The University of Wisconsin Board of Regents Executive Committee voted unanimously to grant University of Wisconsin System President Ray Cross and University of Wisconsin Madison Chancellor Rebecca Blank the ability to create policies to furlough employees in a meeting Thursday afternoon. 

Cross said the UW System projected $168 million in financial losses already, and more are expected as the COVID-19 pandemic continues. By granting the option to create furlough policies, Cross said UW System campuses will have more options to deal with emergency costs.

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“Our goal is to balance the financial health of our universities while protecting employees, especially their critical benefits, so we can continue to deliver the education students want and, of course, need,” Cross said. 

A furlough of an employee is different than a layoff, General Counsel Quinn Williams said. A layoff usually means the employee permanently loses their job or pay, whereas furloughs allow for the employee to return after a break from work, Williams said. 

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The UW System constructed the furlough policy to minimize any impacts to benefits, but furloughed employees will not be able to work, Williams said. Board of Regents President Andrew Petersen spoke about the policy.

“The focus now is very much on short term furlough activity to stabilize campuses,” Petersen said. “We want to make sure that the autonomy rests with our chancellors and System President Cross to make those determinations in an efficient way.”