Bonus leave buyout offered to eligible employees

At various times over the past 15 years as part of the state budget process, Western Carolina University’s leave-earning employees have been awarded bonus leave in lieu of salary increases by the N.C. General Assembly.

The General Assembly first provided 80 hours of bonus time to leave-earning employees in 2002, doing so again in 2003. The Legislature then granted 40 hours of bonus leave in 2005 and again in 2014.

Longtime leave-earning employees who have been working for the state since prior to 2002 have received a total of 240 hours of bonus leave. Because bonus leave does not expire or roll over into another form of leave, many of those workers have used little or none of that extra time, said Cory Causby, WCU associate vice chancellor for human resources and payroll.

That is why, as part of the 2016-17 budget, the General Assembly has provided state agencies – including the University of North Carolina system – with the ability to offer eligible employees the opportunity to cash in special bonus leave benefits. WCU’s Executive Council recently decided to make the voluntary buyout program available to all eligible employees, said Causby.

“All eligible employees should have received communication and instructions on how to apply for a payout,” he said. “In addition, we prepared a list of answers to frequently asked questions and have scheduled a series of information sessions for employees who may have additional questions or concerns.”

Not all who work at WCU are eligible for the program, as 975 employees out of WCU’s total workforce of 1,504 earn leave, Causby said. Faculty with nine- or 10-month contracts do not earn leave, nor do temporary part-time staff members, he said. Leave-earning employees who began working for the state after 2014 were not on the workforce during years when bonus leave was granted.

Just over 48 percent of leave-eligible employees meet the criteria to participate in the buyout program. Only about 31.5 percent of the workforce at WCU will have the option of participating in the bonus leave payout program.

Information sessions about the program will be held at 1 p.m. Friday, May 5, and 4 p.m. Tuesday, May 9, in the first-floor auditorium of the H.F. Robinson Administration Building. The first session was held April 28.

Employees who wish to participate in the program must indicate their decision through an online survey. Access to the survey was provided to eligible employees through direct communication from the Office of Human Resources.

Provisions of the bonus leave buyout program include:

  • Employee participation in the program is strictly voluntary. Those who are eligible but do not wish to cash in any eligible bonus leave do not have to do so.
  • Employees will have the option to cash in any amount of eligible bonus leave (up to their balance total).
  • Special bonus leave payments will be subject to retirement contributions and supplemental tax rates of 25 percent for federal income tax and 5.6 percent for state.
  • Special bonus leave payments will be valued at the amount based on the employee’s current annual salary.
  • Special bonus leave payments will be included in the June 2017 payroll.

Employees who wish to participate in the program must indicate their decision through an online survey. Access to the survey was provided to eligible employees through direct communication from the Office of Human Resources and Payroll.

Employees who are unable to complete the online survey should contact the Office of Human Resources and Payroll at 828-227-7218 or humanresources@wcu.edu.