to vacation and sick time by overcoming differences between hourly and annual salary employees. “One of the things we wanted to do is bring better equity to the administration, for example, of our vacation and sick leave,” said Anderson, “so prior handbooks, there were disparities between the vocation and sick leave accrual rates between hourly and salary employees.” In this spirit, the College’s new sick and vacation time policies read that “Full-time employees with vacation benefits accrue vacation time at a rate of 1.83 days (14.67 hours) per month – or 22 days (176 hours) per year – subject to maximum accrual of 45 days (360 hours). Employees work- ing less than 40 hours per week and at least 20 hours per week will accrue vaca- tion time on a prorated basis.” Employees who work less than 40 hours a week receive vacation time on “a prorated basis.” The same rate applies to sick time, where “College staff who are scheduled to work at least 1,000 annual hours are eligible for Paid Sick Leave at a rate of 1.83 days (or 14.67 hours) per month. According to Anderson, changes to sick and vacation time caused the most con- cern from faculty and staff members who reviewed the staff handbook in February. One staff member famil- iar with the situation said that one staff member quit from their position, partly due to changes in vacation and sick time. “They’ve made it so everybody that’s hired from day one earns the same amount as a guy hat’s worked there 25, 30 years, as far as what’s com- ing to them as far as vaca- tion and sick pay,” said the source. Anderson, however, said that the new vacation and sick time policies will not have staff members lose their accrued sick and vacation time. “Nobody lost any vacation or any sick leave accrual with this change,” she said, “if you are a salary, you stay the same, if you are an hourly below a certain years of experience, you gained.” New to the College’s 2023 policy is a “corrective action policy” which strives “to give employees a reasonable opportunity to improve their performance whenever productivity, quality, efficiency or behavior falls below an acceptable level or when employees fail to abide by College policies and rules governing appropriate conduct on the job.” This 2023 policy looks to promote “productivity and morale,” rather than strictly disci- pline. A copy of the correc- tive action policy is avail- able on HR’s website. After the COVID-19 pandemic forced a growing amount of the workforce to start to work from home, the 2023 manual implements a “Flexible and Remote Work Policy.” Employees may apply for a flexible and remote work schedule through the College’s HR website, but adjusted work sched- ules will be determined on a case-by-case basis. The College also added a new anti-bullying policy.

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