Policy Number: 37
Sick Leave Pool Program
I. POLICY AND GENERAL STATEMENT
Regular employees who exhaust all applicable leave because of catastrophic illness or injury suffered by either the employee or a member of the employee's immediate family may apply to the sick leave pool program for additional leave.
To build the pool, current or retiring employees may contribute any amount of their accrued sick leave to the pool. An employee who wants to withdraw sick leave from the pool because of catastrophic illness or injury must be eligible to accrue vacation and sick leave benefits at the time application is made (i.e.,employees on leave without pay are not eligible to accrue sick leave and are not eligible for the sick leave pool). The employee must have exhausted all of his or her accrued applicable leave before hours from the pool may be allocated.
The number of sick leave pool hours that are approved may be less than the hours requested by the employee. An eligible employee may not be awarded time from the sick leave pool in an amount that exceeds the lesser of one-third of the total amount of time in the pool or a lifetime maximum benefit of 90 days (720 hours). The lifetime maximum benefit of 720 hours may be for one or a combination of more than one catastrophic illness or injury. Sick leave hours granted from the pool may be taken on an intermittent basis.
Catastrophic Illness or Injury: A severe condition or combination of conditions affecting the mental or physical health of the employee or a member of the employee's immediate family that requires the services of a licensed healthcare practitioner for a prolonged period of time and that forces the employee to exhaust all leave time earned by the employee and to lose compensation from the state.
Severe Condition: A condition that poses a threat to life and/or requires extended inpatient, hospice or residential healthcare. For purposes of this policy, pregnancy and elective surgery are not considered severe conditions, except when life-threatening complications arise from them.
Immediate Family: Any person living in the same household who is related by kinship, adoption (including foster children certified by the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services), or marriage. Minor children of the employee, whether or not living in the same household, are also considered immediate family. An employee's use of sick leave pool hours for family members not residing in that employee's household is strictly limited to the time necessary to provide care and assistance to a spouse, child or parent of the employee who needs that care and assistance as a direct result of a documented medical condition.
A. Donating Sick Leave Pool Hours
Employees who wish to donate sick leave hours to the pool may submit the Sick Leave Pool Donation Form to their department administrator. The department administrator will certify that the hours the employee wishes to donate are available and will forward the form to the Pool Administrator for processing.
B. Sick Leave Pool Administration
The Sick Leave Pool Program Administrator in Employee Benefits ("Pool Administrator") administers the Sick Leave Pool Program. The Pool Administrator will determine whether an employee is eligible for sick leave pool hours and the amount of hours an eligible employee may be awarded from the pool.
In determining the amount of sick leave to be granted to an eligible employee from the sick leave pool, the Pool Administrator will give consideration to:
- the information contained in the employee's application;
- information provided by the licensed healthcare practitioner;
- the number of pending applications at the time; and,
- the amount of sick leave available in the pool.
All applications to use sick leave from the pool must be accompanied by a completed and signed Licensed Healthcare Practitioner Statement. The Pool Administrator will refer the employee’s completed sick leave pool application and licensed healthcare practitioner statement for review by a medical authority before making a determination of whether a condition qualifies as a catastrophic condition.
1. Applying for Sick Leave Pool Hours
Employees who are applying for hours from the Sick Leave Pool must observe the following procedure:
- Obtain the Sick Leave Pool Application form and the Licensed Healthcare Practitioner Statement form online, from the employee's department/unit, or from Employee Benefits.
- Forward the completed Sick Leave Pool Application to the supervisor. The supervisor should review and approve the completed Sick Leave Pool Application and forward it and the Licensed Healthcare Practitioner Statement (if attached) to the Pool Administrator.
- Forward the completed Licensed Healthcare Practitioner Statement directly to the Pool Administrator.
Applications to use sick leave pool hours will be processed on a first-come, first-served basis. A determination should be made within 10 working days after receipt of the fully completed application with appropriate attachments.
If the application is approved, the Pool Administrator will send a notification letter to the employee and the employee's supervisor advising them of the number of hours approved. If the application is denied, the Pool Administrator will notify the employee and the employee's supervisor of the reason for the denial. Upon receipt of the notice of denial, an appeal may be filed with the Pool Administrator, who will forward the appeal to a pre-determined panel of licensed healthcare practitioners. The determination of the appeal panel is final.
2. Use and Modification of Sick Leave Pool Award
Sick leave pool awards must be used only for the reason requested. Employees shall immediately notify the Pool Administrator if there is any change in the nature or severity of the condition that modifies their need for sick leave pool time.
Awarded sick leave pool hours that are no longer needed or justified will be cancelled and returned to the sick leave pool by the Pool Administrator. Only the sick leave pool time actually used will count against the 720 hours lifetime maximum.
3. Sick Leave Pool Award Timekeeping and Recording Responsibilities
Employees shall record use of sick leave pool time in the same manner as they record the use of accrued sick leave. Upon approval of the award, the Pool Administrator will notify the department of the award. Payroll will post the award of the sick leave pool hours to the employee’s leave balance.
Employees awarded sick leave pool hours are responsible for following departmental guidelines regarding notification of the need for leave.
4. Coordination with Other Leave and Benefits
While an employee is out and using sick leave pool hours, vacation and sick leave accruals will be posted to accounts but are not available for use until the first day the employee returns to work. However, if an employee is using intermittent sick leave pool hours, the paid leave accruals must be used first before any remaining sick leave pool hours are used.
An employee applying for sick leave pool shall be placed on Family and Medical Leave when applicable. (Refer to HOOP Policy 106 Family and Medical Leave.) The employee will continue to receive premium sharing while on sick leave pool.
Employees who are injured on the job must notify their department and make application for workers’ compensation benefits rather than apply for sick leave pool hours. (Refer to HOOP Policy 100 Workers’ Compensation Insurance.) However, the seven day waiting period prior to commencement of workers’ compensation insurance benefits can be submitted for sick leave pool consideration.
5. Return to Work Certification
Prior to the employee’s return to work after a catastrophic illness or injury, the employee must submit a Certification of Fitness for Duty Form, fully completed and signed by the licensed healthcare practitioner.
6. Nonpayment to Estate
A deceased employee’s estate is not entitled to payment for any unused sick leave pool hours credited to the employee.
7. Applications for Extensions
Employees who exhaust an award of time from the sick leave pool may submit a request for an extension of a current award if they have not reached the 720 hours lifetime maximum. The employee may use the same Sick Leave Pool Application but must include an updated Licensed Healthcare Practitioner Statement regarding the condition to enable the Pool Administrator to evaluate the employee’s eligibility.