FORT EDWARD — Washington County may soon offer a perk to the handful of longtime employees who never call in sick.
Supervisors agreed in committee to let those workers start a second sick bank because they’ve maxed out the number of days they’re allowed to save in their regular sick bank.
The new bank could only be used if the employees were sick for at least six consecutive workdays. They would be required to get a doctor’s note verifying the illness.
There are only a few employees — fewer than 10 — who have used sick days so rarely that they’ve maxed out the number of days they can save up.
Every year, those employees get more sick days but lose them on Dec. 31 because they can’t save more than 205 days. That encourages them to call in sick for a minor — or imaginary — illness, Treasurer Al Nolette said.
He proposed creating a second sick bank for each of them. While they would have plenty of sick days for any crisis, 175 of the days they’ve already saved up can be turned into service credit upon retirement, increasing their pensions. The county also pays out for 25 percent of the remaining days in that bank when the employee retires.
The new bank would let them cover a serious illness without giving up those pension-enhancing days.
It would also apply to some small illnesses, board Chairman and Argyle Supervisor Bob Henke said.
“You can get the flu for a week,” he said.
Without the second bank, employees near retirement might choose to come to work with the flu, warned Kingsbury Supervisor Dana Hogan.
“If they have the flu, we don’t want them here. We don’t want to deincentivize them from using their sick leave,” he said.
Nolette said he was more worried that an employee would save the maximum, have extra days that were going to be erased at the end of the year and just go on a sick leave vacation.
“And now I’m filling a shift, and if it’s the sheriff’s department, it’s probably someone on overtime,” Nolette said.
Committee members liked the idea of a secondary sick leave bank and will vote on it as a board next week.
Greenwich Supervisor Sara Idleman suggested going even farther.
She floated the idea of a shared bank, which any employee could donate sick days to, for other employees who have a severe illness.
“I think it’s something we need to look at,” she said, recalling how she needed major surgery three months into her first year as a teacher. She was out for two months and hadn’t had the chance to save up sick days yet.
Hartford Supervisor Dana Haff said it would be better to let employees donate time to a specific co-worker. An anonymous bank might give sick days to someone who was legitimately ill but had wasted sick days in the past, he said, noting that co-workers often know which employees use sick days as impromptu vacations.
“If your money goes to him, you’d be complaining at the water cooler,” Haff said. “I think one-to-one donations acts as its own safety net.”
The county approved one such donation in the past, he recalled, and suggested the supervisors formalize a policy allowing those donations.
Nolette said the county could set up such banks, though it wouldn’t be as easy as the one he proposed.
“It’s a little heavier administrative lift,” he said. “Now you’re talking about different pay grades. I wouldn’t be opposed to it.”
Neither idea has been formally proposed to the Board of Supervisors.