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Employee vacation and bereavement policies improved

MIT's vacation and bereavement leave policies for the administrative, sponsored research and support staffs are being improved starting Nov. 1.

Employees affected by the new policies announced by Vice President for Human Resources Laura Avakian will receive a letter and brochure with more information via interdepartmental mail this week. The extent to which the policies will apply to employees covered by union contracts will be determined in negotiations with each of the unions.

Significant improvements in the vacation policy will equalize the rate at which vacation days are earned across employment categories and will increase the amount of vacation time for some employees. Under MIT's old policy, employees in different categories did not accrue vacation time at the same rates.

Under the new policy, administrative, sponsored research staff and support staff who are eligible for vacation will earn 15 vacation days in their first year. After one year, these employees will earn 20 vacation days per year. (For part-time employees, the benefit is prorated based upon percentage of effort or number of hours worked in a week.)

At their 10-year anniversary and every five years after that, employees will receive an additional fifth week vacation credit. (Support staff had already received this benefit beginning after 15 years of service, but now it will begin after 10 years of service and also will apply to administrative and sponsored research staff.) For employees who already have passed their 10-year anniversary, there will be a one-time "transition credit" on their next anniversary date. Details, including a chart with the years of service and corresponding transition credit, are included in the policy brochure being sent to eligible employees.

The new bereavement leave policy is intended to create a more flexible and contemporary set of guidelines and also to recognize the changing definition of family. The new policy provides up to five days of paid leave if an immediate or extended family member dies. It also broadens the definition of family to include the family of domestic partners, stepfamilies and other family relationships.

The old funeral leave policy provided paid leave for three days if an immediate family member died and one day for other close relatives.

These changes are the result of a comprehensive review of paid leave policies at the Institute that was undertaken for several reasons. There had not been an overall review of paid leave policies since the mid-1980s. Also, the HR-Payroll Project is working to implement additional modules of the SAP information system, and MIT's relevant policies and practices are being reviewed first, rather than simply building a new system around current procedures.

"The HR-Payroll Project is giving us an opportunity to review every practice and process that needs to be systematized," Avakian said. "And we're deliberately asking questions such as whether a policy is contemporary, consistent and still achieving its objectives. Many of our practices and policies are fine, but in the case of vacation and bereavement leave, surveys indicated that MIT was not as competitive as we would like it to be, so these changes are being made," she said.

"In today's world, time for renewal, reflection and family responsibilities is more important than ever, whatever roles we may play in the life of the Institute," President Charles M. Vest said. "I'm pleased that our new policies for vacation time and bereavement leave are more generous, simpler and more uniform."

Recommendations for the policy changes came from the Paid Leave Working Group, which was charged with reviewing MIT's policies and practices for paid leave and suggesting any improvements. MIT looked at the policies of comparable universities, such as the "Ivy-plus" schools, as well as Boston-area universities. In addition, the review included local for-profit companies, which also compete with MIT for employees.

The recommendations were then reviewed by the Policy Advisory Group for the HR-Payroll Project, which includes representative community members. The next step was discussion and ultimately approval by the Academic Council.

To help prepare personnel administrators in the departments, labs and centers for implementing the new policies, human resources officers are meeting with them to discuss the policies and answer questions. Community members with questions have a number of sources of information: the brochure, the web site, two e-mail addresses ( for campus and for Lincoln), the personnel administrator in their area or their human resources officer.

In addition, employee question-and-answer sessions about the policies will be held on campus from noon to 1 p.m. on the following days: Thursday, Oct. 31 in Room W20-307, Thursday, Nov. 7 in Room 10-105 and Friday, Nov. 8 in Room E19-207. A session at Lincoln Laboratory is scheduled for 11 a.m. to noon on Nov. 7 in the Lincoln Lab Auditorium. The HR-Payroll Project

The HR-Payroll Project is a multiyear initiative that will redesign MIT's relevant business processes and implement an integrated Human Resources and Payroll system. MIT's current standalone computer systems for Human Resources and Payroll can't provide the comprehensive information needed to plan and manage MIT's most important resource: its people. Making the best use of technology and simplifying existing business practices and policies will allow Human Resources and Payroll to focus energy on providing services that meet the needs of departments, labs, centers and employees while balancing the Institute's need to achieve simplicity and appropriate control through standardization of business practices. For more information, click here.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on October 23, 2002.

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