Districts must have clear policy statements and documented regulations to effectively administer leave programs.
District policy provides the framework for the organization’s leave benefits. Policy identifies local leave benefits and details for implementing required leave that requires board approval (e.g., state personal leave, family and medical leave, and temporary disability leave). Colleges and districts using TASB Policy Service coding system will find leave-related policies in the DEC series, education service centers in the DEB series.
Regulations, sometimes called procedures or guidelines, provide the details needed to implement policy. They include the day-to-day procedures and explain exactly how something happens. Regulations don’t require board approval and are developed by administrative staff. Administrative staff, under the direction of the superintendent, have the authority to alter or revise regulations as needed to facilitate leave benefit administration. In contrast, changes to policy must be approved by the board.
Know Your Policy
The policy codes that govern leave benefits include the following:
- DEC or DEB summarizes various state and federal leave requirements and local choices to implement leave that require board approval.
- DECA or DEBA(LEGAL) summarizes Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) requirements.
- DECB or DEBB(LEGAL) summarizes state and federal military leave requirements.
Policy Update 117, issued in late spring 2021, included revisions to make Policy DEC(LOCAL) more concise and remove administrative details that don’t require board approval. Districts were asked to carefully review the changes and ensure regulations were in place in the form of written procedures.
HR staff responsible for administering leave should be familiar with policy and ensure provisions align with practice. The following are some common issues to check for consistency:
- Duration of leave authorized in policy and the amount of short-term leave approved by supervisors and long-term leave approved by HR
- Definition of the FMLA year, whether intermittent or reduced schedule leave is allowed to care for a newborn or placement for adoption or foster care, and limits on the amount of leave spouses who are both employed by the district can take
- Whether the district offsets workers’ compensation benefits with paid leave or is a “non-offsetting district”
Create or Update Regulations
The changes presented in Update 117 made it essential for districts to review or create regulations. The Framework for Developing Leaves and Absences Procedures (for community college) in the HR Library (member login required) identifies the procedures that must be considered for the administration of leaves and absences and issues to consider. It is designed to be used as a worksheet to develop local provisions. Other frameworks available in the HR Library include:
- Framework for Developing Sick Leave Bank Procedures | for Community College
- Framework for Developing Sick Leave Pool Procedures | for Community College
- Framework for Developing Vacation and Holiday Procedures | for Community College
It’s advisable to review and compare existing local procedures to these worksheets to identify gaps. It’s also important to ensure procedures are communicated to employees in the employee handbook, staff meetings, and other HR communications.
Additional information about Policy Update 117 is addressed in our free webinar Understanding Leave and Absence Policy Changes in Update 117.
The employee has the choice to use paid leave while receiving workers’ compensation wage benefits (Texas Labor Code § 504.052). Workers’ compensation rules prevent an employee from receiving more than 100 percent of their pre-injury average weekly wage when the employee elects to use paid leave while receiving Temporary Income Benefits (TIBs). By board policy, districts can limit the amount of paid leave employees can use while receiving workers’ compensation TIBs to fractional amounts. The fractional amounts of leave combined with TIBs will equal the pre-injury weekly wage. This policy option is known as “offsetting.”
If the district has not adopted an offset policy, the employee has the following choices:
- Use available leave and postpone TIBs until leave is exhausted or to the extent that paid leave does not equal the pre-illness or pre-injury wage
- Receive TIBs and forego the use of available paid leave
A district’s choice to offset or not allow offsetting is documented in Policy DEC(LOCAL). It’s important to be familiar with your policy provision and use the appropriate leave election form to document an employee’s choice to use paid leave for each claim. Sample forms for an employee to elect leave benefits are available in English and Spanish in the HR Library (member login required).
HR Services offers several resources to help districts with leave administration, including the following:
- The Administrator’s Guide to Managing Leaves and Absences
- Full-day virtual training
- Free webinars
- HR Library (search Leaves, member login required)
April Mabry oversees HR Services training services, member library products, and the HRX newsletter. She has provided HR training and guidance to Texas public schools since 1991. Mabry was a classroom teacher for 11 years in Texas and Michigan.
Mabry has a bachelor’s degree in education from the University of Michigan and certification as a professional in human resources (PHR) and is a SHRM-CP.
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