General

Revised: Tuesday, May 5, 2020 – A furlough is a temporary forced/required unpaid leave of absence from UW System employment. 

Thursday, April 16, 2020 - "Leave of absence” is defined for purposes of Wisconsin public employment benefits as “any period during which an employee has ceased to render services for a participating employer and receive earnings and there has been no formal termination of the employer-employee relationship . . .” Wis. Stat. section 40.02(40). Other examples of a leave of absence include extended illness leave, extended parental leave, military leave, and layoff (up to three years).

Revised: Tuesday, May 5, 2020 - A consecutive day furlough involves an individual or group of individuals who are placed on an unpaid leave of absence for a specified time period on a full or partial basis with a defined start and end date.

Revised: Tuesday, May 5, 2020 - An intermittent furlough is assigned in full-day or half-day increments that must not exceed one day every two weeks, coinciding with a bi-weekly pay period.

Thursday, April 16, 2020 - A workforce-wide furlough is an intermittent furlough that encompasses an entire or substantial portion of the workforce for an institution or the entire UW System. It is taken in single day increments not to exceed one day taken in every bi-weekly pay period usually spread out over months or years. A workforce-wide furlough is effectively a salary reduction with no effect on most employee benefits.

Revised: Tuesday, May 5, 2020 - A furlough is expected to be of shorter duration than a layoff. There is generally a shorter notice provided and fewer opportunities for an employee to contest or appeal a furlough than a layoff. While on furlough, an employee remains an employee of the institution. A layoff is a termination of employment with reappointment rights.

Tuesday, May 5, 2020 - Individual institutions will determine the impact on an employee’s obligation under intermittent furlough if they are on/have observed a full or partial consecutive day furlough.

Revised: Tuesday, May 5, 2020 - Many factors are considered including, but not limited to the financial and operational needs of the organization, employee skill sets, and the ability to perform assigned duties remotely.

Revised: Tuesday, May 5, 2020 - The interim policy provides the following:

  1. Employees must not be selected for furlough based upon any classification protected under the Wisconsin Fair Employment Act, or any institutional non-discrimination policy.
  2. Employees must not be selected for furlough based on current or past involvement in a labor union, or support or lack of support for any labor union.
  3. Employees must not be selected for furlough based upon any speech that would be protected under system or institutional academic freedom policies.
  4. A furlough assignment is not intended, and must not be used, as a disciplinary measure nor as a substitute for a performance improvement plan in the case of an underperforming employee.

Revised: Tuesday, May 5, 2020 - Yes.  Furloughs are not a subject of bargaining under Wisconsin law for public employees.

Revised: Tuesday, May 5, 2020 - No.  However, UW System policies permit employees to request and receive a voluntary leave of absence with institutional approval which may be substituted for a required furlough.  However, an employee may not cause a right to overtime by creating a voluntary leave of absence and other benefit rights may be affected.  An employee choosing a voluntary leave of absence may be ineligible for unemployment insurance.

Revised: Tuesday, May 5, 2020 - Foreign workers on H-1B or E-3 work authorization may not be furloughed (although foreign nationals here on other status (e.g. J-1, TN, O-1) may be furloughed).  Chancellors may exempt other employees from furlough based upon funding and business needs.

Thursday, April 16, 2020 - The federal government requires that an employer agree to pay a foreign national on H-1B or E-3 visa status on a full-time basis even at times when there is no work to do.

Thursday, April 16, 2020 - To assure compliance with federal immigration rules, the institution should contact its immigration experts to determine the appropriate steps.

Consecutive Day Furloughs

Revised: Tuesday, May 5, 2020 - A consecutive day furlough involves an individual or group of individuals who are placed on an unpaid leave of absence for a specified time period on a full or partial basis with a defined start and end date.

Thursday, April 16, 2020 - Any employee, except for a faculty member, may be placed on a consecutive day furlough.

Revised: Tuesday, May 5, 2020 - Yes, with seven-days written notice, a consecutive day furlough may be extended.  However, an employee’s benefits may be affected by an extension of a full-time consecutive day furlough beyond three months after the month in which the employee is first furloughed.

Thursday, April 16, 2020 - Yes, with seven days’ written notice. The notice period may be shortened or waived by mutual consent of the institution and the employee.

Thursday, April 16, 2020 - The employee and employer should work to come to a mutually agreeable date for the employee to return from furlough, if recalled early.

Thursday, April 16, 2020 - No. A return from a furlough does not require use of rehire processes. As defined, “a furlough is an unpaid forced leave of absence from UW… where the employee remains an employee of the institution.” See the section on employee benefits for further information.

Tuesday, May 5, 2020 - Individual institutions will determine the impact on an employee’s obligation under intermittent furlough if they are on/have observed a full or partial consecutive day furlough.

Temporary Workload Reduction Furloughs

Tuesday, May 5, 2020 - A TWR furlough is a temporary reduction in an employee’s regularly scheduled hours per week.

Tuesday, May 5, 2020 - Yes. Employees on a TWR furlough have the same benefits as employees on a consecutive day furlough except that a TWR furlough is not considered a “qualifying event” that will allow for employees to change benefit elections.

Workforce-Wide Intermittent Furloughs

Revised: Tuesday, May 5, 2020 - A workforce-wide furlough is an intermittent furlough that encompasses an entire or substantial portion of the workforce for an institution or the entire UW System. It is taken in half- or single day increments not to exceed one day taken in any bi-weekly pay period usually spread out over months or years. A workforce-wide furlough is effectively a salary reduction with no effect on most employee benefits.

Thursday, April 16, 2020 - Any employee, including faculty members, may be placed on a workforce-wide intermittent furlough.

Thursday, April 16, 2020 - Yes, an institution may exclude employees from a workforce-wide intermittent furlough for business needs.

Thursday, April 16, 2020 - An institution may assign workforce-wide intermittent furlough days on either fixed or employee choice days, or a mixture of both. For example, an institution might assign, in a twelve-month period, 4 fixed furlough days (such as the day after Thanksgiving) and 4 choice days. For a workforce-wide intermittent furlough assignment, no more than one furlough day may be assigned (whether fixed or by choice) in a two-week period.

Revised: Tuesday, May 5, 2020 - Exempt (salaried) employees subject to a workforce-wide intermittent furlough become non-exempt (hourly) employees during that week. As such, these exempt employees may be required to report all hours worked during that furlough week. Exempt employees may only work up to 32 hours in a furlough week and may not be authorized to work overtime.

Revised: Tuesday, May 5, 2020 - It depends on how the furlough is designed. Institutions can provide for a furlough with fewer days for nine-month employees.  See additional questions related to faculty.

Thursday, April 16, 2020 - If the furlough days fall in a different bi-weekly pay period, then no. Consecutive days that fall within the same bi-weekly pay period are not allowed.

Leave Usage During Furlough

Thursday, April 16, 2020 - No, the UW System interim furlough policy prohibits the use of vacation or other personal leave during a furlough.

Tuesday, May 5, 2020 - Yes.  An employee may choose to use a furlough day instead of claiming sick leave or use a furlough day to extend a vacation or holiday, so long as the supervisor approves and so long as only one furlough day is used in a two-week period.

Revised: Tuesday, May 5, 2020 - No. A furloughed employee may not use any form of leave to receive wages during a furlough including 2020 federal or university pandemic leaves.

Revised: Tuesday, May 5, 2020 - No. An employee may not use accrued sick leave to receive wages during the furlough. However, there is an option to use the cash equivalent of accrued sick leave to pay for health insurance premiums.   Use of sick leave to pay for premiums will result in tax liability and withholdings.  See the benefits section below for further information. 

If an employee elects to pay for the employee share of premium using accrued sick leave, the employee’s sick leave balance will be reduced based on the number of hours used to pay the premium. For example, if an employee earns $15/hour and is paying a monthly health insurance premium share of $222/month, the employee’s sick leave balance would be reduced by 14.8 hours ($222/$15 per hour), not accounting for applicable tax withholdings.

Please note that if an employee participates in the Income Continuation Insurance program (ICI), reduction in available sick leave balances may affect future premium rates for university staff and the elimination periods for FA/AS/LI employee groups. For more information on ICI premiums, see Income Continuation Insurance available on the UW System Human Resources Employee Benefits website.

Thursday, April 16, 2020 - Yes. The interim furlough policy provides that an employee will earn vacation, personal holiday, and sick leave while furloughed.

Revised: Thursday, May 21, 2020 - Notwithstanding UW System Administrative Policy 1211- Personal Holiday and Legal Holiday Administration, an employee on an intermittent furlough will receive holiday pay even when the employee takes one intermittent furlough day prior to and one intermittent furlough day following a legal holiday.

(No change) For consecutive day furloughs, an employee would not receive holiday pay for any fixed holidays that occur during the furlough. 

(No change) Employees on temporary workload reduction (TWR) furlough continue to receive holiday pay based on their appointment, prior to furlough.

Tuesday, May 5, 2020 - Yes, if a person is on paid leave, they are still subject to intermittent furlough assignments.  If a person is on unpaid FMLA leave, they may still be placed on a furlough assignment; the days they serve on the furlough assignment are not counted towards their 12-week FMLA limit.

Tuesday, May 5, 2020 - Yes.

Employee Benefits During Furlough

Revised: Tuesday, May 5, 2020 - Depending on the number of days in furlough, appointment percentage (FTE status) and if the employee is FA/AS/LI or university staff, the employee may receive a partial year of creditable service. A “partial year” would be a percentage of the year that is equivalent to the hours spent in paid status

Thursday, April 16, 2020 - No. The employee will not receive the employer contribution to retirement (WRS) benefits on furlough days.

Revised: Tuesday, May 5, 2020 - No. Generally, an employee must be in paid status to make contributions to these programs as contributions to these accounts are made through payroll deduction. 

Revised: Tuesday, May 5, 2020 - The employee should contact their 403(b) provider to determine whether and how a loan or payout may be obtained.

Thursday, April 16, 2020 - The WRS does not allow hardship distributions or loans. The only WRS distribution options are detailed in Wis. Stat. sec. 40, which functions as the WRS plan document. Distributions are limited to benefits such as separation benefits for those under minimum retirement age, and retirement benefits for those who have reached minimum retirement age and are vested.

Revised: Tuesday, May 5, 2020 - Both the placement on a consecutive day furlough and the return to paid status may constitute a qualifying life event for employment benefit purposes. Employees who chose to lapse some or all benefits during a consecutive day furlough may re-enroll upon their return to paid status.  For more detailed information on benefits, please see the UW System Human Resource Employee Benefits website, furlough page.

Thursday, April 16, 2020 - Yes.

Revised: Tuesday, May 5, 2020 - Under state law, the UW System is required to pay the employer’s share of health insurance premiums for a furloughed employee for the month in which the furlough starts and for three months thereafter. See Wis. Stat. sec. 40.05(4)(a)3a.  If a continuous day furlough is extended, without interruption beyond this date, the employee may maintain health insurance coverage by paying the full cost of the premium.

Employees whose furlough FTE percentage is at least 50% will maintain the same health insurance benefit as a full-time employee regardless of the time spent in furlough.  If an employee on a TWR furlough with a less than 50% FTE, and the TWR furlough extends more than three months beyond the month in which the furlough began, then the employee can maintain insurance coverage by paying half of the full cost of the premium.

The full cost of the premium varies by the plan selected.  The list of plan premiums is available through the Wisconsin Department of Employee Trust Funds.

Revised: Tuesday, May 5, 2020 - An employee may pay the employee share of health insurance premiums through payroll deduction from the last paycheck (if time permits), direct bill, or use of sick leave, based on cash value of the employee’s sick time, calculated using the employee’s current hourly rate for the employee’s benefit primary job. 

For supplement insurance, life insurance and income continuation insurance employees may pay through payroll deduction from their last paycheck (if time permits) or direct bill.

Revised: Tuesday, May 5, 2020 - A consecutive day furloughed employee may not contribute to an FSA through payroll deduction while in unpaid status but may spend from existing accounts for qualifying purchases. When an employee returns to paid status, their pre-tax contribution will be recalculated to increase the deduction per paycheck amount for the remainder of the calendar year.

  • Health Care FSA: If an employee meets their health care FSA annual goal amount with their pre-tax contributions (before and after their furlough) they may submit eligible expenses for reimbursement while they were on furlough. If they do not meet their annual goal amount, expenses incurred while they were on furlough are not eligible for reimbursement.
  • Dependent Day Care FSA: Regardless of whether the employee meets their annual goal amount with their pre-tax contributions (before and after their furlough), they may continue to incur expenses until December 31st for reimbursement.

If an employee on a consecutive day furlough elects to lapse their participation in the health care FSA, they will be unable to claim reimbursement for any claims incurred during the period when the FSA is lapsed but will be able to modify the annual election, once the employee returns to work.

For an employee on an intermittent furlough, there is no impact to their FSA. Their pre-tax contributions will continue to be made from their paychecks. In addition, they may continue to incur and submit eligible expenses for reimbursement.

For additional information on use of FSA during furlough and on Dependent Care FSA, please see the UW System Human Resource Employee Benefits website, furlough page.

Tuesday, May 5, 2020 - A furloughed employee may not contribute to an HSA through pay roll deduction while in unpaid status but may spend from existing accounts for qualifying purchases.    However, employees who maintain their enrollment in the HDHP Health Insurance Plan will continue to receive the employer contribution to the HSA. 

Revised: Tuesday, May 5, 2020 - Yes, but the furloughed employee will be responsible to pay the premium through direct billing or having deductions taken in advance of their furlough (if time permits). Because being placed on a consecutive day furlough may be a qualifying event for insurance plans, an employee may lapse their coverage and re-enroll in such plans upon returning to pay status.

Thursday, April 16, 2020 - Yes, if qualified for such insurance because of illness or disability and up to date on premium payments, an employee may be eligible for income continuation payments even if the employee is in furloughed status.

Revised: Tuesday, May 5, 2020 - Parking programs vary among institutions.  Institutions are encouraged to develop or modify plans that equitably treat employees serving consecutive day furloughs.

Thursday, April 16, 2020 - Yes.

Revised: Tuesday, May 5, 2020 - Generally, individuals who experience a wage reduction equivalent to 8 hours in a 40-hour work week and who have earned less than $500 in that week from all employers are eligible to apply for unemployment compensation. More information can be found at https://dwd.wisconsin.gov/ui/

Thursday, April 16, 2020 - Unemployment insurance/compensation claims are processed by the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development (DWD). The UW System’s role is to answer the DWD’s request for information in a timely and factual manner.

Revised: Tuesday, May 5, 2020 - UW System does not determine eligibility for and amount of benefits. Information on unemployment, the CARES Act and unemployment benefit amounts can be found at https://dwd.wisconsin.gov/ui/

Thursday, April 16, 2020 - Applications are filed directly with the state at https://dwd.wisconsin.gov/ui/

Special Issues for Faculty and Instructional Staff

Tuesday, May 5, 2020 - No.  Faculty and instructional staff will take required furloughs on non-instructional days or half-days.

Tuesday, May 5, 2020 - Such individuals will account for furloughs in half-day increments during a time when they are not providing instruction.

Tuesday, May 5, 2020 - Faculty and instructional staff may not perform instruction or university service during a furlough day or half-day.  They may work on their own scholarship but should not come on to campus.

Tuesday, May 5, 2020 - No.  Employees in this group are excluded from the provisions and coverage of the FLSA.

Tuesday, May 5, 2020 - Institutions may choose how to handle faculty sabbaticals.  Faculty on sabbatical may be subject to a percentage furlough deducted from their monthly wages as was done during the state of Wisconsin 2009-2011 furloughs.

Tuesday, May 5, 2020 - Institutions may choose how to handle gift and grant funded positions in keeping with any donor constraints.  Most funding agencies and donors expect institutions to have policies in place regarding the payment of salary and wages for employees which are consistently applied regardless of the source of funds and that reflect no more than the percentage of time devoted to the project.  In addition, most funding agencies and donors provide the Institution the flexibility to adjust budgets to use the money saved from furloughs in other ways as part of the project.  Furloughs, then, should not be a problem with gift or grant funding.

Tuesday, May 5, 2020 - Institutions may choose how to handle split appointments so that the resulting furloughs are fairly administered.

Tuesday, May 5, 2020 - No.  Only the first 100% of an appointment should be subject to a furlough.