Sick leave transfer helps workers and families

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, April 4, 2006

There is nothing more earth shattering for a family than when a member of the family is stricken with a serious illness. When a disease such as cancer befalls a loved one, life is upended not only for the person who is ill, but for many others as well. Whether it is a parent, spouse, or child, there is nothing more difficult than watching a loved one suffer, and a family affected by a serious disease needs all the help they can get.

One of the most difficult aspects of a serious illness is the affect on the person’s employment. In response, the House of Representatives passed legislation in an attempt to combat this dilemma, and help state employees who have been stricken with a catastrophic illness.

When a state employee is diagnosed with a serious illness, they must apply for catastrophic sick leave. If approved by a departmental board, the person is eligible to receive sick leave that other employees donated. The concept of Catastrophic Sick Leave is similar to the convenience store “give a penny” jar: you give a little of what you haven’t used to help those who are sick and in serious need.

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Under the old law, a person could only receive sick leave from employees of an equal or lower pay grade. The new bill, sponsored by Democratic Represent-ative Laura Hall of Huntsville, will allow employees of an equal, lower, or higher pay grade to donate accrued and unused annual sick leave to another state employee who has qualified for catastrophic sick leave or maternity leave.

The bill also provides that the donated leave will be calculated on a hour for hour basis. More importantly, under the old law many departments tried to cap the number of hours that could be donated at 180; the Hall bill prohibits putting a limitation on the number of hours a state employee may donate. While many in the private sector have yet to adopt similar policies,Alabamawill become one of several states that have passed similar legislation. The federal government has a comparable policy as well.

The House recognized the importance of protectingAlabama’s state and education employees. The bill is helpful to those who have been affected by the unfortunate, and it is the right thing to do for our fellow Alabamians as evidenced by the unanimous 102-0 vote in the House.

Hopefully, the Catastrophic Sick Leave bill will pass the Senate and be signed by the Governor. By doing so, the Alabama Legislature can ensure that our state and education employees are protected in case the unfortunate does occur.

The idea of catastrophic sick leave gives us an opportunity to be reminded of the fact that April is “National Cancer Control Month.”

This year the American Cancer Society estimates that cancer will affect nearly 25,000 people inAlabamaalone. The ACS predicts that nearly 10,000 of those cases will prove fatal. However, the fatality rate is substantially lower than in the past, but early detection is the key to beating cancer nowadays.

For men, the easiest way for early detection is receiving a prostate exam every year and having a colonoscopy every three to five years. All women over the age of 40 should receive a preventative mammogram once a year, while women in their 20s and 30s should receive a breast examination at least once every three years.

During the month of April, the ACS has several events scheduled such as “daffodil days” and the Relay for Life. Whether you run in a relay or put a few pennies in a jar at the convenience store, do your part and get involved to raise cancer awareness this month. With your help, our state’s medical resources, and God’s blessing, we are going to keep fighting to eradicate cancer for good.