Berkeleyan

Voluntary separation with severance pay is now an option

Up to 200 eligible staff will be accepted for the new program

| 16 April 2009

Eligible staff members on the Berkeley campus can now apply to be considered for a voluntary separation program that would reduce the campus workforce and its associated costs, while providing approved employees with the benefit of severance pay.

The UC Berkeley Voluntary Separation Option (VSO), announced by Vice Chancellor for Administration Nathan Brostrom, is open to non-represented, full-time, permanent, career staff members at Berkeley. Interested staff must apply to be considered for the program between now and May 8; separation for those approved to participate will be effective June 29, 2009.

The first 200 employees who apply for the program will be considered. Human Resources estimates that if 200 eligible employees volunteer and are accepted, it could save the Berkeley campus up to $11.6 million.

The campus worked for weeks to develop the program, and last week received final permission from the Office of the President to implement it. Detailed guidelines, requirements, and application forms are at hrweb.berkeley.edu/scro/vso.htm.

The VSO could be an attractive option for staff who are considering quitting their jobs or retiring from the university. Under its guidelines, participants receive a severance payment based on their classification and length of UC service.

Participants who are in Professional and Support Staff (PSS) positions will receive a severance payment of one week's pay for each full year of UC service, up to a maximum of 16 weeks' pay. Those in the Managers and Senior Professionals (MSP I-VII) program will receive one month's pay for each full year of service, up to a maximum of six months' pay.

Employees who leave UC Berkeley under the program must agree not to be re-employed at any UC location for at least three years. Although participants are not expected to return to work at Berkeley, in the exceptional situation where a VSO participant is re-employed at a UC location, the employee must repay the severance payment. Detailed requirements are on the VSO website.

The program is designed to create salary savings to meet budget reductions, and it must also cover the costs of the severance payment. To realize these savings, positions made vacant through VSO cannot be filled for 18 months. (Exceptions are possible in situations where a manager can reduce the staff FTE elsewhere in the unit.)

In approving VSO applications, unit managers will base decisions on the business needs of their units, according to HR guidelines. If an employee has skills "in an area of high need, and there are no alternatives for getting the work accomplished," the employee's application to take part in VSO could be denied.

Human Resources will hold an information session for those interested in the program on Thursday, April 30, from 2 to 3 p.m. in the Toll Room of Alumni House.

The VSO program is the latest tool announced by the campus to reduce its workforce through voluntary means and attrition to help meet its critical budget shortfall. Other measures include:

  • the START program, through which staff can voluntarily reduce their time and pay without reducing benefits or service credit toward retirement;
  • a staff hiring freeze, which went into effect March 9;
  • a temporary slowdown in faculty hiring, effective this fiscal year and continuing in 2009-10; and
  • a retirement program for faculty that provides modest assistance to retiring professors and their departments.

For more information on campus programs to address the budget situation, visit Budget Central and click on "Resources for faculty & staff."