The number of vacation days non-union city employees can cash out when they leave their jobs would be significantly reduced under a proposal a key City Council committee endorsed today.
As it now stands, departing longtime employees can get paid for up to 75 vacation days they did not take while working for the city. Under Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s plan, the number would decrease to 30 at the start of 2013.
“When we are in the financial straits that we are in, this is a wonderful first step to making us a more lean city and more competitive,” said Ald. Michele Smith, 43rd.
The changes are in part a response to the recent vacation cash-outs taken by departing officials from former Mayor Richard Daley’s administration.
For example, former Police Superintendent Jody Weis got more than $76,000 for 64 unused vacation days. Through the end of last month, the city paid out $9.5 million in unused vacation pay, according to the Emanuel administration.
Under the proposal, employees could only carry over five vacation days from any one year to the next. Because the maximum number of vacation days for longtime employees is 25, the most any could get paid for upon leaving is 30.
Union employees now are only allowed to carry over three vacation days, but the Emanuel administration plans to “roll” the five-day provision into union contracts as they come up for renewal, said Christopher Owen, first deputy commissioner of Human Resources.
The proposal endorsed today also shifts vacation credits to the year they are earned, as opposed to the current system of awarding vacation days based on the previous year’s service.
The overall aim is to encourage people to actually take their vacation days, Owen said.
“The purpose of offering vacation as a benefit is to allow employees to have a healthy work-life balance so that they will be productive,” he said. “We want to encourage our employees to actually use vacation time, whether it is to travel, attend to personal matters or just relax.”
The limit on cash payout also aims “to be fair to Chicago taxpayers,” Owen said. “The fundamental purpose of our vacation leave policy should be to provide employees with the benefit of paid days off while they are working for us and not to offer a cash payout upon leaving city service.”
The plan was recommended for approval by the Workforce Development and Audit Committee. The full council is scheduled to vote on it next week.