The CNMI has faced various distressing events, one after another, that many are still learning to cope with. This includes super typhoons that devastated the islands and now, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Such traumatizing events has had and continues to impact the mental health of many CNMI residents and the Commonwealth Ports Authority is coming to the aid of its employees after it approved time off for employees specifically so they could deal with their mental health.
According to CPA chair Kimberlyn King-Hinds, the board approved the self-care leave policy during CPA’s monthly board meeting on Tinian last Friday, and she is excited for the new policy to be implemented.
“The CPA board recognizes that mental health is a critical component to the overall wellbeing of our employees. We want to be proactive and create a workplace culture that empowers our employees to practice self-care before they get burnt out or suffer from further mental stress,” she said.
The hope, King-Hinds said, is for CPA employees to practice self-care before they reach the point of feeling burnt out and affecting the workplace.
“Mental health struggles negatively impact the workplace; it decreases productivity and performance, leads to poor communication with coworkers, and leads to other stress related illnesses. We hope that our employees will take advantage of this new leave policy, which gives them a day off per quarter, to practice self-care before they begin to get the point where they feel completely burnt out,” she said.
According to the new leave policy, its purpose is to create a workforce with more satisfied and more engaged employees.
“Mental distress poses long-term consequences for CPA by harming employees’ mental state of mind, productivity, and overall job satisfaction. CPA seeks to promote its employees’ wellbeing by preventing and managing employee mental distress and creating a culture of inclusiveness and mental health awareness. Thus, it is CPA policy to provide its employees with self-care leave for the purpose of managing work-related stress and to create a workforce with more satisfied employees and higher employee engagement,” it states.
The newly approved leave is separate from and is in addition to other CPA employee benefits, such as annual leave and sick leave. CPA employees are not entitled to payment for any unused self-care leave.
“CPA urges and encourages employees to use self-care leave for the purpose of promoting one’s own mental health wellness. Self-care leave must be approved by an employee’s supervisor or manager prior to the employee going on self-care leave. The executive director approves self-care leave for managers and staff attorneys. Denial of self-care leave must be for a good reason and may be a basis for an employee’s grievance. The right to use self-care leave is contingent upon management’s requirements. A manager is wholly within managerial rights to deny an employee’s request for self-care leave, if that denial is based upon demands of the Commonwealth Ports Authority. If an employee’s request to use self-care leave is denied, the manager and employee shall coordinate together and identify the next possible available date that the self-care leave may be used,” the policy states.
CPA employees accrue eight hours of self-care leave on the first date of each quarter or upon the date the employee first becomes eligible to receive employee benefits.
Any self-care leave accrued shall expire at the end of the last day of the quarter that the self-care leave was accrued. Self-care leave quarters shall be from Jan. 1 to March 31, April 1 to June 30, July 1 to Sept. 30, and Oct. 1 to Dec. 31.