AP Sick Leave Policy takes effect Oct. 1

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The new sick leave policy at The Associated Press takes effect on Oct. 1, 2009.  The union was able to negotiate many improvements to the company proposal, which increases sick leave for new employees but leaves long-service employees with fewer weeks.

The new plan provides employees with more than three months service and who work at least 15 hours a week with 12 sick days each Jan. 1, plus an additional short-term disability benefit dependent on length of service.

All employees will have 12 sick days through year’s end as part of the new plan’s phase-in.

Employees were troubled by AP’s insistence that a third-party administrator make decisions on what qualifies for a short-term disability benefit.  AP selected Liberty Mutual as the TPA.  In the past, those decisions were made by the company and local managers could be lenient in determining the benefit.

It’s expected that the leniency will disappear, producing some of the savings referred to in AP’s communications.  The company said Liberty Mutual will comply with privacy and non-discrimination laws and assured the union that no claim would be handled in an arbitrary or capricious manner.

Employees must complete all necessary paperwork as required by Liberty Mutual to remain eligible for the benefit.

The short-term disability will apply for absences of seven consecutive calendar days (five consecutive work days) because of illness or injuries.  Referred to during bargaining as the “doughnut hole,” absences for shorter periods could leave employees unpaid.

That would happen if an employee doesn’t have five sick days remaining out of the 12 sick days allotted to employees a year. Employees may use vacation, personal days or compensatory time off to fill that period.  Employees may also borrow up to five days of next year’s accrued vacation to get paid.

If a recurrence of the same disability occurs within 90 days of the last disability another seven-day waiting period is waived.

Under the old sick leave policy, a new hire was entitled to two weeks of sick leave during the first two years of service.  The new schedule during the first year will provide up to 12 sick days plus one week of pay at 100 percent plus 24 weeks at 60 percent pay. The second year will provide 12 days sick leave plus two weeks at full pay plus 23 weeks at 60 percent pay.

A long service employee could have received one week of full pay plus one week of half pay for each year of service.  An employee with 35 years service could have received a benefit of 35 weeks of full pay plus an equal number at half-pay.  The new benefit for employees with less than 20 years of service on Dec. 1, 2008, will cap at 25 weeks of full pay in addition to the 12 sick days.  Employees with more than 20 years of service could receive one full week of pay for each year of service so an employee with 35 years service would receive 35 weeks of full pay plus the 12 sick days.

New hires will receive one sick day a month after completion of the 90-day eligibility period.  If hired on Jan. 1, the employee will be due nine days for the year.

The company may request employees provide documentation from a health care provider when absent for three or more consecutive days.  Employees who anticipate an absence from work must inform his or her supervisor or manager at least one hour in advance of his or her start time to be eligible for sick pay unless a reasonable excuse is provided for the late notice.

Sick leave terms that were unchanged are:

–        a minimum of eight weeks of full pay for pregnancy related disability.

–        employees who produce a fraudulent health provider’s note or file a fraudulent sick leave claim can be fired without severance pay.

–        AP’s obligation to return employees to work from disability leaves of less than three years when related to an approved workers’ compensation illness or injury.

–        AP’s obligation to return employees to work from disability leaves of less than two years for any other approved medical reasons.