Forum delegate Ronda Manuel recently went with her daughter’s entire second grade class to the North Carolina Zoo–and got paid by UNC to do it!

Manuel was able to spend this important (and fun!) time with her daughter by using the Community Service Leave (CSL) benefit. Community Service Leave “is a paid time off program to participate in the educational process of children through the high school level and to support other community service volunteer activities for non-profit organizations.” Because the “University recognizes the importance of community involvement and encourages employees to participate in volunteer activities,” CSL “provid[es] flexibility in work schedules and paid leave opportunities,” enabling employees to take time during normal work hours to contribute to educational institutions and give back to their communities.

Working with her supervisor, Manuel scheduled her CSL to accommodate her job responsibilities. She said, “I am grateful for the opportunity to use to serve as a chaperone for my daughter’s field trip to the NC Zoo. Not only did I get the chance to give back to my daughter’s school, but I also made lasting memories with my child and her classmates.” In this instance, CSL allowed Manuel to balance her family commitments while also supporting UNC’s mission of public service.

Brandy Flickinger, leave administration manager in the Office of Human Resources, presented information about CSL at the May 4 Employee Forum meeting. CSL comes in three options. Option A, which Manuel used, grants employees up to 24 hours of paid leave in one calendar year to take part in their child’s education (e.g., meet with a teacher or attend a school-sponsored event—not including athletics) or to volunteer with a recognized community service organization. Option B allows eligible employees up to 36 hours of paid leave per calendar year (1 hour/week while school is in session) to volunteer as a mentor or tutor with a formal, standardized program. Option C grants employees up to 45 hours of paid leave per calendar year to volunteer in a literacy program through a public school. There are additional types of community service leave such as Disaster Recovery and Emergency Services and Organ Donorship leave that may allow for more hours of paid leave under certain conditions. If you are interested in taking CSL, you should discuss the options with your supervisor.

Flickinger’s presentation included five frequently asked questions about CSL, which she’s shared here:

Q: Can I use CSL for volunteer service outside of NC?
A: No, service must be provided within the state of North Carolina and must benefit the citizens of North Carolina. Employees can use approved vacation leave. The exception is for Disaster Recovery and Emergency Services [http://hr.unc.edu/policies-procedures-systems/epa-non-faculty-employee-policies/leave/community-service-leave/#Disaster_Recovery_and_Emergency_Services], but there are very specific conditions for eligibility.

Q: Can I use CSL for on-site visits to colleges with my child?
A: No. The “child involvement” provision of the policy is limited to child day care, elementary school, middle school or high school involvement. A parent cannot, for example, use community service leave for on-site visits to colleges for the purpose of selecting a college, or to attend college orientations or assist with moving the child in and out of the on-campus housing, or for attendance at college graduations.

Q: Is service for a fundraising event eligible for CSL?
A: It depends. Playing in a golf tournament, such as the UNC Staff Assembly Chancellor’s Cup Golf Tournament [http://uncchancellorscup.com/] which raises money for the Janet B. Royster Memorial Staff Scholarship Fund, would not be eligible for CSL. However, setting up tents, handling parking and registration, or serving at the food tent at the fundraising golf event would be considered a volunteer activity and would be eligible for CSL.

Q: Can I use CSL to vote?
A: No. Employees may not use work time for voting. Bbecause polls are open for 12 hours or more on Election Day, employees are to vote on their own time either before or after their regular work schedule. Management does have discretion to allow flexible work scheduling to accommodate voting employees or to allow the employee to use vacation leave, bonus leave or other accrued paid time off for the absence.

Q: Must I use CSL to participate in UNC’s campus blood drive?
A: No! As an exception to the CSL policy, participating in the semiannual University-wide blood drives as either a donor or volunteer counts as work time for both permanent and temporary employees. (Participation does require prior approval, though.) Donating or volunteering other times, whether during another on-campus blood drive or at a Red Cross Center, is eligible for CSL (again, with prior approval by your supervisor).

Using CSL is a great way to balance your work responsibilities and your other interests and commitments. It gives you a way to contribute to your child’s education or to participate in other volunteer activities that are important to you. Do you volunteer at a (recognized 501(c)(3) non-profit) animal shelter or coach your child’s robotics team? Would you like to take part in a Habitat for Humanity build day? Participating in the bi-annual Carolina Blood Drives counts as regular work time, but giving blood or volunteering to help with other blood drives, on or off campus, are both are eligible for CSL hours!

For questions about what can count for CSL, contact the Leave Administration team (leave@unc.edu/ 919.843.2300).

Story contributed by Kelli Raker and Clare Counihan. Photograph courtesy of Ronda Manuel.

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