Oct 30, 2017 | Atlanta, GA
As employees make benefits selections for the upcoming year during Open Enrollment, one program that may not be fully embraced or understood is the University System of Georgia’s Shared Sick Leave Program.
All faculty and staff members who are eligible to accrue and use paid sick leave, and who have been continuously employed as a benefits-eligible employee at Georgia Tech and have met their provisional period of six months, are eligible for this program.
Through the donations of fellow employees, Tech employees who are experiencing any condition under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) may tap into a pool of donated sick leave to supplement their own stock of sick time. Employees can also tap into the pool to cover an absence necessitated by illness or injury of an immediate family member (such as a spouse, parent, or child). This includes those who will be welcoming a child through birth or adoption.
If you’re interested in enrolling in the program, there are a few things to know.
- You must donate to gain membership. Any employee who wishes to benefit from the donated sick leave pool must donate at least eight hours of their own time. Employees must also have a balance of at least 40 hours of sick leave after their donation (meaning, in order to opt-in, you must have at least 48 hours of sick leave at the time of your donation).
- Once you are a member of the pool, all requests must be submitted via an application process. Employees must go through a confidential application process to request sick leave hours when a situation occurs.
- The maximum withdrawal amount is 480 hours (12 weeks) per year. When an employee withdraws the maximum number of hours, membership in the pool will be terminated for the rest of the calendar year. The employee must donate again during benefits open enrollment in order to become a member again.
- Donated sick leave can’t be used in conjunction with disability, or any other short- or long-term income protection benefits.
- You must exhaust all sick and annual leave first, or provide credible evidence that you will exhaust all sick and annual leave before the medical condition is resolved.
- Read the full policy at c.gatech.edu/usgsickleave.
For those who have used the program, it can be a gamechanger in caring for themselves and their families. In 2016, Jennifer Tomasino, content strategist in Institute Communications, knew her son Wyatt, who was 6 at the time, would soon be facing the second heart surgery of his young life. Wyatt was born with a complex heart problem and had his first surgery at two months old. Tomasino worked for another employer at the time and teleworked through Wyatt’s two-month recovery from the hospital in Boston, taking conference calls and working on her laptop in the middle of the night.
A followup surgery had always been part of the plan for Wyatt. This time, to avoid having to juggle both work and her son’s care, Tomasino planned to take unpaid leave for part of what was expected to be a four-week absence. Thankfully, a coworker mentioned the shared sick leave program.
“It was so incredible to be able to go up [to Boston] for his surgery and focus completely on him and his recovery,” she said. “It meant so much to him that I could do that, and to our family to not have to have a reduced paycheck.”
Tomasino worked with her human resources director through the application process, which required both application forms and verification forms from her son’s doctors. Once she put in the official request, it was approved within a day.
With two other young children, Tomasino is still building up her own reserve of sick time. Once she has enough to donate, though, she plans to give back to the pool.
“This experience was so much easier than the last,” she said.
Wyatt is now 7 and, according to his mom, is “doing fantastic — better than he’s ever been.”