For Your Benefit: Timing Retirement

June 10, 2013 | CUNY Matters, The University

Pilot Program Allows Faculty, Staff To Work Part Time Over Three Years

Mention the word “retirement” and you’ll hear some say, “Yes, I’d like to do it. But not so quickly!”

In recognition of this cautious approach, the University has launched a voluntary, three-year pilot program for faculty and other instructional staff. It will enable eligible, permanent full-time instructional staff to “phase” their retirement over a period of time. The program is in keeping with CUNY’s implementation of other employee friendly policies.

The agreement is between CUNY and the Professional Staff Congress, and participants are required to be PSC members. Those who do participate will be required to retire at the end of the phasing period.

Vice Chancellor for Labor Relations Pamela Silverblatt notes that many University faculty have spent much of their careers at a particular college. “Their identities are embedded in those colleges and the important work they have done there. Envisioning what they will do next is not always easy. This program will help faculty to explore other options while keeping their ties to their research and their students for a while longer.”

Faculty members who are at least 65 years old and have worked continuously for the University for at least 15 years may now phase their retirement. They can work on a part-time basis for up to three years, as they plan ahead. A modified version of this pilot program will also be available for HEO or CLT-series employees for up to a year.

“We have had an expansion of benefits in general over the last five years that are family friendly and people friendly, such as dedicated sick leave pay and parental leave,” Silverblatt added, “and we are working on a catastrophic bank for sick leave. This is in that spirit — to be more responsive to our workforce.”

Other universities have similar programs, Silverblatt noted, and CUNY decided to explore the possibilities after Executive Vice Chancellor and University Provost Alexandra Logue suggested that phased retirement might work well here, too.

Requisites for participation are detailed and some are described below. But those who are interested should discuss plans with their college human resources officers. Those considering phased retirement will need some time to consider the program, Silverblatt said. “We are not expecting a huge response for this coming September,” she added.

Here are some of the requirements and details regarding participation:

  • To be eligible faculty and staff must be participants in the Optional Retirement Program — TIAA-CREF (including alternative offerings from MetLife and Guardian). This program is not available to members of the Teachers’ Retirement System.
  • Tenured faculty members who participate will work 50 percent of their contractual full-time workload, including teaching and other professional responsibilities. Their compensation will be 50 percent of their full-time salaries. They can phase into retirement over one, two or three years. Tenured faculty including librarians, counselors, and lecturers with a certificate of continuous employment are eligible to participate.
  • HEO or CLT-series employees can phase their retirement by working 80 percent of their full-time workload for 80 percent of their full-time salary. They can phase for six months or a year.
  • Faculty will be required to begin the process on the first day of the fall semester, while HEO or CLT employees may begin on the first day of either the fall or spring semester.
  • Faculty members serving as department chairs or as executive officers of Ph.D. programs will need to resign from those positions before participating. Faculty members serving in predominantly administrative positions, such as directors of institutes or centers, must consult with their college presidents — or their designees — to determine whether participation in the phasing program is feasible.
  • Eligible faculty who want to use up their accrued sick leave (Travia Leave Program) can do so in the final spring semester of their phasing period; eligible HEOs and CLTs may take Travia Leave immediately following their phasing period. Alternatively, faculty and staff may choose to be paid for their Travia Leave in a lump sum, following their phasing period.

A webinar for administrators who will advise about the program was held in early May by the Office of Human Resources Management, and earlier, Silverblatt met with college presidents and other high-level administrators. The pilot program she said “has been roundly applauded.”