In early March, during one of the first Wayne State COVID-19 crisis meetings, when the pandemic hit, Interim Associate Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer, Carolyn Hafner, raised the concern that employees who did not have substantial sick leave balances could end up facing a significant amount of unpaid time off if they, or a family member, got sick from the virus.
Hafner also put forth a recommendation. The university should create a shared sick time pool so that faculty and staff with more robust leave balances could donate sick time to help out those employees in need. The 20 or so faculty and staff around the table concurred and, before the meeting was over, a signup sheet had circulated and the majority of those in the room had contributed 4,000 hours.
Today, the COVID-19 Pandemic Donation Program Sick Time Pool contains more than 22,000 hours valued at nearly $1.2 million. Donations are no longer being solicited, but Human Resources wants employees to be aware of this potential safety net for qualifying COVID-19 health issues.
“I am so touched by the compassion and generosity of all of those who eagerly donated,” said Hafner. “We didn’t have to twist any arms. Faculty and staff were anxious to help their colleagues in some way. Now I urge anyone who finds themselves with an insufficient illness bank, and in need of time off due to COVID-19 related illnesses to please take advantage of this resource. The decision to come to work with the virus should not be based on the fear of not receiving a paycheck.”
Merilyn Merkison, associate director of benefits, worked closely with C&IT to develop the online process and FAQs. Employees are eligible under the following circumstances:
- The employee has been advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine related to COVID-19.
- The employee is experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and is seeking a medical diagnosis.
- The employee is caring for a family member experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and is seeking a medical diagnosis.
Employees can request up to 112 hours, per fiscal year, from the illness pool. Those interested in requesting donated sick time must talk with their supervisor or their HR Consultant for guidance prior to submitting their request via Employee Self-Service on Academica. A minimum of two-weeks advance notice is required and no request will be applied on a retroactive basis.
A recipient of donated sick time must include the earnings in gross income and it is considered taxable wages. The employee must have a verifiable need which will remain confidential and be reviewed and approved by FMLA Source and Benefits and Wellness/Compensation Department. A written confirmation of denial or approval with be sent to the requestor via e-mail.