Position Specific Furloughs
- What is a furlough?
A furlough is a temporary, unpaid, or mandatory leave of absence during which an employee does not report for work and does not earn a wage. A furlough is not a layoff and employees are anticipated to return to their existing positions at the end of the furlough. UWM intends to utilize two types of furloughs: institution-wide furloughs and position specific furloughs (PSF).
- Why are furloughs necessary?
Furloughs are necessary because the pandemic has created major changes in the manner in which work is performed and, in some cases, reduced or eliminated work for employees. Also, the institution is facing extraordinary impact to enrollment and revenues which are expected to continue into Fiscal Year 2021.
- Who will be placed on PSF?
Employees who have not been designated as essential to work on-site and are unable to work remotely due to the nature of their duties and responsibilities or are not performing mission critical work will be placed on a position specific furlough (PSF).
- May graduate assistants (including TA, PA, and RA) be placed on PSF?
Yes. Each school/college/division should determine whether any graduate assistants meet the criteria for PSF.
- May indefinite academic staff be placed on PSF?
Yes. Each school/college/division should determine whether any indefinite academic staff meet the criteria for PSF.
- How does PSF differ from institution-wide furloughs?
A PSF is designated for specific positions (thus, specific employees); furlough days may run consecutively; furlough days may be imposed on a fulltime or partial basis (percentage of fulltime equivalency); and they may have greater impact upon an employee’s benefits.
- Are PSFs set for a specific period of time?
Yes, PSFs are set for a specific period of time. Employees will be notified of the period they will be on PSF. Under the current UW System policy, PSFs are limited to a period of three months following the month of the employee’s last date in paid status.
- When will employees be notified of a PSF?
Notices informing employees being placed on a PSF will be issued at least seven calendar days before the PSF begins.
- Once a PSF begins, can it be modified?
Yes, should circumstances warrant, employees may be returned to work prior to the scheduled conclusion of the PSF, with at least seven calendar days notice to the employee.
- Why use a PSF instead of laying employees off?
Lay off is a mechanism typically used when the institution has determined there is no longer a need to continue with a position or positions. Furlough is a mechanism used on a temporary basis, with the expectation that the employee will return to duty.
- Why isn’t UWM imposing pay cuts on its leadership and high earners as have been announced at other universities?
Under current UW System policy, UWM may not impose involuntary pay reductions, outside of a furlough program. Thus, to impose greater reductions at this time, UWM would need to provide employees even more time off, and the 16 IF days that the highest wage earners will observe is the top of what can reasonably be managed given workloads and the calendaring difficulties of furlough days. These issues are even more pronounced with nine-month employees and class schedules. UWM is permitting employees to chooses a voluntary pay reduction in lieu of additional furlough days for any days above the scheduled furlough dates. It’s important to understand that those employees who will serve 16 IF days (or the equivalent thereof) will realize a 6.16% pay reduction over the course of an entire year. Different than other higher education institutions, which have announced furlough programs centered on the summer, UWM has been aggressive in applying IF across 9 and 13 months for 9 and 12-month employees, respectively.
- Will PSFs impact an employee’s health insurance?
Based on current UW System policy, for employees placed on furlough, the employer will continue to pay for its share of the health insurance premium. Employees will need to pay for their share. Given their unpaid status and unavailability of a payroll deduction, HR will notify employees how they may pay for their share of the premium.
- Will PSFs impact an employee’s leave accrual?
No, PSFs will not impact an employee’s leave accrual.
- Will PSFs impact an employee’s Wisconsin Retirement System (WRS)?
PSFs may impact an employee’s WRS creditable service, depending upon how long the PSF lasts. Because of the reduction in compensation, an employee’s monetary contribution toward WRS will also be reduced.
- Are employees subject to PSFs able to use accrued leave to remain in paid status?
No, employees may not use leave on while on PSF to remain in paid status.
- Are employees subject to PSFs able to collect unemployment compensation?
UWM does not provide advice or counsel on an employee’s eligibility for unemployment. However, it is anticipated an employee would be eligible for unemployment compensation.
- If I have questions specific to my circumstance and would like to discuss this with someone, who should I communicate with?
If an employee’s questions pertain to their duties and responsibilities or anything to do with their position, they should communicate with their supervisor. If an employee’s questions pertain to their benefits or possible retirement, they should communicate with a UWM Benefits Specialist by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
- May an employee on PSF access/read their UWM email?
Yes, an employee on PSF may access/read their UWM email for the purposes of remaining informed and/or asking questions. An employee on a full PSF may not complete official University business and an employee on a partial PSF may only complete University business during the hours they are scheduled to work.
- How do Position Specific Furloughs impact legal holidays for employees?
For most legal holidays, if an employee is on a full PSF the business day before and the business day after the legal holiday, the holiday is lost. The only exception to this is if the calendar creates a floating holiday (as is the case for July 4, 2020), then the employee will receive the floating holiday. If the employee is on a partial PSF, their holiday pay is not prorated but will be paid based on their full-time equivalency (“FTE”) prior to the furlough.
Scenario 1: Employee is on a full PSF and is not working, now through August 31. They will not be paid for Memorial Day but will receive the floating holiday of July 4. See Questions 6 and 8 under “Leave Usage During Furlough” at UW System Coronavirus Preparedness Frequently Asked Questions.
Scenario 2: A normally 80% employee is on a partial PSF and is working 50% now through August 31. They will receive holiday pay based on their 80% appointment FTE for both Memorial Day and the floating holiday for July 4.
Scenario 3: Employee is not on a PSF and the institution is implementing intermittent furloughs at various dates during the summer. The employee will receive pay for Memorial Day and receive the July 4 floating holiday.
- How will the impact to employees, such as the fact that employees are still responsible to pay their portion of premiums/benefits, be communicated to employees?
Human Resources will notify affected employees of all the important ramifications to them.
- May an employee be reassigned to alternative duties instead of placing them on furlough?
Yes, temporary reassignment of duties is permitted if doing so best meets the operational needs of the unit.
- I have employees who are currently on FMLA with arrangements to cover their work by other staff. Does it make sense to ask the FMLA employees if they would like to be considered for longer unpaid leave under PSF? Would they be eligible for PSF on voluntary basis?
Units/supervisors may not consider FLMA leave or any other protected status in determining furlough assignments. If there are questions about the application of furlough to someone currently on leave, please consult with HR so that the individual circumstances can be considered in light of the policy as well as applicable laws and other policies.
- Presumably LTEs are at will so would not be furloughed but rather appts ended if not mission critical?
For PSF, correct. For intermittent furloughs, LTEs will not be permitted to work on those dates.