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21st May 2020

Pay cuts, severance and unpaid leave: UoM announce voluntary cost-saving measures

Staff at the University of Manchester are being given the option to volunteer for a severance scheme, unpaid leave, reduced hours and pay cuts
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Pay cuts, severance and unpaid leave: UoM announce voluntary cost-saving measures
Photo: David Molloy Photography @Wikimedia Commons

The University of Manchester has announced a number of cost-saving measures which staff can opt into, in light of financial losses due to Covid-19.

These pay-related cost-saving measures include “a University-wide voluntary severance package, an unpaid career break or reduced working hours for a three, six, nine or 12-month period, or a voluntary salary reduction.”

Last month the University made headlines when it announced a potential loss of £270 million due to predicted drops in numbers of student admissions, as well as loss of income from student halls, commercial services, and research income.

Around 12,000 people are employed by the University of Manchester, making it the largest single employer in Manchester. Excluding those whose salaries are paid by external funding, casual employees and agency staff, the majority of staff employed by the University are eligible to put themselves forward for these measures.

A University spokesperson told The Mancunion that the measures were introduced following “a consultation with the trade unions” and that “staff are under no obligation to take up any of these measures.”

Voluntary Severance Scheme:

Staff have been given the option to voluntarily sever their employment with the University. Those who opt for this measure and are successful in applying will receive a severance payment based on the number of years they have been employed.

The terms of the package are as follows:

  • Up to four years continuous service – four months basic salary
  • Between four years and ten years continuous service – seven months basic salary
  • Beyond ten years continuous service – ten months basic salary

Unpaid Career Breaks: 

The University of Manchester has an existing policy through which staff can apply for an unpaid career break, “for example to care for your children, elderly or unwell family members.”

Previously, the policy stated that to apply you must have worked at the University continuously for at least two years. However, in light of the financial losses incurred during the lockdown, the University has made the decision to waive this stipulation.

What’s more, while the former policy allowed for a career break of a minimum of 6 months, this current measure allows for the possibility of a shorter break from 3 months up to 2 years of unpaid leave.

Voluntary reduction in hours:

Staff are being offered the opportunity to reduce their hours by a minimum of 10%, as a voluntary cost saving measure for the University.

Those who opt for this measure will be able to discuss their preferred changes in hours with their line manager, based on their personal situation and their professional responsibilities.

Voluntary salary reductions:

Much like the above option to reduce hours, staff are also being given the option to volunteer for a self-defined pay cut.

The University of Manchester staffnet website states that this measure has been introduced as “a number of colleagues have offered to take a voluntary salary reduction, and we can now confirm how this can be done.”

This comes after an announcement in April that the University’s Senior Leadership Team have taken a 20% pay cut, in light of financial losses caused by closing the campus. However this measure allows for staff to decide on the level of pay reduction and how long their wish this reduction to apply for (e.g. 5%, 10%, 20% or more, for 3 to 12 months).

University of Manchester Main Library. Photo: DPOrman @ Wikimedia

It is currently unknown how many staff are expected to opt into any of these measures, however the University have offered reassurances that although staff numbers may decrease fractionally as a result of these voluntary schemes, they “don’t expect these voluntary measures to significantly impact on the delivery of our teaching”.

The full extent of the drop in student recruitment will not be known until October 2020, however it is likely that the University will be taking further measures to reduce its expenditure in the near future to compensate for the reduction in income.

A University spokesperson told The Mancunion: “We are introducing these measures to help mitigate any future action that is likely to be needed due to the impact on our finances from the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We understand these are challenging times for everyone and staff are under no obligation to take up any of these measures.

“The University of Manchester remains ambitious for the future, so to carry on providing excellent education, conducting high quality research and maintaining our commitment to social responsibility, we must ensure we have sufficient funds.”

More information on the policies and how to apply can be found on the University of Manchester staffnet website.

The University and College Union (UCU) has been contacted for comment.

Anja Samy

Anja Samy

Editorial Advisor and Head of Manchester Media Group.

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