February 16, 2012
CHICAGO - In a historic move for Chicago Public Schools (CPS) employees, CPS CEO Jean-Claude Brizard today announced he will propose paid maternity and short-term disability benefits as part of a revamped leave policy that will end an antiquated sick-day accrual program that costs the district more than $9.5 million per year for non-union employees. Yesterday, CPS unveiled a similar proposal placing new restrictions on the carry-over and accrual of vacation days. Brizard will make presentations on these proposals to the Chicago Board of Education at its monthly meeting next week.
CPS has never offered employees maternity or other disability leave options. As a result, many women working at CPS save sick days to use as maternity leave, but often at the cost of working while ill. In 2011, 776 employees took time off for maternity leave throughout CPS. While on leave, 354 of those employees exhausted their accrual of sick days and continued their leave unpaid.
“This would be a historic step that is long past due for CPS employees and their families,” said CPS CEO Jean-Claude Brizard. “Employees would no longer need to bank sick days and work through illness in order to save days for maternity leave, serious illness, or surgery. At the same time, we will eliminate wasteful sick day payouts that drain millions of dollars every year from our schools and programs that can help boost student achievement. This is a fair and reasonable proposal for employees, their families and taxpayers.”
Under the current sick-day policy, CPS offers departing employees payouts for up to 325 unused sick days, or the equivalent of 16 months. These days can either be used or, with a minimum of 20 years of service, a departing employee can be paid out at a rate of 85-100 percent, depending upon their length of service. This decades-old policy has encouraged employees to “bank” sick days for the cash incentive, which costs CPS approximately $37 million in payouts each year for all employees. If approved by the Board, the new sick-day accrual policy would take effect immediately for new hires and for current employees on July 1, 2012.
The Brizard Short-Term Disability Proposal
The proposed short-term disability policy would provide employees paid leave for use beyond the annual allotment of sick days. Common conditions covered include maternity leave and/or any time off work for medically-necessary surgical procedures and recovery periods. The policy will provide salary coverage for employees for up to 90 days at a rate of 100 percent coverage for 1-30 days, 80 percent coverage for 31-60 days, and 60 percent coverage for 61-90 days.
Changes to Sick Day Payouts
- Employees will no longer be able to carry-over unused sick days. No future days earned will be eligible for payout.
- Employees will not lose any previously earned and accrued sick days generated under the current policy. Any days earned and unused through June 30, 2012 cannot be taken away as they are considered vested. Either they can be used, or they will be paid out upon departure from CPS.
- Sick days from other city agencies will no longer be eligible for carry-over into CPS.
Effective Dates of new sick day policy
- Immediately for new hires
- July 1, 2012 for current employees
Pension Enhancement Program (PEP)
Unused sick days will no longer be able to artificially boost salary submitted to the pension funds post June 30, 2012 for non-union employees. Currently, PEP allows for the increase of salary by up to 20 percent. Therefore, this program has the potential to increase pension liability that is manifested, not only in a one-time payment, but in a yearly payment for the duration of the employee’s life.
Employee Earning Rate
Employees currently earn sick days at a rate of one sick day per month for full-time, year round employees. Sick days are distributed to banks at the start of each fiscal year. And while there will not be a change to the earning rate or annual allotment of days, days will be distributed with half on July 1 and half on January of each year. This change addresses employees who resign mid-year.
There will be no change to the earning rate for personal days. However, days will no longer be eligible for conversion to cash. Therefore, personal days will no longer “accumulate” year-over-year. New personal day policy becomes effective immediately for new hires and July 1, 2012 for existing employees.
The proposed policy change would impact all non-represented employees which include Central Office staff, Principals, Assistant Principals, network staff, Military Instructors, School Business Managers and School Operations Managers. There are currently more than 3,100 non-union employees in CPS.
The Chicago Public Schools serves approximately 405,000 students in more than 675 schools. It is the nation’s third-largest school system.