An interim policy will enable the university to institute unpaid furlough days for faculty members and academic professionals if significant budget shortfalls occur. A second policy addition allows the university to shorten the appointment period for employees whose salaries are paid from grant and contract funds, if funding is lost.
The policy was announced in a July 21 e-mail to employees by UI President B. Joseph White and the chancellors of the university's three campuses.
The interim furlough policy will be included in all Notification of Appointment letters to faculty members and academic professionals issued Aug. 16 and thereafter at the three campuses.
If workforce reductions are necessary because of a budget shortfall, civil service employees would be covered by civil service layoff provisions. Reductions of union-represented employees would be covered by collective bargaining and statutory provisions.
The policy's goal is to keep people employed by cutting personnel costs fairly at all levels and across all categories of UI employment, while continuing to fulfill the university's teaching and research missions, university officials said. No employee will be asked to take more furlough days than senior administrators, including the president, chancellors, provosts and deans.
While the university has strived to manage its finances conservatively, 70 percent of the university's costs are employee salaries and benefits.
If faced with a significant budget shortfall or mid-year rescission of operating funds, the president, in consultation with campus leaders and representatives of employee groups, would announce unpaid furlough days for faculty members and academic professionals. The number of furlough days would be determined by the size of the budget gap, and employees would be given at least 30 days' notice prior to the implementation of furloughs.
The communication to employees stressed that the interim furlough policy does not mean that furlough days are imminent. Rather, the goal of the new policy is to be prepared with the appropriate tools to manage the university's finances in the face of a continuing uncertain national economy and unresolved state budgetary issues.
Other universities and businesses have made extensive use of unpaid furloughs during the current economic downturn. Maureen Parks, assistant vice president of human resources for the UI system, said the interim policy sets up guiding principles and flexibility to deal with an uncertain future.
"We have not declared any furlough days," Parks said. "There are still important details that need to be worked out. We're not on the verge of any kind of announcement, but we are putting just-in-case provisions into place.
"The reason for the announcement of the interim furlough policy is to give our employees information on what we do know. We want to keep people employed, and the furlough option is preferable to other means of cutting personnel costs in the face of severe budgetary problems."
Following the university's shared governance practice, university administrators will confer with faculty members and academic professionals in the next steps of the process of making the interim furlough policy permanent.
Policies, FAQs and related information are available online. Additional questions should be directed to each campus's human resources offices.