Beginning in May, qualified University of Virginia Academic Division and College at Wise employees will have the opportunity to take advantage of an early retirement option.
Under the Early Retirement Incentive Program, eligible University staff members – those who are at least 55 years old with 20 or more consecutive years of state service – who choose to retire will receive a nine-month salary cash severance payment and a $9,000 health care subsidy. Both the severance pay and the health care subsidy are cash payments unique to the program, and are not included in U.Va.’s standard retirement benefit.
Development of the program began in the fall, when members of the University Staff Senate expressed interest in securing greater financial support for longtime employees who wished to retire.
“Over the past several years, we’ve heard from employees who’ve indicated they had an interest in retiring, but they were frustrated by barriers that prevented them from doing so,” U.Va. Employee Relations Manager Gary Helmuth said.
The Early Retirement Incentive Program is specifically designed to remove common barriers such as health care costs and outstanding financial commitments for qualifying employees.
“We know a lot of our staff members are interested and ready to retire, but don’t feel like they have quite the financial means to be able to do it,” Vice President and Chief Human Resource Officer Susan Carkeek said. “This is a way to help our staff and at the same time provide some flexibility to the University.”
Nearly 800 University staff members meet the age and eligibility requirements of the program. The new program is entirely voluntary – employees who qualify but wish to remain in their positions are not required to enroll. The intention is to give those employees who would like to retire the necessary support to do so.
The Early Retirement Incentive Program is a one-time-only offer. The program is designed to meet current demand, but will not be available as an annual option. Employees may enroll between May 4 and June 14; retirement dates will be staggered between Aug. 1 and Oct. 1. In some cases, retirement dates may be extended through Dec. 1 in order to accommodate multiple departures within a single area.
The plan is open only to salaried University staff who are at least 55 years of age with 20 or more years of consecutive state service as of June 14. Classified staff and administrative and professional faculty are not eligible to participate unless they convert to University staff by June 14.
As with any retirement decision, Carkeek recommends that staff members speak with family, friends and trusted advisers before enrolling. Employees should have a clear idea of the financial demands of retirement and account for possible health care and lifestyle changes. Interested staff members should also visit the Early Retirement Incentive Program Resource Page to find detailed plan information and answers to frequently asked questions.
In addition to serving individual employees, the program will also benefit the University’s current financial challenges, opening hiring options for managers and allowing departments to better address their priorities.
“The Early Retirement Incentive Program is intended to provide management with a tool to redesign staffing plans and reallocate resources to achieve strategic priorities,” Helmuth said. “Our counsel is that before a manager makes the decision to backfill the vacated position, they will evaluate whether there are opportunities to gain by redistributing duties and rethinking the way the work is done.”
Prior to the enrollment period, managers will be notified of anyone in their department who is eligible for the program. This is intended as a courtesy so they can prepare for possible changes. Managers are advised not to discourage or persuade employees to sign up for the program.
The options created by early retirements will give the University additional avenues for addressing recent funding decreases, curbing spending and redirecting funds to priorities where they are most needed.
“This is a benefit for our employees who want to retire and a win for the University. The benefit for the University is an innovative financial management tool to help reallocate resources during some challenging budget times,” Carkeek said.