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PAT Council Discusses Leave Without Pay and Background Checks

By Jody Record, Campus Journal Editor
March 21, 2007

A change in the number of leave-without-pay days and a broadening of background checks were the key topics at this month’s PAT council meeting.

The number of days PAT workers can take without pay will likely be cut from 120 days to 90—which is what OS employees get--according to an update by Phil Hammond on the most recent SPPC meeting, where the issue was discussed.

“Part of the reason for the change is to bring the policy in line with other policies—for example, if we had to shut down long-term like Tulane (University in New Orleans),” Hammond said. “At Tulane, a lot of people lost jobs. Having a plan laid out provides some peace of mind.”

In response to whether the proposal was related to policies of UNH’s new insurance carrier, Harvard Pilgrim, Sharon Demers said she didn’t believe it was related to benefit cost containment but, rather, to make the policy equitable across the board.

“My sense is, it’s to make it all more comparable; so there is consistency in how people are treated,” Demers said.

Hammond pointed out that for employees to be able to keep medical benefits during unpaid leave and not have to pay the full premium, they must return to work for at least 30 days after the leave period.

“If they don’t come back, they will get a bill for the extended time. They have to come back or they have to pay the money back,” Hammond said, adding the proposed change will be voted on in May or June.

Hammond also noted there wasn’t a lot of evidence to show the need for 120 day leave; in the last 18 months, only two PAT employees have asked to stay out longer than 90 days. But Scott Bugbee called the reduction an “erosion of benefits” and suggested that, instead of freely giving up the perk, the PAT council should ask for something in return.

Background checks

A new policy regarding background checks would give Human Resources guidelines on how and when they could be done, Hammond said. Included could be credit checks for those employees whose work is related to finances and criminal background checks for someone who works at the childcare center.

“That’s one of the things that would be looked at: what checks would be appropriate,” Demers said. “Right now we’re looking at people with high access—who have keys to buildings, for example. We need to decide where to start; where’s the greatest exposure.”

Part of the problem, Demers pointed out, is that background checks can’t simply be attached to a job classification because not all classifications do the same level of work.

“This applies some consistency,” she said of the types of background checks that will be done in the future. “Institutions can be sued for negligent hiring.”

The change will create an umbrella policy that will be included in future employment advertisements, she also said.

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