Leave of Absence Administrators

February 11, 2016
Picture of Lemons

When life gives you lemons...or babies!

Picture of Lynn Bimmler and Patti Andrews Lynn Bimmler, Patti Andrews

Leave of absence specialists Lynn Bimmler and Patti Andrews

Harvard offers many types of leaves of absence to assist employees in managing everything from the arrival of a new baby to military service. Lynne Bimmler, Leaves Specialist and Patti Andrews, Leaves Administrator, Harvard Campus Services, assist employees within Central Administration with navigating the Leave of Absence process.

What do you do?

Lynne Bimmler: I educate employees and managers throughout Central Administration on Harvard’s leave of absence policies and benefits, work with staff if they decide to take a leave, and assist with their return to work. Because I specialize in dealing with leaves, I can answer questions from employees and managers on Harvard benefits and policies, federal and state regulations, and the overlap between all of these.

Patti Andrews: I do the same, focusing on employees who work in Campus Services - ensure that Harvard is compliant with regard to leaves, while striving to service the employee community with dignity during what can sometimes be a difficult period.

What is the most challenging about your work?

Lynne: Supporting someone who may be just coming to terms with a very serious or terminal illness for themselves or someone in their family and trying to put them in touch with all the right resources without overwhelming them. There are tremendous resources available through our Employee Assistance Program to counsel employees in coming to grips with a diagnosis, to direct them to legal and financial counselors, and to develop in home care referrals if necessary.

Many people want to come to work and hope the medical condition will take care of itself. If they do this, employees may use paid time they didn’t have to use or lose out on potential benefits and end up in a stressful situation.

Patti: Getting employees to understand that we’re here to help. And, when relevant, getting people to come to us before job performance may be impacted by a health issue.

What don’t people know about what you do?

Patti: There is a process to help people continue to work. There are accommodations and we work alongside University Disability Services to help people. Sometimes people don’t call us because they don’t want to go on leave – they take pride in being well and don’t want to be perceived as being ill or disabled – but they don’t have to do that. We’re here to help them take maximum advantage of their benefits, including staying on the job.

Lynne: Many people also don’t understand that they do not need to disclose to Harvard details of their illness in order to have a medical leave approved. Most medical leaves are reviewed and approved by an outside company, The Standard Insurance Company. Employees therefore only need to let their supervisor know that they may have a serious illness and we can guide them through the process while keeping managers and payroll up to date. In this way, all medical information is kept confidential for all Harvard employees.

It’s also important to understand what benefits are available. I conduct a monthly seminar: Welcoming a Baby, Thinking of Adopting, New to Child Care. This is a lunchtime program open to all CADM staff who are considering these things. We review all the benefits and options, not just the leaves process and pay entitlement.

What are your professional backgrounds?

Patti: I joined Harvard with 15 years of experience working in an academic a hospital in risk management and human resources , developing a strong understanding of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). This work takes a variety of skills.

Lynne: I transferred to Central Administration in 2014 from the Harvard Longwood Campus, where I was performing the same Leave of Absence Specialist function. I also worked in technical sales and support for a telecommunications company and spent three years as a middle school math teacher.

What does your best day look like?

Patti: A win-win situation, such as when an employee successfully returns to work. You’re making a department whole again while helping the employee and helping the University run smoothly.

What do you like best about your work?

Lynne: Hands down – when I get a new baby announcement that includes baby photos!

Patti: Feeling that we’re helping an employee through a difficult time or a transition, good or difficult.