What is Furlough Leave?

The University and Mount Royal Staff Association reached a Memorandum of Understanding for a mandatory Furlough Leave (leave without pay) for employees whose positions cannot be performed at home or who have seen a significant reduction in work volume. Furlough Leave is a mandatory — but temporary — suspension from work without pay, where the employment relationship between the employee and the University continues. Employees have full benefits coverage, while still being eligible to access government support programs related to the COVID-19 pandemic. A Record of Employment will be provided for people placed on Furlough Leave. Details are outlined in the MOU.


Can other employees request an unpaid leave of absence?

Any employee, regardless of employee group, can request an unpaid personal leave of absence from their manager. Approval is subject to operational requirements and each will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis with Human Resources. Requests will not be unreasonably denied.


What benefits are available for those on unpaid leaves of absence?

For both Furlough Leave and requested unpaid leaves of absence, up to and including August 31, 2020: 

  • The University will continue to pay the employer portion of the life insurance and accidental death and dismemberment benefit premiums, as well as the employee and employer portion of health and dental premiums.
  • Mount Royal will also pay the premiums of any optional insurance that an employee is currently enrolled in, including optional life insurance, optional spousal/dependent life insurance and critical illness (employee and spouse).
  • Employees on unpaid leave will be required to pay the monthly premiums for long-term disability by setting up an Electronic Funds Transfer with the Benefits and Pension Advisor in HR after the leave is confirmed.
  • During the leave period, employees will continue to be registered with the Local Authorities Pension Plan (LAPP) as a ‘Leave Without Salary’; however, contributions will not be made during the leave and employees will be able to purchase (‘buy back’) this service in Spring 2021 with LAPP.


Are there employer and employee pension contributions on accumulated time payouts?

No. However, if an employee chooses to use accrued time as paid time off to delay the start of the Furlough Leave, regular pension contributions by the employer and employee are made. Vacation time taken (versus paid out as a lump sum) works in the same way.


I am nearing retirement. Will going on an unpaid leave disadvantage me?

During the leave period, employees will remain active with the Local Authorities Pension Plan (LAPP) as a ‘Leave Without Salary’; however, contributions will not be made during the leave and employees will be able to purchase (‘buy back’) this service in Spring 2021 with LAPP. An employee who is planning to retire within the next 12 months will be able to maintain their pension position by purchasing the furlough service when LAPP sends them buy-back options. Service can be purchased sooner by seeing the Benefits and Pension advisor upon your return.


Will there be more employees who are placed on Furlough Leave after May 1?

We do not know in what ways and for how long our operations will be affected by the pandemic. As work is disrupted or halted due to COVID-19, we will continue to review whether or not additional employees are placed on Furlough Leave.


If the pandemic has increased my workload am I eligible for additional pay?

This is a unique time, where many people are being asked to perform duties that fall outside of their normal scope of work. Please discuss workload with your manager, including appropriate duties and accountabilities.


Will other employee groups be asked to participate in this program? Why was it only MRSA positions impacted?

The University is continuously looking at all employee groups as the pandemic continues to change and impact regular operations. The Furlough Leave MOU was negotiated with MRSA and does not apply to other employee groups; however, all employee groups can request an unpaid leave from their supervisor and these will not be unreasonably denied.


Will I be provided written rationale as to why I was placed on unpaid leave?

Employees will be placed on Furlough Leave in accordance with the MOU because the work they do in a position cannot be performed at home or the pandemic has impacted or scaled down the current operations of their department in some way.


Will you put me on Furlough Leave or can I choose to participate in the program?

Employees who are placed on Furlough Leave have been or will be notified. Any other employee has the option to request an unpaid leave, which will not be unreasonably denied.


What are the cost savings of this program?

This MOU is in place from May 1 through August 31, as a direct result of the effect of the pandemic on University operations. We do not know how long the impacts of the pandemic will be felt or how many employees in other groups will request an unpaid leave and for how long. As a result, we do not know the exact savings.


Will I have a job to come back to?

Furlough Leaves are temporary in nature and the work that has been stopped due to COVID -19 continues to be important to operations. As part of budget planning even during normal times, the University always evaluates positions to determine what makes sense for operations as circumstances evolve.


Do I need to return my keys or computer? Will I have access to my email and receive emails from my department and ones that go out to the MRU community? What about MyMRU?

While employees are on Furlough Leaves they remain employees with regular access to MyMRU, email and equipment. There may be exceptions where an employee is asked to return specific equipment if it needs to be reallocated on an interim basis. Depending on the nature of the role, access to a specialized program may be temporarily removed.


If I am on Furlough Leave, will my OneCard still let me into campus?

Your OneCard access to campus buildings may be restricted during Furlough Leave as the system recognizes employees on any kind of unpaid leave as "inactive." Regardless, only employees doing key functions that cannot be performed from home should be accessing campus currently.


How do I return University assets?

If it is necessary for an employee to return something, they are asked to please discuss options with their manager and make arrangements through Security at West Gate.


Will I still receive my step increase (on return) if my anniversary date falls during my Furlough Leave? Will my service date be impacted? Will my vacation anniversary date change?

An employee’s service date and vacation anniversary will not be affected. The step increase will proceed (on the employee’s return), even if it falls during the Furlough Leave. See MOU #7 for more information.


Will I be compensated for the statutory holidays while on Furlough Leave?

Although employees remain employees during Furlough Leave, they are not eligible for statutory holiday pay while they are on unpaid status.


Do managers/supervisors need to approve payroll timesheets?

No, timesheets will be turned off and all vacation and time taken will be managed through Payroll for those choosing to use paid time off before moving to Furlough Leave status.


Do employees accumulate vacation while on Furlough Leave?

No. They will accumulate vacation if they are using vacation and other earned time, but as soon as they are on a leave without pay, they will not accrue vacation.


Do employees need to fill out their timesheets with their preferences and unpaid leave?

No, Payroll will do this on their behalf.


What happens if an employee who is on short-term disability goes on Furlough Leave?

Claims that started before the employee was placed on Furlough Leave will continue.


What will the monthly cost of long-term disability (LTD) premiums be and are these still 100% employee paid?

Employees can see their LTD amount by viewing their April 15 pay on MyMRU. There are no LTD deductions on the end-of-the-month pay. Make sure to look only at the first column as the second column is the year-to-date amount. Due to our tax-free LTD plan, the employer is not allowed to pay any part of the LTD premiums.


If an employee on Furlough Leave wants to retain LTD, how do they pay for it?

The employee will need to provide Benefits in HR with an electronic banking form so the monthly LTD premium can be paid. Employee Well-being in HR will follow-up with those impacted directly.


If an employee gets a long-term illness while on Furlough Leave can they access LTD benefits?

Yes, if they qualify and have continued to pay LTD premiums the regular terms of the plan continue to apply.


If I elect to discontinue coverage under the LTD, what are the conditions required to begin this coverage again? Is it the end of the Furlough Leave or a significant life event as defined by Sun Life?

As soon as an employee returns to work, LTD will be reinstated if coverage was discontinued (it is a mandatory benefit); however, if an employee discontinues coverage and is unable to return to work due to illness when called back, then the employee will not be eligible for LTD benefit as the illness may be considered a pre-existing condition. Please go to ‘Your Sun Life Benefits’ on the HR web page and refer to the benefits booklet for details.


What does the following statement included in the "Information Regarding Furlough Leave" email mean: * If you do not continue LTD premiums you will not be eligible for LTD benefits if you become ill while on leave after you return to work.

This means that an employee who is unable to return to work due to illness when called back will not be eligible for LTD coverage if they don’t pay their premiums while on leave.


If an employee is using leave time at the beginning of May, will they be paying for a full month of benefits, LAPP, etc. as they normally would even if they are starting Furlough Leave part-way through the month?

An employee using vacation and personal days will continue to be paid as if they are working with all applicable deductions including LAPP (up to when their vacation or personal days end).


It looks like my available leaves were calculated as of April 15. Should I not also have access to the accumulated vacation for April 16 to 30? Additionally, if I use personal days and vacation hours to have a temporary paid leave, will I continue to accumulate vacation hours during those days as normal?

We only included vacation balances up to April 15 as payroll had not been completed for the final pay in April. Employees will have access to the vacation accrued from April 16 to 30 and for any hours accrued if they choose to use vacation hours prior to starting the Furlough Leave.


If I don't use any accrued overtime right now, will those hours be paid out on July 1?

Accrued overtime can only be paid out prior to starting the leave or after the leave ends, as this has implications to an employee’s Record of Employment and Employment Insurance eligibility. Alternatively, an employee can use the balance now as paid leave.


If I use leave balances in the next pay period will my Record of Employment show I was employed until then?

Yes. A Record of Employment will be issued after the employee’s final pay period in which an interruption in earnings began. The pay period would be extended by the amount of leave time the employee may elect to use.