School district HR administrators can find themselves bogged down with the challenge of how to best create and manage their non-duty day program.
Employees with duty calendars of 10 or 11 months generally do not receive paid vacation days in addition to their personal leave, scheduled holidays, and other days not worked between school years. Those who are employed year round (i.e., 12-month employees) may have additional days on which they are not required to work. These days are defined locally as vacation days or non-duty days. Whether these days are paid or unpaid, and the rules governing their use and entitlement, are a matter of local policy, culture, and definition.
Paid or Not Paid?
Unlike vacation days that are paid, non-duty days typically are unpaid. For exempt employees, the question of paid non-duty days is driven by payroll practices. Districts often have multiple duty calendars even within the same 10-, 11-, or 12-month work assignment. It also is common for an entity to calculate salaries based on required workdays (e.g., duty days), rather than using weekly or monthly rates as practiced in business and industry.
Non-duty days are in addition to school holidays on which an employee is not expected to work. The number of non-duty days available depends on the job and the number of days an employee is required to work in the 12-month period, and the number of non-duty days may fluctuate slightly from year to year. Some departments and campuses may completely cease operation during non-duty periods. Other departments may not have the option of closing because of the nature of the work (e.g., payroll, HR) and may need to be more flexible in scheduling days off as approved by the supervisor. Below is a sample method commonly used to calculate non-duty days.
Exempt Versus Nonexempt
Districts should consider exempt and nonexempt employees separately when deciding whether the employee should be compensated for non-duty days not taken. Exempt employees are paid a salary to fulfill their responsibilities. Therefore, if an exempt employee works more than the scheduled days, they are not entitled to receive additional pay.
On the other hand, nonexempt employees are entitled by federal law to be paid for every hour worked. Even when a nonexempt employee is paid on a salary basis (i.e., paid in equal installments each pay period), the district must still be able to convert that salary amount to a regular hourly rate and show that the employee was paid properly for all hours worked. Thus, nonexempt employees should be paid for all time worked regardless of whether the work occurred on a scheduled or non-duty day.
Defining Local Rules
With so few legal requirements or restrictions regarding voluntary time-off benefits, there are many different practices in effect within districts. The most important consideration is clarity—have employees been informed, and do they understand what they are and are not entitled to regarding pay and time off? The key is to define the parameters within local policy and administrative regulation and communicate these parameters to employees.
What Happens if Non-Duty Days Are Not Used?
Since vacation or other non-duty day benefits are not required, it is up to each entity to define its own rules. Guidelines regarding the ability to carry over unused days into the next school year, how many days can be carried over, time limits on use, and whether unused days will be paid when an employee separates should be locally defined.
Entities can adopt a “use it or lose it” approach for exempt employees, which specifies that unused days will not be paid at separation and do not carry over to another year. A district could also allow a specified number of carryover days with or without the right to be paid at separation.
For nonexempt employees, the district must pay an employee for all hours worked. As a result, it’s recommended that nonexempt employees be paid at the end of the fiscal year for any non-duty days not taken. Supervisors should monitor use of non-duty days throughout the year to ensure employees are not saving them for payment at the end of the fiscal year or upon separation.
The oversight and management of non-duty days can present challenges, especially when regulations and/or policy isn’t well-defined or is inconsistent. If the current system isn’t working as well as it could, it may be time for a review and possible restructuring of the program.
Keith McLemore joined HR Services in 2015 and assists districts with compensation planning and development. He has 17 years of experience traveling the state supporting public education employees.
McLemore received a bachelor’s degree from Southwestern University and a master’s degree from Texas Tech University, both with a focus on research analysis and design. He is a SHRM-CP.
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