Univ. tweaks benefit package

As budget cuts deepen across the University, the administration is giving employees a little and finding ways to save a lot.

Managerial and professional staff are losing some of their paid time off, vacation days and vacation bonuses, but they are also gaining short-term disability coverage, which will provide support to staff members who fall severely ill or become injured and cannot work. Staff interviewed applauded the new disability coverage, and said that while the other cuts to their benefits are unfortunate, they are better than more layoffs.

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“If it’s going to save jobs, then I think it could be a good thing,” said Joanne Bentley, the business manager for the Chemistry Department, who said she had never seen such major changes to Yale’s benefits package in the 25 years she has worked for Yale. “But clearly, it’s going to have a pretty big impact for years to come.”

Between the new disability coverage and the loss of vacation, sick and personal days, the tweaks mark a major change for Yale’s benefits package, which has historically been considered among the most generous in the Ivy League. The amount of paid time off that Yale offers to its staff is among the Ivy League’s highest. But Yale was, until now, the only Ivy League school that did not provide a short-term disability coverage plan — a program Vice President for Human Resources Michael Peel said was established in response to the many staff members who asked for such a benefit in a 2008 workplace survey. The adjustments bring Yale’s policies closer to those of its peer schools.

Though five staff members praised the new disability plan, which provides pay and benefits to staff for up to 26 weeks and full benefits through the sixth week, they criticized the cuts to their paid time off and vacation days — a benefit that tends to be greater at universities and colleges than at corporations. At Yale, staff can currently spend nearly two months a year away from work, using their vacation, sick and personal days, as well as University holidays and recesses, and they can accumulate as many as 64 vacation days they can carry over from year to year.

Even with the cuts, Yale’s paid time off still ranks among the highest in the group of Yale’s peers, Peel said.

“This change strikes the right balance, reducing costs to help us avoid as many layoffs as possible, while giving us a stronger total benefits package,” he said Wednesday.

A cut to paid time off is never welcome, said Andrew Morcus, a facilities operations manager for the Faculty of Engineering. Even so, he had expected the cuts because of Yale’s financial difficulties, he said.

“Yale has always had a fantastic benefits package, and sooner or later that was going to get beat up on,” he said. “We are taking a beating, but it’s still better than what’s out there.”

Staff may be losing out, but the University is gaining: By curtailing the number of vacation days staff can accrue and keep, Yale will ultimately not have to pay for as many unused vacation days at the end of employees’ careers at Yale. Federal and state wage laws require the University to pay the balance of unused vacation days to employees in cash when they leave or retire. Though the University will pay for fewer vacation, personal and sick days, the short-term disability plan is expensive enough to offset some of those savings, Peel said.

The University reduced paid time off partly in response to the extra days off afforded by the short-term disability package, Peel said. Currently, staff who fall ill and cannot work must use up their vacation and sick days, a heavy burden for employees who are new or who have had multiple disabilities, he said.

“The change to add short term disability coverage, while still having paid time off at the top of the peer group, strengthens our comparative superiority,” he added.

But whereas managerial and professional staff currently receive 24 vacation days and four personal days a year, on July 1, these days will be combined into a single paid-time-off benefit of 24 days per year. Sick days will be halved from 12 days a year to six.

And in a move that represents major savings, the University staff will be able to carry over fewer vacation days from year to year, and the bonus vacation day program — under which the University granted longtime staff additional vacation days every five years — will be phased out starting this summer.

Between the reduction in vacation days and the added benefit of the short term disability plan, Yale will ultimately save “a few million” dollars on these adjustments, said University President Richard Levin, who announced the benefits adjustments in an e-mail to all faculty and staff with Provost Peter Salovey last Wednesday. About half of Yale’s spending every year goes toward personnel costs, including salary and benefits, Salovey said in December.

Staff can carry over up to 64 vacation days that they have accumulated from past years into the new fiscal year, which begins July 1, based on how long they have worked for Yale. But beginning July 1, 2011, they will only be able to carry over a maximum of 15 vacation days or the days they did not use during 2010-’11 — whichever is greater. For example, a staff member who has accumulated 27 days will keep up to 15, or the number of days not taken by July 1, for the 2011 fiscal year, which could be as many as 27 if he or she never vacationed.

Previously, staff could keep as many as 44 unused vacation days after the end of each year. Those who had worked for Yale for at least 10 years also received an additional bonus of five days per five years of service, which was granted once every five years, though these extra days were capped at 20, giving some staff a maximum of 64 days they could carry over each year.

“You’re giving up a little opportunity to take paid time off to get more when you need it,” Salovey said in an interview last week.

But now longtime managerial and professional staff will be losing their bonus days. Those who have already worked at Yale for ten years or more by July 1 will receive a final, one-time grant of bonus time on their next five-year anniversary of Yale service. If they have completed fewer than the five years needed to receive another five days, they will receive a fraction of the bonus. For example, an employee who has worked for 12.5 years will receive 2.5 bonus days during his or her 15th year of work.

While all the changes for managerial and professional staff take effect July 1, clerical, technical, service and maintenance staff who belong to Yale unions Locals 34 and 35 switched over to a new pay structure and revised benefits packages starting last month as a result of the new union contracts negotiated in April.

Comments

  • Lose Levin

    How about putting Levin on unpaid furlough for 6 months each year. I bet you would save the same amount of money. Staff put up with university jobs because of the good benefits package, you take that away and they will put up less and less. This place is already spiraling downward.

  • @1

    Aw, Jeez…give Levin a break. He actually shovels his own snow and takes out his own trash. What a man…lol.

  • Migly

    I think they still get the week between Christmas and New Year’s Gratis. When I was there, that was a big deal to have.

  • Q

    This article also completely omits the fact that new Yale M&P employees will not have 24 PTO days at all, rather new Employees will only have 12 vacation days per year and will not reach 24 paid days per year until TWENTY YEARS of service.
    THAT is the huge cost savings and what people are really up in arms about, since it is going to make Yale far less competitive to attracting new hires.

  • worker bee

    Don’t know if the staff realize this yet, but reducing sick & personal time by 8 days per year means less time available to care for your family. Plus if you can’t carry over vacation time, it means you won’t have those extra days either to care for a sick child or parent or spend time with a newborn grandchild, etc. The burder falls with more weight on the caretakers in a family… mostly WOMEN.

  • ght

    “THAT is the huge cost savings and what people are really up in arms about, since it is going to make Yale far less competitive to attracting new hires”

    The only thing competitive is if the person you know at Yale when applying is lower on the food chain than the next applicants friend or family member. Yale is a prime example of nepotism run wild.

  • Least Most Wanted

    I can not think of a more anti family thing for the University to do then to cut sick leave. 6 days a year is just barely enough for a head of the family to have. Many people use their sick leave to care for ill family members. This includes sick children. This also includes saving days for family leave in the event of a birth. How can one bank their sick leave with only 6 days a year? If it was a matter of the University not wanting to pay out sick days upon retirement why not just limit the days you can apply to retirement? It is ashame that so little thought was put into this policy.

  • TAJ

    Somebody needs to wake up David Swenson. He made a fantastic amount of money during good times, duh. Now those investments will be the last to recover. Yale employees will continue to pay.

  • smb

    Worker Bee gets it right. While the new package includes short term disability which is great for new hires it penalizes employees who bank sick time and use it for maternity/paternity leave, caring for a sick parent or child. Furthermore, after six-weeks on disability you are only paid at 60% of your salary. Not many can afford that cut in pay.

    This new benefit package makes Yale a less family friendly workplace if you need full-pay. Plus it creates a huge disparity between those hired before and after July 1st 2010. Twenty years to vacation parity is a long time!

    With the worry of pending layoffs and no contract to protect them the M&P employee morale is pretty low.

  • perplexed

    Peel is cited here as stating that benefits for professional staff are competitive with its peer institutions–which peer institutions would that be, precisely, with 6 paid sick days and 12 vacation days for new staff? Everyone talks about how Yale suffered for decades after the decision to postpone any building maintenance during the 1970s recession. What does the Yale administration expect to happen when jobs start to come back 2-3 years from now, and the professional staff take their years of Yale experience and go somewhere with decent benefits? Is it cost-effective to make Yale a place where professional staff don’t plan to stay in the long-term? I understand the tensions here, but honestly–these are the people that run Yale’s institutional infrastructure. Does Yale want to lose them, or in its arrogance does it assume that professional staff will stay, despite these cuts in their benefits, their salaries (let’s don’t forget the salary and hiring freezes), and the wholesale lack of respect for their contributions that these cuts represent?

  • by amb

    A cursory look at the benefit packages of the other Ivy-plus Universities reveals that Yale’s new package for Management and Professional employees has significantly less vacation time and sick leave. In addition, short term disability typically pays full salary for up to 26 weeks not 6 weeks and many of our peers offer benefits for new parents like 4 weeks of paid leave for the primary care-taker of a new child.

    If he wants to maintain any credibility, Mr. Peel needs to provide the data used to determine his claim that the new policies are competitive. From my vantage point this looks like Yale using a bad job market to force a significant reduction of benefits on an easy target.

  • TheBlade

    I am a former M&P employee and I continue to be astounded at how the university treats the union employees vs.
    the M&Ps. The M&Ps really need to have a union represent them – that is the only way that yale admin will not treat them as bottom fishers for wages and benefits. i sure am glad i don’t work there anymore.

  • Y’98

    #10 and #11 hit the nail right on the head. The value placed on employees has plummeted over the last decade. In part, I blame the influx of senior-level management from the corporate world. In many cases we’ve gone from being viewed as valuable assets to readily dispensable and easily replaceable stock.

    While most large, for-profit corporations may have the luxury of treating their employees like this and expecting little loyalty in return, this runs counter to the culture at Yale and most other institutions of higher education. For many employees this is not just a “job.” People seek out employment at places like Yale for the benefits, the quality of life, the academic environment, and, for alums, a love for the institution and a belief in its mission.

    There seems to be some belief among senior management that there is an endless pool of people willing to take the cut in salary (compared to the for-profit world) to move to New Haven to work at Yale. As someone who has been in a position to hire many managers, let me tell you there isn’t a deep pool of highly-skilled, highly-qualified people willing to do that.

    Of the potential employees willing to take the pay cut to work in academia, Yale already had a problem hiring the top talent because the salaries for many management jobs are less than that of our close peers and there are far fewer non-Yale jobs for spouses/partners in New Haven compared to our peers. Now that our benefits package is also less, I expect recruiting excellent candidates to fill job openings will be even more difficult. Yale acts as if its current and potential employees have little to no job options. It’s not as if the only choices most of us have are employment at a cash-strapped state school, Wal-Mart greeter, and Yale.

    The prevalent attitude towards employee value and retention at Yale I feel is best demonstrated by my former supervisor, who came straight from the for-profit world. When asked about his views of the managerial evaluation structure, he stated that he preferred the “excellent” rating not be used often. In his opinion, if employees were receiving mostly excellent ratings, then it was a clear sign that they had been in their positions too long and that it was time for them to move on. Apparently he was too excellent himself because he left Yale after three years for “bigger and better” things. Next please!

  • rich

    In this economy (ITE), Yale can do whatever they want to…

  • Sven

    The change in paid time off also is a change to the pension plan as paid time off credited to the pension plan will be impacted by the limits on time earned and carried over.

  • anon

    here is a quick and dirty survey. I think this is way out of wack.

    Stanford: 1 year= 15days, 2-9 year=20days, >15 years=24 days
    http://benefits.stanford.edu/doc/ben_sum_staff10.10_16_2009.pdf
    Princeton 22 days per year for fte http://www.princeton.edu/hr/policies/leaves/3.1/3.1.8/vacation_calc.pdf
    Harvard 20 days per year http://www.employment.harvard.edu/benefits/perks/timeoff.shtml
    MIT 1 year – 15 days after 1st year, 20 days per year
    UMichigan first 5 years=12 days per month; 5-8years =18 days; >8=24 days per year
    Upenn <2= 15 days; <3= 17; <4 =19 ; <5 = 21; <6= 24, etc. : http://www.hr.upenn.edu/Policy/Policies/607.aspx

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