Family Leave Pool Program
Policy Number: 229
Family Leave Pool Program
- Date Reviewed:
- June 2022
- Responsible Office:
- Employee Benefits
- Responsible Executive:
- Senior Vice President, Finance and Business Services & Chief Financial Officer
I. POLICY AND GENERAL STATEMENT
The purpose of the Family Leave Pool is to provide employees more flexibility in:
(A) bonding with and caring for children during a child's first year following birth, adoption, or foster placement; and
(B) caring for a seriously ill immediate family member or the employee, including pandemic-related illnesses or complications caused by a pandemic
To build the pool, current or retiring employees may contribute any amount of their accrued sick or vacation leave to the Family Leave Pool.
Regular employees who have exhausted all eligible compensatory, sick, and vacation leave may apply to the Family Leave Pool program for additional paid leave for any of the following reasons:
(1) the birth of a child (applies to both parents);
(2) the placement of a foster child or adoption of a child under 18 years of age;
(3) the placement of any person 18 years of age or older requiring guardianship;
(4) a serious illness to an immediate family member or the employee, including a pandemic-related illness; or
(5) an extenuating circumstance created by an ongoing pandemic, including providing essential care to an immediate family member
An eligible employee may not be awarded time from the Family 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 more of the reasons listed above, but no more than 480 hours may be from the Non-Medical Family Leave Pool (as defined below). Employees applying for both Family Leave Pool and Sick Leave Pool hours cannot be awarded more than a combined lifetime maximum benefit of 720 hours for the same condition. Leave hours granted from the Family Leave Pool may be taken on an intermittent basis.
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 Family 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 or documented extenuating circumstance. State statute does not permit use of Family Leave Pool hours to provide care and assistance for family members related by marriage who do not reside in that employee’s household.
A. Donating Family Leave Pool Hours
Employees who wish to donate sick or vacation leave hours to the Family Pool may submit the Family Leave Pool Donation Form to the Family Leave Pool Administrator. The Family Leave Pool Administrator will certify that the hours the employee wishes to donate are available and will process accordingly.
The Family Leave Pool consists of two sub-pools: (1) Medical Family Leave Pool and (2) Non-Medical Family Leave Pool.
- The Medical Family Leave Pool may be used for the following reasons:
- the birth of a child (for the time period certified by the employee’s health care provider that the employee is unable to perform their job duties due to the physical or mental effects of childbirth); or
- a serious illness of an immediate family member or the employee, including a pandemic-related illness.
- The Non-Medical Family Leave Pool may be used for the following reasons:
- care of and bonding with a child under the age of one, adoption or foster care placement of a child under 18 years of age, or the placement of any person 18 years of age or older requiring guardianship; or
- extenuating circumstance created by an ongoing pandemic, including providing essential care to an immediate family member.
Donors will be asked at the time of donation whether they want to donate to the Medical Family Leave Pool or the Non-Medical Family Leave Pool. Donations to the Medical Family Leave Pool will not be taxable to the donor. However, the dollar value of leave time donated to the Non-Medical Family Leave Pool will be included in the donor employee’s taxable income for the pay period in which the donation was made. The donor employee’s earnings for that pay period must be sufficient to cover the amount to be withheld for taxes in order for the donation to be executed.
Donations to the pool must be made in 8-hour increments, and there is no limit to the number of hours that may be donated. Sick or vacation leave contributed to the Family Leave Pool may not be designated for use by a particular person.
B. Family Leave Pool Administration
The Family Leave Pool Program Administrator in Employee Benefits ("Pool Administrator") administers the Family Leave Pool Program. The Pool Administrator will determine whether an employee is eligible for Family Leave Pool hours and the number of hours an eligible employee may be awarded from the pool. The number of Family Leave Pool hours approved may be less than the hours requested by the employee.
In determining the amount of leave to be granted to an eligible employee from the Family Leave Pool, the Pool Administrator will consider:
- the information contained in the employee's application;
- information provided by the licensed healthcare practitioner, if applicable;
- the number of pending applications at the time; and,
- the amount of leave available in the applicable sub-pool.
An employee who wants to utilize leave from the Family Leave Pool must be eligible to accrue vacation and sick leave benefits at the time the application is submitted (i.e., employees on leave without pay are not eligible to accrue sick or vacation leave) or must apply for the Family Leave Pool within 15 days after being placed on leave without pay.
1. Applying for Family Leave
Employees who are applying for hours from the Family Leave Pool must observe the following procedure:
- Contact the Employee Benefits Office and obtain the Family Leave Pool Application.
- If applying for leave due to a serious illness not covered under the Sick Leave Pool Program (HOOP 37, Sick Leave Pool Program), including a pandemic-related illness of an immediate family member or the employee, the employee must complete the Licensed Healthcare Practitioner Statement form. If an employee or an immediate family member has a serious illness that would also qualify as a catastrophic illness or injury under the Sick Leave Pool Program, the employee must apply for leave from the Sick Leave Pool first.
- If applying for leave to care for another person, the employee must submit and be listed on the other person's birth certificate, birth facts, or adoption or foster paperwork for a child under 18 years of age, including being listed as the mother, father, adoptive parent, foster parent, or partner of the child's parent, adoptive parent, or foster parent, or provide documentation that the employee is the guardian of a person who is 18 years of age or older and requiring guardianship.
- If applying for leave due to an extenuating circumstance created by an ongoing pandemic, including providing essential care to an immediate family member, the employee must provide any applicable documentation, including an essential caregiver designation, proof of closure of a school or daycare, or other appropriate documentation.
The completed Family Leave Pool Application and supporting documentation must be submitted to the Pool Administrator.
Applications to use Family 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. The determination of the appeal panel is final.
2. Use and Modification of Family Leave Pool Application
Family Leave Pool hours 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 Family Leave Pool time.
Allocated Family Leave Pool hours that are no longer needed or justified will be cancelled and returned to the Family Leave Pool by the Pool Administrator. Only the Family Leave Pool time actually used will count against the 720 hours lifetime maximum.
3. Family Leave Pool Award Timekeeping and Recording Responsibilities
Employees shall record use of Family Leave Pool time in the same manner as they record the use of accrued sick leave. The employee shall be treated for all purposes as if the employee is absent on earned sick leave. Upon approval, the Pool Administrator will notify the department of the number of allocated hours. Payroll will post the allocation of the Family Leave Pool hours to the employee’s Family Leave Pool balance.
Employees who receive Family Leave Pool hours are responsible for following departmental guidelines regarding notification of the request for leave.
4. Coordination with Other Leave and Benefits
While an employee is absent and using Family Leave Pool hours, vacation and sick leave accruals will be posted to their balances but are not available for use until the first day the employee returns to work. However, if an employee is using intermittent Family Leave Pool hours, the paid leave accruals must be used first before any remaining Family Leave Pool hours are used.
An employee should note that an application for Family Leave Pool does not constitute an automatic application for Family Medical Leave (FML). Rules regarding FML eligibility, application and processing are separate and are not overseen by the Pool Administrator. If both FML and Family Leave Pool applications are approved, the Family Leave Pool hours must be used immediately after exhausting eligible paid leave even if the employee has not yet exhausted their FML. Please refer to HOOP Policy 106 Family and Medical Leave for details on FML. The employee will continue to receive premium sharing for medical benefits while on Family Leave Pool, regardless of FML status.
Employees who are injured on the job must notify their department and apply for workers’ compensation benefits. Employees receiving workers’ compensation benefits are not eligible for Family Leave Pool hours. (Refer to HOOP Policy 100 Workers’ Compensation Insurance.)
5. Return to Work Certification
The following steps must be completed for an employee’s return to work after utilizing Family Leave Pool hours:
- Notify the Family Leave Pool Administrator of return to work date/information.
- Prior to the employee’s return to work for their own serious illness, the employee must submit a Certification of Fitness for Duty Form to the employee’s FML (if applicable) or leave coordinator, 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 Family Leave Pool hours credited to the employee.
7. Applications for Additional Hours
Employees who exhaust an allocation of hours from the Family Leave Pool may submit a request for additional hours to be added to the current allocation if they have not reached the 720 hours lifetime maximum. The employee may use the same Family Leave Pool Application but must include updated documentation to enable the Pool Administrator to evaluate the employee’s eligibility.
- Employee Benefits