Campus News

Employee Forum: personal observance leave, retention goals and staff awards

Delegates at June’s meeting heard details on paid leave stemming from a new executive order as well as possible career banding changes and one-time retention bonuses.

Screenshot of Employee Forum June 8 Zoom meeting
UNC Employee Forum held virtually on June 8, 2022. (Jon Gardiner/UNC-Chapel Hill)

The June 8 gathering of the Employee Forum included a discussion about additional opportunities for paid leave as well as possible incentives for improving recruitment and retention. The delegates also honored various staff members across the University with Peer Recognition Awards.

Human Resources update 

Linc Butler, associate vice chancellor of human resources, began by addressing interest among employees in the state budget. He referenced the 2.5% salary increase for all employees (effective July 1, 2022) from the last budget, but said the University is waiting on implementation guidance from the state and UNC System office before putting it into payroll.

Next, Butler brought up other potential items that may impact state employees’ salaries, such as the possibility for another annual raise process and an additional one-time bonus payment.

“All of that is still being sorted out in the legislature,” Butler said. “We don’t know exactly where that’s going to land, what those provisions are going to look like.”

Additional paid leave 

The discussion then turned to newly issued Executive Order 262 from Gov. Roy Cooper regarding personal observance leave.

Butler clarified what the order means for University employees, since the executive order originally only applied to the governor’s cabinet executive agencies. As of Thursday afternoon, President Hans has authorized UNC System institutions, including the UNC System office, to provide this paid Personal Observance Leave to all leave-earning staff and faculty, effective immediately.

“We are in the process of working with the folks in TIM to get it set up there to get communication out because, of course, Juneteenth is just around the corner,” said Butler. “We want to make sure we get information out so that folks can take advantage of this if they would like to use this time for that purpose.”

However, the leave can be used for any single day of personal, cultural or religious significance. Temporary employees are not eligible, but the leave will be prorated for part-time employees. The leave must be used in one work shift and cannot be split up.

Potential changes to internal promotions, career banding 

The next topic during the update was staff retention amid a very competitive job market and a “staggering” 20% vacancy rate across state jobs.

“We’re still struggling and battling with turnover, and that’s not just in our University, but every other UNC System school as well as state agencies,” Butler said. “We’re working with the System office to try and identify other ways, creative ways that we can create incentives for folks to be retained, to recruit for folks.”

One provision that is still in the works is the building of an administrative infrastructure, which allows for SHRA recruitment and retention bonuses. Butler said the Office of Human Resources is still trying to define and get clarity on what limitations there will be but hopes to have some plans finalized in the near future.

A delegate inquired about the progress of paving a smoother path for internal promotions, specifically for salary raises above 20% of an employee’s current rate.

To that, Butler said the previous route for an internal promotion and pay increase of more than 20% required external approvals from the UNC System office and potentially the Board of Governors, depending on the amount of the increase. He says the new rules focus more on where the proposed salary falls within the assigned salary range and will allow for more raises to be approved at the local level.

Butler referenced the many “pain points” related to the current career banding system and some of the proposed ideas of waiting until a new compensation system is rolled out to implement any new changes.

“We are really suffering under the current system with the ranges not being adjusted, and we continue to push in that manner,” Butler said. “Hopefully, we will get some movement there because especially if that implementation isn’t for another two years off, we’re just going to continue to be bleeding great talent as a result because our ranges just aren’t where they need to be.”

Shayna Hill, vice chair of the UNC System Staff Assembly, said the 17-campus assembly has a resolution asking career pay bands to be updated that has been passed by two committees and is heading to a full-body vote in July.

Personnel issues committee co-chair Stephanie Forman reaffirmed the general theme of retention and said the focus on next year continues to be advocating for compensation system updates, range revisions, addressing pay equity, promotion, mentorship and meaningful career development, among others. She says her committee will be meeting with the Office of Human Resources in July to get input on strategically moving forward.

Peer Recognition Awards 

Tiffany Carver and Laura Pratt announced this year’s Peer Recognition Awards, honoring 13 employees, both delegates and non-delegates. In total, 185 nominations were submitted and recipients received a $100 stipend in their paycheck.

Hall of Famer 

  • Ryan Neve, IT and engineering support, College of Arts and Sciences’ Earth, marine and environmental sciences department.
  • Pam Morrison, accounting technician, Eshelman School of Pharmacy.

Perfect Addition

  • Christopher Daley, RENCI administrative assistant.
  • Crystal Wu, Arts Everywhere marketing and development communications manager.

Professional Excellence Award 

  • Kimi Yingling, student engagement and events program manager, Innovate Carolina.
  • Ali Ramirez, assistant dean of students, Student Affairs.
  • Stephanie Forman, executive and special projects assistant, Gillings School of Global Public Health’s department of health policy and management.
  • Susan Pedersen, program manager, Institute for Global Health and Infectious Diseases.

Overton Leadership Award

  • Logan Brackett, chair of business administration, College of Arts and Sciences’ biology department.
  • Valerie Tan, associate chair for administration, Allied Health Sciences.

Pinnacle Award

  • Jennifer DeNeal, administrative director, Office of Ethics and Policy.
  • Patricia Kinneer, managing director of research support & scholarship, Allied Health Sciences.

3-Legged Stool Community Service Award

  • Rob Birrenkott, assistant dean for career development, School of Law.

“We recognize that everyone has so much on their plate these days and people are taking on extra responsibilities, so the fact that you took out your time to acknowledge and celebrate your peers really means a lot and speaks volumes to the type of employees we have here at UNC,” Carver said.

Wellness update 

During a wellness update, Jessica Pyjas mentioned June is National Employee Wellness Month and provided updates on spring events and upcoming opportunities:

  • 38 Carolina teams completed the 2022 Miles for Wellness Challenge and logged a total of 85,071 miles, nearly 3.5 times around the Earth!
  • Helping Heels, a network of students and employees offering paid and volunteer pet, child and senior care, has been refreshed with contact information for this summer.
  • Anyone looking to lead a wellness committee in their unit can sign up for a June or July interest session on becoming a Wellness Champion in the 2022-2023 academic year.
  • Tar Heel Bikes, the campus bikeshare program, ended May 31. Since Oct. 2017, 13,000 members took more than 140,000 trips. Pyjas says the University is in the process of choosing a new provider and plans to announce a new service with an electric-assist bike fleet this fall.
  • Fitness apps, classes and gear discounts are available during June with employees’ free Working Advantage membership.

Other business 

Officer elections were held at the end of the meeting. No new officers were elected, as most ran unopposed and those who were incumbents were reelected.

The only tie occurred during a vote between Shane Brogan and Joe Ormond for staff assembly alternate. Forum delegates will gather for another vote in July.

Toward the end of the Forum meeting, delegates asked for clarification on the timeline for the newly announced COVID-19 booster leave. Proof of a booster must be submitted by Aug. 31, but some delegates asked if those who already received a booster were also eligible.

Pyjas confirmed anyone who received their first booster, regardless of when, will be eligible for the extra eight hours of leave.