2019 Archive HR News

December 3, 2019

New eLearning

The statewide DES eLearning Unit is excited to announce the launch of FMLA for Supervisors. This course is part of the Leading Others series which meets WAC 357-34-055, the mandatory training requirement for new supervisors and managers. The new FMLA for Supervisors eLearning course has been added to the Leading Others curriculum for anyone who is currently enrolled in an upcoming course.

Learners who have already completed Leading Others, or an organization’s internal equivalent supervisor training, are not required, but are encouraged, to complete FMLA for Supervisors. The eLearning is about 15 minutes in length and has pertinent information for new supervisors and managers.

You can find FMLA for Supervisors in the LMS entitled: “WA-State Family Medical Leave Act for Supervisors”.

November 18, 2019

Paid Family and Medical Leave (PFML)

Dear Fellow State Employees,

Washington made history this year by becoming the fifth state in the nation to offer paid family and medical leave, or PFML benefits and arguably the most forward-thinking one in the nation. This benefit that starts January 2020 offers partially paid leave to care for yourself or a loved one in times of serious illness or injury; to bond with a new child joining your home through birth, adoption or foster placement; and for certain military-connected events if you have a family member in active duty service.

The PFML program is funded by premiums paid by both employees and employers and is administered by the Employment Security Department. Under the PFML program, the Employment Security Department will replace up to 90% of an eligible employee's typical weekly wage (up to $1,000 per week).

Next steps

Those who may need to take leave in 2020 and beyond may be wondering how the new PFML benefit will work in tandem with other leave benefits the state provides. The law was amended during the 2019 legislative session to allow an employer the ability to offer “supplemental benefits,” using resources such as an employee's accrued paid leave, which would be in addition to the PFML wage replacement benefit. The Office of Financial Management is evaluating what is feasible with current state organization payroll and human resource systems. We are mindful that you may be waiting for more information for planning a leave of absence, and will provide you that information as quickly and as completely as we can.

Important information

An employee is eligible for PFML benefits after working 820 hours for an employer in the state of Washington during the qualifying period. If there is insufficient information to verify the number of hours worked when determining eligibility ESD will verify that information with your employer

Beginning January 1, 2020, you may apply for PFML benefits through the ESD portal at https://www.paidleave.wa.gov/login.

After a waiting period of seven consecutive calendar days, benefits are payable when a family or medical leave is requested and approved. There is no required waiting period for leave for the birth or placement of a child.

The decision to take paid family or medical leave is your choice and your employer may not compel you to take your accrued paid leave in place of or before receiving the new PFML benefit.

If you know you will need to take leave for a foreseeable event, like the birth of a child or a planned surgery, you need to give your employer 30 days' notice in writing.

If you need to take leave for an unforeseeable event, like an accident or sudden illness, you need to tell your employer as soon as it is possible and practicable for you to do so. If you are unable to provide notice yourself, someone else can do so on your behalf. For example, if you're having emergency surgery, your spouse, parent, coworker or neighbor could call or send an email to your employer for you. However, if you could have given your employer at least 30 days' notice but chose not to, ESD may temporarily deny or delay your benefit payments.

Provide documentation to your employer showing your leave is approved by ESD and continue to follow the leave submission process.

To learn more about the PFML benefit, please visit the ESD PFML website at https://www.paidleave.wa.gov/workers. Here you will find an introductory video along with FAQs.

There is a handout about the new PFML benefit.

Thank you for your patience and understanding as we work to support our employees. If you have questions about current leaves of absence, email Ashley Huff, Leave Administrator, at ashley.huff@des.wa.gov

October 9, 2019

DES Payroll "Health Care Benefits Open Enrollment" Open House

Public Employees Benefit Board (PEBB) open enrollment is coming. Employees have the opportunity to make changes to their benefit for 2020 from November 1-30. Watch your mailbox for a copy of your open enrollment newsletter, which will be mailed mid-October.

To assist with open enrollment, DES Payroll is hosting an open house on Wednesday, November 6, at 1500 Jefferson St SE, Room 2320 from 12:00-4:00 p.m.

Stop by and learn about:

  • Whats new for 2020
  • Changes in coverage for 2020
  • Where to go to compare plans
  • 2020 monthly premiums
  • Where to find local benefits fairs
  • What types of changes can be made during open enrollment

For more information about the changes, visit PEBB Employee Changes 2020.

September 13, 2019

New EAP Brochures

Christopher and I have sent out packets to all of you with the new EAP Brochures. Please replace any older versions of the brochures you may have with the new version.

If your agency is participating in the contracted Work/Life Resources (legal assistance, financial counseling and an employee support website) you will have a code inside each brochure that will gain access to these enhanced resources by logging in to the Work/Life Resources page with the specific Organizational Code.

To determine ahead of time if your agency has contracted with EAP for Work/Life Resources and/or to obtain your organizational code if lost, please contact Christopher, myself, or EAP directly at 877-313-4455.

August 5, 2019

EAP Guidance on Supporting Employees after Active Shooter News

Because of the tragic news over the past week of multiple active-shooter incidents around the US, some of which included workplace violence, I want to send you ideas about how you can support employees who may be struggling. While these events that we see on the news may not have happened locally, the fear they instill may have an impact on employees mental health or ability to be fully present at work.

Here is a handout for distribution to employees—please share as you see fit. This one-page EAP handout is intended to put risk in perspective, normalize difficult reactions employees may experience, and remind them that support is available through Washington State EAP. If you would prefer to send a message directly from leadership, please feel free to use any wording from this handout in your communications.

Lastly, active shooter drills are becoming a common practice in response to news like we saw this week. I recommend that if you practice these drills, consider the following:

Distribute this handout before the drill so employees will have access to information about potential negative reactions and a resource for support.

Put the risk in context. Remind employees that while preparation for active shooter events may increase our chances of staying safe should an incident occur, in reality they are statistically very rare.

There is growing evidence as to the potential negative impacts of active shooter drills. Physical safety is a priority as is emotional safety. Aim to ensure that you do not increase distress and anxiety common in active shooter drills. Mimicking violence can leave some employees feeling fearful and anxious and can trigger strong emotions from past trauma or violence. Do not reenact gun sounds, dress like a shooter, or surprise employees with a drill.

Alert EAP to the date and time that a drill is taking place. We will have counselors available by phone if a distressed employee wants support on the day of the drill. EAP does not come onsite during drills—if triggered by the drill, employees usually prefer to speak with a counselor off-site as opposed to processing a traumatic trigger while in the office. This gives them more privacy and a little space away from the triggering event.

I hope this information is helpful. Please feel free to call EAP for consultation around this or any concern you have regarding workplace wellness and mental health. We are here to support you!

July 25, 2019

2021 - 2023 biennium Classification/Compensation Needs

In preparation for the 2021 – 2023 biennium, State HR is seeking input from small agencies about your agency needs. They have asked that we request the following information:

Does your agency have any classification and/or compensation needs that could be addressed through a classification and compensation proposal in accordance with the criteria outlined in RCW 41.06.152?

Examples of class and comp needs include job classification revisions and/or salary adjustments due to: recruitment or retention difficulties, salary compression or inversion, classification plan maintenance, higher-level duties/responsibilities, or inequities.

If you have represented staff, does your agency have specific language updates or challenges with current CBA language that you would like addressed in the next bargaining cycle?

If you answered yes to either question, or if you are unsure and would like to talk about whether or not your issues could potentially be addressed through either avenue above, please work with your assigned HR Business Partner to begin the next steps.

June 17, 2019

July 1 Range Increase and 3% General Wage Increases

I wanted to provide some more clarification regarding the range increase and 3% general wage increase that is coming on July 1, 2019. Our HR Specialists will calculate all of the 3% general wage increases along with the range increase salary amounts, if applicable, for all affected employees at your agency. They will send out a spreadsheet by July 22, 2019 for review. Please note, not all job classes are receiving a salary increase due to the range increase.

Actions from you:

If you have an employee(s) who are not supposed to receive the 3% general wage increase please provide a letter indicating this to the DES Small Agency inbox.

If you have an employee(s) who you want to receive more than the 3% general wage increase and/or range increase(s) please work with your assigned HR Business Partner to compile the necessary paperwork.

If you have any questions or concerns, please contact your assigned HR Business Partner.

June 14, 2019

Employee Assistance Program Rebranding

The Employee Assistance Program (EAP) is excited to introduce a new look and feel for the Washington State EAP.

The new branding reflects the foundation of the state EAP as a trusted source of help for employees to find solutions to life's problems. The new motto "Help Starts Here" reminds employees that they don't have to wait until work or life issues become overwhelming or turn into a crises. Using EAP is a prevention strategy for building resilience and promotion wellness and leads to a more engaged workforce.

Of course, a new logo is just the face of a program. What matters is the service their customers experience. EAP's commitment is to offer a broad range of support, delivered by caring, expert professionals in a timely, collaborative and culturally relevant manner. Their services offer practical help - guidance, tools and resources - to address both work and personal concerns.

The rebranding effort comes in response to customer feedback that EAP is a "hidden gem" and "a wonderful but underutilized program." Customers wanted EAP to promote the fact that their services are easily accessible and uniquely situated to provide objective, confidential support to staff and management.

The result is that EAP's new look and feel is human-centered and purposefully differs from DES's traditional government agency brand. Even though the identity for EAP stands apart, the program itself remains an integral part of DES's core lines of business.

May 21, 2019

State Employee Suicide Prevention Website

We live in a unique time where the word "suicide" has become quite common. This is not a comfortable word and it makes us feel uneasy. For some, it's a very sad word.

Over the past year, a number of individuals have been involved with an interagency work group headed by our state's Employee Assistance Program (EAP). The work group's first outcome is the recent release of the new state employee suicide prevention website: eap.wa.gov/suicideprevention.

The purpose of the website is to create more awareness. With increase awareness comes additional confidence about what to do.

The website has six main sections:

Get Help Now
Help a Love One
Help a Coworker
Manager and HR Resources
If You Have Lost Someone to Suicide
Understanding Suicide

The new website is a beginning- it will grow and improve over time. Additional resources will be released in the future.

If you have any questions or concerns, please contact your assigned HR Business Partner.

May 6, 2019

Non-Represented Shared Leave FAQ for Pregnancy Disability and Parental Reasons

The purpose of this is to inform you that the non-represented Shared Leave FAQ for Pregnancy Disability and Parental Reasons has been finalized. The FAQ is posted on the State HR Rules website.

As you may recall, ESHB 1434 was passed during the 2018 legislature session (Chapter 39, 2018 Laws). This bill amended existing shared leave laws to allow an agency head to permit an employee to receive leave, under the state leave sharing program if the employee needs the time for parental leave or is sick or temporarily disabled because of pregnancy disability.

If you have any questions or concerns, please contact your assigned HR Business Partner.

April 1, 2019

Updated interpretation to WAC 357-31-325(1)

The purpose of this is to provide an updated interpretation to WAC 357-31-325(1) which addresses when an employer must grant leave with pay for an employee to receive an assessment from the Employee Assistance Program.

In the past, State HR's interpretation was that leave with pay must be granted for one visit. However, State HR recently received guidance from EAP stating it is their professional opinion (and their program's practice) that it may take up to three individual counseling sessions to provide Assessment Services to an employee. The "EAP Assessment" is described as "an opportunity to meet with a counselor to assess concerns, develop an action plan, and provide resources." EAP's guidance can be found on their webpage. EAP also lets their clients know that Assessment Services can take one to three sessions, but with the caveat that "Agency policies, Labor Agreements, and non-represented employee rules may vary about accounting for time away from the workplace, so check with human resource office or labor representative," and ultimately defer employees back to the agency or institution.

If you have questions or concerns, please email your assigned HR Business Partner.

February 1, 2019

Special Open Enrollment for Long Term Disability (LTD)

All state employees have, or shortly will be, receiving notification via mail regarding a special open enrollment for long term disability (LTD). This is a one-time open enrollment opportunity from March 1, 2019 through March 31, 2019. During this time, PEBB subscribers can enroll in Optional LTD or decrease/increase their waiting period without providing evidence of insurability. If employees are interested in taking advantage of this one-time opportunity, have them be on the lookout for the Long-Term Disability One-time Open Enrollment/Change Form that will be made available March 1 on the HCA website.

There are also a few other changes coming to LTD in 2019. There will no longer be a 30-day or a 60-day waiting period. Anyone who currently has these waiting periods must switch to a 90-day waiting period or longer by December 31, 2019. The shorter waiting periods are being replaced by the Paid Family and Medical Leave program.

For any additional questions, please reach out to our benefits specialist Whitney Brabant at whitney.brabant@des.wa.gov or 360-407-8036 or the PEBB program directly at 800-200-1004.