Employee benefits

Bluffton University strives to provide a comprehensive and competitive benefit package for its employees. Periodically, Bluffton reviews its benefits program and reserves the right, at its discretion, to make modifications in benefits as appropriate to employment trends and the university's interests. All benefits offered by Bluffton University are subject to applicable laws and plan contracts.

Bluffton provides a minimum of 11 paid holidays each year for regular full-time staff employees. Such employees receive their regular pay during the following Bluffton holidays:

  • Good Friday
  • Memorial Day
  • Independence Day
  • Thanksgiving (2 days)
  • Christmas Eve Day through New Year's Day (dates may vary in some years)

Because Labor Day occurs so close to the start of fall classes, that public holiday is not a Bluffton University holiday. The week off between Christmas and New Year's Day, a period when classes are not in session, is intended to include compensation for that missed holiday. For other public holidays that fall on a weekend, the university will substitute a weekday as the recognized day off. The actual days of holiday observance will be determined on an annual basis and announced to all personnel.

Additional holiday policies:
See Work on Holidays above for special pay provisions for hourly employees who are required to work during holidays to maintain essential services.

  • Regular part-time staff employees working at least half-time or more are eligible for holiday pay if the holiday falls on their regularly scheduled work day.

  • Regular salaried part-time employees (half-time or more) who do not typically work on days designated as holidays should, in consultation with their supervisor, adjust their work schedule to receive a pro-rated amount of paid time off during the week of the holiday.

  • Holiday pay does not apply for holidays occurring during an unpaid leave of absence.

Regular full-time staff employees are eligible for paid vacation. Regular part-time staff employees working a minimum of 20 hours per week are also eligible for paid vacation on a pro-rated basis. Annual vacation days are earned and accounted for during each 12 month period running from January 1 through December 31. First year vacation time is pro-rated according to the starting date.

Salaried full-time staff receive 15 days (120 hours) of vacation time annually through their first ten years of service. After their tenth anniversary of regular employment, employees receive 20 days of paid vacation time for the year beginning the following January 1.

Hourly full-time staff receive vacation time according to the following formula beginning in January following completion of an employment anniversary:

Years 1-10 


Ten days per year, equivalent to 80 paid vacation hours for full-time staff
(pro-rated for part-time staff)

Years 11-15


Fifteen days per year, equivalent to 120 paid vacation hours for full-time employees

(pro-rated for part-time employees)

Years 16+


Twenty days per year, equivalent to 160 paid vacation hours for full-time employees

(pro-rated for part-time employees)

For the purpose of determining years of service for vacation eligibility, employees who work more than six months during their first year will have that period count as a full year of service.

Additional vacation policies:
Vacation provisions as specified above do not apply to regular or adjunct teaching faculty.

  • It is Bluffton's intent for employees to be able to use their personal vacation time as they desire, but vacations cannot unduly interfere with an employee's department's operation. For that reason, vacation must be approved by the employee's supervisor at least two weeks in advance. If more than one employee within a department request the same vacation dates, preference (if necessary) will typically be given to the employee with the longest length of continuous service.

  • Non-exempt (hourly) employees may take vacation time in hourly increments. Exempt (salaried) employees who are away from the office for at least a half day for personal reasons must request and report that time as vacation. Requests will normally be granted as long as the absence will not seriously affect Bluffton University's operations.

  • Accrued vacation may not be taken as a cash benefit, except when leaving employment or transferring to a less than .5 FTE position. Vacation time cannot be donated to other employees.

Sick Leave policy (update Feb 1, 2017)

Regular full-time and regular part-time employees (on a pro-rated basis) are eligible for paid sick leave, which is intended to protect the employee from loss of income in the event of illness.  Sick leave hours begin accruing on the employee’s hire date at the rate of one day (eight sick leave hours) each month, or a total of 12 days (96 sick leave hours) accrued per year.  These numbers are pro-rated for regular part-time employees.

  • Employees who must be absent from work because of a personal illness, medical appointments, or to care for ill members of their immediate families, may use accrued sick leave.  For purposes of this policy, immediate family includes:
    • Spouse - a lawfully married spouse of the employee.
    • Child - a biological, adoptive, step, foster child or legal ward of the employee.
    • Parent - a biological, adoptive or step parent of the employee.(Parent does not typically include parent-in-law. Employees may submit a request for exception to the Director of Human Resources.)

    • Non-exempt (hourly) employees may use sick leave in units of no less than 15 minutes at a time.  Supervisors should be informed of the need to take sick leave as far in advance as possible.  Normally, only accrued sick leave may be taken.
    • Exempt (salaried) employees who are absent from work for more than four consecutive hours due to personal or family illness, or for medical/dental appointments, are required to deduct those hours or days from the employee’s accrued sick leave bank.
    • Bluffton University may, in its sole and absolute discretion, require a doctor's certificate verifying the necessity of sick leave absence for specific illness, injury, or other disability to which the absence is attributed.
    • Sick leave will continue to accrue during approved paid leaves of absence of less than 90 days.  In the event of illness or injury which is covered by workers' compensation insurance, state workers’ compensation laws will apply, and in addition, eligible employees will continue to accrue paid sick leave.
    • Unused sick leave may be carried over and accumulated from year to year, up to a maximum of 120 days or 960 hours (pro-rated for part-time employees).  At the time of termination of employment, any unused sick leave will not be paid.

Other paid leaves
Personal day. Regular full-time staff employees earn eight hours of paid personal time per year to be used at their discretion. Regular part-time staff employees earn paid personal time on a pro-rated basis.

Funeral (bereavement) leave. Up to three working days of leave with pay (not charged to other leave time) will be granted to regular employees upon request to make arrangements for and attend funeral services of the employee's spouse, child, parent, parent-in-law, grandparent, grandparent-in-law, granddaughter, grandson, daughter-in-law, son-in-law, step-parent, brother, sister, brother-in-law, sister-in-law, stepchild, and any relative living in the household of the employee.

Funeral/bereavement leave pay will only apply for actual work missed; for example, if the funeral occurs on a day when an employee was not scheduled to work, funeral leave pay would not apply for that day. With supervisor approval, employees may take up to one full day without pay to attend funerals of other relatives and friends. If preferred, unused personal leave or vacation time may be used for this purpose.

Jury duty. Employees who are selected for jury duty must notify their supervisor as soon as possible. Bluffton will grant the necessary time off and help employees minimize financial loss because of such service. Bluffton University will reimburse an employee for the difference between jury pay and the employee's regular pay, not to exceed eight hours per day. Jurists who are not required to serve for a period of a half day or longer during this time are expected to return to work. In order to receive jury duty pay, an employee must present a statement of jury service and pay to the employee's supervisor. This document is issued by the court. 

Unpaid leaves
Family and Medical Leave Act
Eligible employees may take up to 12 weeks of unpaid FMLA leave in a rolling calendar year for the following conditions:

1. Incapacity due to pregnancy, prenatal medical care or child birth;

2. To care for the employee's child after birth, or placement for adoption or foster care;

3. To care for the employee's spouse, son, daughter, or parent who has a serious health condition; or

4. For a serious health condition that makes the employee unable to perform the employee's job.

Eligible employees with a spouse, son, daughter, or parent on active duty or call to active duty status in the regular Armed Forces, National Guard or Reserves in support of a contingency operation may also use their 12-week leave entitlement to address certain qualifying exigencies. Examples of a qualifying exigency include attending military events, arranging for alternative childcare, addressing financial and legal arrangements, and attending certain counseling sessions and post-deployment reintegration briefings.

FMLA-eligible employees may take up to 26 weeks of leave to care for a covered service member during a single 12-month period. A covered service member is a veteran or current member of the Armed Forces, including the National Guard or Reserves, who has a serious injury or illness incurred in the line of duty on active duty that may render the service member medically unfit to perform his or her duties for which the service member is undergoing medical treatment, recuperation, or therapy; or is in outpatient status; or is on the temporary disability retired list. An eligible employee is entitled to a combined total of 26 weeks of leave to care for a service member and any other type of FMLA leave.

An FMLA-eligible employee is one who has at least 12 months of service with Bluffton and has worked at least 1,250 hours for Bluffton during the 12 months preceding leave.

A serious health condition is an illness, injury, impairment or physical or mental condition that involves either an overnight stay in a medical care facility or continuing treatment by a health care provider for a condition that either prevents the employee from performing the functions of the employee's job, or prevents the qualified family member from participating in school or other daily activities. Ordinarily, unless complications arise, the common cold, the flu, earaches, upset stomach, minor ulcers, headaches other than migraine, routine dental or orthodontia problems, periodontal disease, etc. are examples of conditions that are not serious health conditions and do not qualify for FMLA leave.

Subject to certain conditions, the continuing treatment requirement may be met by a period of incapacity of more than 3 consecutive calendar days combined with at least two visits to a health care provide or one visit and a regiment of continuing treatment, or incapacity due to pregnancy or incapacity due to a chronic condition. Other conditions may meet the definition of continuing treatment.

Employees must provide 30 days advance of the need to take FMLA when the need for leave is foreseeable. When 30 days notice is not possible, the employee must provide notice as soon as practicable and generally must comply with the Bluffton's normal call-in procedures.

Employees must provide sufficient information for Bluffton to determine if the leave may qualify for FMLA protection and the anticipated timing and duration of the leave. Sufficient information may include that the employee is unable to perform the job functions, the family member is unable to perform daily activities, the need for hospitalization or continuing treatment by a health care provider or circumstances supporting the need for military family leave. Employees also must inform Bluffton if an absence or requested leave is for a reason for which FMLA leave was previously taken or certified.

If leave is due to a serious health condition the employee must provide Bluffton with a completed Certification of Health Care Provider within 15 days of receiving the blank certification form. If the employee fails to do so, the employee may lose any entitlement he or she may have to FMLA leave for the absence. Recertification may be required and, if leave is due to the employee's illness, the employee must provide a fitness-for-duty certificate prior to returning to work.

Leave may be taken on an intermittent or reduced schedule basis if it is medically necessary, approved by Bluffton or taken due to a qualifying exigency. Employees must make reasonable efforts to schedule leave for planned medical treatment so as not to unduly disrupt Bluffton's operations. Failure to do so may result in the delay of an employee's leave.

Bluffton employees are required to use accrued paid leave time in the following order as part of what would otherwise have been unpaid FMLA leave:

  • Accrued sick leave time (if the reason for leave qualifies for the use of paid sick time).*
  • Awarded vacation time.
  • Awarded personal time.

    *Per the "four conditions" for taking FMLA noted in the first paragraph of this policy, # 2 "To care for the employee's child after birth, or placement for adoption or foster care," is commonly referred to as FMLA for parenting reasons. When taking FMLA for parenting reasons, after an employee has first used all his/her vacation time and personal time, employees will be permitted to use sick leave as part of what would otherwise have been unpaid FMLA parenting leave.


Once accrued paid leave is exhausted, remaining leave time granted under the FMLA will be without pay. During this unpaid leave period, the employee will be responsible for all benefit premium payments. Other fringe benefits such as retirement contributions, sick days, vacation days and the like, do not accrue during unpaid portions of a leave period.

Bluffton will inform an employee requesting leave whether he or she is an eligible employee under the FMLA, inform the employee of any additional information that will be required in order to qualify for leave and provide the employee with a copy of this policy/notice.

It is Bluffton's policy that FMLA leave commences on, and will be counted from, the first day of any absence (paid or unpaid) by an FMLA eligible employee for an FMLA qualifying reason. According to the FMLA regulations, employers are required to inform eligible employees that leave is being designated as FMLA leave and the amount of leave counted against the employee's leave entitlement or that it has determined that leave is not FMLA protected.

Employees who timely return to work after FMLA leave are entitled to reinstatement to the same or equivalent job. However, an employee's rights with respect to benefits and employment are no greater than had the employee not taken leave. Obtaining or remaining on leave under false pretenses will result in termination of employment.

Please consult the director of human resources for additional details or questions regarding this leave policy, for information regarding continuity of benefits during a leave, for possible disability pay benefit coverage or if an employee believes this policy has been violated in any way.

Other unpaid leaves of absence
Other leaves of absence without pay may be granted upon mutual agreement between the employee and Bluffton University, and if adequate provisions can be made for covering the position during the leave. All requests for unpaid leaves of absence should be submitted in writing to one's supervisor. Each request should provide sufficient detail such as the reason for the leave, the expected duration of the leave, and relationship of family members, if applicable. The employee is normally responsible for the cost of all benefits during unpaid leaves of absence.

Time off for hourly employees for any reason during a working day will count first against allotted sick days or vacation days, as appropriate, in hourly, quarter day, half day or full day increments. Thereafter, unless specified otherwise, any time off will be without pay.

Failure to return to work as scheduled from an approved leave of absence or to inform one's supervisor of an acceptable reason for not returning as scheduled will be considered a voluntary resignation of employment.

In the event of an unpaid leave of absence from Bluffton University, the employee will be responsible for paying the total premiums for continuing insurance coverage for him/herself, spouse and dependents. Failure to do so may result in loss of insurance coverage and possible refusal by the insurance carriers to allow coverage to be reinstated following the leave of absence. Please consult with the director of human resources or the business office to set up a payment schedule to maintain the insurance coverage during the leave.

Employee insurance coverage
Bluffton makes available long term disability insurance and term life insurance to all regular employees who work at least 30 hours per week or more. Upon enrolling, employees will receive summary plan descriptions prepared by Bluffton's insurance providers that describe these employee benefits in detail. Plans are described in brief below. In case of inconsistencies between the descriptions below and the summary plan descriptions, the terms of the summary plan descriptions will control. Please contact the human resources office for additional information.

Health insurance
Bluffton makes available group health insurance to all regular employees who work at least 30 hours per week or more. Group health insurance is provided through the Mennonite Educators Benefit Plan. The medical claims administrator for the plan is Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield (Highmark). Coverage under the terms of the policy begins upon signed application at the beginning of employment for eligible employees, or later, as requested, during annual open enrollment periods. For current employee premium information, contact the Human Resources department. Please refer to the literature provided by the insurance company for complete policy details. The health insurance deductible year runs from July 1 through June 30.

Employees who participate in Bluffton's health insurance plan will have a personal health savings account (HSA) established in their name which can be used to help meet the plan's annual deductible expenses, or to cover medical, dental or optical expenses not covered by the plan. For employees with single health insurance coverage, each year, the university will deposit $500 into the employee's HSA account ($1,000 per employee with family coverage with a maximum of $1,000 per family in the event that both spouses are employed by the university). Employees may request that additional pre-tax amounts be deducted from their monthly paychecks for deposit into their HSA, up to an annual limit of $3,450 in 2018 for single health insurance plans, $6,850 for family health insurance plans, and up to an additional $1,000 for employees 55 years or older. The HSA accounting year runs from January 1 to December 31 each year. Unused balances in an HSA carry forward from year-to-year. Everence acts as the Trustee/Custodian for health savings accounts.

Group long term disability insurance
Group long term disability insurance is provided at no cost for regular employees working a minimum of 30 hours a week.  New employees are eligible for LTD coverage after completing one year of service. This one year waiting period may be waived if the employee had LTD coverage with their previous employer immediately prior to hiring with Bluffton. This insurance coverage is obtained by Bluffton from The Standard Company. It is designed to help protect employees against loss of income should they become partially or totally disabled outside of work and are unable to perform the essential functions of their job. The plan provides benefits after six consecutive months of proven disability from injury or illness at a rate of 60 percent of an employee's monthly wage with the monthly payment not to exceed $5,000 per month.

A new employee is eligible for immediate coverage, should he or she become disabled, if within three months prior to employment with Bluffton, he or she was insured for disability with his or her prior employer and was eligible for disability income benefits for a minimum of five years.

Any employee enrolled in the university's group long term disability insurance program may take advantage of the university's employee assistance program. Sponsored by Horizon Health, the Horizon Health EAP Services offer eligible employees help and guidance with personal issues that may affect their life. For additional information on this program, please contact the human resources department.

Life and accidental death and dismemberment insurance
Regular Bluffton employees working at least 30 hours per week are covered by group life and accidental death and dismemberment insurance following thirty days of employment. Coverage is obtained by Bluffton from The Standard Company and covers an employee both at work and outside of work. Bluffton pays the premium for life insurance coverage that is equal to the employee's annual Bluffton wage. An employee may elect to double that benefit amount by paying for the cost of that additional coverage. Life insurance is payable to an employee's designated beneficiary in the event of the employee's death and in accordance with the policy. In addition, benefits are payable to an employee while the policy is in force should an employee's spouse or dependent(s) die during the time of the employee's employment with the university. An accidental dismemberment benefit is payable to an employee if the employee sustains serious bodily injuries such as a severed limb or permanent loss of sight of an eye.

Workers' compensation insurance
All employees receive Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation coverage, a State of Ohio worker insurance program paid for by Bluffton University. If an employee cannot work due to a job-related injury or illness, workers' compensation insurance may pay medical bills and provide a portion of an employee's income until the employee can return to work. This coverage is automatic from the first day of employment. A job-related injury is defined as an accidental injury or illness suffered in the course of and arising out of employment.

Employees should report any possible claims to the human resources director immediately. Approved benefits are automatic, but nothing can happen until an employer knows about the injury. Employees returning to work after being absent due to a work-related injury must report to their supervisor prior to beginning work and must bring a doctor's clearance for returning to work.

Unemployment insurance
Depending upon the circumstances at termination of employment, Bluffton employees might be eligible for unemployment compensation as determined by the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services. The cost of this insurance program is paid entirely by Bluffton University.

Unemployment compensation is designed to provide temporary income when workers are out of work through no fault of their own. While the state makes a final determination of eligibility in each case, in general valid claims require a minimum amount of earnings and employee availability for work. Application for benefits is made through the local state unemployment office.

Social Security insurance
The United States government operates a system of mandated insurance, commonly known as Social Security, which provides guaranteed income later in life, guaranteed medical insurance later in life (Medicare), as well as certain disability and survivor benefits if needed, even prior to retirement. As wage earners, employees are required by law to contribute 7.65 percent of their wages (subject to limits) to the government trust fund from which benefits are paid. As an  employer, Bluffton is required to send an equivalent amount to the government trust fund, thereby matching the employee's contribution dollar for dollar (above and beyond the employee's stated wage, so that the employee and employer both pay half of the Social Security insurance cost.)  Bluffton is required to deduct the employee's share of Social Security contributions from each paycheck.

Other employee benefits
Retirement plan
The Bluffton University retirement plan is a defined contribution plan provided through TIAA (Teachers Insurance). The purpose of the plan is to ensure retirement income for participating employees. All regular employees who work at least half-time become eligible and are automatically enrolled in the plan after completion of one year of service (one prior year of service with an organization that meets the eligibility requirements of IRS Section 403(b)(1) will be counted for satisfying this requirement.)

Bluffton University, at its discretion, contributes a designated percentage amount of the employee's monthly wage and the employee contributes five percent to the retirement plan through payroll withholding. Employees may request that additional amounts above the five percent be withheld and contributed to TIAA supplemental retirement accounts.

All Bluffton University employees (excluding students enrolled and attending classes) may elect to participate in pre-tax deferred GSRA plan provided through TIAA.

Full details of the retirement plan are contained in the summary plan description distributed to all eligible employees and available in the business office.

Flexible benefit options
Regular Bluffton employees receive a non-taxable $500 annual flexible benefit (pro-rated for part-time hourly and salaried employees who work half-time or more). Each year, this benefit is applied to an employee's health insurance premium, or, if health insurance is not requested, to one or more of the cafeteria plan programs established under Section 125 of the Internal Revenue Service code which permit employees to take tax-free salary deductions for use in paying certain medical expenses and work-related child care expenses. At the time of employment, and thereafter once a year during the summer, each employee will be contacted by the business office and asked how he or she wishes to apply the flexible benefit during the following year. This is also the opportunity to request additional tax-free payroll withholding for the following purposes:

  • Medical/dental fund option.  If a health savings account has not been established by an employee, it is still possible to direct the flexible benefit toward a tax-privileged medical/dental fund. In addition to the $500 flexible benefit, employees may choose to have additional pre-tax amounts deducted from their paychecks for this fund, up to a total amount of $2,600 per year. Fund balances may be used for medical, dental, and optical expenses incurred which are not reimbursed or covered under another insurance plan. If there is unused money in the fund at the end of a benefit year (which runs from January 1 through December 31 each year), it must be forfeited by the employee, according to IRS regulations. The service for which reimbursement is requested must have occurred, and preferably have been paid, during the benefit year. Medical expenses for ongoing care, such as orthodontist's costs, do not need to have occurred during the benefit year. Reimbursement requests can be processed at any time during the benefit year for up to the full amount the employee has contracted to contribute to the fund for that benefit year. Once the benefit year ends, plan participants may turn in receipts for reimbursement (from the benefit year that just ended) until March 31 of the following year. Documentation of expenses is required.
  • Dependent care fund option.  The flexible benefit may be used for work-related dependent care expenses paid by the employee, in a manner similar to the medical/dental fund. The amount designated for dependent care from the flexible benefit and/or payroll reduction may not exceed $5,000 per year for a family. Documentation of expenses is required for reimbursement. Unused balances in an employee's dependent care account at the end of each benefit year (December 31) are forfeited, according to IRS regulations.
  • Cash option.  The flexible benefit, at the employee's discretion, may be received as cash. If this option is chosen, the benefit is required to be taxable.

Tuition discounts
Full-time employees and members of their immediate family (spouses and dependent children/stepchildren) may be entitled to tuition benefits at Bluffton or other colleges and universities with which Bluffton has established employee tuition discount reciprocal arrangements. Part-time employees who are half-time or more may receive pro-rated tuition benefits.

Employee discounts at Bluffton.  Full-time employees are eligible for 100 percent tuition waiver for enrollment in undergraduate courses, and a 50 percent tuition waiver for graduate courses that are offered by Bluffton University. Both benefits are available immediately upon employment. Employees must meet normal program admissions standards.

Family member discounts at Bluffton.  The value of the tuition waiver for spouses and dependent children/stepchildren attending Bluffton University increases with the employee's years of service at Bluffton as follows:

First year of employment

25 percent of eligible tuition waiver

Second year of employment 

50 percent of eligible tuition waiver

Third year of employment 

75 percent of eligible tuition waiver

Fourth year of employment 

100 percent of eligible tuition waiver

Certain restrictions and policies for employee tuition discounts apply. For more information, please contact the human resource director.

Other tuition discount programs for employee dependents

Mennonite Colleges and Universities tuition discount reciprocity. U.S. Mennonite colleges and universities have a tuition discount reciprocity policy that provides dependent children of full-time faculty and staff with a 50 percent tuition discount. Additional information is available from Bluffton's financial aid office.

Council of Independent Colleges tuition benefit program.  Bluffton University is a member of the CIC, whose 350 participating colleges and universities offer exchange agreements allowing full-tuition benefits for an eligible dependent of a full-time Bluffton employee. Information specific to the CIC exchange program is available from the Bluffton financial aid office or online. Entrance requirements and potential limits on the number of participants are school specific.

The Tuition Exchange tuition benefit program.  This program, of which Bluffton is a member, provides opportunity for an eligible dependent of a full-time Bluffton employee to receive a full-tuition scholarship at one of the participating member institutions. A list of over 580 colleges and universities that participate in the Tuition Exchange program can be found at www.tuitionexchange.org, and additional information is available from the Bluffton financial aid office. Entrance requirements and potential limits on the number of participants are school specific.