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Fitness Release Time and Wellness Leave Policy

The University has established a Fitness Release Time and Wellness Leave policy, MAPP 02.02.08, to support University of Houston employees in their efforts to improve their health and well-being, and to enhance their work performance and productivity.  The policy is in accordance with the State Employees Health Fitness and Education Act of 1983.

The Fitness Release Time (FRT) portion of the policy provides full-time, benefits-eligible employees who have been with the University a minimum of 3 months from date of hire up to thirty (30) minutes, three times per week, to participate in approved fitness activities offered on the University of Houston campus. The FRT policy may not interfere with an employee’s duties or a department’s responsibilities. Therefore, supervisor approval is required before an employee may commence any activity under the program.  All time (1.5 hours per week) taken under the policy must be recorded in the Time Reporting and Absence Management (TRAM) system.

The Wellness Leave portion of the policy provides a wellness incentive of 8 hours leave to eligible employees who complete an approved Health Risk Assessment and receive an annual comprehensive physical exam.  The wellness leave may be used for any purpose as two half-days or one full day off.  Wellness leave time must be scheduled with supervisor’s approval and cannot be used in conjunction with the College Release Program.

To learn more about eligibility for the program, requirements for participation and procedures for application, please review the policy MAPP 02.02.08 in its entirety, as well as the FAQs on this webpage before requesting Fitness Release Time and/or Wellness Leave.

 

Application Procedure for Fitness Release Time (FRT)

To qualify for FRT, an eligible employee must complete the FRT Application and the Physical Activity Readiness Questionnaire. Please note that in some cases additional documentation such as Medical Clearance may be requested.

To request Fitness Release Time, the following steps must be completed:

  1. Print the FRT Application requesting up to thirty (30) minutes, three times per week to participate in POWER UP approved physical fitness activities on the University of Houston campus. Complete the form identifying the activities in which you plan to engage as well as the days and times. Discuss the request with your supervisor to determine if the leave is possible. If so, obtain his/her signature to verify approval of the requested leave for the semester. 

  2. If your supervisor approves the request, print and complete the Physical Activity Readiness Questionnaire (PAR-Q) form. You should then scan and email both forms (FRT Application & PAR-Q) to Human Resources at POWERUP@uh.edu. If the request is denied by your supervisor, you may not use Fitness Release Time that semester.

  3. Please answer the questions on the PAR-Q honestly. If you answer “Yes” to one or more of the questions on the PAR-Q, you will be asked to obtain a Medical Clearance form from your primary care physician indicating clearance to participate in an exercise program/the physical fitness activity you have selected. This form should also be emailed to HR, along with your FRT Application and PAR-Q.

  4. If all requirements are met, your application will be approved by HR, who in turn will notify you and your supervisor. Please retain copies of the FRT Application, PAR-Q, etc. for your records. The original forms will be filed in Human Resources.

  5. Remember, you must request the time off for FRT for each thirty (30) minute session via the Time Reporting and Absence Management (TRAM) system, using code 083 for biweekly and 082 for monthly.

  6. You supervisor is to approve FRT time in TRAM, as long as it does not exceed thirty (30) minutes, three times per week. If you are an hourly employee, you must clock out and clock back in for each 30 minute period you take when using FRT.

 

To report your FRT, access PASS,

Select Absence Requests

  • Enter Start Date
  • Under Filter by Type – select Paid Release Time
  • Under Absence Name – select CDV Fitness Release Time
  • Enter an End Date
  • Under Partial Days - select All Days (If days are not sequential, you will need to submit an Absence Request for each )
  • Enter .5 Hours
  • Click Calculate Duration
  • Make any comments
  • Click Submit

Fitness Release Time FAQs

I would like to attend a stress management course, Weight Watchers workshop, or mindfulness session.  Do any of these wellness offerings fall under the FRT policy? 
No, while these are excellent offerings and supervisors are encouraged to allow employees to attend such wellness programs when possible, this policy only applies to physical fitness activities on campus.

My gym is very close to campus, can I use the 30 minutes to work out there?
No, FRT can only be used for fitness activities that occur on the UH campus.

Can I come in late or leave work 30 minutes early to work out at the Campus Recreation and Wellness Center?
No, the FRT policy cannot be connected to the start or end of the work day. Fitness Release Time is intended to be used within the actual workday.

Could I instead take 45 minutes twice a week (still a total of the 1.5 hours granted) to work out?  The policy is in accordance with the State Employees Health Fitness and Education Act of 1983, which provides employees time away from their desks to engage in physical fitness activity for 30 minutes, 3 times per week.  Longer periods of release time could contribute to operational problems and disrupt University business. 

Can I connect my 30 minutes FRT to my lunch hour? 
Yes, employees may connect their 30 minutes FRT to their lunch period provided their supervisor approves and the FRT will be spent engaged in an approved physical fitness activity on campus. Please be advised that failure to adhere to the guidelines established in the policy may result in corrective action up to and including termination of employment.

How do I record my time for FRT? 
Employees must request the time off for FRT for each thirty (30) minute session via the Time Reporting and Absence Management (TRAM) system, using code 083 for biweekly and 082 for monthly. See instructions above. 

Is there a set time to apply for the program?  Once approved, do I need to reapply at any point
Employees may apply to participate in the program at any time.  However, once approved, participants must reapply with HR each spring at the start of the new calendar year.  While approval to participate is issued at any time on a yearly basis, employees must seek direct approval from their supervisor at the start of each semester to start and/or continue participation. 

What are some on-campus physical fitness activities?
There are a different things employees can do to participate in the program on campus.  Employee CRWC gym members can work out at the Campus Recreation and Wellness Center. Employees can also walk the campus or participate in organized wellness activities such as Zumba, Yoga, Tai Chi, etc. If you are uncertain if the activity you wish to pursue meets the criteria for the program, contact POWERUP@uh.edu.

Once approved to participate, can I change up my physical activity from time to time?
We ask that employees determine a set time and activity. However, it is conceivable that schedules will change as well as activities due to work responsibilities, weather conditions, etc. As long as your FRT remains 30 minutes, no more than 3 days/week (not connected to the start or end of the day), and the activity is a “physical fitness/exercise activity” that does not interfere with business operations and, most importantly, you have your supervisor’s approval – you may alter the time and activity from those originally selected.

What if I have a medical condition?  Can I still participate? 
The Physical Activity Readiness – Questionnaire is used to assess an employee’s ability to participate in this voluntary program.  Individuals with a health condition or who have reason – or instruction from the physician to refrain from certain activities -- are asked to receive Medical Clearance from their doctor prior to participation in the program. A Medical Clearance Form from the healthcare provider must be submitted to HR for approval to participate.

Do I need to submit any medical information from my doctor to HR?
No, please do NOT provide HR with any medical information.  No personal medical information should be shared with your supervisor or HR for the purpose of this policy.  Medical Clearance from your doctor should simply be a signed and dated statement indicating that you are physically able to do the physical fitness activity you have selected to do.  This official form from your doctor should not contain any personal medical information.

Do both exempt and non-exempt employees have to log FRT in TRAM? 
Yes, both exempt and non-exempt employees must request the time off for FRT for each thirty (30) minute session via the Time Reporting and Absence Management (TRAM) system, using code 083 for biweekly and 082 for monthly.

For Supervisors 

Won’t employees take advantage of this program?
An employee survey conducted in the fall 2015 revealed that UH employees want wellness programs and value opportunities to participate in activities that support their health and well-being. To benefit from this policy, employees must track their time using the TRAM system.  Supervisors may reduce the time allotted to employees for FRT or eliminate it altogether.  Failure to adhere to the guidelines established in the policy may result in corrective action up to and including termination of employment.
 
If my employee is approved for FRT, will I be notified?  How will the time be awarded and tracked? 
Yes. You will receive notification, as will the employee, who is required to log in FRT taken via the TRAM system. Supervisors approve an employee's FRT which must not exceed thirty (30) minutes, three times per week.
 
Can graduate students, family members or retirees participate?
Most wellness benefits are designed for current, full-time, benefits- eligible employees only.  From time to time, activities will be open to others including students, family members and/or retirees and will be promoted as such.

 

Application Procedure for Wellness Leave

To qualify for the incentive, an eligible employee must complete an approved online health risk assessment (HRA) and receive an annual comprehensive physical exam.  Please note that while annual physical exams are considered preventive care and typically covered by one’s insurance plan, that you may be responsible for out-of-pocket expenses related to the appointment(s), such as fees charged for additional screens, tests and/or co-pays.

 

To request Wellness Leave, the following steps must be completed:

  1. Complete a Health Risk Assessment (HRA).
    1. BCBSTX:
      1. BCBSTX HealthSelect membersshould register for a BlueAccess for Members Visit https://healthselect.bcbstx.com/.  Click the “log in” tab in the upper right corner.
      2. Next, click “New User? Register Now” and create an account. (You will need your member ID from your insurance card in order to create an account).
      3. Once you are on the home page of the BAM website, click on the Well On Targettab under “quick links” on the right side.
      4. Once your account is created, log on and click on the Well On Targettab under “quick links” on the right side. Ceate your Well On Target (WOT) account. 
      5. Once your account is created, you will be prompted to take the HRA
      6. Once you complete the HRA, you can click on “Certificates” from the menu drop down and email a certification of completion directly to POWERUP@uh.edu. It will have your name and the date on it.  You can also submit a scanned copy of your HRA completion certificate/email instead. You will need to submit verification of completion of the HRA in one of these two ways along with your affidavit to complete the application process.
    2. Other: If you do not have BCBSTX HealthSelect as your insurance provider, please contact powerup@uh.edu for additional options. 
  2. Print the Completed HRA and Physician’s Certification of Routine Physical Exam Affidavitand complete the “Health Risk Assessment Certification” portion. 
  3. Using sick leave, schedule your physical exam with your doctor’s office. When you schedule your appointment, ask the physician’s office staff to make note that you will need the physician to sign the designated section of the Affidavit.”  DON’T FORGET to bring the printed Affidavit form with you to your appointment.  It will be helpful to provide the office staff with the form when you first check in at the doctor’s office.
  4. Before your doctor’s visit, review your HRA personalized report again and take it with you to your appointment. Make notes of identified health risks and topics to discuss with your physician.
  5. Before you leave your appointment, be sure that your physician has signed the appropriate section of the Completed HRA and Physician’s Certification of Routine Physical Exam Affidavit.
  6. Inform your supervisor of having met the qualifications for wellness leave and obtain his/her signature on the Affidavit. Remember, you are not required to nor should you share with your supervisor or HR any personal medical information from your HRA or physician’s visit. Only the documentation listed here should be submitted to HR.
  7. Review the Affidavit to ensure that it is complete. Then scan and email a copy of the HRA Completion Certificate/email (if you haven’t done so already) and Completed Physician’s Certification of Routine Physical Exam Affidavit to HR.  Both of these fully completed documents must be submitted via POWERUP@uh.edu to complete the application process for Wellness Leave.
  8. HR will review the documentation and, if all requirements are met, notify you and your supervisor via email of your successful completion of the requirements for eight (8) hours wellness leave. The notification will provide guidance for both employee and supervisor in regard to how the leave should be processed in TRAM. See instructions below.

 To document your Wellness Leave, access PASS,

Select Absence Requests

  • enter Start Date
  • under Filter by Type – select Paid Release Time
  • under Absence Name – select Wellness Leave
  • enter an End Date
  • under Partial Days - select All Days (If dividing the time into half days, you will need to submit an Absence Request for each )
  • Enter 8 Hours (or 4 if taking a ½ day)
  • Click Calculate Duration
  • Make any comments
  • Click Submit

 

Wellness Leave FAQs                   

What is an approved Health Risk Assessment (HRA)?  
A health risk assessment is a brief wellness tool used to provide individuals with an evaluation of their individual health and wellness and to make recommendations for improving one’s overall wellbeing and quality of life. 

Where can I find the approved HRAs?
Please see above.

What is a Comprehensive Physical Exam? The exam consists of a detailed medical history, physical examination, and age- and sex-appropriate counseling and screening tests.  It is a customized exam that includes provision of evidence-based counseling and screening tests based on the patient’s health status, risk factors and personal and family history.

Do I need to submit the results from my HRA or Comprehensive Physical Exam to HR? No, please do NOT provide HR with any medical information.  No personal medical information should be shared with your supervisor or HR for the purpose of this policy.  The Health Risk Assessment completion email and the Physician’s Certification of Routine Physical Exam Affidavit do not ask for and should not contain any personal medical information.

I have insurance through my spouse and don’t have either of the health plans listed. Am I still eligible to take advantage of the FRT and Wellness Leave Policy?  If so, what HRA should I complete?
Yes, you may still apply for and receive FRT and Wellness Leave provided all policy requirements have been met.  Most insurance carriers provide employees with an online Health Risk Assessment.  Once you complete it, you should receive a confirmation certificate or email that you can submit to HR to verify that you have completed it.  In the event that you do not, you may take a screenshot of the last page of the HRA that clearly shows that you have completed the health survey (name, date, etc.) to scan and submit to HR, along with the completed Affidavit.  If your insurance does not provide an HRA, please email POWERUP@uh.edu for a link to an approved assessment.

Do I need to get my physical within a certain timeframe in order to receive this benefit?
Yes, wellness leave is awarded once per calendar year (CY).  Therefore, the earlier in the year you complete the requirements for wellness leave, the more time you will have to use it prior to the end of the year when it expires.  Earned wellness leave must be used within the current calendar year in which it was awarded. It must be used between 1/5 – 12/24 of the current year.  Unused wellness leave does not carry over to the following year.

After I confer with my supervisor and receive approval to use wellness leave on a particular day/s, how do I record my time out?  
When you claim your eight (8) hours wellness leave incentive, you may take the time in two blocks of four (4) hours or one block of eight (8) hours, using leave code 082 for monthly employees, or 083 for biweekly employees.

For Supervisors:

If an employee is approved for Wellness Leave, will I be notified?  How will the time be awarded and tracked? 
Yes, you will receive notification along with the employee of the wellness leave incentive award.  Please note, for Wellness Leave, that the 8 hours awarded can be taken in 1 full day or 2 half days on dates approved by the supervisor.  Also, please be aware that Peoplesoft will NOT automatically track balances for wellness leave.  Therefore, it is required that the supervisor keep track of the employee’s balances of the leave for the incentive and that they be used prior to the end of the calendar year.

Can employees take the time whenever they want? 
All eligible employees are entitled to the wellness leave benefit.  Once awarded, however, the time must be taken by 12/ 24 within the current calendar year. Otherwise, the employee will lose it. Supervisors should work with employees to schedule their wellness leave at a time/s that works for both parties. (Note: This time cannot be used in conjunction with the College Release Program.)

 

If you have additional questions regarding the FRT and Wellness Leave Policy, please contact Human Resources’ Customer Service at 713 743-3988 or email POWERUP.uh.edu.