Overhauling Leave Time

State employees have accumulated hundreds of millions of dollars in unused leave and Virginia policymakers say the potential unfunded liability is enormous.  That’s because many state workers can cash out their unused vacation and sick days when they retire and that number is expected to surge as Baby Boomers leave the workforce.

Efforts are underway to overhaul the 60-year-old system.     In addition to vacation and sick leave, there are now more than 20 time-off alternatives, including community service and family illness.  But Human Resources Management Director Sara Wilson said the complex rules vary among workers. “Whether it was tenure-based, look at the different ways we provide leave.  It’s credited, accrued, earned—the different categories.  And some you can carry over, some you can’t, some have a leave year, some have a fiscal year, some have a rolling calendar year,” says Wilson.

Wilson led a study of potential changes to make the system more simple and flexible.  They include freezing old leave balances, capping paid time-off, and combining classifications into all-purpose leave that would be used or lost.  Delegate Joe May said that merits more study.  His own informal survey suggested that some abuse sick leave.  “I concluded that if you were over 50 and married, you were five times healthier than if you were under 30 and single,” says May.

Lawmakers have not yet endorsed any plan but agree there must be reforms.

–Anne Marie Morgan

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