An employee’s access to state personal leave is determined by the reason for leave and local policy provisions.
Texas Education Code (TEC §22.003) provides each district employee five days per year of state personal leave, with no limit on accumulation and no restrictions on transfer among districts and education service centers (ESCs). The school board may adopt policy governing an employee’s use of state personal leave but may not restrict the purpose for which the leave may be used or the order it may be taken.
Types of State Personal Leave
Districts typically distinguish between discretionary and non-discretionary state personal leave. Discretionary leave is taken for personal business or vacation and requires advanced notice. Non-discretionary leave is taken for personal or family illness, emergency, death, or military leave and allows for very little, if any advanced planning.
Restrictions are placed on the discretionary use of state personal leave by many school districts. These restrictions vary by district, but some common restrictions include the following:
- Black-out days—limiting use on the first or last day of school, day before or after a holiday, testing days, or staff development days
- Length—limiting consecutive number of days that may be taken (e.g., two or more)
- Number of days available for use—limiting the number of days available for use per semester or per year
- Impact—does the leave impact the instructional program or department operations
- Availability of substitute
State personal leave is extended to all district employees, including part-time who work on a regular basis (e.g., bus drivers, crossing guards, after-school care). This leave must be available at the beginning of the school year, and an employee can’t be required to earn it before they use it. Individuals employed by the district for the entire year are entitled to the full five days whether or not they perform any work during the year (e.g., on an unpaid leave of absence). If an employee is employed after the start of the school year or leaves before it ends, state personal leave may be prorated.
A day of state personal leave is based on the length of an employee’s workday whether full- or part-time. As an example, an employee with a six-hour work schedule would earn five six-hour days of leave. A half day of leave for this employee would be three hours.
Although discretionary and non-discretionary leave is identified in the district’s leave policy, not all employees understand the difference. It is important for HR to clarify for staff the differences through leave training or publications (e.g., leave brochure and employee handbook). It may be helpful to provide an overview at least once a year to all employees.
It’s not unusual for leave administrators and specialists to have questions about state personal leave. A common issue we discuss is whether districts can allow employees to use personal leave and not apply the restrictions outlined in policy in extenuating circumstances. This is not advisable since the reason leave is being requested must be considered, which is in conflict with statutory provisions.
For more information, check out the HR Library under State and Federal Leaves. A sample leave brochure customizable to your district is available. In addition, the Model Employee Handbook includes a good summary of state personal leave that is easy for employees to understand.
Karen Dooley is a Senior HR Consultant at TASB HR Services. Send Karen an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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