Harvard Voluntary Programs for Staff

In addition to the Voluntary Early Retirement Incentive Program (the 2020 VERIP) being offered to eligible staff, Harvard is offering a voluntary time reduction program. The time reduction program allows staff to contribute meaningfully to Harvard’s financial sustainability and eventual recovery by reducing their time commitment to attend to care-giving responsibilities or other personal priorities, focus on wellbeing and stress reduction, or begin the transition to early retirement.

Harvard 2020 Voluntary Time Reduction Program – Working Less and Earning Less

Harvard asks eligible staff members to consider a voluntary reduction in their time commitment and pay for fall 2020 or beyond. The Voluntary Time Reduction Program is intended to help alleviate the pressures and stresses brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic -- both for the University and for the workforce. Expected to bolster Harvard’s financial sustainability given the revenue shortfalls and extraordinary costs now projected, the program is also being offered to provide needed flexibility this fall (and beyond, if mutually agreeable) to employees.

Subject to approval by a supervisor, staff may reduce their time commitment (for example, from full-time to 80% or 60%, and from 5 days per week to 4 or 3 days per week). This may hold special appeal for those who need more time to care for children or elders given continuing disruptions in schooling and care arrangements, or those who wish to reduce their work commitment as part of their transition to early retirement.

Who is Eligible

Non-temporary, non-academic benefits eligible staff in these groups: Administrative/ Professional, Support Staff and Service/Trades

Program Rules

  • The time reduction must be for at least two consecutive months.
  • To protect their benefits eligibility, staff are advised not to reduce their FTE below 50%.
  • Exempt staff may reduce their FTE in whole day increments only – for example, from full-time to 80% or 60%.
  • Hourly, overtime eligible staff may reduce their “regular” or standard weekly hours, as shown in these examples.
Reduction in hours, pay and salary-linked benefits Regular hours per week
Regular hours per week
10% 36 31.5
20% 32 28
30% 28 24.5
40% 24 21
50% 20 17.5

How it Works

Effective immediately, employees may propose a reduction in their FTE and regular (or scheduled) weekly hours. They should use the form for either Exempt/Administrative Professional staff or the one for Hourly and Support staff, and submit it to their supervisor or manager.

Step One: The employee considers whether they would like to reduce their FTE and regular (scheduled) hours, and if so, proposes the new arrangement to their supervisor in writing on the appropriate form. 

Step Two: The manager considers this request, working with the employee to come to a mutually satisfactory arrangement. The manager may ask for a change in the proposed plan, or decline it if departmental workload or staffing levels do not permit a time reduction. The manager sends the final, approved agreement to local HR for processing with a "cc" to the employee.

Step Three: HR processes a change in the employee’s standard hours and makes other HR data changes in PeopleSoft as needed. Local HR will confirm with the employee and manager that the change has been made, and its effective date.

Once you are working on a reduced schedule, be sure to note your days working and not working on your calendar, on your voicemail greeting and in your email signature. Ensure that an email out-of-office message is activated for extended absences, with an alternate contact identified, so co-workers know when to expect a response, or who is covering for you.

Expected Pay and Benefits Impacts

Like any other reduction in time status or hours, participants in this program should expect changes in their pay and benefits, including:

  • Salary (exempt) or regular weekly hours (non-exempt) will be reduced. Non-exempt employees will be paid based on actual hours worked and approved each week; in this program, however, their regular, scheduled workweek will be reduced.
  • Salary- and earnings-linked benefits will be affected. For example, while Harvard’s contribution to retirement will stay at the same percentage (5% to 15% depending on factors such as age, service and actual earnings), the earnings base on which it is calculated will be reduced. Short-term disability, long-term disability and life insurance benefits will be based on the actual, reduced FTE salary, not the full-time salary.
  • In other cases, benefits will stay the same, even if time and earnings are reduced. For example, both the amount Harvard contributes, and the amount an employee contributes for health care premiums will be determined by the salary tier the employee falls into based on FTE (100%) salary. This will not change. Annual contribution limits for the retirement Tax Deferred Account, which are based on age, will also not change.
  • Paid time off (PTO) -- monthly accruals and maximums for vacation time will be reduced.
  • While not common, benefits may accrue negative balances if reduced earnings cannot support (fully fund) scheduled paycheck deductions. Some changes in deductions (for example, the dollar amount being set aside for retirement in a TDA) may need to be made; in other cases, such as wage garnishments or Harvard housing rent payments, different payment arrangements may need to be made.
  • Because this program is voluntary, employees should not anticipate that they will be eligible for unemployment benefits to offset reduced pay.
  • Though this information is meant to summarize the major impacts on benefits, it is not exhaustive. With changes in FTE, salary or earnings, you may experience a change in eligibility for a particular benefit or assistance program.

In Summary

Participating in this program will enable staff to contribute to Harvard’s financial sustainability at a difficult time, while exercising options that help meet their own needs. We appreciate full consideration of this voluntary program, and for those who cannot participate, your help sustaining Harvard's operational continuity. We all have a role to play, and we can all find a way to contribute during this challenging time in our lives and the life of the University.