Tribune Publishing implements Discretionary Time Off (DTO) policy for salaried employees

Tribune Publishing says its new Discretionary Time Off (DTO) policy “eliminates a fixed number of paid time off days and instead gives employees, subject to the professional judgment and approval of their supervisor, the freedom to decide when and for how long to take time off.” DTO goals: Reduce employee burnout and create better work-life balance.

Tribune Publishing memo:

From: Internal Communications
Sent: Thursday, November 13, 2014 3:07 PM
Subject: New Discretionary Time Off Policy

Supervisors,

Tomorrow afternoon we will be introducing a new Discretionary Time Off (DTO) policy for all exempt (salaried) non-union employees that will become effective January 1, 2015.TRIB DTO is designed to create a flexible workplace for better work-life balance, encourage employee productivity and creativity and reduce employee burnout and administrative tasks associated with tracking time off. In general this new policy eliminates a fixed number of paid time off days and instead gives employees, subject to the professional judgment and approval of their supervisor, the freedom to decide when and for how long to take time off.

The success of the policy is dependent on open communication between supervisors and employees. Supervisors are expected to allow their employees to take reasonable time off to recharge and attend to personal matters outside of the office. Abuse of this policy by either supervisors not allowing for time off or employees taking too much time and not attending to their work responsibilities will be managed through performance./CONTINUES

As a supervisor of salaried employees, you should review the attached policy and Q&A and be prepared to address any questions your employees may have. As you manage to this policy, it is our expectation that you:

· Approve/disapprove all requests in fair and consistent manner;
· Set and manage clear expectations for yourselves and your employees;
· Plan ahead for projects that may be impacted by team members taking time off;
· Have tough conversations and let your employees know they can’t take time off because it will impede on their teams’ efforts and ability to complete tasks at hand;
· Limit requiring an employee to check in while taking time off in order to let them recharge and renew, and
· Monitor results on a regular basis to ensure your teams are performing in line with business expectations.

The attached Q&A discusses how DTO interacts with our newly enhanced short-term disability plan and other leaves of absences. In anticipation of the introduction of this policy, we wanted to provide you with a copy of the policy in advance so that you can begin to fully understand what this means to you and your employees.

While we believe this policy is pretty straightforward and easy to understand, we know you may have questions. If that is the case, please take the opportunity to engage your assigned HR generalist on this topic.

Thanks.

Objectives
A performance-driven culture is one where results are rewarded. Therefore, rather than allotting a specific number of vacation or paid time off days annually, exempt employees will take the amount of paid time they need for purposes such as vacation, travel, and non-extended illness or injury, subject to their professional judgment and to the performance expectations of their supervisor that apply to their job. The spirit of this policy is that exempt employees are paid for the work they do; not the hours they spent doing it.
Key Provisions
* No formal vacation or time off policy
* No set amounts awarded to employees
* Compensation is not reduced (i.e. employees are not “docked”)
* No accrual; nothing paid on termination
* No set maximums

Process
1. Employees should use discretion in choosing days off to achieve appropriate work/life balance consistent with their professional obligations.
2. Supervisors must approve all time off and monitor performance to ensure that all job responsibilities are satisfied.
3. Employees must notify those who need to know about the timing and duration of any time off.
4. If an employee leaves prior to current, existing accruals being exhausted, the accrual will be paid at termination. 5. Employees should still request time off through the current online request process.

Reduction of Current, Existing Accrual
* All remaining unused vacation time earned or accrued under any former Tribune policy will be applied to employee absences until the accrual has been exhausted.
* Because days off are expected to be tracked, records will be monitored at the individual level. Employees will be expected to take time off and supervisors will be expected to reasonably approve time off, subject to their professional judgment.
* Failure to report time off will be considered a performance issue and subject to corrective action for both the employee and supervisor (i.e. it will be assumed that the supervisor has not permitted the employee to take time off).
Coordination with Other Types of Time Off
* Routine time off of work for purposes of:
– Vacation/relaxation/personal needs
– Floating holidays
– Routine family needs
– Non-extended illness or injury (similar to how sick days were used in the past)
– Bereavement leave
– Jury duty

* Does not apply to absences that may be covered under:
– Family Medical Leave Act or similar state laws
– Short-Term Disability
– Worker’s Compensation
– Military Leave
– Defined company holidays Employees who are absent without prior approval for more than five consecutive days will be required to apply for a leave of absence which may include STD and/or FMLA provisions and will be placed on an unpaid leave pending approval of FMLA

Eligibility
* All regular full-time, non-union exempt employees

FAQ

Discretionary Paid Time-Off (DTO) for Exempt (Salaried) Employees General Questions and Answers

1. Why this change? Why now?
At Tribune Publishing, we need to focus on the value people add while at work and not on procedures that limit their creativity or potential. A performance-driven culture rewards results. So, rather than allotting a specific number of vacation or PTO days annually, we will permit exempt employees to take the amount of time off they need for purposes such as vacation, travel, and non-extended illness or injury, subject to the professional judgment and to the performance expectations of their supervisor. Those performance expectations include providing high-quality content and value for our readers and advertisers, meeting business needs and contributing to the overall success of our company.

2. Is there a set minimum or maximum under the policy?
No. In an effort to build a workplace where people are treated as responsible, trustworthy adults who are measured by their performance, there is no set minimum or maximum amount of time that can be taken in a given year. No Company employee is authorized to make any representations or commitments to an employee that is contrary to this policy. NOTE: Although the policy allows generally for unlimited time off, please see question #9 for how this policy applies to Leave of Absences.

3. How do I request DTO?
You must seek your supervisor’s approval before taking time off with as much advance notice as possible. Preplanned absences should be scheduled at least two weeks in advance whenever possible. Supervisors will grant approval for absences on a business need basis, will not unreasonably deny any requests and will provide you with a reason if they do have to deny your request. Approved time off MUST be tracked through the online time-off system (via Workday).

4. What is considered inappropriate use of this policy?
There are two kinds of offenders to this policy: those who take too much time and those who don’t take enough. This policy doesn’t allow employees to simply “not show up” without first contacting their supervisor. But, we also want to make sure that all employees are taking the time off that they need to renew and recharge for the road ahead. Simply put, the success of this policy will come from the communication that takes place between employees, team members and their supervisors. Chronic tardiness, patterns of unapproved absences, or failure to meet performance expectations will still be managed as a performance issue.

5. As a supervisor, what’s expected of me with regard to this policy?
The success of this policy depends upon our ability as leaders to lead people. In other words, it requires a great deal of trust, responsibility, accountability and communication. Here are some items for supervisors to consider as the policy is rolled out:
• Supervisors will need to set and manage clear expectations for themselves and their employees.
• Supervisors will have to plan ahead for projects that may be impacted by team members taking time off.
• Supervisors may need to have tough conversations and let their employees know when they can’t take time off because it will impede on their teams’ efforts and ability to complete tasks at hand.
• Supervisors should monitor their employee’s time off and encourage employees to take time off. Supervisors should limit requiring an employee to “check in” while taking time off in order to let them recharge and renew.
• Supervisors will have to monitor outcomes on a regular basis to ensure their teams are performing in line with business expectations.

6. As an employee, what’s expected of me with regards to this policy?
The success of this policy requires a great deal of trust, responsibility, accountability and communication. Here are some items for you as an employee to consider when requesting time off:
• You will need to understand your supervisor’s expectations for your performance. • You may not be allowed to take time off when there are key deadlines or projects due for
which your work is critical.
• Your supervisor may not be able to accommodate every request for time off or may ask
you to check in from time-to-time while you are on time off (though supervisors should
try to limit those check-ins).
• You are accountable for managing your own performance. Therefore, it’s your
responsibility to have an open discussion with your supervisor about your time off and its
impact on your performance.
• As always, future career opportunities are assessed based on your performance and
potential.

7. What happens to banked “Disability Days” previously available for use with Short Term Disability?
As part of the new Short Term Disability Policy, which provides eligible employees with more generous coverage, banked “Disability Days” will no longer continue.

8. Can DTO be used to supplement unpaid FMLA or reduced Short Term Disability pay?
DTO is intended for routine time off and not for extended illness or injury. It is not intended to replace leaves of absence under the Family Medical Leave Act. As such, if you are absent from work for sickness or injury for a period of time greater than five (5) consecutive working days, you are required to apply for approval under the Short-Term Disability and/or FMLA policy and will be placed on an unpaid leave of absence pending certification and approval of FMLA.

Since Discretionary Time Off is intended for routine time off, you may not use it to supplement a reduced Short Term Disability period. Keep in mind, however, that the Short Term Disability policy was changed to pay at 100% of pay for up to four weeks.

9. Will I be denied a DTO request if I’m not meeting my goals?
Being on a performance improvement plan or other corrective action does not, in of itself, prevent you from taking time off. You must, however, have your supervisor’s approval and be able to satisfy all of your professional obligations in a timely manner. If your time off does not allow you to satisfy those professional obligations in a timely manner, you may be subject to corrective action up to and including termination of your employment.

10. If I leave the company will I be paid out unused DTO?
Since there are no formally designated “paid time off” days and the policy is generally unlimited, there is no need to accrue for vacation days and, consequently, nothing to pay out upon your leaving the company. If you work in California, any accrual you have as of 12/31/14 will be applied to your absences until the accrual has been exhausted. It is expected that you take time off each year, so we further expect to see your accrual decrease over time. If you work in California and you leave the company before your accrual has been exhausted, you will be paid out your accrued but unused vacation.


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