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Policies & Procedures

March 16, 2007

To: UWM Faculty, Academic Staff and other Unclassified Staff
From: Rita Cheng, Provost and Vice Chancellor

In October, the Legislative Audit Bureau (LAB) released a report on sick leave reporting and related issues at the University of Wisconsin. The report found that UW faculty and academic staff report far less sick leave than do classified employees at the University and elsewhere in state government. The LAB acknowledged that:

UW System faculty have professional responsibilities that include teaching, research, and community service that differ significantly from those of other unclassified staff. Faculty workdays are scheduled according to academic rather than business practices and typically include nonstandard work hours to accommodate research and related activities.

President Reilly stated in his response to the LAB report that the UW is committed to strengthening its personnel policies. He promised that in the months ahead the UW will review its existing policies and make recommendations to the Board of Regents. Two issues that are being examined by the UW System Advisory Committee on Fringe Benefits and the Special Board of Regents Committee on the LAB Audit are:

  • Sick leave reporting

  • Colleague coverage

Below you will find more detailed information about these issues. There is no doubt that faculty and academic staff are dedicated and conscientious about their work. Nevertheless, it is clear that the benefit at risk is retiree health care insurance. In the context of preserving that benefit and keeping UW-Milwaukee competitive, we must re-emphasize our existing leave reporting requirements and work towards 100% reporting. Toward that end:

  • A report of sick leave use (and other leave time if applicable) is due monthly. The report must be signed by the appropriate supervisor even if no leave was taken during that month.

  • If a colleague teaches a class, counsels students, or performs other teaching duties on behalf of a staff member who is absent for medical reasons, colleague coverage can be reported in lieu of sick leave with these restrictions: colleague coverage must be unpaid, it can be used to cover teaching duties only, and in case of a long-term absence it can be used only the semester in which the absence first occurs.

Campus dialogue is certainly encouraged on this topic. We must all work together to overcome the negative perceptions that have been created for the public, especially through the press.

 

Facts on Sick Leave:

  • All permanent and many temporary UW employees earn sick leave, which can be used to cover absences due to personal illnesses, injuries, or medical appointments as well as for care of family members and for bereavement leave.

  • Unused sick leave accumulates from year to year. At retirement, your sick leave balance is converted to dollar credits that are applied toward your health insurance premiums.

  • If you have at least 15 years’ continuous state service at retirement, a supplemental sick leave benefit increases the total credits available to you.

  • The value of sick leave conversion can be very substantial: for 2005 retirements, the LAB found that the average conversion amount for UW unclassified employees was $112,000.

  • Anyone retiring from State service before fifteen (15) years of employment does not earn any augmentation of sick leave value.

  • Most retirees never use the full value of their earned sick leave because they transition to Medicare at age 67.

  • The average age for UW-Milwaukee faculty retiring is 64. Academic staff average age of retirement is 61. Classified staff average age of retirement is 60. These retirement age differentials demonstrate that far less sick leave value may actually be used by faculty/academic staff members than classified staff because they work longer.

  • Faculty and academic staff typically earn less sick leave than classified staff because their work year contract lengths are shorter. Many work fewer than twelve (12) months per year and the basis for teaching faculty is, in fact, nine (9) months per year.

  • Full-time academic employees of the University currently accrue 12 days of sick leave per year. All of this leave, if unused, can be converted at retirement. This has not always been the case. In 1987, in response to an LAB audit similar to the recent study, the legislature capped the amount of sick leave that could be converted by a UW unclassified employee at 6.4 days for nine-month appointees and 8.5 days for 12-month appointees. The cap was waived at each institution only when the chancellor demonstrated to the state Department of Administration that a reliable sick leave accounting system was in place at that campus.

  • The statutes require the University to establish procedures for recording accrual and use of sick leave “on a standard comparable to a scheduled 40-hour work week” (s.40.05(4)(bp)3., Wis. Stats.). The University implements this mandate by:
    • Asking each member of the faculty and academic staff to designate a 40-hour work week (pro-rated for part-time). If no individual schedule is designated, the default is the regular state office schedule (7:45 am – 4:30 pm, Monday through Friday).

    • Asking each academic employee to report sick leave for medically-related absences that occur during his or her designated work week. A report of sick leave use (and other leave time if applicable) is due monthly. The report must be signed by the appropriate supervisor even if no leave was taken during that month.
  • A more detailed explanation of sick leave policies and how to report usage is found in Unclassified Personnel Guideline 10 (www.uwsa.edu/hr/upgs/upg.htm). Information about vacation accruals is covered in Unclassified Personnel Guideline 9.

Facts on Colleague Coverage:

If a colleague teaches a class, counsels students, or performs other teaching duties on behalf of a staff member who is absent for medical reasons, colleague coverage can be reported in lieu of sick leave. Certain restrictions apply:

  • The colleague coverage must be unpaid.

  • It can be used to cover teaching duties only, not administrative or research duties.

  • In case of a long-term absence it can be used only the semester in which the absence first occurs.