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UW System committed to responsible employment policies - (Oct. 13, 2006)

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

October 13, 2006

Contact: Doug Bradley
dbradley@uwsa.edu
(608) 262-5061

UW System committed to responsible employment policies

MADISON— The University of Wisconsin System will address recommendations in a Legislative Audit Bureau (LAB) report as it continues to strengthen policies on the employment of its 42,000 faculty, staff and student workers. The LAB report was issued Friday (Oct. 13).

UW System President Kevin P. Reilly said that the university remains committed to strengthening its personnel policies and practices.

"The university's work with the Legislative Audit Bureau (LAB) on this report signifies our commitment to being responsive to requests from legislators and others for clarification of UW System employment policies and practices," Reilly said. He pointed out that the LAB report reinforces several recent Board of Regents actions to reform personnel policies and practices and that the report "is another step in our ongoing process to improve our accountability in this area."

"UW employees consistently exceed my high expectations of them," Reilly noted. "Their roles in cutting-edge research, quality teaching, and exceptional public service are central to the future competitiveness, economic health, and reputation of this state. We will ensure that our employment policies both encourage that work and assure Wisconsin citizens that public dollars are well spent in support of it."

According to Reilly, the UW System and the Board of Regents have recently implemented personnel reforms that are unprecedented in the public university system's 35-year history. For example:

  • The UW System no longer offers so-called "back-up" appointments to new administrative employees.
  • The UW System now has the state's most-stringent sick leave policy. University unclassified staff must have medical certification when using more than five consecutive days of sick leave.
  • The UW System President must now approve any settlement involving the termination of a limited appointee.
  • UW academic leaders who return to faculty positions after leaving limited appointments are now compensated at a salary rate consistent with their department peers.
  • The Board of Regents is advancing changes to the disciplinary rules process to balance due process requirements with the need to act expeditiously in disciplinary matters involving criminal activity.

Findings related to the current LAB report include:

  • All state employees have the ability to convert unused sick-leave to pay for health insurance upon retirement, but the audit emphasizes that the average value of this benefit is greater for many UW employees than state workers. This may be due to the finding that, on average, UW unclassified staff are older and have more longevity in state employment when they retire. However, state employees in comparable positions to academic staff carry forward more days of sick leave than do comparable university employees.
  • University employees report lower rates of sick leave usage than other state employees in other agencies the LAB used as a base of comparison. This is true in part because, as LAB noted in its report: " Faculty workdays are scheduled according to academic rather than business practices and typically include nonstandard work hours to accommodate research and related activities." The UW System will work with faculty and staff to ensure accurate reporting of sick leave usage.
  • As expected, the number of limited appointees with concurrent (or "back-up") appointments has not significantly decreased. However, s ince July 2005, the UW has hired 106 new employees in this category who were not provided such an appointment, but would have previously been eligible for one. The number of "back-up" appointments will decrease over time as new limited employees are no longer granted these concurrent appointments.
  • Consultants hired by the UW System consistently fulfill their responsibilities, but the audit found that employees are sometimes given the title of "consultant" when another title might be more accurate. UW Human Resources staff will make sure these titles are used appropriately in the future.
  • Faculty, who earn sabbatical leave on the merit of their academic contributions, comply with reports on sabbaticals required by the university and the state. The university will develop ways to improve how it monitors this activity.

"The UW System will act decisively on the LAB recommendations regarding sick leave and vacation; limited and concurrent appointments; consultants; and faculty sabbaticals," Reilly added. "We will report back as requested to the Joint Committee on Audit by June 1, 2007."

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The Legislative Audit Bureau report, including the UW System's response, is available online at http://www.legis.state.wi.us/lab/