Administrative rule changes implemented, explained
Two temporary administrative rule changes were implemented in August related to the length of time that state agencies can retain employees after extended illnesses and state policy on time away from the workplace for medical appointments.
The Division of Human Resources announced the changes Aug. 20. They became effective four days later under emergency status and will be reviewed by the Legislature next year.
“The temporary and proposed rules will be published in the Administrative Rules Bulletin on October 1, and the official comment period will be October 1 to October 22, 2008,” according to a DHR memo. “During the comment period, please address your comments concerning implementation problems in writing to firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.”
Several misconceptions surfaced after the announcement, explains Mary Harker, ITD Human Resource Services manager. A number of state employees were under the impression that long-term disability will be affected by the rule related to layoffs.
That is not the case, Harker explains.
“If someone is unable to do (his or her) job because of medical reasons, that person will be laid off after three months (twelve weeks) or when their leave (annual and sick) is exhausted, whichever is longer.”
“This allows supervisors to fill the position after 12 weeks rather than six months.”
Once the affected employee becomes well enough to return, he or she can be rehired from a layoff register without the loss of accrued hours of service or salary level. Their layoff rights are good for one year from the date they were laid off.
The rule does not affect short- or long-term disability benefits, explains Carlin Hill of HRS. “That is totally separate. Employees who qualify for short- or long-term disability will still have the same benefit, even if the 12-week medical termination takes place,” she says.
State employees also expressed concern about the loss of what they perceived as a formal provision that allows up to 12 hours of leave from the workplace for medical appointments.
Under the rule announced by DHR, employees now must use sick or annual leave, compensatory time, take leave without pay or get permission to change their work schedule to accommodate appointments. Supervisors have some flexibility to alter the employee’s work schedule to accommodate the doctor appointment, as long as it does not cause disruption and that they are consistent in offering a flex schedule to all of their employees.
“Although the practice has been allowed for a long time, it is not consistent with private sector practices according to the Division of Human Resources and the Division of Administration.
A question/answer file on the DHR site clarifies the state’s position:
“MDA leave has been removed from Division of Human Resources (DHR) rules because there is no basis in Idaho Code for the use of this type of leave. Idaho Code does provide sick leave for the type of medical, dental, or optical appointments that were covered by MDA leave…
The intent of this change is to ensure that DHR rules conform to Idaho Code, not to take away a benefit or create cost savings.”
For more information, visit the DHR Web site: http://dhr.idaho.gov/ , choose rules and laws and then DHR Temporary and Proposed Rules Memo or Frequently Asked Questions.