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New sick leave policy reviewed

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Members of the UW System Board of Regents reviewed a new sick leave policy Friday – a policy that has some higher educators worried.

The policy, which the Board’s Business, Finance and Audit Committee approved Thursday, would require faculty and academic staff to take sick leave and accurately report it, even if they arranged for a colleague to cover their classes or office hours, according to a System press release.

However, members of The Association of University of Wisconsin Professionals, a group representing faculty and academic staff, say the change will result in fewer classes being taught, a cut in benefits and a decline in shared governance between faculty and administrators.

System officials said the stimulus for the change stemmed from a 2006 report from the Legislative Audit Bureau that showed the System’s unclassified staff – which includes faculty, academic staff and administrators – reported far fewer sick days in 2005 than other System employees.

Unclassified staff used an average of 2.2 days of sick leave in 2005, with 77.1 percent of faculty reporting no sick leave, according an Oct. 19, 2005 article in The Spectator. This resulted in the conversion of $222,100 worth of sick days into health care credits for professors.

The policy, which affects 18,000 employees and goes into effect Jan. 1, requires employees to log and report their sick leave on a monthly basis, even if they didn’t use any, according to the press release. If an employee fails to do so, they will be unable to receive the full amount of sick days that are convertible to healthcare credits.

According to TAUWP, Mark Evenson, the group’s president, said the policy provides an incentive for professors to cancel classes, rather than find someone to teach that day and therefore causing students to miss out.

However, UW System officials said in the release that by more accurately logging sick leave, they hope to guard such benefits from misuse – a factor they said could contribute to a loss of benefits for all employees.

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New sick leave policy reviewed