November 2, 2007

elevate Answering the Tough Questions

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VUMC nurse Sonnie James, right, with Marci Hess of the Nashville Employment Consortium.

Medical Center leadership answers the tough questions about what the elevate program is and what it means for the people who work at VUMC.

Question: Does Vanderbilt have a program whereby unused paid sick leave can be donated to an individual who is going through a severe illness? If not, why?

Answer: Offering a “sick bank” would significantly increase Vanderbilt's costs. Currently, when sick time is not used, the University is not liable for the payout (except for up to 30 days at retirement). If sick time were pooled, it likely would all be paid out, leaving Vanderbilt with considerably less money to fund other employee benefits.

Also, paid sick leave is a benefit that is meant to apply equally to all staff.

Allowing donation of accruals to specific fellow staff members would mean that those staff who have more interaction with colleagues would stand to benefit to a greater degree than do those employees who work in smaller groups or otherwise happen not to know as many potential donors.

If we say we'll avoid that problem by instead allowing employees to donate to a central pool, disparities would again arise, this time between those who are ill, when the pool happens to be full, and those who are ill when the pool has gotten low.

Vanderbilt offers two disability insurance plans for staff — a voluntary short-term plan and a mandatory long-term plan. These plans, which pick up where paid sick leave stops, allow staff to protect against loss of future income due to sickness.

Full-time staff are offered short-term disability insurance at a low group rate negotiated by Vanderbilt. After one year of service, eligible employees are enrolled in a long-term disability plan, with Vanderbilt picking up the cost for the first $24,000 of salary coverage.

For more information about disability insurance, see the HR Web site at

— Jane Bruce, director, HR benefits administration