The University of Wisconsin Oshkosh is facing increased fiscal challenges as a result of the COVID-19 crisis. We are faced with challenges that require painstaking decisions and sacrifice to keep our institution operating and carrying out its mission. There is no good or preferable time to take this type of action. Causing this disruption to lives is difficult.
Below you will find information and resources to help navigate this difficult situation. This page will be updated frequently, so remember to check back often. Please contact the Office of Human Resources with any questions you may have.
Policies & Resources
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ’s)
This FAQ contains answers to many questions, however, the situation is rapidly changing. These FAQs will be updated as needed. Please check back often.
UWO Specific Furlough FAQ's - Updated 5/27/2020
Below are of some of the common questions HR is recieving from employees. Please remember to check back often for updates.
Q: I need to recall a direct report back to work early. What is the process?
A: Supervisors should get approval from their divisional leadership first. After getting approval, they should make phone contact with the employee they want to recall. They should confirm the recall date with the employee, keeping in mind we are required to give at least a 7-day notice before requiring someone to return. If the employee is agreeable, they can return sooner.
Once the start date has been confirmed verbally, the supervisor must e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org and give the name of the employee and their start date. The HR office will e-mail the employee to confirm the return date and this will act as their official notice of recall.
Q: If an employee is recalled early from consecutive furlough, is their furlough assignment over or must they still take intermittent furlough days?
A: Staff that are recalled early will be changed from consecutive to intermittent furlough. The number of intermittent days they take will be based on how many bi-weekly pay periods are left between their recall date and 8/31/20. See this guide for reference. If they start in the middle of a pay period, they do not count that pay period.
Q: If I volunteer for a Temporary Workload Reduction (TWR) furlough and it is approved, do I still take intermittent furlough days?
A: Yes. Your intermittent furlough days will adjust by your new FTE during the period the TWR is approved. Once the TWR is over, you will adjust your intermittent furlough days based on your regular FTE.
Q: How do I report my furlough days in HRS?
Q: What if I was planning to retire and not part of VRIOP, am I still required to furlough?
A: Yes, as long as you are in pay status you can be subject to furloughs.
Q: How do furloughs impact those participating in VRIOP?
A: Subject to supervisor approval employees participating in the VRIOP have the following options:
- Stay as they are now;
- Change to an earlier date from July 1 through August 30;
- Elect to go on a voluntary furlough, including up through your last day employed;
- Use paid leave to remain in pay status up through your last day employed;
- Continue working up through your last day employed;
- Any combination of the above
Q: My notification letter indicates the end of my furlough is Monday, August 31, 2020. Do I report to work on that Monday?
A: No, you would report to work on Tuesday, September 1, 2020.
Q: Can I still work on a day that has been designated as a furlough day?
A: No, an employee may not work on a day that is intended for furlough.
Q: How will New Hires be affected if starting after the Furlough is administered?
A: They will receive a furlough notification letter based on operational and financial considerations.
Q: Am I still eligible to use the Employee Assistance Program if I am on furlough?
A: Yes, we understand these are difficult times and encourage employees to utilize this program. More information can be found online – Username: SOWI.
Q: What if I want to volunteer additional furlough leave, what maximum amount of time would I retain my health insurance benefits while on the furlough?
A: Employees may opt to volunteer additional furlough leave, intermittent or consecutive. Employees should work with their supervisor and Human Resources for any benefit impacts.
Q: Can our department furlough an employee whom is currently on FMLA?
A: Yes, as long as FMLA is not a factor in your decision to furlough. If on furlough, those hours would not count towards the annual FMLA bank.
Q: Can I take intermittent furloughs for selected periods of time such as work one week and then take two weeks off and repeat?
A: No, intermittent furloughs cannot exceed 1 day per a two week period.
Q: Can employees on “consecutive furlough” be called in for emergencies?
A: We need to give employees at least 7 days notice before being recalled to work. This period could be shortened if the employee is agreeable.
Q: Can employees on “intermittent furlough” use vacation as normal planned vacation? (not to cover furlough time)
A: Yes, paid leave can be used with supervisor approval for all non-furlough days.
General Furlough FAQ's - Updated 5/27/2020
Q1: What is a furlough?
Answer: A furlough is a temporary forced/required unpaid leave of absence from UW System employment.
Q2: What is a “leave of absence“?
Answer: 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).
Q3: What is a “consecutive day furlough“?
Answer: 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.
Q4: What is an “intermittent furlough“?
Answer: 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.
Q5: What is a “workforce-wide furlough“?
Answer: 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.
Q7: How does a furlough differ from a layoff?
Answer: 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.
Q8: What criteria are used for determining which employees will be placed on a furlough?
Answer: 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.
Q9: What are the prohibited criteria for placement of an employee on a furlough?
Answer: The interim policy provides the following:
- Employees may not be selected for furlough based upon any classification protected under the Wisconsin Fair Employment Act, or any institutional non-discrimination policy.
- Employees may 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.
- Employees may not be selected for furlough based upon any speech that would be protected under system or institutional academic freedom policies.
- A furlough assignment is not intended, and should not be used, as a disciplinary measure nor as a substitute for a performance improvement plan in the case of an underperforming employee.
Q10: Are employees covered by collective bargaining agreements, such as crafts employees, subject to furloughs?
Answer: Yes. Furloughs are not a subject of bargaining under Wisconsin law for public employees.
Q11: May an employee request a furlough?
Answer: 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.
Q12: Are any employees exempt from furloughs?
Answer: 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.
Q13: Why are H-1B and E-3 employee not subject to furloughs?
Answer: 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.
Q14: If an institution is unable to pay a foreign national employee and there is no work, what should it do?
Answer: To assure compliance with federal immigration rules, the institution should contact its immigration experts to determine the appropriate steps.
Consecutive Day Furlough FAQ's - Updated 5/27/2020
Q1: What is a consecutive day furlough?
Answer: 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.
Q2: What employee categories are subject to a consecutive day furlough?
Answer: Any employee, except for a faculty member, may be placed on a consecutive day furlough.
Q3: May a consecutive day furlough be extended?
Answer: 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.
Q4: May an institution recall a furloughed employee on consecutive day furlough prior to the end date for a recall?
Answer: Yes, with seven days’ written notice. The notice period may be shortened or waived by the mutual consent of the institution and the employee.
Q5: Can an employee be disciplined for refusing/being unable to return to work if recalled early?
Answer: The employee and employer should work to come to a mutually agreeable date for the employee to return from furlough, if recalled early.
Q6: Must an institution enter a new recruitment and rehire an employee upon their return from a consecutive day furlough to return them to active work status?
Answer: 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.
Q7: Is an employee on a consecutive day furlough (full or partial basis) subject to an institution’s intermittent day furlough plan?
Answer: 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 Furlough FAQ's - Updated 5/27/2020
Q1: What is a temporary work reduction (“TWR”) furlough?
Answer: A TWR furlough is a temporary reduction in an employee’s regularly scheduled hours per week.
Q2: If an employee on a TWR furlough earns enough to cover their benefit deductions, may they still use accrued sick leave to pay the employee’s portion of the health insurance premium?
Answer: 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 Furlough FAQ's - Updated 5/27/2020
Q1: What is a workforce-wide intermittent furlough?
Answer: 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.
Q2: What employee categories are subject to a workforce-wide intermittent furlough?
Answer: Any employee, including faculty members, may be placed on a workforce-wide intermittent furlough.
Q3: May an institution exclude employees from a workforce-wide intermittent furlough?
Answer: Yes, an institution may exclude employees from a workforce-wide intermittent furlough for business needs.
Q4: How may an institution assign workforce-wide intermittent furlough days?
Answer: 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.
Q5: How does a workforce-wide intermittent furlough apply to salaried employees?
Answer: 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.
Q6: Are academic year contracts prorated on global/workforce-wide intermittent furlough as a number of days?
Answer: 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.
Q7: Do intermittent furlough assignments need to ensure that the days are not consecutive between pay periods? For example, the last Friday of one pay period and the first Monday of the next.
Answer: 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 FAQ's - Updated 5/27/2020
Q1: May a furloughed employee use vacation, paid leave bank, ALRA (sabbatical) or other personal leave to receive pay while they are furloughed?
Answer: No, the UW System interim furlough policy prohibits the use of vacation or other personal leave during a furlough.
Q2: May an employee select to use an intermittent furlough day in place of a sick leave or vacation day?
Answer: 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.
Q3: May an employee use UW-COVID-19 leave or extended federal paid FMLA leave during a furlough?
Answer: No. A furloughed employee may not use any form of leave to receive wages during a furlough including 2020 federal or university pandemic leaves.
Q4: May an employee use accrued sick leave during a furlough?
Answer: 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. The 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.
Q5: Does an employee continue to accumulate vacation, personal holiday, and sick leave while furloughed?
Answer: Yes. The interim furlough policy provides that an employee will earn vacation, personal holiday, and sick leave while furloughed.
Q6: Will an employee be paid for a holiday that occurs while the employee is furloughed?
Answer: 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.
For consecutive day furloughs, an employee would not receive holiday pay for any fixed holidays that occur during the furlough.
Employees on temporary workload reduction (TWR) furlough continue to receive holiday pay based on their appointment, prior to furlough.
Q7: If a person is on paid medical leave (including FMLA) are they required to take a furlough?
Answer: 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.
Q8: Will an employee on a consecutive day furlough earn a floating/Saturday holiday (example, July 4, 2020)?
Employee Benefits During Furlough FAQ's - Updated 5/27/2020
For information on how the different types of furloughs impact benefits you can also view the UW System Furlough and Employee Benefit page.
Q1: How does the time spent in furlough affect an employee’s creditable service for Wisconsin Retirement System (“WRS”) purposes?
Answer: 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.
Q2: Will an employee receive the employer contribution to retirement (WRS) benefits on furlough days?
Answer: No. The employee will not receive the employer contribution to retirement (WRS) benefits on furlough days.
Q3: Will an employee be able to make contributions to the WRS, UW Tax Sheltered Annuity (TSA) 403(b) Program, or the Wisconsin Deferred Compensation (WDC) 457 Program while on a consecutive day furlough?
Answer: 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.
Q4: May an employee take a loan or other payout from a Tax Sheltered Annuity (TSA) 403(b) or other retirement account during a furlough?
Answer: The employee should contact their 403(b) provider to determine whether and how a loan or payout may be obtained.
Q5: May an employee take a loan or other payout from the Wisconsin Retirement System (WRS)?
Answer: 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.
Qualifying Event for Benefit Modification
Q1: Is a consecutive day furlough a qualifying life event permitting an employee to make benefit selection changes?
Q1: Is an employee eligible to retain State/University health insurance while furloughed?
Q2: Will the UW System pay the employer’s share of the health insurance premium during an employee’s furlough?
Answer: 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.
Q3: What are the options for a furloughed employee to pay the employee share of state/university health insurance?
Answer: 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.
Flexible Spending or Health Savings Accounts
Q1: May a furloughed employee contribute to or use monies in flexible spending (FSA) accounts?
Answer: 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.
Q2: May a furloughed employee contribute to or use monies in health savings account (HSA)?
Answer: A furloughed employee may not contribute to an HSA through payroll 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.
Dental, Vision, Life, AD&D and Accident Insurance Plans
Q1: May a furloughed employee continue to participate in state/university insurance plans where there is no employer contribution?
Answer: 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.
Income Continuation and Disability Insurance
Q1: May an employee access income continuation or disability insurance during a furlough?
Answer: 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.
Parking and Transportation Benefits
Q1: Will an employee be charged for parking during a furlough?
Answer: Parking programs vary among institutions. Institutions are encouraged to develop or modify plans that equitably treat employees serving consecutive day furloughs.
Q2: Will a furloughed employee be permitted to purchase a reduced fare or employer-paid transportation benefits such as a bus pass?
Special Issues for Faculty & Instructional Staff FAQ's - Updated 5/27/2020
Q1: Will the academic year be shortened to accomplish required furlough days?
Answer: No. Faculty and instructional staff will take required furloughs on non-instructional days or half-days.
Q2: How will furloughs be handled for those employees who teach five-days per week?
Answer: Such individuals will account for furloughs in half-day increments during a time when they are not providing instruction.
Q3: May faculty or instructional staff work during a furlough?
Answer: 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.
Q4: If faculty or academic staff engage in work of any kind during a furlough, will their Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) exempt status be changed to non-expempt and will they be entitiled to compensation including overtime pay?
Answer: No. Employees in this group are excluded from the provisions and coverage of the FLSA.
Q5: How will intermittent furloughs be administered for faculty who are on sabbatical?
Answer: 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.
Q6: Will faculty or other employees paid in whole or in part by gift or grant funds be subject to furloughs?
Answer: 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.
Q7: Faculty and instructional staff may have split appointments with one position being on a 9-month basis and another on a 12-month basis. How will these be handled?
Answer: Institutions may choose how to handle split appointments so that the resulting furloughs are fairly administered.
Q8: Are overload or similar payments subject to furlough?
Answer: No. Only the first 100% of an appointment should be subject to a furlough.
Unemployment During Furlough FAQ's - Updated 5/27/2020
Q1: Are furloughed employees able to apply for Unemployment Insurance/Compensation?
Answer: 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/
Q2: What is the UW System role in an unemployment compensation application?
Answer: 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.
Q3: Does the CARES Act provide more money in unemployment insurance benefits for UW System employees than their regular wages?
Answer: 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/
Q4: How do you file an unemployment application?
Answer: Applications are filed directly with the state at http://dwd.wisconsin.gov/ui/
Q5: What is UW Oshkosh’s UI Employer Account Number? Answer: The UI Employer Account Number for UW Oshkosh is 691137. Please make sure you use this number when filing your claim to ensure your paperwork gets sent to the correct location.
Q6: Who determines if my claim gets approved?
Answer: The DWD makes determinations about eligibility and approves weekly claims. UW Oshkosh does not determine if an individual is eligible for unemployment.
UW Extension: Financial Resources to Help Get Through COVID-19 – resources for free financial counseling, steps to take if individuals are struggling to make payments, and links to resources for requesting unemployment benefits, food assistance, childcare, paying utilities, and more.
211 – connects individuals with thousands of nonprofits and government agencies in their area based on their needs. Individuals can visit the website or call 2-1-1.
Oshkosh Area United Way Food Pantry List – list of food pantries in the Oshkosh area
Oshkosh Area United Way Community Resource Updates – list of Community Resources and their current availability including medical care, warming shelters, food pantries, and job centers.
Winnebago County Health Department COVID-19 Resource for the General Public – links for financial resources, mental health resources, aging and disability resources, and family and children resources.