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    Leaves of Absence and District Contributions for Employee Benefits

    There are many types of employment leave. If you take an approved leave from the District, you will receive a letter from Human Resources designating the type of leave, how long it will last, and other information relevant to your leave. Depending on the circumstances of your leave (and perhaps the terms of your Collective Bargaining Agreement), District contributions for benefits may continue for all or part of your leave. This Advisor discusses these leave situations only in summary form. More information is available through Human Resources.

    If you are going on leave because you are having a baby, please review the SPS Benefits Helpline Advisor “Having a Baby? Frequently Asked Questions Regarding Leaves and Benefits,” which addresses issues specific to pregnancy and maternity leave.

    What Types of Leaves Are There?

    Child Care Leave
    Certain bargaining agreements allow for Child Care Leave. This provides time during the 12 months following birth (or placement by adoption) to care for your new child. Child Care Leave itself is always an Unpaid Leave but if your leave qualified for FMLA (“Family Medical Leave Act”), then District contributions would continue for up to 12 weeks. If your Child Care Leave goes past the end of FMLA period, District contributions will end, and you will need to pay the full cost of your premiums in order to continue your coverage.

    Washington State Family Care Act (FCA)
    FCA allows employees to use available paid leave to care for a sick child with a routine illness; a spouse, parent, parent‐in‐law or grandparent with a serious or emergency health condition; and an adult child with a disability.  District contributions for benefits would continue during this type of leave, as long as you are also eligible for FMLA.

    Approved Leaves for Education, Travel, Etc.
    These types of leave are generally unpaid and District contributions for benefits will generally not be available.  You would be able to continue your benefits through self‐pay.

    Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA)
    FMLA provides up to 12 weeks each year of unpaid, job‐protected leave to employees who need to care for themselves or certain family members in the event of birth, adoption, or a serious health condition. Employees are eligible for FMLA leave if they have been employed by SPS for at least one year and have worked 1,250 hours or more in the most recent 12 months.

    FMLA leave can be paid leave or unpaid leave. In either case, the District would continue its contribution for your benefits for up to 12 weeks. If you already pay part of your premiums through payroll deduction, your share of the monthly premiums would have to continue as well. You will need to pay your monthly share by writing a check to Seattle Public Schools within 30 days of each normal pay date. You will receive a letter with payment instructions. If you do not pay your share of the premium, and your next regular check is not sufficient to cover two months of premium, your coverage will be cancelled.

    What Happens to My Benefits if My Leave is Paid?
    A “paid leave” occurs when you continue to get paid while on leave, or through the use of paid vacation, sick time, or donated leave. As long as you are still being paid while on a District‐approved leave and are enrolled for benefits when the leave began, a District contribution toward the cost of your employee benefits would continue. In addition, if you shared in the cost of your benefits through a payroll deduction, your deduction for your benefits would continue as well.

    What Happens to My Benefits When My Paid Leave Ends (Unpaid Leave)?
    If your pay ends while you are still on leave, your status would change to “unpaid leave.” District contributions for benefits generally would end as well. (There are some exceptions to this rule – See FMLA.) If this happened, you would then be given the opportunity to pay the entire premium yourself, on a “self‐pay” basis. In addition, if your last paycheck is not sufficient to cover your share of the premium, you will need to pay your share by writing a check to Seattle Public Schools within 30 days of your normal pay date in order to keep your coverage for that month.

    When Do District Contributions for Benefits End?
    If your unpaid leave status begins on or before the 15th of the month, District contributions end at the end of that same month; if your unpaid leave status begins after the 15th of the month, District contributions end at the end of the following month. When District contributions for benefits end, you will have to pay the entire monthly cost yourself to maintain your coverage.

    When District contributions for your benefits end, you will receive a letter offering you the opportunity to self-pay your benefits. You can continue your benefits by self‐paying the full premium for as long as your approved leave continues, but no longer than one year. After the self‐pay period, COBRA coverage begins. The COBRA period is usually 18 months, but can be longer. Under COBRA, you would pay the entire premium yourself, plus a 2% administrative charge.

    What Should I Do When I Return From Leave
    If you received District contributions for benefits throughout your leave, you will not need to do anything about your benefits when you return. However, if you have been on self‐pay or COBRA, or if you have allowed your benefits to lapse, you must complete a new Enrollment Form and submit it to Human Resources within 30 days of your return to work, to reinstate your coverage as an active employee.

    If you return to work on or before the 15th of the month and your paperwork is received by Human Resources on or by the 20th day of that month, your coverage will begin on the first of the following month. However, if your return‐to‐work date is after the 15th of the month or your paperwork is received after the 20th of the month, your coverage will begin on the first day of the month following one full calendar month after your return to work. If you do not re‐enroll within 30 days of your return to work, you will have to wait until the next open enrollment period, which could mean you would have no medical coverage for several months.

    Where Do I Find the Enrollment and Change Form?
    These forms can be located online by going to the Benefits Website at, password: “sps”. Find the “Forms” link on the left.

    More Questions?
    This is just a brief discussion of how the cost of benefits is paid during a leave of absence and applies only to the practices in effect on the date of publication. Full information is available by calling your Leave Administrator.