Overview and Purpose:
Berkeley Lab is establishing a temporary COVID-19 Emergency Leave Donation Program to enable Lab employees to assist fellow colleagues who are in need of additional leave for absences related to COVID-19 circumstances. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) provides guidance under Notice 2006-59 for employers to establish leave sharing programs due to a major disaster as declared by the President in accordance with the Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act (Stafford Act). With COVID-19 declared as a major disaster by the President on March 13, 2020, this temporary program provides a resource for leave sharing to assist employees adversely impacted by the COVID-19 disaster as outlined below. This program will remain in effect until the COVID-19 pandemic is no longer declared a major disaster.
Under the COVID-19 Emergency Leave Donation program, Berkeley Lab employees are able to donate accrued vacation hours to a leave sharing bank to be distributed among eligible fellow Berkeley Lab employees who do not have sufficient leave balances to cover their absences during a pay period. Donations are not made to a specific individual.
This program is administered by the Integrated Disability and Absence Management (IDAM) team. The IDAM team members are responsible for guarding the privacy of emergency leave donors and recipients. Communications with either group will be kept confidential and utilized only to administer this program. No information will be revealed to anyone (including to a recipient who wishes to thank donors) who does not have a need to know or to anyone without the written and specific permission of the relevant program participants.
Major Disaster – “Major disaster” means any natural catastrophe, which in the determination of the President causes damage of sufficient severity and magnitude to warrant major disaster assistance under the Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act (Stafford Act) to supplement the efforts and available resources of States, local governments, and disaster relief organizations in alleviating the damage, loss, hardship, or suffering caused thereby.
Emergency Leave Donor – a current leave accruing employee who has made a voluntary written request to transfer a portion of their accrued vacation leave the Emergency Leave Donation bank for use by fellow employees in need.
Emergency Leave Recipient – a current leave accruing employee whose application to receive donated leave from the Emergency Leave Donation Program bank has been approved and transferred.
- Current Berkeley Lab vacation accruing employees with sufficient vacation leave may donate a portion of their accrued vacation leave to the Emergency Leave Donation bank. The hours donated to the bank will be distributed among eligible employees who are adversely impacted by the COVID-19 disaster. Donations cannot be made to a specific leave recipient.
- Donors must complete and submit a request form specifying the amount of vacation leave intended for donation. This request will be reviewed and processed by the Berkeley Lab Integrated Disability and Absence Management (IDAM) team. If approved, IDAM will coordinate with Payroll for the designated amount of vacation leave to be deducted from the donor’s balance and placed in the Emergency Leave Donation bank.
- Donations are irrevocable once they are applied to Berkeley Lab’s Emergency Leave Donation bank
- Per IRS guidelines, the amount of vacation leave donated may not exceed the maximum amount of leave normally accrued during a year.
- Only vacation leave already earned/accrued may be donated. The minimum donation amount is eight (8) hours. Donations above this amount must be in four (4) hour increments.
- The donating employee may donate any of their available amount of vacation credit but is encouraged not to deplete their own vacation accrual below 40 hours.
- Current Berkeley Lab vacation leave accruing employees may apply to receive hours from the Emergency Leave Donation bank if adversely affected by the COVID-19 disaster resulting in hardship that causes an absence from work.
- Prospective emergency leave donation recipients must complete and submit a request form to be reviewed and processed by the Integrated Disability and Absence Management (IDAM) team. If the request is approved based on the eligibility criteria, the recipient’s sick leave balance will be credited with the applicable amount of donated leave from the donation bank, for use to cover the COVID-19 related absence. The IDAM team will make a reasonable determination, based on the need, as to how much leave will be credited. If the request is denied, the requestor will be informed about the reason for denial.
- An emergency leave recipient may use donated leave for their own hardship or to assist an affected family member, provided that the individual has no reasonable access to other forms of assistance. When an employee applies for receiving emergency leave donations, LBNL may require the employee to provide documentation of their relationship to a family member.
- A leave recipient may receive donated leave from hours deposited in the leave bank paid based on the recipient’s regular rate of compensation.
- An emergency leave recipient may receive enough donated leave hours to cover unpaid time in the pay period. Recipients may receive up to a maximum of 240 hours of donated leave at any one time for the declared major disaster. Additional grants of donated leave may be evaluated and credited based on the IDAM team’s review and consideration of the employee’s continuing need.
- A leave recipient may not convert leave donations received into cash in lieu of using the leave. The donated leave hours must be used for absences caused by the COVID-19 disaster.
- An approved emergency leave recipient is not required to exhaust their accrued leave balances before receiving donated emergency leave. Any donated leave must be used only for purposes related to the COVID-19 disaster for which the emergency leave recipient was approved.
- Emergency leave credited to an approved recipient may be substituted retroactively (from March 22, 2020 when the President declared COVID-19 a major disaster for California) for any leave without pay used as a result of the COVID-19 disaster.
- Donated emergency leave cannot be cashed out.
- An emergency leave recipient using donated leave hours continues to accrue vacation and sick leave or PTO in accordance with existing policies as if the employee were in a regular paid status.
- An emergency leave recipient may not receive donated leave for any period that is covered by unemployment benefits or worker’s compensation.
- False statements or other misrepresentations made in connection with an employee’s application to be an emergency leave recipient may be cause for disqualification from the program and/or disciplinary action as well as any repayment of leave credited under a false premise.
Conclusion of Emergency
The leave donations related to the COVID-19 major disaster no longer apply at the earliest occurrence of one of the following conditions:
- The COVID-19 pandemic is no longer declared a major emergency;
- The leave recipient separates from employment;
- The leave recipient is no longer affected by the COVID-19 disasterUpon confirmation that the COVID-19 pandemic is no longer deemed a major disaster for the purposes of the Emergency Leave Donation Program:
- Any unused leave donated to the Emergency Leave Donation bank must be returned to the emergency leave donors who are current Berkeley Lab vacation leave accruing employees.
- The distribution of unused donated vacation leave returned to the donors will be determined by the IDAM team. The amount of unused vacation leave to be returned to each emergency leave donor will be proportional to the amount of leave donated. Donors who may have subsequently accrued additional leave and have reached their accrual cap, will not receive a return above the maximum cap.
- Any unused vacation leave remaining after the distribution will be subject to forfeiture;
- Vacation leave donated for a specific disaster may not be transferred to a different disaster situation.
In accordance with IRS Notice 2006-59:
- Leave donations are not considered or taxed income or wages for the emergency leave donor.
- Payments based on donated leave to the emergency leave recipient is taxed as wages for purposes of FICA, FUTA, and income tax withholding.
- Emergency leave donors may not claim an expense, charitable deduction, or loss deduction on account of their donation of leave.
Form to submit for donating or receiving leave: