Citing the Fall Term's 'Uncertainty,' Harvard Will Not Pursue Layoffs or Furloughs For Now


Harvard will not pursue layoffs or furloughs “at this time" because of “uncertainty” regarding the fall semester, Executive Vice President Katherine N. Lapp wrote in an email Tuesday to Harvard affiliates.

The coronavirus pandemic has roiled Harvard’s financial outlook via “substantial” declines in the endowment, unforeseen expenses, and stymied revenue from sources like executive and continuing education. The University is currently projecting a $750 million revenue shortfall in Fiscal Year 2021.

Lapp also wrote that the University will extend guaranteed pay and benefits for direct employees and contract workers — including dining, custodial, and security services — beyond June 28, the date to which the University had previously committed.

The prospect of furloughs and layoffs, which administrators previously floated, sparked outrage and concern from employees and students. In fact, Lapp made her announcement less than an hour before a scheduled protest over possible layoffs.


Lapp also announced three “voluntary workforce programs” for University employees on Tuesday, including an early retirement incentive, vacation balance reduction, and time reduction.

The retirement incentive program provides eligible staff who opt to retire early an additional benefit equal to one year of pay, while the vacation balance reduction program encourages employees to spend down accrued vacation time this summer and fall to “help reduce costs for their local departments.”

The voluntary time reduction program allows staff to submit proposals to reduce their work hours and pay by 10 to 50 percent for at least two months. Lapp wrote that, in addition to assisting the University’s financial situation, the program is meant to provide “flexibility for personal/caregiving responsibilities, personal renewal, stress reduction and wellbeing, a transition to early retirement, or simply enjoying more of the summer.”

“We hope that everyone will contribute to Harvard’s financial sustainability and eventual financial recovery, either through participation in one of these voluntary programs, or backing up and covering for coworkers who may elect them,” Lapp wrote. “We all have a role to play.”

Lapp also wrote about the University’s work to resume some campus operations in parallel with plans laid out by Massachusetts Governor Charlie D. Baker ’79.

“Aligning with Governor Baker’s plan for the phased re-opening of the state, the University, as well as individual Schools and Units, are developing plans to safely bring students, faculty, other academic personnel, and staff back to campus as conditions allow,” Lapp wrote.

Though some of the University’s employees currently work remotely, “a limited number of workers” have been reporting to campus for an “essential on-site role.”

Others are “participating” in the University’s phased reopening of laboratory facilities as part of a plan Harvard announced last month.

Lapp added most of Harvard’s workers will continue to work remotely through “at least” the end of summer.

—Staff writer Camille G. Caldera can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @camille_caldera.

—Staff writer Michelle G. Kurilla can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @MichelleKurilla.