Skip to main content

Leave Program Changes

Over the past decade, views on work-life balance and the value of time away have shifted. Recognizing leave as a high-value benefit, the university explored ways to modernize our staff leave programs to ensure they meet people’s needs, as well as make the staff leave programs more competitive in the higher education and health care markets.

On September 7, 2022, the Board of Curators approved a new leave program, which is scheduled to begin in January 2024.

The new leave program combines the current separate buckets of leave (vacation, sick, and personal) into one PTO bucket. Under PTO, employees will no longer have to choose from a specific bucket of time, but will instead have the flexibility to use the time off as they choose. For the first time, the university will also offer paid parental and caregiver leave, as well as short-term disability.

Resources and educational opportunities will be available to keep the university community informed.For overview and scenario information, please view the presentation slides (PDF) and informational handout (PDF).

Screenshot of slide for the Board of Curators Proposed Leave Program Design presentation showing recommended plan design


Frequently Asked Questions

We understand faculty and staff will want to learn about the approved leave program design. The FAQs below describe basic information about the project and the approved leave program design.

General Information

When will the approved leave program design go into effect?
Changes are scheduled to go into effect in January 2024.


Can an employee opt out of the new leave program?
No; all eligible employees will move to the new leave program design effective January 2024.


Who is eligible for the new leave program? Are faculty included?
The new leave program includes regular benefit-eligible administrative, service and support positions and certain non-regular academic employees as approved by the chancellor and president. As part of the implementation of the new leave program, we are evaluating which "non-regular academic" positions may be eligible. Additional information will be provided as it is available.

Regular faculty leave information is available in the Collected Rules and Regulations (CRR):


What is a PTO (paid time off) program and how does this differ from vacation, sick and personal days?
A PTO plan combines vacation, sick and personal days into a single bank of days for employees to use when they take paid time off from work. PTO is a more modern approach to providing employees with time off that gives employees more flexibility for scheduled and unscheduled absences.

A PTO bank’s primary focus is on when time is taken off, not the reason for the time off, thus simplifying the process of how employees spend their time away from work, whether for vacation, an illness, a field trip with a child or any other personal reason.

See the Paid Time Off (PTO) section of the FAQs for more detailed information about the new approved PTO program.


What is the difference between the fixed, flexible and qualifying leave categories in the new leave plan design?
In the approved leave program structure, there are three main categories of paid leave:

Fixed leave includes holidays (nine days per year) and winter break (campus only; four days per year).Excerpt of Board of Curators slide outlining fixed leave

Flexible leave includes flexible-use PTO days. The number of days an employee earns each year varies based on whether an employee is exempt (salaried) or non-exempt (hourly) and their years of service. See the Paid Time Off (PTO) section of the FAQs for more detailed information about the new approved PTO program.

Excerpt of Board of Curators slide outlining flexible leave

*MU Health Care hourly employees will also have a PTO cash-in program. Additional details for the PTO cash-in program will be provided as they are available.

Qualifying leave includes paid leave for employees who experience a qualifying event. See the Qualifying Leaves section of the FAQs for more detailed information about qualifying leave, including short-term disability, parental leave and caregiver leave.

Excerpt of Board of Curators slide outlining qualifying leave


How will the new leave program impact MU Health Care employees?
MU Health Care employees and UM campus employees will receive the same PTO structure, nine paid holidays each year, and parental, caregiver and short-term disability leaves. MU Health Care hourly employees will also have a PTO cash-in program. Additional details for the PTO cash-in program will be provided as they are available.


How will the leave program affect leave taken under FMLA?
The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is a federal law providing employees the right to take a leave of absence for family reasons, medical reasons or for military families while maintaining job protection.

FMLA provides job protection but is not a paid leave program. Visit the About the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) webpage for more information.

University employees may use paid time off or other approved leave in order to be paid while on FMLA.


Does the new leave program impact military, voting, funeral leave or comp time policies?
No. There are no changes to military, voting, funeral leave or compensatory time policies under the new leave program.


Does the new leave program impact workers' compensation benefits ?
No. There are no changes to workers' compensation benefits under the new leave program.


Does the new leave program impact winter break leave?
No. There are no changes to the winter break leave policy under the new leave program.


How does the new leave program impact the shared leave program?
We are currently evaluating the shared leave program and will provide additional information as it is available.


What is retirement service credit?
For employees in the DB Plan or DB Component of the Hybrid Plan, service credit is the period of time taken into account in the determination of retirement benefits. This credit may include or exclude certain types of leave, etc.

For employees in the DC Plan or DC Component of the Hybrid Plan, service credit is the sum of the participant's periods of service, whether or not such periods of service are contiguous or continuous. To retain the employer contributions made by the university, the employee must earn at least 3 years of service credit to vest in the employer contributions. Unused sick leave at separation or retirement cannot be applied to employee’s total service to reach vesting.

For more information about retirement service credit, or to determine which core plan you are in, refer to the Core and Voluntary Retirement Plans.

See also: How are unused sick hours treated at separation or retirement? in the Leave Programs Prior to 2024 section of the FAQs.

 
Paid Time Off (PTO)

How will employees earn PTO? May it be used incrementally?
Employees continue to earn their paid time off in hours each week based on their annual allowance. The below chart shows hours earned weekly based on 100% FTE (full-time equivalent). Hours will be prorated for employees working less than 100% FTE.

PTO may be used in any increment. Accruals must be earned before they can be used.

Years of service* Non-exempt (hourly) Exempt (salaried)
  Days Hours Hours earned weekly Days Hours Hours earned weekly
Less than 5 18 144 2.77 23 184 3.54
5–15 23 184 3.54 28 224 4.31
15 or more 28 224 4.31 28 224 4.31

*Based on the most recent hire date.


Will MU Health Care nurses continue to earn PTO based on the exempt schedule?
Yes, nurses at MU Health Care will continue to earn PTO based on the exempt schedule.


How are years of service calculated for determining the number of PTO days earned per year?
All continuous benefit-eligible service from the date of employment is counted when determining years of service including:

  • Authorized leaves of absence, with or without pay;
  • Authorized absences, with or without pay; and
  • Periods of continuous benefit-eligible service in academic positions.

A break in service is not counted when determining years of service.

  • Employees who have a break in service do not receive credit for any previous benefit-eligible years of service if they later return to a benefit-eligible position.
  • A break in service may include resignation, termination, retirement or a change from a benefit-eligible position to a variable-hour part-time position.

Is there a maximum number of PTO hours an employee is allowed to accrue?
Employees will be able to accumulate a maximum of two times their annual PTO accrual at any time. For example, if an employee earns 18 PTO days per year, they can carry a maximum of 36 days (18 times 2).

Once an employee reaches their maximum, no new accruals are earned until the balance is used down below the maximum. The following chart shows examples of the maximum PTO that can be carried in days and hours based on 100% FTE (full-time equivalent). Hours will be prorated for employees working less than 100% FTE*.

Years of service Non-exempt (hourly) Exempt (salaried)
  Annual Days* Annual Hours Maximum accrual in days/hours Days* Hours Hours earned weekly
Less than 5 18 144 36 days/288 hours 23 184 46 days/368 hours
5–15 23 184 46 days/368 hours 28 224 56 days/448 hours
15 or more 28 224 56 days/448 hours 28 224 56 days/448 hours

*A “day” is determined based on an employee's FTE. See below for the most common FTEs and their hour equivalents for 1 day.

  • 100% FTE - 8 hours
  • 95% FTE - 7.6 hours
  • 90% FTE - 7.2 hours
  • 85% FTE - 6.8 hours
  • 80% FTE - 6.4 hours
  • 75% FTE - 6 hours

Will new employees, who have not yet completed their probationary period, be able to use PTO?
Yes. All employees may use PTO as outlined in CRR Section 340.025: Paid Time-Off (PTO). Additional information about the policy and process will be identified in an HR policy as it is available.


Can employees use PTO for planned and unplanned absences?
Yes, employees may use available PTO for planned and unplanned absences. The use of PTO hours should be scheduled in advance whenever possible. Employees shall continue to follow department established guidelines for attendance, unplanned absences and requesting approval for time off. The use of PTO does not indicate the time off is automatically approved.


What happens to unused PTO hours when an employee separates from the university?
If an employee separates from the university after the new leave program begins in 2024, they may receive a payout of their unused PTO hours not to exceed 10 days (or 80 hours based on 1.0 FTE) provided that their separation is not for willful gross violation of rules, misconduct or similar causes.

 
MU Health Care PTO Cash-In Program

What is a PTO cash-in program?
A PTO cash-in program is when employees are given the choice to take cash in lieu of PTO. PTO cash-in programs are common in the health care industry for hourly positions.


Who will be eligible for the PTO cash-in program?
Non-exempt (hourly paid) MU Health Care employees will be eligible for the PTO cash-in program. We are currently developing policy and procedures for the program and will share more information as it is available.


How will eligible MU Health Care employees make an election to cash in PTO?
We are currently in the process of developing policy and procedures around the MUHC PTO cash-in program and will provide additional information as it is available.

 
Qualifying Leaves (short-term disability, parental leave and caregiver leave)

What is short-term disability?
Short-term disability is a type of paid leave program that covers 60% of the employee’s salary for up to 20 weeks when they are unable to work due to a temporary medical disability. Short-term disability benefits have an elimination period* of seven calendar days (typically five working days). Employees may utilize PTO or banked sick leave to cover the elimination period and income up to 100%.

Short-term disability does not provide job protection. Job protection is determined by university policies and state/federal laws, such as the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). Rather, it is an insurance-type policy, provided by the university to provide income replacement while on medical leave.

*Elimination period: This is the period of time an employee is disabled or unable to work before short-term disability benefits begin. The elimination period is based on your regular work schedule during the first seven calendar days of disability.


What is parental leave?
Parental leave is an employee leave program that provides income replacement for employees who are welcoming a new child into their home. Specifically, the university’s parental leave program covers 100% of the employee’s salary for up to four weeks within a rolling 12-month period.*

Qualifying events include:

  • The birth of a child, or
  • The placement of a child with the employee for adoption or foster care

Leaves for birth, adoption, or foster care must be taken within 12 months of the qualifying event.

*The 12-month rolling year begins when an employee first uses parental leave and ends one year later.


What is caregiver leave?
Caregiver leave is an employee leave program that provides income replacement for time away from work to care for a family member with a serious health condition. Specifically, the university’s caregiver leave program covers 100% of the employee’s salary, for up to two weeks within a rolling 12-month period*.

*The 12-month rolling year begins when an employee first uses caregiver leave and ends one year later.


Does the university currently offer a short-term disability plan?
No. While the university currently offers a long-term disability plan which provides income benefits after 149 days absent due to a qualifying disability, no previous benefit has been available for university employees to cover their pay during short-term disability events. The university is excited to be able to offer this new program that will provide employees with 60% income replacement for shorter qualifying medical events.


Will eligible employees have to pay a premium for short-term disability benefits?
No. The approved leave program provides an employer-paid short-term disability benefit with 60% income replacement. No employee premiums are required to utilize this benefit.


What is the difference between short-term and long-term disability?

  • Short-term disability is intended for employees who experience a medical condition that prevents work for a short period of time, up to 20 weeks after the initial one-week elimination period.
  • Long-term disability is intended for employees who experience a long-term or indefinite disability that prevents work. Long-term disability does not begin until after 149 days (about 21 weeks).

Do employees need to exhaust PTO before applying for qualifying leaves?
No. Employees do not need to exhaust their PTO prior to applying for short-term disability, parental leave, or caregiver leave.

However, for short-term disability, employees may use PTO, or other available paid time off, for the elimination period (first week) of disability before short-term disability benefit payments begin.

See also: What is short-term disability?


Are qualifying leaves under the new leave program available at time of hire?
Yes. There is no waiting period after hire to be eligible for qualifying leave programs (short-term disability, parental leave or caregiver leave).

Employees will be able to apply for qualifying leaves after the transition to the new leave program in 2024.


How will employees apply for qualifying leaves?
We are currently in the process of selecting a vendor administrator for these programs and will provide additional information about the process to apply for benefits as it is available.


Can an employee use qualifying leaves intermittently?
We are currently in the process of developing policy and procedure around the usage of short-term disability, parental leave and caregiver leave and will provide additional information as it is available.


Can an employee take parental leave or caregiver leave for more than one event in a year?
Yes, employees may take parental leave and/or caregiver leave for more than one qualifying event within a rolling 12-month period. The maximum amount of paid leave for qualifying events within a rolling 12-month period is 4 weeks for parental leave and 2 weeks for caregiver leave, regardless of how many events the time off covers. Please note each program (parental or caregiver leave) has a separate rolling 12-month period.

 
Leave Programs Prior to 2024

What will happen to unused vacation?
Employees will continue to accrue their vacation days under the current program up until the new leave program begins in January 2024. No new vacation leave hours will be earned after the transition to the new leave program. We are currently reviewing options for unused vacation balances and will provide additional information as it is available.


What will happen to unused personal days?
Employees will continue to accrue their personal days under the current program up until the new leave program begins in January 2024. The last personal day accruals will be earned on the employee’s anniversary date in 2023. Employees will have until their anniversary date in 2024 to use their remaining personal days. Personal days not used prior to the employee’s anniversary date in 2024 will expire.


What will happen to unused sick hours?
Employees will continue to accrue their sick days under the current program up until the new leave program begins in January 2024. Any unused sick leave that remains when we transition to the new leave program will be banked for the employee separately from the PTO bucket. No new sick leave hours will be earned after the transition to the new leave program.

After the transition to the new leave program, banked sick hours will be able to be accessed for specific situations:

  • During the elimination period for short-term disability,
  • To make up the difference between the employee’s regular pay and the 60% university-paid short-term disability,
  • To supplement workers’ compensation, or
  • To cover sick leave events when PTO and all other applicable paid leave options have been exhausted.

Employees will continue to be able to view their banked sick hour balance in myHR after the transition to the new leave program.


How are unused sick hours treated at separation or retirement?
There is no change in how unused sick hours will be treated at retirement or separation after the new leave program is implemented.

Unused sick hours are forfeited at separation and are not eligible to be paid out. The only exception is applied to employees who are members of the DB Plan or Hybrid Plan (DB Component) at the time of their separation, who meet minimum retirement eligibility under the Retirement, Disability and Death Benefit Plan. To meet minimum retirement eligibility, an employee must be at least age 55 with at least 10 years of creditable service (with one year of creditable service earned after age 54), or age least age 60 with at least five years of creditable service. These employees will receive service credit equal to their unused sick leave in their final pension calculation. This additional service credit cannot be used to reach vesting, the retirement eligibility threshold or decrease any reduction applied due to early retirement.

For employees in the DC Plan or Hybrid Plan (DC Component), the employee's benefit is determined based on their contributions, employer contributions and any investment earnings or losses. To retain the employer contributions made by the university, the employee must earn at least three years of service credit to vest in the employer contributions. Service credit from unused sick leave cannot be applied to an employee’s total service to reach vesting.

Visit the Core and Voluntary Plans webpage for more information about the university’s core retirement plans.

See also: What is retirement service credit?

 

Next Steps

Following information sessions and feedback received during July and August, the Office of Human Resources provided a project update and proposal to the Board of Curators as an action item for vote during the September 7, 2022, meeting, which was approved.

  • October 2022December 2023
    • Ongoing resources,communications and support.
    • Configure and test myHR/PeopleSoft HR and other software with new program designs.
    • Conduct trainings for employees, managers and timekeepers.
  • January 2024
    • New leave program begins.

Background and Guiding Principles

In 2020, a committee comprised of faculty and staff representatives across the system formed to evaluate the university’s current leave programs, including benchmark analysis for various industries and markets and data analysis and feedback from campus and health care staff. From this evaluation, the committee identified three key areas of the leave program for improvement:

  1. More flexible vacation and sick time programs.
  2. Short-term disability leave.
  3. Parental and family care leave.
Following the committee's work, a working group of HR, Finance, campus and health care representatives developed a proposal to address the key areas of the leave program, with a commitment to:
  • Modernize leave programs to make them more market competitive;
  • Improve the effectiveness of the leave programs;
  • Realize cost savings, while prioritizing the needs of our people and create a sustainable program;
  • Design leave programs that promote work-life balance; and
  • Explore differentiating leave by staff type and industry.

The program design applies to staff eligible for leave (faculty are not in scope except for the limited number who are currently in the staff plan). Current campus and health care staff will transition to a new leave program when it is implemented. Accrued vacation and/or sick balances at transition will be honored.

Preparation to Proposal Development

  • 2020
    • Committee completed benchmarking and initial analysis.
  • June 2021
  • June 2021February 2022
    • Working group engaged with TRAC, leadership and key constituent groups.
  • November 2021
  • June 2022
  • JulyAugust 2022
    • Solicited feedback from campus and health care staff advisory groups.
    • Held four virtual information sessions.
  • September 2022

Top of page | Approved leave program design | Next steps | FAQs | Background

Reviewed 2022-12-22