Updates to HR Policies – What staff need to know

dallas hallThe Department of Human Resources is updating its policies in Chapter 9 of the online Policy Manual, with the goal of completing the majority of the policies by the end of this fiscal year (May 2015). We are reviewing and updating groups of policies at a time. Our first round (9 policies) has been reviewed by representatives of several constituent groups and approved by the President’s Executive Council. The following policies have been updated, approved, and are currently effective.  Here is what you need to know as an SMU employee.

Paid Medical Absence for Staff, Policy 9.21

The main change to this policy is the elimination of the six-month waiting period for paid medical absence leave. We don’t want employees coming to work sick in order to be compensated and exposing other employees to illness. We also realize that employees cannot plan when they are sick – it just happens. Employees may use any accrued sick time when they need to be absent due to illness, from the point of hire and thereafter.

Staff Bereavement (New), Policy 9.39

In the past, time off for bereavement was taken from accrued medical leave. A new policy has been created where employees who need to be absent for family bereavement will be compensated for up to three days of paid bereavement leave. In circumstances where additional time off is warranted and approved, an employee may use two additional days of accrued medical leave. If paid medical leave accruals have been exhausted, the absence will be compensated from vacation accruals. If the vacation accruals have been exhausted, the employee may request unpaid leave, not to exceed a total Bereavement Leave of five days.

Tuition Benefits, Policy 9.28

During your employment at SMU, you may wish to take advantage of the generous tuition benefits that SMU offers. The revisions combined two policies into one with the title of “Tuition Benefits” (formerly Tuition Benefits for Dependent Children of Faculty and Staff Members. 9.28, and Tuition Benefits for Faculty and Staff Members and their Spouses, 9.29). The revisions also further define tuition benefits coverage and clarify that the costs of attending SMU non-credit bearing courses are not covered.

In addition, since hours can vary by degree program, there is no longer a stipulation that at least half of the hours spent in class must not involve time off from regular working hours. Aligned with current practice, Domestic Partner has been added to all references of the spousal tuition benefit. The policy also clarifies that tuition benefits are available to a spouse or domestic partner for only one degree.

Personal Conduct, Policy 9.12

A section has been added to address attendance, absenteeism, and tardiness (section E). SMU expects employees to be reliable and punctual in reporting for scheduled work. All employees are expected to communicate with their manager, in advance, when an absence from work is needed. Unapproved absences or continued tardiness may result in disciplinary action, as outlined in the next policy discussed, Corrective Action for Staff, 9.13. If an employee is absent and fails to report to work without notifying his/her manager for a period of three consecutive days, he/she will be considered to have voluntarily terminated the employment relationship. Keep your manager informed, and make sure you have approval for absences or late arrivals.

Corrective Action for Staff, Policy 9.13

This policy was previously titled “Corrective Disciplinary Procedures for Non-Faculty Personnel.” The language and procedures have been updated to accurately reflect the current philosophy and practices used in managing employee performance. All employees are expected to understand the various steps of the corrective action process, as well as the manager expectations and documentation that are outlined in this policy. This policy also defines what it means to be in “good standing” with the University and how it impacts an employee’s eligibility for transfer and rehire.

Pre-Employment Screenings, Policy 9.8

This policy was previously titled “Employment of Persons Convicted of Criminal Offenses.” All employees must undergo a background check (pre-employment screening) prior to starting work at SMU. SMU now reserves the right to conduct background checks on current employees under certain circumstances at any time during employment. If adverse results are identified on the background check, the Department of Human Resources will initiate a review with other University officials to determine what action might be taken.

In addition, after being hired, employees should self-report to the Department of Human Resources within five (5) business days if they have been convicted, pleaded guilty, or received deferred adjudication or similar disposition before a civilian or military court for any criminal offenses (excluding minor traffic misdemeanors). If a current employee is charged with an offense, the University will conduct a review. A final decision regarding continued employment will be made by University officials and the Department of Human Resources.

Termination of Employment, Policy 9.16

The revisions consolidated two policies, Termination of Employment (9.16) and Exit Process (9.17) into one overall policy, Termination of Employment (9.16). This policy outlines how much notice an employee must give to his/her manager before leaving SMU. An employee should also submit a letter of resignation to his/her manager at the time notice is given.

Exiting employees are required to turn in their University ID card, pay any money owed to the University, and return all University property prior to leaving. Pay may be withheld from the final paycheck for any legal debt owed to the University.

Based on feedback provided by exiting employees in recent years, an exit interview is no longer required. Instead, a checklist, Employee Frequently Asked Questions, and detailed information regarding the exit process will be emailed to the exiting employee prior to leaving SMU. Of course, the exiting employee may request an appointment with the Benefits Representative if they have additional questions.

Duty to Report Suspected Child Abuse, Policy 9.31

This policy was originally written to capture a phased-in roll-out of the program across campus. Now that the roll-out is complete, wording referencing the roll-out has been removed. What remains speaks to Texas law requiring anyone with knowledge of suspected child abuse or neglect to report it to the appropriate authorities. State law also requires any individual employed in a position involving contact with minors at a campus program for minors to complete a training program approved by the State of Texas. The training program must be completed within the two years prior to the start date of the program, and recertification is required every two years. For everyone else, all SMU faculty, staff, and student employees are required at the time employment begins to successfully complete an approved training program on sexual abuse and child molestation.

If you suspect child abuse or neglect has taken place on the SMU campus or at any SMU function, program, or event, immediately make a report to the SMU Police Department at 214.768.3333.  SMU employees must also report such conduct to a supervisor or department head, but merely reporting the incident to a supervisor or department head is insufficient. If there is an immediate threat, call 911. For further information, please read the entire policy and/or visit the SMU Program for the Protection of Minors page.

Reorganization Policy, Policy 9.40

This new policy is a formalization of current practices around various reorganization methods. The policy lists possible reasons that may prompt reorganization and includes current regulatory language. The policy indicates that the Department of Human Resources should be contacted prior to taking any action.

Read more about HR’s strategy to update all HR policies in the SMU Forum.

For questions about any of these policy updates, contact smuhr@smu.edu.

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About Mary Stall

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