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Voluntary severance scheme and other voluntary measures

21 May 2020

Details of a new voluntary severance scheme and other voluntary options for colleagues

University of Manchester

On 23 April the President and Vice-Chancellor wrote to you about our University’s financial position and the serious financial implications of the Covid-19 pandemic, including the steps the University has taken in the immediate term to mitigate the impact.  Since then we have provided a further update about our scenario planning and, following consultation by the University with the trade unions, we are opening up a number of voluntary measures to reduce our pay costs.

Despite the current challenges that we and all other universities face, we remain ambitious for the future.  In order to continue to offer our students an excellent education and experience, perform high quality research with impact and maintain our commitment to social responsibility, we must ensure we have sufficient funds. We are introducing these measures now to help to mitigate the scale of further action that will likely be needed in the near future and when we know the full impact on our student numbers in October 2020.  These measures have also been introduced in response to enquiries from colleagues who have asked if there are any ways in which they can help towards addressing our current financial situation.

Colleagues are under no obligation to take up any of these measures, and you should not feel any pressure to put yourself forward. We would, however, urge you to read the following options and decide if you wish to apply for any of them.

A summary of the options available is below. We have developed a StaffNet site which has more details on all of these schemes, extensive FAQs and application forms, and I would encourage you to read these thoroughly. 

Voluntary severance scheme

A University-wide voluntary severance (VS) scheme will open on 21 May 2020 and applications can be made from that date. It will run until 31 July 2020, at which point, or a date soon after, successful applicants will be expected to leave the University. All University employees who are paid from core University funds (ie: not those on externally-funded research grants and contracts) are eligible to apply for VS, including those on fixed-term contracts. Staff who are currently on furlough leave (Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme) are eligible to apply. Staff on casual and/or agency contracts are not eligible to apply.  Decisions will be made based on the operational needs of the University at the discretion of line managers.

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

Given our financial situation, the terms are not as generous as previously available, but we have made every effort within these constraints to ensure that they are as attractive as possible. It is highly unlikely that we will be able to offer further voluntary severance schemes for the foreseeable future.

Further information and details of how to apply are available on our StaffNet site.

Voluntary salary and honoraria reductions 

A number of colleagues have offered to take a voluntary salary reduction, and we can now confirm how this can be done. 

The reduction would be from 1 June 2020 or from the start of the next month after you make the offer. Colleagues can decide on the level of reduction (eg 5, 10, 20% etc) and how long they wish this reduction to apply for.  They can opt to return to full salary at any time.

This arrangement is open only to staff members who are on core University funding, and where this reduction would not lower their pay below the Living Wage Foundation rate.  

Some staff have also offered to take a pay cut equivalent to the value of honoraria that they receive for certain positions or responsibilities.

Please note that agreeing to a voluntary pay cut could have implications for your tax and pension under the current rules. Further information is available in our FAQs on this measure.

There are further details on these matters and how to apply on our StaffNet site.

Unpaid career break

Any member of staff paid for by core University funds is eligible to apply for a career break, including those on fixed-term contracts.  Staff are able to apply for an unpaid career break lasting between three months and two years.  If your salary is paid from an externally-funded research grant or contract you would have to agree any unpaid leave with your Principal Investigator (PI) and funder.  The current requirement that staff need to have worked at the University continuously for at least two years has been suspended until further notice.

If you’re considering applying, you should first read the University’s Career Break Policy and our FAQs and then talk to your line manager.  You should then put your application in writing to your manager detailing your proposed start date, which should ideally be before 31 July 2020, and include the amount of leave requested.

Reduced working hours

Colleagues who are employed by core University funds can make an application to reduce their working hours by a minimum of 10%, with a corresponding reduction in salary for a three, six, nine or 12-month period. If your salary is paid from an externally-funded research grant or contract you would have to agree any reduction in hours with your Principal Investigator (PI) and funder.

An application for reducing your hours must be first agreed with your line manager, with duties being prioritised with their agreement if hours are reduced. More information, an application form and details about how to apply are available on our StaffNet site.

Further measures

All of the measures above are voluntary, but it is likely that the University will be taking further measures to reduce its expenditure in the near future and when the full impact on student recruitment is known in October 2020.


Karen Heaton, Director of Human Resources

Further information