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Update on employee furlough program

April 16, 2021

The following message was sent from Chancellor Blank to all employees on April 16.

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Dear colleagues,

I want to share with you news of a change to the employee furlough program that we implemented in January:  furlough obligations will be reduced by one day (8-hour equivalent) for all faculty and staff.

As you know, our university has faced major financial challenges because of the pandemic. As a major public research university, we rely heavily on funding from a combination of federal and state sources, gifts and grants, as well as student tuition and revenue earned by our business units to carry forward our mission. At the height of the pandemic, the risks to all these revenue sources were extraordinary. Our most recent estimate of the impact to the university is approximately $320 million between lost revenue and additional expenses related to COVID-19.

Last year at this time, we announced a round of mandatory furloughs to help UW–Madison address a budget shortfall caused by COVID-19. In October, we announced the second round of mandatory furloughs. In addition to furloughs we took a series of other actions to reduce spending, including budget cuts to all units, freezing salaries and most hiring, pulling back funds planned as new budget investments, eliminating most travel and other discretionary costs where possible and using reserves to cover some of our losses.

Now, 13 months into the pandemic, our fiscal outlook is more certain. While our finances are still significantly challenged, we can ease back on our cost-cutting measures a bit, and the first thing we want to do is provide some financial relief to our employees. We realize that giving back one furlough day is a small gesture, but we think it is important to reduce the burden on our employees to the extent we can.

To date, furloughs have helped UW–Madison achieve roughly $30 million in savings, which was key to our ability to limit the number of layoffs that needed to occur. UW–Madison employees have done their part to close the budget gap and many, particularly our lower paid employees, have struggled financially as a result.

We still have details to iron out. Employees have been participating in the furlough program in different ways, and the appropriate adjustments need to be made for each circumstance. For example:

  • Employees who are having their pay reduced in equal amounts over the entire furlough period (also called “smoothing”) will see their pay reduction end earlier than scheduled.
  • Employees who go on leave without pay when they take their furlough days will have their furlough days reduced by the equivalent of one day (8 hours), with a reimbursement if they already took more furlough days than their revised obligation.
  • Limited Appointees who elected to take a voluntary pay reduction equal to their furlough obligation will also have the pay reduction end early (equivalent to one day of furlough).

Please be patient as we work through the process of implementing this change. Additional information will be provided by the human resources office in your school, college, or division.

I appreciate the many sacrifices you continue to make to serve students, engage in cutting-edge research amidst these challenges, and provide service to the campus, state and beyond. Your talent and hard work have allowed us to fulfill the promise of the Wisconsin Idea even in the midst of a pandemic.