FAQs for Summer Furloughs
Frequently Asked Questions
What is a furlough, and how is it different than a layoff?
A furlough is a temporary, unpaid leave from work responsibilities. By saying it is “unpaid”, it means that the College will not be paying the employee during the furlough, but most employees will be paid unemployment benefits from the State of New York. Because a furlough is temporary, there is usually a predetermined end date and employees will come back to work. A layoff is usually indefinite and has the ability to become permanent. Employees who are laid off are actually separated from employment.
Why did Utica College choose to implement a furlough?
Many expense reduction measures were put into place before arriving at the decision to implement a summer furlough. Some of these measures include freezing new hires and vacancies, reducing non-essential spending, suspending travel, the scaling back of capital projects planned for the summer, and voluntary salary reductions for members of the Joint Cabinet. While those reductions are helpful, once it was known that summer operations would experience a sharp decrease, it became clear that paying 100 percent of salaries over the summer would not be sustainable. This furlough will allow the institution to temporarily reduce payroll, as a way to conserve resources and help us deal with the intense financial pressure we are under as a College because of the pandemic-induced drop in summer activity. This, along with the previously mentioned cost-saving measures, will better prepare us for a fall semester that still contains many uncertainties.
An important reason why the months of June and July were chosen as the furlough period is the recent passage of the federal CARES Act. The CARES Act contains a provision that allows those who are eligible for unemployment insurance to access an additional $600 per week in benefits, on top of any amount for which they qualify under New York State Unemployment. Since these two types of benefits can be paid at the same time during our designated furlough period (the CARES Act benefit expires at the end of July), nearly all unemployment-eligible employees who are placed on summer furlough will have a majority of their income replaced.
How will an employee know if they have been placed on furlough?
All employees being placed on furlough have been contacted by their area Vice President or her/his designee via telephone. Those conversations were followed up with letters, delivered via email, from the Office of Human Resources containing important information about benefits and resources.
How long will this furlough last? When does it begin and when does it end? Could they be extended?
All employees placed on furlough are being paid by the College through May 31st. Furloughs take effect June 1, 2020 and will last through July 31, 2020.
While it is difficult to predict what will happen in the coming months, the intention is to bring furloughed employees back to work on August 1st.
Can an employee who is placed of furlough apply for unemployment benefits?
Yes, employees who are placed on furlough may apply for unemployment benefits, both the New York State benefit and the federal CARES Act benefit (employees may apply for both at the same time through the New York State Department of Labor). It is important to keep in mind that decisions about eligibility and payments are made by the State and not by Utica College, however we encourage everyone who is affected to apply immediately.
Can an employee who is placed on partial furlough (hours reduction) apply for unemployment benefits?
All employees who are placed on any type of furlough are encouraged to apply for unemployment benefits. Most of the time, a reduction in work schedule is a change that qualifies for some level of benefits. Again, those decisions are made by the State and not by Utica College.
Some employees also teach a class on occasion, as a secondary job. While the decision to keep teaching is up to the employee, it should be noted that those earnings will need to be reported to New York State, which could have an impact on unemployment benefits.
How did Utica College choose who would be temporarily furloughed?
A review of positions began once it became clear that academic programs over the summer would be entirely online, and that most summer programs would be canceled due to students being unable to return to campus. Employees who are in positions that are directly impacted by the sharp decrease in summer activity were identified for furlough. It cannot be stressed enough that the decisions were not based on anything other than a decrease in workload due to the circumstances outlined earlier.
Will an employee who is placed on furlough still be able to keep their benefits?
Yes. Since a furlough is a temporary action, if the employee is currently enrolled in the College’s medical, dental, vision, and/or other insurance plans, coverage will remain active during the furlough period. This includes tuition benefits that are currently being used by the employee and/or a dependent. The only exception to this relates to TIAA retirement plan benefits. Since there will be no College earnings during this period, voluntary employee contributions and employer contributions are suspended during the furlough period. They will resume once the furloughed employee returns to work.
Will an employee who is on furlough be able to use paid time off (vacation, sick, etc.) and will paid time off still be earned?
Since employees on furlough will not be working and since this is a cost-saving measure, paid time off cannot be used during the furlough period. It is important to note that usage of that time would likely have an impact on unemployment benefits as well. Employees on furlough will still have time off banks, but they will be prorated since they will not be working during the furlough period.
Applying for unemployment benefits is not simple. Will Utica College be able to help people who need assistance?
The Office of Human Resources will provide helpful guides and information to furloughed employees on how to apply for unemployment benefits. In addition, and to ensure timely processing, someone on the HR staff will be continually monitoring the mail for unemployment verification requests from the New York State Department of Labor.
Will furloughed employees have access to their Utica College email accounts?
Employees who are on furlough are not allowed to work during the furlough period since they are not being paid by the College during that time. Because of that, and to avoid having people try to contact furloughed staff to perform work, accesses to all work systems will be removed for the furlough period. Access will be restored upon the employee’s return to campus.
If an employee is also a student during the furlough period, they will have access to email for academic purposes.
What happens to a furloughed employee’s email if they are also an alum?
As an alum, an employee would retain access to email. However, the employee’s supervisor will be given delegated access for the sole purpose of determining if there is immediate work that needs to be addressed during this time. This individual will be responsible for handling/responding to all business-related email communications. Although an employee who is also an alum will retain email access, they should not use the email account to conduct any Utica College business while on furlough, especially since it will likely affect unemployment benefits.
Will furloughed employees have to turn in College equipment, and what if there are personal belongings in the workplace that need to be retrieved?
Since campus remains locked down, and because computer and other access will be suspended during the furlough period, furloughed employees will not need to return College equipment before the furlough period begins. Employees will still be responsible for the condition of the equipment and must refrain from using it while on furlough, for business or personal reasons. Employees can resume usage of the equipment upon returning to work, when access has been restored.
Employees who have personal belongings in the workplace that must be retrieved before or during the furlough period begins need to contact the Office of Campus Safety at (315) 792-3046 to see if those items can be safely retrieved.
Is it possible that an employee could be called back to work before the furlough period ends?
While the plan is to maintain a June 1 – July 31 furlough period, if a change in work activity warrants a call-back, the employee being called back will be given notice by their supervisor to return to work. The supervisor will work out a reasonable return date with the employee, subject to the needs of the College.
Can a furloughed employee seek other employment during the furlough period, or take a part time job?
All employees certainly have the right to seek other employment at any time. Employees may also look for part time work. There are two very important considerations, however: 1) If the employee secures another position and will no longer be working for Utica College, they must submit their resignation to their supervisor immediately; and 2) Taking a part time job while on a furlough will likely reduce unemployment benefit payments. If an employee chooses to take another job, either full time or part time, during the furlough period but still wishes to remain employed by Utica College, they must be available for a possible call-back at any time and they must commit to coming back to work at the end of the furlough period.
Are furloughed employees able to contact their supervisor?
Yes. In fact, we encourage employees to provide a personal email address or phone number so that supervisors can check in and maintain connections.
Is there a place I can call for help and support during this time?
Yes. All employees will still have access to the College’s employee assistance program, ENI/NextGen EAP. ENI offers a number of free and confidential counseling and wellness-related benefits. All employees are encouraged to take advantage of this helpful resource at any time. The number to call is 1-800-EAP-CALL (or 1-800-327-2255).
In addition, employees should always feel free to stay connected to their supervisor and to the Office of Human Resources.
Who can I call with general questions about how this furlough will work, and what it means for me?
Employees can always contact the Office of Human Resources with questions related to furloughs. They can answer your questions, direct employees to the unemployment process, and make connections to important resources. Please call (315) 792-3276 for assistance, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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