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Saturday May 28th

UNC implements new program for employees to 'donate' leave

<p>A summer facilities worker walks to the edge of Wilson Library while wearing a mask as a precautionary measure against COVID-19 on Sunday, June 7, 2020.</p>
Buy Photos A campus worker walks to the edge of Wilson Library while wearing a mask as a precautionary measure against COVID-19 on Sunday, June 7, 2020.

The University now allows employees to donate their sick, vacation and bonus leave to other employees who have been affected by the pandemic and exhausted all other leave in a COVID-19 Shared Leave Program.  

Vice Chancellor of Human Resources and Equal Opportunity and Compliance Becci Menghini announced the program in an email sent to faculty and staff Wednesday morning.  

In the email, Menghini said employees must have exhausted “all personal leave, paid time off, and paid leave benefits available under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) or special COVID-19 Paid Administrative Leave provisions” in order to be eligible to receive donated leave. 

Under the FFCRA, employees can apply for two weeks of emergency paid sick leave or a maximum of 12 weeks of expanded family medical leave if they meet specific COVID-related criterion.  

But housekeeper Jermany Alston said employees can only receive this emergency paid sick leave once. 

“They tell us that when we use it — use it wisely,” Alston said. 

UNC Media Relations said in an email on behalf of Association Vice Chancellor for Human Resources Linc Butler that the FFCRA is a federal program that local employers cannot change or expand. Butler said that in general, the Office of State Human Resources and the UNC System office largely control the amount of leave given to employees, and UNC System campuses do not have the authority to create independent leave programs. 

“The COVID-19 Shared Leave Program is a new leave program authorized by the UNC System Office and established at the discretion of the Chancellors at each UNC System institution to provide additional support to employees in need beyond what is provided through the FFCRA and existing leave programs,” Butler wrote. 

Josh Ellis, associate vice president for Media Relations for the UNC System, said this program was implemented under guidelines set by the Office of State Human Resources. 

Employees can receive an initial allotment of 80 hours — two weeks — of leave from the shared leave program. But there is not limit to the number of times they can apply for it in case more is needed.  

Butler said that if an employee donates to the leave bank and later applies for FFCRA benefits, the employee’s diminished leave will not be taken into consideration. 

“An employee’s current personal leave balances have no bearing on eligibility,” Butler wrote.  

Gabrielle Calvocoressi, associate professor in English and comparative literature, said her first thought was that she loves her colleagues, staff and students at this University. She said it seems as if the Board of Governors knew how to capitalize on this strong sense of UNC community by implementing this program. 

“This kind of announcement is made under the auspices of us all being generous to each other,” Calvocoressi said. “So that if we read this and think, 'Wait a minute something doesn’t feel right about this,' we are not being true Tar Heels, that we don’t have a Carolina spirit, that we don’t want to take care of each other.” 

Calvocoressi said there’s no way to know what it’s like to be an upper level administrator at this school, and there’s no doubt people in human resources have an extraordinarily difficult job. She said we need be looking at the highest levels of this institution — the Board of Governors.  

“The idea that the system that put us in this position has not figured out a way to take care of us that does not require us to use our own sick days, I think that’s really disturbing,” she said. 

Alston worries this policy could cause tension between colleagues who are vying for time off. 

“It could start a riot between people, because some people need that time, but you can’t force people to share what’s theirs,” Alston said. 

Ellis said in an email that the UNC System Office was not aware of any complaints about the shared leave program, but they encourage employees with concerns to go to their institution’s respective Human Resources Office.

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