To depart or not to depart

Peter Ho

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The Management Board, on 5 December, endorsed the administrative arrangements for the Departure Scheme:

  • Applications: 15 Dec 2003-14 Feb 2004; Decision: by end March 2004;
  • Departure date: 30 June 2004.
  • To help staff understand the Scheme, Linkage asked Dr Ellen Ko, Director of Human Resources, about the details.

Q: What's the purpose of the Scheme?

It's cost saving over the medium and long haul. It is one of the two immediate staffing measures the Council has approved (the other being the across-the-board salary cut) to help the University meet budgetary constraints due to reduced funding from the Government. For staff who are ready to embark on a different career path or lifestyle, the Scheme offers an opportunity to leave the University, with compensation. Only those who are on substantiated, superannuable terms of employment are eligible. Contract staff is excluded.

Q: Who is footing the bill of the exgratia payment?

* Total ex gratia payment = (V+ Y/2) x final salary, where V is variable ranging from 2 to 6 and Y is years of service. The cap is 15 months' salary.

The University central will pay for the ex gratia payment (see formula*) but the departments will have to pay the staff members' leave balance from their departmental staffing budgets.

Q: Is there any quota?

No, it is strictly on a voluntary basis. Staff has to apply on their own; University administration or departmental supervisors cannot initiate the process. The University has set up an Advisory Committee, Professor Y S Wong, Vice President (Administration), Professor P S Chung (EE), Mr James Ng, Executive Director (CTEX) and myself to approve the applications. I do not expect any major problems, except in cases where a large number of applications come from a single department, or office, and where a blanket approval would severely affect operations. Department heads will be consulted and their input considered, but the Committee's decision will be final.

Q: Can departments find replacements for staff accepted for the Scheme?

It would defeat the Scheme's purpose if there were a lot of cases requiring a replacement. The University will scrutinize requests on a case-by-case basis. For academic positions, consideration will only be given to the expertise of the staff member concerned and the impact of such departures on the operational needs of the department. Departing staff shall not normally be re-engaged by the University at the same, or equivalent, rank.

Q: Can academic staff negotiate a different departure date?

We will look at each individual case and negotiate, as far as possible, to the mutual benefit of the University and the staff member. The University's interests, however, come first.

Q: What does staff concerned need to know in relation to Superannuation Scheme B benefits?

Superannuation Scheme B benefits will be calculated to the years of service. Anyone opting to leave will be entitled to the normal benefits (of the share contributed by the University) allowable under his years of service. Under the Scheme, academic and equivalent administrative or general grade staff will be entitled to 80% or 40% of the employer's balance in the entitlements when they reach two years of superannuation scheme service or more. Minor Grade staff will receive 40% or more with four years of service or more. These vested percentages will be enhanced to 100% for staff leaving under the Departure Scheme. But staff may or may not be entitled to tax exemption under the Departure Scheme, as such exemption usually applies to compensation payment for the loss of a job. The University, however, will assist staff to present a favourable case to the Inland Revenue Department. If this involves a letter of clarification to the IRD, the Finance Office can supply one.

 

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