HR Operations

Temporary layoff policy

Updated December 29, 2020

A temporary layoff may be required because of events at the institutional or employing unit level resulting in a temporary lack of funds or work. This policy applies during the COVID-19 emergency and may be amended in response to changing state and federal government requirements.

Temporary layoffs apply to employees in regular professional, contract covered staff, and classified non-union staff positions, contract classified fixed duration positions, and professional staff project positions. Employees serving a probationary period may be temporarily laid off under this policy or they may be separated by ending their probationary period.

There are two types of temporary layoffs:

  • A full-time equivalent percentage (FTE) reduction to no less than 0.5 FTE.
  • A furlough: unpaid time away from work for a temporary period of time based on the rules of the employee’s employment program.

Both types of temporary layoffs require coordination and approval through UW Human Resources.

Temporary reduction in FTE

For regular classified non-union and regular and fixed duration contract classified staff, a temporary reduction in work effort is a reduction of an employee’s scheduled weekly hours. The reduction may not exceed 20 hours in a workweek. A reduction of more than 20 hours per workweek is a furlough.

For professional staff, an FTE reduction is not considered a layoff, whether temporary or permanent, unless it exceeds 20 hours in a workweek. However, professional staff FTE adjustments due to COVID-19 related reasons will be transacted as temporary layoffs for the purposes of tracking and maintenance of the employee’s time off accrual rate.


For all regular professional, contract covered staff, and classified non-union staff, as well as fixed duration classified and professional project staff employees, a furlough is an employer-initiated temporary period of unpaid time away from work. At the conclusion of the furlough, the employee will resume the same position and FTE they held immediately prior to the furlough.

Duration of temporary layoff

A temporary layoff must be for a defined period of time that is consistent with the nature of the funding or other constraints or circumstances that make the temporary layoff necessary. When it is reasonably expected that the temporary layoff will end in the foreseeable future, but an exact end date is not known, UW Human Resources may approve the temporary layoff as follows:

Employment program Reduction in FTE
(# of days in a calendar year)
Furlough (Lack of work)
(# of days in a calendar year)
Furlough (Lack of funds)
(# of days in a calendar year)
Contract covered staff 60 days 60 days 60 days
Classified non-union (WAC 357-46-064) 60 days 60 days 60 days
Professional staff N/A, reductions in FTE are allowed
but are not considered “temporary layoffs”
60 days 60 days

With the approval of the Vice President for UWHR or their designee, UWHR may approve an extension of the temporary layoff end date provided an extension is allowable under the terms of the employee’s collective bargaining agreement, professional staff program, or state civil service rules. Temporary layoffs should typically not extend beyond 90 calendar days per calendar year in total.

A day is the FTE equivalent of an employee’s weekly scheduled hours. A day of unpaid furlough for a full-time employee is eight hours; a day of unpaid furlough for part-time employees is a prorated amount based on their FTE percentage. Since furloughs are tracked as unpaid time off, departments may choose to describe furlough duration in terms of hours not to exceed the total number of days by employment program.

In addition, furloughs of employees in contract classified fixed duration positions or professional staff project positions may not extend beyond the end of the appointment or be used to extend the appointment.

If it appears that the situation giving rise to the need for a temporary layoff will last indefinitely:

  • For a temporary reduction in FTE: the FTE of an employee whose FTE has been temporarily reduced may be permanently reduced.
  • For a furlough: an employee on furlough may be separated from the University and the position eliminated through the University’s established layoff process.

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Initiating a temporary layoff: Plan preparation and HR consultation

When an employing unit determines it is necessary to temporarily lay off a regular employee, fixed duration, or professional staff project employee, the unit must prepare a draft temporary layoff plan and submit it to UW Human Resources to obtain approval prior to notifying impacted employees. The Temporary Layoff Scenarios (pdf) illustrates approaches, transactions and impacts associated with various scenarios departments may be considering to meet their changed workload and/or budgetary expectations.

The draft plan must:

  • Explain the nature of the temporary financial or other constraints or circumstances that require the use of furlough.
  • Identify the type of temporary layoff that will be used (temporary reduction in FTE or furlough).
  • Identify the proposed temporary layoff start and end dates.
  • Explain how inverse seniority is applied for contract covered or classified non-union staff
  • Outline any events that may necessitate a change in plan (e.g., more employees request voluntary furlough than anticipated; federal funding eliminates need to furlough due to lack of funds, etc.)
  • Identify the impacted positions, UW NetIDs, EIDs, and names of employees holding those positions.

Please contact your HR consultant to begin the process. They will make sure that:

  • You have the information and support you need to develop and implement an effective staff reduction plan.
  • You have a communication plan that will provide staff with information that is timely, geared to their needs, and sensitive to the dynamics of the workplace.

Temporary layoffs for contract classified and classified non-union employees occur by department in inverse seniority order by most recent date of UW hire (Company service date).

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Temporary layoff notice

In general, an employee will receive at least 7 calendar days’ written notice of temporary layoff, with more notice being given where feasible. Written notice will be signed by the employing unit’s appointing authority or designee. For classified non-union employees, less notice may be given if urgent budget or operational issues are present.

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Additional considerations for furloughs

Working during furlough is not permitted

Furloughed employees are not authorized to perform any work at all for the employing unit during the furlough period (including checking and responding to their work email and remotely accessing their workstation except for the purpose of receiving communications about the end or extension of the furlough) and may not volunteer to perform unpaid work for the employing unit.

FLSA exemption

All furloughs of exempt staff must occur on a Monday because any exempt employee temporarily laid off midweek becomes overtime eligible for the entire workweek. This means they must be treated as overtime eligible job profile, record their actual hours worked and not worked (maintain a timesheet), be paid straight time for any hours required to work up to 40, and time and one-half for any hours worked over 40.

Effect of temporary layoff on time off accrual and use, seniority, step progression, and probationary and trial service periods

An employee’s vacation and sick time off accruals, months of service toward a higher vacation accrual rate, holiday compensation, company service date, progression start date, seniority, probationary or trial service period end date, and time off service date are not adjusted for time spent on temporary layoff. However, under WAC 357-46-067, classified non-union employees may see an adjustment to their progression start date if unpaid time off exceeds 80 hours (prorated for part-time employment) in the month.

During furlough, unpaid time off on the last scheduled day before the holiday does not impact holiday pay.

During furlough, employees cannot substitute paid time off for scheduled furlough time except as noted below under employer-paid insurance.

Effect of furlough on retirement plan contributions and employer-paid insurance

UW employer-paid insurance will continue during any month in which the employee is in pay status for at least 8 hours. Employees who would be off the payroll for a full calendar month or more because of furlough will be allowed to use 8 hours of eligible paid time off in the month to ensure health care insurance continuation during furlough.

Retirement contributions will continue based on the pay received by the employee, however a reduction in paid hours may impact the employee’s service credit accumulation. To learn more about how a retirement plan accumulates service credit review, information about your retirement plan.

Return to work from furlough

Employees on furlough are expected to return to work on the date specified in the furlough notice or as otherwise required by the employing official.

If the employing unit is able to end a furlough earlier than anticipated, they will notify the employee of the return to work date as soon as it is known. Notice of early return to work should be made verbally and confirmed by email if possible. If verbal notification is not possible, notice may be provided by email.

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Templates to download


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