University leadership releases financial resource planning guidelines

University leaders have released additional guidelines to help campus colleges and departments manage the short-term financial challenges related to the COVID-19 crisis. The guidelines follow a temporary hiring freeze that was announced earlier this month.

“We have a deep responsibility to our faculty and staff and we are committed to doing everything possible to support them during this crisis,” said Dan Reed, senior vice president for academic affairs. “Our priority is to ensure all employees are treated fairly and equitably.”

The guidance emphasizes that temporary reductions of workforce are a last resort and only to be considered when alternative measures have been exhausted or cannot be implemented.

Jeff Herring, the U’s chief human resources officer, acknowledges the guidelines will raise many questions. “We are in an unprecedented time and we’re relying on leaders across campus to look very closely at their areas and to make decisions that make the best sense for the long-term success of their employees,” said Herring. A tool kit to assist leaders has been developed by the HR team.

“It’s important to recognize that the university is a large employer with many different sources of revenue beyond state tax appropriations and tuition,” said Herring. “The guidance we’re providing is designed to provide leaders with flexibility in their areas while still recognizing the university’s overarching commitment to supporting its people through this crisis.”

Reed said the memo below is being shared widely to ensure all faculty and staff understand what leaders are being asked to do. “It is important the campus community understands our focus is on doing the right thing for our people and the organization,” he said. “Working together we will position the university to recover as quickly as possible once we return to normal operations.”

The full memo sent to the President’s Leadership Council:

To: President’s Leadership Council

From: Ruth Watkins, Mike Good, Dan Reed

Date: April 13, 2020

Re: Resource Planning Guidelines for Near-Term Financial Operations

While the University of Utah has a responsibility to manage short-term financial challenges, our values also dictate that we continue to do everything possible to protect and support our people. Accordingly, on April 7, 2020, we initiated a hiring freeze with exceptions only for the most urgent areas (e.g., health care providers). The goal continues to be to prioritize current employees, who are working diligently to help the university navigate this challenging period.

As we adopt additional measures, please understand that we approach financial stewardship with a “One U” framework: to ensure that all employees are treated equitably. With that principle in mind, our recommendations are designed to be used across the university in a consistent manner.

Temporary reductions of workforce are a last resort, to be considered only when alternative measures have been exhausted or cannot be implemented. Therefore, unit leaders are required to consult with supervisors, and secure approval of the cognizant vice president prior to implementation of any actions that result in temporary reductions of workforce.

Please take the following actions now:

  1. Reduce or delay administrative and operational expenses (e.g., travel, remodeling and/or renovation projects, purchases).
  2. Defer salary increases.
  3. Eliminate, reduce, or delay overtime and additional compensation payments.
  4. Create a general pool of donated vacation benefits.
  5. Beginning April 16, shift employees on administrative leave (due to duties that cannot be completed via telecommuting) to using accrued leave (utilizing the shared benefit pool, if needed/possible) or leave authorized by the federal government for which they may qualify.
  6. Shift employees on administrative leave (due to duties that cannot be completed via telecommuting) to other duties when possible.

Some units may adopt one or more of the following measures, with the approval of the cognizant vice president:

  1. Employees who are not able to perform job duties during this period, may be temporarily furloughed while retaining full health benefits. These employees would be eligible for reinstatement when work conditions permit. To assist these employees with access to support resources, a help line will be established.
  2. For employees who are not currently able to work full time, but who will be needed at or above full time when work conditions permit, an appropriate percentage of salary may be deferred.
  3. For eligible faculty and staff, voluntary phased retirements and a special early retirement program may be employed with the approval of supervisors.

More details about these measures can be found at hr.utah.edu/coronavirus.

Please contact your assigned HR representative to assist in developing plans and to answer any questions or concerns. Find your representative at hr.utah.edu/contact.

Thank you for your partnership in ensuring that the University of Utah supports its people and emerges from this difficult time positioned to continue serving our students and contributing to our shared economic, social, and cultural well-being.