The Adverse Weather Policy is a topic of discussion for many state employees, and each weather event brings its own unique challenges. We have snow and ice in Eastern NC, wildfires in the west, flooding and other natural disasters throughout. I believe administration tried to create flexibility in the policy while remaining compliant with laws. We have over 48,000 state employees spread across a geographically diverse state operating under the same Adverse Weather policy. Within this number are faculty and staff. Please note staff are not limited to housekeeping and food service workers as referenced in previous articles. Those individuals are indeed at the heart of our institutions but staff include all your IT support, student services, career counselors, academic advisors, health center staff, library, staff, academic department executive assistants, police, electricians, plumbers, landscapers, environmental safety, campus recreation, registrar, cashier’s and hundreds of other roles. The complaints I have heard from across the state seem to stem from lack of knowledge of options or the varying interpretations of policy by supervisors in various areas working with their employees. Supervisors have to approve working from home or making up hours, and there are many employees who cannot telecommute to complete their job functions; making up time can be hardship for others. Escalating these concerns is not always the easiest thing for a staff member to do.
The most difficult aspect of the Adverse Weather policy is the strain it puts on employees to effectively plan and save their own leave. UNCW employees were required to use leave for December 27th and 28th during the Winter Break. The following week employees had to use up to 3 days of unplanned leave for Adverse Weather. My understanding is UNCW’s HR department is submitting paperwork for General Administration to retroactively grant us Condition 3 status which if granted, will return leave back to the employees. The problem is our employees have to make childcare, vacation, and medical decisions that cannot always wait for state level decisions. It is not reasonable to tell an employee they must record three days of vacation their first day back at work and take days, or weeks before letting them know if it will be returned. If this is the policy we will continue to use, improvements must be made ensuring supervisors are accurately and fairly enforcing the process and timelines for decisions pertaining to Condition classifications needs to be improved and expedited. If the campus is going to tell employees they cannot come to work then it should not require use of leave. Suspending operations vs closing a school d fall into two separate Conditions. Employees are told not to come in for both, while their leave is impacted differently for each. I feel that campus level administration, be it HR or Chancellors, are too often blamed for simply enforcing state level policy.
Staff Assembly has always, and will continue to assess events across the state and how each one impacts our UNC system employees. When we see areas for improvement we will continue to work with General Administration who has always welcomed our input and suggestions. I would like to encourage employees at their institutions to reach out to their campus Staff Senate, Forum, or Council with their questions and concerns. Staff leaders on the campus level are ready to offer support and give you a voice for concerns. If UNC System employees are unsure of their contact I am happy to field any questions as chair of the Staff Assembly at firstname.lastname@example.org.