What is the Incentivized Phased Separation program for faculty and staff?
West Virginia University’s Incentivized Phased Separation is a voluntary program that provides faculty and staff a gradual transition from employment by offering reduced work and reduced pay for a designated period of time prior to the employee’s exit. Upon exit, the employee will receive an incentive payment for participating in the program.
Why is WVU offering an Incentivized Phased Separation program?
Throughout the past several months, WVU has received numerous inquiries from faculty and staff regarding their retirement eligibility, retirement benefits and phased retirement options. Based on the volume of retirement inquiries received, Talent and Culture partnered with the Office of the Provost to take a close look at WVU’s current retirement programs, trainings and support offerings to ensure they are comprehensive and consider the needs of all employees. These efforts included gathering feedback from faculty and staff through a WVU Retirement Survey, which was conducted in late October 2020.
The following employee feedback from the survey led to the development of the program:
- When thinking about retiring now or in the future, approximately 88% of respondents expressed interest in exploring phased retirement.
- Approximately 76% of respondents shared that the ability to transition or phase out of employment with WVU — without a requirement to immediately enter into retirement — was fairly or extremely important.
- Approximately 83% of respondents shared that receiving some type of monetary incentive for entering into a phased separation agreement was fairly or extremely important.
How does the Incentivized Phased Separation program differ from the 2019 VSIP program?
The 2019 VSIP program was a part of efforts to reduce overall operating costs and prioritize funding for investment in WVU’s most strategic initiatives. Through the program, the University offered lump-sum payments to eligible faculty and staff, who in return agreed to completely separate from employment with WVU either by resignation or retirement.
The Incentivized Phased Separation program is based on feedback received from faculty and staff regarding support needed to smoothly transition from their WVU careers. While some cost-savings may be achieved, this program focuses on offering the benefit of time. Eligible employees will have a longer period to consider their interest in the program and more time to collaborate with college and division leadership to determine if a phased separation is mutually beneficial to all parties. If the employee receives an offer and accepts it, they will have time to gradually transition into the next phase of their life, while the University will have time to plan for their departure.
Who is eligible for the Incentivized Phased Separation program?
In general, the program is open to all faculty and staff across the WVU System who meet eligibility requirements, which include:
- The employee currently holds a regular, benefits-eligible position at the University.
- The employee has 15 or more years of benefits-eligible service (as of Feb. 26, 2021).
- The employee must remain benefits-eligible during the phasing period.
While many employees may elect to officially retire in conjunction with their participation in the Incentivized Phased Separation program and take advantage of retiree benefits, the employee’s eligibility to retire upon exit is not required. Further, all faculty and staff who participate in the program may pursue other employment opportunities, subject to certain restrictions.
How will I know if I am eligible to participate in the Incentivized Phased Separation program?
Faculty and staff who meet eligibility requirements for the program will receive an invitation to express their interest via email. The email will come from WVUSeparationIncentives@mail.wvu.edu and will be distributed on Friday, Jan. 15. The email will contain a link to an online interest form that has been customized for each employee. The deadline for employees to express their interest in the program is Friday, Feb. 26, at 5 p.m.
What are the incentive payments available to eligible employees through the Incentivized Phased Separation program?
Eligible faculty and staff will be provided three separation incentive options through the program based on their FTE/effort reductions:
- Faculty and staff who sign an agreement with an exit date on or before Dec. 31, 2021 , will receive a monetary payment upon exit equal to 100% of the annualized value of their salary reduction.
- Faculty and staff who sign an agreement with an exit date after Dec. 31, 2021 , but on or before June 30, 2022, will receive a monetary payment upon exit equal to 75% of the annualized value of their salary reduction.
- Faculty and staff who sign an agreement with an exit date after June 30, 2022, but on or before Dec. 31, 2022, will receive a monetary payment upon exit equal to 50% of the annualized value of their salary reduction.
Note: The annualized value of the salary reduction is based on the employee’s fiscal year appointment for one year and is not based on the length of the phasing period.
A 12-month, 1.00 FTE employee with an annual base salary of $85,000 who reduces their effort/hours by 30% effective July 1, 2021, would receive a lump-sum payment after their exit of:
|Exit Date||Annualized Value of 30% Effort/Hours Reduction||Percentage of Annualized Value Based on Exit Date||Lump-Sum Payment Upon Exit|
|On or before Dec. 31, 2021||$25,500||100%||$25,500|
|After Dec. 31, 2021, but on or before June 30, 2022||$25,500||75%||$19,125|
|After June 30, 2022, but on or before Dec. 31, 2022||$25,500||50%||$12,750|
* Note: Faculty and staff are required to remain benefits-eligible throughout the phased separation period.
Is participation in the program mandatory for eligible employees?
No. Participation in the Incentivized Phased Separation program is completely voluntary. Whether an eligible employee chooses to take advantage of this incentive is entirely at their discretion.
If I express interest in the program, am I obligated to take an offer if I receive one?
No. If you express interest in the Incentivized Phased Separation program and an offer is made, you will have a 45-day consideration period in which you may choose to accept or reject the offer. Further, if you accept an offer, you will have an additional seven-day revocation period after submitting your paperwork in which you may choose to cancel your Incentivized Phased Separation contract.
Am I guaranteed to receive an offer if I express interest in the program?
No. The HR partners will share each expression of interest with the employee’s dean or division leader. If the dean or division leader determines a phased separation is operationally and financially feasible, a collaborative process will begin with the chair/supervisor and the employee to determine the specific details of the transition. Additional approvals by senior administrators may be required in certain cases.
Using details from the collaborative process among the employee, the chair/supervisor and the HR partner, Talent and Culture will prepare an Incentivized Phased Separation agreement and other supporting documents for faculty and staff who are approved to participate in the program. The employee will be given a 45-calendar day consideration period to review the agreement; however, they may sign the agreement at any time during the consideration period.
The start of the phasing period (i.e., workload/hours reduction) must align with the operational needs of the department. In general, the phasing period for faculty will start on or after July 1, 2021. Earlier phasing start dates for faculty may be approved in limited situations.
If a phased separation is not financially or operationally feasible, the faculty or staff member who expressed interest will be officially notified. All Incentivized Phased Separation agreements must be finalized by Friday, May 14, 2021.
How were an employee’s years of service determined for the program?
For the purpose of the Incentivized Phased Separation program, the years of service calculation for each eligible employee was determined by using the highest-calculated number of one of the following:
- Annual leave years of service (combined State-eligible service);
- Increment/longevity years of service (combined State-eligible service); or
- Number of years since the start date of the employee’s PEIA basic life insurance.
If I accept an offer through the Incentivized Phased Separation program, would I be eligible for any additional compensation programs offered by the University before my exit date?
No. Once an employee accepts an official Incentivized Phased Separation offer, they no longer would be eligible for any additional WVU compensation programs offered before their exit date.
I already applied for retirement. Am I eligible to participate in the Incentivized Phased Separation program?
If you submitted written documentation on or before Dec. 31, 2020, indicating your intention to resign or retire on a specific date, you are not eligible to take part in the Incentivized Phased Separation program.
How do I know if I am eligible to retire?
Information regarding retirement eligibility can be found on the Talent and Culture website. For questions or more information about retirement eligibility, contact the Benefits Strategy team at Retirement@mail.wvu.edu or 304-293-4399.
If I accept an Incentivized Phased Separation offer, may I get a job at another State agency?
In accordance with State code, an eligible employee who signs an approved Incentivized Phased Separation offer will be ineligible for reemployment with any West Virginia State institution of higher education — even on a contract basis — for wages in excess of $25,000 per fiscal year (July 1 to June 30). This restriction includes all WVU campuses and locations, WVU Research Corp. and WVU Innovation Corporation. The $25,000 limit also applies to the combined total of all wages earned at WVU and its affiliates.
Would participating in the program affect my eligibility for emeritus status?
No. Any participant in the Incentivized Phased Separation program still would be eligible for faculty or staff emeritus status as long as they meet the eligibility requirements detailed within BOG Faculty Rule 4.2 or through the Classified Staff Council procedures.
If I accept an Incentivized Phased Separation offer, what will happen to my accrued and unused annual leave, sick leave or compensatory time off (CTO)?
In accordance with University policies and procedures, as well as State laws and regulations, employees who participate in the Incentivized Phased Separation program would be eligible for payment of accrued and unused annual leave or CTO upon separation from employment with WVU.
Accrued and unused sick leave is not eligible for payment. However, eligible employees with certain conversion rights who retire in conjunction with their Incentivized Phased Separation exit may use accrued and unused sick leave for the purchase of retiree health insurance premiums, if applicable. Employees also may be eligible to transfer accrued and unused annual and sick leave to another State agency that is not a higher education institution depending upon the situation. View BOG Talent and Culture Rule 3.5 for specific details regarding employee leave.
Are WVU Research Corp. or WVU Innovation Corporation employees eligible for the program?
No. The Incentivized Phased Separation program is not open to WVU Research Corp. or WVU Innovation Corporation employees; however, the program is open to WVU Research Office State employees who meet eligibility requirements.
I am eligible for leave or years of service conversion rights that may be exercised at retirement to purchase retiree health insurance, if applicable. If I accept an offer through the Incentivized Phased Separation program, what will happen to my leave or years of service conversion rights?
If an employee with leave or years of service conversion rights retires in conjunction with their Incentivized Phased Separation exit, they may exercise their conversion rights subject to the laws and regulations of the State. If an employee with conversion rights does not retire in conjunction with their Incentivized Phased Separation exit, they may lose those conversion rights depending upon the specifics of their situation. For questions or more information about leave or years of service conversion rights, contact the Benefits Strategy team at Retirement@mail.wvu.edu or 304-293-4399.
I am eligible to retire. If I participate in the Incentivized Phased Separation program, would I still be entitled to the regular retiree benefits (e.g., email, library use, ability to purchase athletics tickets, etc.)?
Yes. Eligible employees who choose to retire with the Incentivized Phased Separation program will receive retiree benefits. More information is available on the Talent and Culture website.