July 23, 2013

Vanderbilt to launch new flexible paid time off system for employees

As Middle Tennessee’s largest private employer, Vanderbilt University and Medical Center is home to a dynamic workforce of more than 24,000 full-time employees whose years of work experience span more than seven decades.

In order to more effectively meet the broadly diverse work/life needs across employees’ life phases, Vanderbilt is moving to a modernized benefits plan called flexPTO (Paid Time Off) that offers greater flexibility for time away from work by combining all accrued leave hours into a single, centralized bank.

Existing vacation and sick time already accrued by staff will not be taken away. Already accrued vacation time will be migrated into the new flexPTO system. While no hours of vacation time that have been accrued go away with the new flex PTO system, the number of total hours of time off that can accumulate will be reduced. Over the coming months staff will be provided the opportunity to use already earned vacation time should their balances already exceed newly established thresholds. Sick time already accrued will be grandfathered and tracked separately, and can be used until it is exhausted, thus offering reassurance for long-term employees who have built up sick hours over time to use in case of a personal or family illness.

“The way vacation, holiday, personal and sick time are currently addressed involves programs that are separate with unique procedures, requiring employees to navigate four different sets of rules to determine how each type of time off can be used. Current policies have limitations based on reasons for the absence,” said Traci Nordberg, associate vice chancellor and chief human resource officer. “We’ve been carefully evaluating options to modernize our benefits offerings. With the new flexPTO plan, we are able to offer a more streamlined process to access paid leave time that better meets the needs of our diverse workforce, who each face unique circumstances outside the workplace spanning everything from parenting young children to caring for elderly parents, and every phase of life in between.”

Vanderbilt’s flexPTO combines vacation, holiday, personal and sick paid time off for eligible staff, providing more flexibility for employees to use accrued paid leave hours as they best fit their current life needs. Consistent with the university’s present system, flexPTO’s leave accrual rate will be based on years of service.

Because Vanderbilt’s flexPTO will be implemented in a phased process, the new plan will be eligible to Medical Center staff on Jan. 1, 2014, while University Central staff will be eligible for the new plan on July 1, 2014. Staff will continue to accrue the same number of vacation, personal and holiday hours as they do today, as well as a portion of hours that would have been counted as sick time in the past.

PTO programs are common in many peer organizations including the Johns Hopkins Health System, Duke University Health System, Princeton University, Rice University and the University of Virginia. Among top U.S. corporations, more than 50 percent utilize similarly structured programs to manage time away from work.

An additional positive of the Vanderbilt flexPTO plan will be a new, enhanced short-term disability insurance benefit providing for free partial salary continuation during extended illnesses, with the ability for eligible staff to participate in a low-cost “buy-up” option to make their salary nearly whole in the event they need this benefit.

In addition, a two-week paid parental leave will be available to eligible birth and adoptive parents/spouses/partners. For birth mothers who qualify for the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), this will serve as the two-week short-term disability waiting period (the time that must pass before benefits are paid). Birth mothers then may access up to six additional weeks of paid time off for a normal delivery through the short-term disability benefit. This change represents another example of Vanderbilt modernizing its benefits similar to those at peer institutions such as Cornell, Dartmouth, Duke, Harvard, Yale and other family-friendly universities and health systems.

“This and other initiatives to modernize benefits offerings are part of our ongoing efforts to retain and attract talented staff, as well as demonstrate Vanderbilt’s commitment to the well-being of its workforce,” Nordberg said.

As the launch date for flexPTO approaches, Human Resources will provide further updates on the new program, including a guide that can be printed, a schedule for leave hour accrual rates and limits and useful examples of common work/life scenarios.

For more information about the flexPTO plan please go to: https://hr.vanderbilt.edu/secure/flex-pto/. You will need your VUNET ID and password to access this site.