Why did Union choose to temporarily furlough staff members?
Due to the online spring term, and Governor Cuomo’s Executive Orders restricting faculty and staff access to campus, many Union employees can no longer perform most or all of their job-related duties. As state and federal governments have moved aggressively to slow this pandemic, the negative impacts on the U.S. economy, higher education, and Union College have been substantial. The move to online learning has meant a multimillion-dollar loss of room and board revenue.
Union decided to take this action only after extensive deliberation and a thorough exploration of all possible alternatives. An important factor in the decision was the recent passage of the federal CARES Act. The Act provides those who are eligible for unemployment insurance with additional benefits, including a $600 weekly supplement. The CARES Act is designed to assist employers and employees with situations in which employees cannot perform most or all of their job-related duties due to the COVID-19 response. Through unemployment insurance and the additional federal CARES act supplement, nearly all temporarily furloughed employees will receive income that is at least comparable to their current weekly earnings. In addition, Union will continue to provide health insurance benefits for employees during the temporary furlough period.
How did Union choose who would be temporarily furloughed?
People chosen for furlough were individuals who were not able, though any fault of their own, to perform most or all of their job-related duties due to the COVID-19 response.
How long will people be furloughed?
Union intends to bring everyone back to work as soon as the College is able to resume normal on-campus College operations. The length of furlough could vary depending on individual roles.
When do the furloughs begin?
All furloughed staff are being paid through April 17. Furloughs take effect April 18. They are eligible to apply for unemployment insurance benefits immediately after that date.
What benefits will furloughed staff receive?
Through unemployment insurance and the additional federal CARES act supplement, nearly all temporarily furloughed employees will receive income that is at least comparable to their current weekly earnings. In addition, Union will continue to provide health insurance for employees during the temporary furlough period. There will be no changes to access to disability and life insurance, tuition remission, and long-term care coverage benefits. Furloughed staff will not continue to have employer or employee contributions to their retirement accounts nor accrue vacation and sick leave while on furlough. If individuals are unable to apply for unemployment insurance because government systems continue to struggle with heightened demand, employees will have the opportunity to request an advance on their future Union College pay.
Applying for unemployment benefits isn’t simple. Will Union be able to help people who need assistance?
Human Resources has set up a Help Center to assist furloughed employees to access all state and federal benefits available to them.
What other budget relieving measures has Union taken?
- There will not be wage or salary increases for the 2020-2021 fiscal year. Exceptions will be rare and must be recommended by a vice president and approved by the president.
- Union will pause all faculty and staff hiring for the remainder of 2020. Exceptions will be rare and must be recommended by a vice president and approved by the president.
- Vice presidents will work with their units to ensure that operating budget spending is curtailed through the end of the 2020-2021 fiscal year.
Why do temporarily furloughed employees not have access to their Union email accounts?
It is important that temporarily furloughed employees not perform any work on behalf of the College. Even working for a brief period, including reading and responding to work-related email, could jeopardize an individual’s unemployment insurance eligibility. For that reason, it is considered a best practice to suspend temporarily furloughed employee email accounts. Access will be restored when furloughed employees return to work at Union. They continue to be able to access important resources such as benefit information. Employees placed on furlough will also have a point of contact on campus. Temporarily furloughed employees are valued members of the Union community and we look forward to welcoming everyone back to campus soon.