After the University System of Maryland adopted amendments to remove restrictions on sick leaves, this university is using those changes to help shape its own policy.

Previous rules limited university system employees to 15 days of sick leave per year, time designated to care for ill family members.

The amendments, set to take effect April 15, remove that cap, granting employees pay during prolonged sick leaves and eliminating the previous six-month minimum required to announce an anticipated leave. Access to advanced sick leave means that after employees use up all their accrued sick leave, they can continue to be paid while out sick. 

“The USM is signaling its intent to improve policies, which clearly telegraphs to [this university’s] administration that this is the minimal standard we’d like to see here,” said Jeff Pittman, an American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees of Maryland spokesman.

The system’s policies mandate a required “baseline” that member universities must follow but can improve upon, Pittman said. 

“We think we can negotiate a little more specific to this university’s needs, but broadly, we support the improvements to the sick leave policies,” said Pittman, who would not comment on negotiation details this university. “There’s nothing that stops the University of Maryland, College Park from doing even better.”

The policy also states that there will be an add-on of one day of annual leave in the first five years of an employee’s service.

“The time was right to remove those restrictions,” said JoAnn Goedert, associate vice chancellor of the system. “If you have a sick child or a personal illness in the first six months, we understand you haven’t accrued much sick leave, so being able to move into advanced sick leave could be very beneficial.” 

These changes are aimed at helping young families, Goedert said. 

“The individuals that would benefit most, from what we heard from employees, were especially people in the ‘sandwich generation’ — people with elderly parents that need care and also children that get sick,” Goedert said.

The amendments are part of system Chancellor Brit Kirwan’s commitment to being more family-friendly, Goedert said. His commitment began almost two years ago with the development of a parental leave policy that allowed six weeks of parental leave for new parents.

“That was phase one, and then after that we turned our attention to other kinds of leave issues where we could be more accommodating to employees and their family needs,” she said. “We think the combination of the parental leave we did a year ago and the other changes that were just adopted system-wide are important steps in honoring that commitment.”

Dale Anderson, University Human Resources director, said this university will implement the changes made at the system level, but they also have a responsibility to work with AFSCME Maryland to see how the policy affects employees in the union.

“Since they are enhancements, its probably unlikely the union will be opposed,” Anderson said. “These are reasonable and responsible enhancements.”