Waupaca Foundry recognized for reimbursing volunteer first responders

Published: Aug. 3, 2018 at 7:15 PM CDT
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Like most communities, Portage County relies heavily on volunteer first responders to tackle a number of emergencies. Unfortunately, according to Amherst Fire District, there has been a steady decrease in volunteers over the past ten years.

Although there could be many reasons for reduction, it’s no secret that many employers will not pay you for the time you are not at work. This has become a fundamental problem for on-call first responders, who need full-time hours, with a flexible schedule so they can go and come in case of emergencies.

Only a few companies, like Waupaca Foundry, allow volunteers to leave work without docking pay if their called for emergency situations.

"It's hard for a lot of employers to let their people go during times of emergencies whether it's a first responder to go to a medical call or it's a fire department to go an accident or a house fire,” shared Brian Swan, Assistant Fire Chief for the Amherst Fire District.

As an effort to encourage other companies to not dock pay, the Portage County Fire Chief Association launched an award program to recognize businesses that do not. Employees who are volunteers can nominate an employer to the association.

The Platinum recognition is awarded to a business that indicates in the employee handbook or contract that volunteer firefighters or EMS crew will be reimbursed for lost wages. Employees enrolled in the program can leave every time their pager alarms with no conditions and no negative action toward an employee who leaves to answer an emergency call.

The Gold recognition is awarded to an employer who doesn’t have a formal policy in place, but the employee is generally allowed to leave. Leaving could be dependent on work-load or staffing at the particular time of the call.

The Silver recognition is awarded to an employer that does not have a formal written policy in place, but the employee can sometimes leave. Volunteers have preferred parking, allowing quicker exit upon the call and the employer generally encourages involvement, perhaps informally.