Purpose

The University of California, Berkeley offers a Catastrophic Leave-Sharing Program to give staff and academic employees a chance to support their colleagues who are facing a major health crisis, whether their own or that of a family member. The program allows employees to provide assistance in the form of donated vacation leave. It was developed as part of campus efforts to create a caring environment, and because many members of the campus community have expressed a desire to assist their co-workers in this way. While the program establishes a mechanism for leave transfers, participation is entirely voluntary.


Qualifying Situations

The Donating Employee must:

  • be an employee (academic or staff) of the Berkeley campus;
  • be in a position that accrues vacation leave;
  • have passed the waiting period to use vacation, if a waiting period is required by the applicable personnel policy or collective bargaining agreement; and
  • have accrued sufficient vacation leave to cover the donation (leave may not be donated prior to accrual).

The Receiving Employee must:

  • be an employee (academic or staff) or the Berkeley campus;
  • be in a position that accrues vacation leave;
  • have passed the waiting period to use vacation, if a waiting period is required by the applicable personnel policy or collective bargaining agreement; and
  • have exhausted all paid leave earned pursuant to the applicable personnel policies or collective bargaining agreement provisions covering vacation, sick leave, and compensatory time off (*see note at the end of this description);
  • be on an approved leave of absence.

*An eligible employee who wishes to receive vacation leave donations for the purpose of caring for a catastrophically ill person must first exhaust his/her accrued sick leave balance, even when doing so results in exceeding the 30-day limit imposed on the use of sick leave for family illness by applicable personnel policies and collective bargaining agreements.

The Receiving Employee’s Absence must be due to:

  • the employee's own medically certified "serious health condition" as defined by the federal Family and Medical Leave Act;
  • the medically certified "serious health condition" of the employee's spouse, parent, child, sibling, grandparent, or grandchild (or in-law or step-relative in one of these relationships); or
  • the medically certified "serious health condition" of a member of the employee's household.

While the Receiving Employee must be on an approved leave of absence and provide appropriate medical certification for a serious health condition, the leave of absence does not always need to qualify as time taken under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) or similar state laws such as the California Family Rights Act (CFRA).


Nature of Donations

Donations must be:

  • of accrued vacation leave only;
  • anonymous (that is, management will not identify the donor; the donor may choose to self-identify);
  • approved by both the donor's and the recipient's department;
  • entirely voluntary;
  • initially, eight hours or more of the donor's accrued vacation leave, with subsequent donations allowable in smaller increments and
  • limited to the number of vacation hours required to ensure continuation of the receiving employee's regular salary during the employee's approved catastrophic leave on a month to month basis.

Process

The following steps should be taken to assure proper processing of vacation leave donations:

  1. Donating Employee Initiates the Request. The prospective donor must submit a written request to their own department head or designee, indicating the number of hours to be donated (eight hours or more for an initial donation) and the name and department of the intended recipient. The request should also include a statement that the donor understands that the donation is voluntary and that only vacation leave sufficient to cover the eligible recipient's unpaid absence during the approved catastrophic leave will be transferred.

    Leave can only be donated and accepted for the month in which it will be used. It cannot be donated in advance. Since the campus generally reports vacation usage one month in arrears, any donation for the prior period must be received at the latest by the 10th of the month following the period in which the vacation leave donation is reported as used.

    Example - An employee is eligible for catastrophic leave for the months of July and August. Several colleagues wish to make a donation of vacation time. The Recipient's home department should only accept and process the amount of leave needed one month at a time. This means that the leave transfer arrangements required for July should be made and approved in July and reported to Catastrophic Leave Transfer Coordinator in Payroll no later than August 10th which is consistent with campus reporting of vacation leave usage.
  2. Review by Donor's Department. The donor's home department should verify if the receiving employee is eligible and the time is actually needed. The donor's home department should also verify that the donor has sufficient accrued vacation leave for the proposed transfer. The donor's home department should then notify the recipient's home department of the proposed donation and complete their section of the Catastrophic Leave-Sharing Vacation Hours Transfer Form. The Catastrophic Leave-Sharing Vacation Hours Transfer Form should be forwarded to the recipient's home department in order for them to complete their portion and forward the final document to Payroll.
  3. Review by Recipient's Department. The recipient's department should verify that a qualifying health condition exists (and, in the case of a family member's illness, a qualifying relationship). The department should also verify that the intended recipient has exhausted all paid leave as described in "Qualifying Situations" above, and determine the number of hours necessary for the remainder of the current month of approved catastrophic leave. Understanding that the leave may extend for a number of months, the recipient's department should let donors know that additional donations may be necessary and welcome.
  4. Review by Intended Recipient. The recipient's department should notify the recipient of the intended donation (hours of leave to be donated, but not the name of the donor). The department should notify the recipient that only vacation leave hours sufficient to cover the approved catastrophic leave will be transferred on an as needed basis month to month. At this point, if the recipient wishes to decline the donation for any reason (such as potential impact on taxes or benefits), the process should be terminated.

    NOTE: The recipient has sole responsibility for assessing potential impact on taxes and benefits. The Benefits Unit of Central Human Resources is available to answer questions regarding benefits.
  5. Transferring the Leave. Once all authorizations have been obtained, the donor's home department should prepare a Catastrophic Leave-Sharing Vacation Hours Transfer Form  (PDF), available on the Payroll website. Instructions are given on the form.

    The form should then be forwarded to the recipient's home department for review and completion. The recipient's home department should forward the completed to: Payroll Office, 171 University Hall, MC 1104 or by email attachment to payhelp@berkeley.edu.
  6. The Payroll Office will prepare the appropriate adjustments directly against employee balances. There is no financial impact at the time of donation. The impact will only be seen at the time of usage.
  7. Both the Recipient's and the Donor's Home Department will see changes to the vacation leave accrual on the Time/Benefits Roster. These Rosters are received monthly.
  8. Notifying the Affected Employees. Each department should then notify the donor or recipient (as appropriate) in writing that the debit or credit has taken place.

Questions

Questions about the application of this policy should be directed to the department’s assigned Employee Relations Consultant in Central Human Resources, to the Academic Personnel Office, or, for those departments which have one, to the Department Personnel Manager. Questions about how to complete the form may be directed to payhelp@berkeley.edu.