Policies & Contracts

223 - Temporary Furlough and Reduction of Hours

Subject: Temporary Furlough and Reduction of Hours

Section: U223

Date: June 15, 2020


PURPOSE:

This policy provides guidelines to units for temporary furloughs and reduction of scheduled hours to not less than 20 hours per week due to adverse economic conditions, temporary reduction in responsibilities and/or other or financial constraints. This policy establishes the documentation and appropriate approvals for conducting temporary furloughs, temporary reduction of hours, and recalls to work, as well as outlines notice periods, benefits-related matters, removal of system access, and service bridging for health insurance benefits for reduction of employees through temporary furloughs.

Who is governed by the policy:

This policy applies to all staff employees.  Units must consult with Employee and Labor Relations prior to placing any union represented employees on furlough or reducing work schedules to ensure compliance with collective bargaining agreements.

POLICY:

During the effective period of this Policy, furloughs and temporary reduction of hours will be approved in view of the needs of the unit. For purposes of this policy, an approved temporary furlough will be deemed an unpaid leave from active employment duly authorized by the University under its leave of absence policy for a defined period due to adverse economic conditions, temporary reduction in responsibilities, or other financial constraints. A temporary reduction of hours consists of a reduction in the number of scheduled hours during the week.  All furloughs and temporary reduction in hours must be approved in advance by the unit leadership as well as Employee and Labor Relations and conducted in accordance with the procedures set forth in this policy.

Procedures

Temporary Furlough

The Local Unit (HR Partners or Supervisor) must carefully review every request from Unit leadership for  temporary furloughs before implementation and obtain the Employee and Labor Relations' approval before notifying the employee(s). As part of this process, management must conduct the analysis as to whether the needs of the unit can accommodate the request for the temporary furlough.

Temporary furloughs must be for a duration of no less than thirty (30) and no more than one hundred twenty (120) days. Temporary furloughs for exempt employees within the meaning of the Fair Labor Standards Act must begin on the first day of the employee’s workweek, typically a Sunday.    

Requests will be approved based on consideration of the following criteria:

  • The duration of the request
  • The economic impact of the decision.
  • The needs of the department and the essentiality of the work performed by the affected employee
  • Length of service with the University of Chicago. 

Employees will be given advance written notice of the temporary furlough (with copies sent to the Employee and Labor Relations) in line with the notice periods outlined below. All employees approved for temporary furlough will be provided with 1 weeks’ notice, unless otherwise noted in the collective bargaining agreement.  

Employees approved for a temporary furlough are to not to complete any work during their furlough and supervisors are not to assign any work to furloughed employees. As such, access to the network and other University resources may be discontinued for the duration of the furlough. It is the responsibility of the Local Unit (HR Partner or Supervisor) to take reasonable steps to timely inventory and remove (or request removal of) the selected employee's access privileges to information systems containing confidential, individually-identifiable personal, medical or proprietary data.

For employee benefits purposes, employees on a temporary furlough are placed on an unpaid leave of absence and thus receive employee benefits afforded to individuals in this status under the terms of the University’s benefit plan documents (as amended from time to time). Generally, employees on an unpaid leave of absence receive benefits as follows:

  • Continued participation in the health plan (i.e., medical, dental, vision)
  • Continued participation in group life and long-term disability
  • Cessation of employee and employer contributions to the employee’s defined contribution 403(b) retirement plan(s)
  • Continued eligibility for the University Laboratory Schools Benefit and the Diverse Learners Tuition Portability Benefit, in each case, for a maximum duration of one year.  During an unpaid leave, you are not eligible for any other benefits under the Educational Assistance Plan.

The University will pay for, and remit on the employee’s behalf, the full monthly premium for medical insurance during the term of the temporary furlough. Employees will continue to be responsible for monthly premiums associated with dental, vision, group life, and long-term disability and must remit their monthly employee contribution to the Benefits Department through a direct-bill mechanism.  Failure to timely remit these payments may result in loss of coverage.

If an employee on a temporary furlough seeks unemployment benefits, the University will not contest the application; provided, however, that the University will respond truthfully to any request from the applicable state agency regarding the claim. Whether an employee receives unemployment compensation benefits is determined by the applicable state agency and not by the University.

At the employee’s request, all or a portion of accrued vacation and personal days may be paid out on the effective date of the temporary layoff. Employees will not accrue time for vacation, sick, or personal days during their temporary furlough.

Temporary Reduction of Hours

Units may temporarily reduce employee’s regular workweek by one or more days, provided weekly scheduled hours do not fall below 20 hours per week, as doing so will result in a loss of benefits eligibility. Should the reduction in schedule result in a change in health benefits premium, as they are based on annual salary and weekly hours worked, the University will cover the increase in the employee contribution for the duration of the schedule change.

The duration of the reduction must be no less than thirty (30) and no more than one hundred twenty (120) days. Federal, state, and local wage laws may not permit the schedule as requested. The Local Unit (HR Partners or Supervisor) must carefully review every request for a reduction of hours and obtain the Employee and Labor Relations' approval before notifying the employee. This is especially true with a reduction in hours for employees exempt within the meaning of the Fair Labor Standards Act.  As part of this process, management must conduct the analysis as to whether the needs of the unit can accommodate the request for the reduction in hours. Requests will be approved based on the following criteria, although not in this particular order:

  • The duration of the request
  • The economic impact of the decision
  • The needs of the department and the essentiality of the work performed by the affected employees
  • Length of service with the University of Chicago
  • Whether the reduction can be effectuated without jeopardizing an employee’s exempt status within the meaning of the Fair Labor Standards Act.

Employees will be given advance written notice of a temporary reduction in hours (with copies sent to the Employee and Labor Relations) in line with the notice periods outlined below. The Unit will provide employees with:

  • The duration of the reduced schedule
  • The employee’s weekly schedule
  • The performance and output expectations during the reduced schedule period
  • The revised temporary salary of affected exempt employees
  • Notification the employee’s time off accrual rates will be affected by their reduced hours

While employee’s time off accrual rates will be affected by their reduced hours, the maximum total accrued time will not be reduced due to the temporary nature of the reduced schedule.

All employees approved for temporary reduction of hours will be provided with 1 weeks’ notice, unless otherwise noted in the collective bargaining agreement. 

If an employee assigned a temporary reduction in hours seeks unemployment benefits, the University will not contest the application; provided, however, that the University will respond truthfully to any request from the applicable state agency regarding the claim. Whether an employee receives unemployment compensation benefits is determined by the applicable state agency and not by the University.

At its discretion, the unit may decide to end the reduced schedule before the expiration date in which case the employee will receive two weeks’ notice.

Union Represented Employees

Units must consult with Employee and Labor Relations prior to placing any union represented employees on furlough or reducing work schedules to ensure compliance with collective bargaining agreements.

Recall to Work from Temporary Furlough

Employees must resume work on the scheduled end date of their furlough. While on furlough, employees should inform the human resource (HR) department if they become unavailable to return as scheduled.

Policy Status 

Like all personnel policies applicable to non-union represented employees, this policy is subject to amendment and withdrawal at the University’s discretion. 

Roles and Responsibilities:

Governed Party Roles and Responsibilities
Employee Employees may not perform any work during their furlough, must return to work on the designated date, and update or verify any benefits or personal contact information before the effective date.
Employee and Labor Relations

Employee and Labor Relations is responsible for reviewing and approving all temporary furloughs, including justifications and documentation. Employee and Labor Relations is also responsible for preparation of documentation related to the temporary furloughs and subsequent recall.  

HR Partner

The HR Partner is responsible for following policies and procedures relating to the temporary furlough process. This includes processing within Workday.

Local Unit

The Local Unit is responsible for following procedures and policies related to the temporary furlough. Local Units are responsible for assessing the feasibility of the temporary furlough, and providing the proper paperwork to Employee and Labor Relations. 

Shared Services Office The Shared Services Office is responsible for verifying documentation for managing any payroll in the normal course of operations.



Key Contacts:

Name Email Extension
Center of Expertise – Employee & Labor Relations elrelations@uchicago.edu 4-7345
Shared Services Office services.uchicago.edu  2-5800