The COVID-19 pandemic has created unprecedented challenges for our campus that include severe financial pressures that our community must address in fiscal 2020, ending June 30, 2020, and beyond. We recognize that the university will face difficult decisions that will be painful to the campus community. In the face of these challenges, we are committed to supporting each other to meet the needs of the UMass Amherst community in the least disruptive manner possible.
In response to this emergency, three major bargaining units – PSU, USA/MTA and AFSCME – have joined with the administration and reached agreements on both a Voluntary Separation Incentive Program (VSIP) as well as a five-day unpaid furlough. The administration deeply appreciates the collaborative and constructive approach of the unions involved. Both the VSIP and the furlough will also apply to benefited non-unit personnel who do not hold an underlying faculty appointment.
These actions are part of a series of measures taken in recent weeks to address the budget shortfall caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. They include a hiring freeze for non-academic staff, a reduction in non-essential spending for the rest of this fiscal year and voluntary pay cuts through FY 21 for senior administration officials. Further clouding the fiscal picture is the great uncertainty for next fiscal year, starting July 1st. We will need to navigate many variables, such as the pandemic’s impact on the state budget, the short- and long-term effect on future enrollment, stock market volatility and its impact on our endowment and gift income, and uncertainty about when the pandemic will subside. We do not yet know what personnel actions may be necessary in the coming year.
The actions taken to date, and others that may follow, are hard and painful. We are hopeful that they will provide our community a path forward to recovery. We thank everyone for their understanding, resilience and perseverance in these unparalleled times.
For questions related to the furlough or Voluntary Separation Incentive Program, please email VSIP@umass.edu.
Furlough Frequently Asked Questions
Who is required to participate in the furlough?
All benefited AFSCME, USA, PSU, and Non-unit employees without an underlying faculty appointment, except those more than 25% grant funded and/or those working under an authorized visa. Employees who are grant funded for 25% or less of their appointment shall serve the furlough for the non-grant funded portion of their work week.
I am a 43 week employee, does the furlough apply to me?
If your 43 week period includes responsibility during the furlough period of May 31 through June 20, you are subject to the furlough. If the furlough period covers the portion of your appointment that is non-responsible time, the furlough does not impact you.
How many days will employees be furloughed?
Impacted employees will participate in a five (5) day furlough. The days will be consecutive and occur between May 31, 2020 and June 20, 2020.
How do I know what week I am furloughed?
Supervisors will determine what week employees will be furloughed to ensure minimal impact on operations, though every effort should be made to accommodate an employee’s preferred week, when feasible. When possible, the five consecutive days should occur in the same work week (e.g. Monday through Friday) and not cross work weeks (e.g. Thursday through Wednesday).
Can I work on the days I am furloughed?
No. Employees may not perform work for the University on any day or within the same week they are furloughed. For example, an employee who is furloughed Monday through Friday should not complete any work for the university until their next scheduled work day the following week.
Can I use accrued time on the days I am furloughed?
No. Employees may not use personal or vacation leave in order to be paid on a furlough day. Unfortunately, allowing furloughed employees to use their paid leave on furloughed days would eliminate the necessary short-term savings that is required at this time. Employees will be in an unpaid, standby status while on a furlough.
What if I am on FMLA, Emergency FMLA, or Emergency Paid Sick Leave?
Employees on approved FMLA, Emergency FMLA, or Emergency Paid Sick Leave will be furloughed for five (5) consecutive days.
Will my benefits be impacted?
No. Employees will not have any diminishment of accrued time or health insurance coverage. Employee elected premiums will be deducted as usual.
Will a furlough impact my Creditable Service toward retirement?
No. The Massachusetts State Employee Retirement System will waive up to twenty (20) business days of creditable services for employees required to participate in the furlough.
Am I eligible for unemployment assistance while furloughed?
In most cases, yes. For more information about unemployment, visit the Massachusetts Department of Unemployment Assistance at: https://www.mass.gov/orgs/department-of-unemployment-assistance Further guidance on how to apply for unemployment will be provided prior to the furlough.
How do I report my furlough time?
Employees and timekeepers should use the FUR code for the five furlough days.
Can I change or cancel my voluntary retirement deductions?
- 403(b) plan contribution changes made in the NetBenefits system (https://nb.fidelity.com/public/nb/umass/home; tel 800-343-0860) by end-of-day May 21 are effective on the June 29 paydate.
- 457/SMART plan contribution changes made in Empower Retirement’s system (mass-smart.empower-retirement.com; tel 877-457-1900) by end-of-day May 28 are effective on the June 12 paydate.
I think someone fraudulently submitted a unemployment claim on my behalf. What do I do?
If you believe someone has applied for unemployment benefits falsely using your personal data:
- Email HR
- Report the fraud here: https://www.mass.gov/info-details/report-unemployment-benefits-fraud
- Or call 877-626-6800 to report the issue
When I tried to file for unemployment, I got locked out of the DUA system. What do I do?
Call the DUA Teleclaim Center at 877-626-6800, select option 7, and request a call back. This will assure that you have proof of trying to call and you will be able to request a predate for the week that you were locked out and not able to request benefits so you can be paid for the week you are on furlough. Make a note of the date and time that you called and left a message for a call back.
For any additional questions related to the furlough or Voluntary Separation Incentive Program, please email VSIP@umass.edu.