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County adjusts leave processes for H1N1

While employers and coworkers don't want people coming to work with H1N1 symptoms, workers who have little accumulated paid time off may be reluctant to stay home and lose income.

St. Croix County's human resource manager and its Finance and Personnel Committee reached agreement on that problem last Thursday by deciding to allow employees to use donated PTO time for H1N1 or related illnesses.

In early 2007 the County Board set up a program that allowed employees to donate some of their accumulated PTO to other workers dealing with life-threatening illnesses or injuries.

Later that year, the standard for qualifying for the PTO donation was changed to "seriously incapacitating illness/injury."

Human Resources Manager Tammy Funk said employees will be encouraged to stay home if they are sick and told they may be sent home if they come to work with symptoms.

But being required to miss work can mean financial hardships for people who don't have enough accumulated PTO, she said.

To avoid that, some employers allow workers to borrow paid leave time, said Funk.

"This type of policy can be of great need to some employees and create loyalty to the employer," said Funk. "However, you are allowing employees to basically go in debt of their paid leave time."

She warned that going that route complicates recordkeeping because advanced PTO time would have to be deducted from future accruals and from paychecks if the employee quits.

Employers that have allowed workers to borrow PTO time have regretted it, said Funk.

"I think the negatives outweigh the positives, agreed Finance Committee Chairman Daryl Standafer. He suggested using the PTO donation policy to cover flu sick leave.

Funk also said she has advised supervisors not to require the usual doctor documentation when workers stay home with flu.

County policy says supervisors or department heads may ask for a physician's documentation when PTO is taken for illness and there hasn't been prior approval for time off.

But, said Funk, medical personnel don't want everyone running to the doctor with H1N1 symptoms. People with the illness are asked to stay home while sick and for 24 hours after the fever breaks.