WILMINGTON — The new coronavirus is bringing much of the region to a grinding halt with local businesses shutting down to help curb the transmission of the illness. Of course, this means employees are going to be out of work and without paid leave or sick days, not going to work is simply not an option for many. Wilmington’s City Council approved a resolution at its Tuesday night meeting to approve advanced leave for employees who might be unable to work from home.
A city policy, which was adopted by the board in September of 2019 outlines the city’s leave policy.
“City Policy 212 – Paid Leave, Section 1.5, adopted by City Council on September 1, 2019, prevents employees from exceeding their available leave balance, thereby requiring them to take leave without pay once all available accrued leave has been exhausted,” according to council’s agenda.
However, the council opted to approve an amendment to this policy by allowing employees to take ‘advanced leave,’ which would be paid back by the end of the year through payroll deductions.
“In an effort to assist City employees without large leave balances, especially new employees who have not had the opportunity to accrue significant leave, and who would otherwise be required to take leave without pay, we are recommending a policy to advance leave to certain qualifying employees, which will be paid back to the City through future payroll deductions,” according to the agenda.
But the new changes are not for every employee at the city, only those who are ‘benefits-eligible.’
“Therefore, subject to the passage of this resolution, any benefits-eligible employee (those budgeted to work in excess of 1,000 hours per year) who is unable to work from home and who has exhausted all appropriate paid leave may be eligible to take up to 10 additional working days of advanced leave between the effective date of this resolution and the date that the Governor lifts the current state of emergency. Any leave advanced to an employee will be paid back to the City through payroll deduction in a manner that will allow the City to recover all advanced leave by December 31, 2020,” according to the resolution.
Councilman Kevin O’Grady supported the resolution but was also hesitant about it, mainly due to the fact the federal government or other agencies might be stepping in to provide support to those affected by the virus.
“If you listened to the press conferences today, there are people throwing money out the window to help employees. I want to make sure that our employees get all those benefits and that we don’t inadvertently cut them off in some way,” O’Grady said.
He was also unsure about the timeline that was proposed and suggested the city be open to extending it if necessary.
Ultimately, the City Council agreed to support the resolution and as quickly as the virus’ status is changing on a daily basis, an update to the leave policy amendment could be expected in the coming weeks.