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Temporary Layoff Benefits

Below is a review of benefit entitlements and other information for employees who received notice of temporary layoff resulting in an extending unpaid leave with the University of Massachusetts Lowell (UMass Lowell) campus of the University of Massachusetts (the “University”).   This information is subject to change.  Please contact Benefits at 978-934-4100 for more information.

Benefits Administered by the Group Insurance Commission

University employees who elected to participate receive their health insurance and certain other benefits through the Group Insurance Commission (GIC).   Please refer to the GIC website for additional information.  Direct line is 617-727-2310.
Continuation of GIC Health Insurance: During periods of temporary layoff (which the GIC defines as a standby status) the payment for health insurance  may be continued at the regular employee contribution levels (either 20% or 25% depending on your hire date).  The GIC will bill you directly and you must make payments on a monthly basis. This coverage is offered by the GIC and is explained in detail on the GIC website
COBRA-if you are unable to return or the temporary layoff is changed to an employment separation: If your temporary layoff later turns into an employment separation or if you opt not to return to work if you are recalled, you (and your eligible spouse/dependents) may be able to continue your medical coverage if you were enrolled in the plan at the time of your status change.  If you elect COBRA, you will be eligible for up to 18-months of coverage.  Your normal coverage typically ends in the month following this status change as long as regular employee contributions have been received in the month prior. You will receive information from the GIC regarding the monthly COBRA cost.  The monthly rate for COBRA coverage is 102% of the full monthly premium cost for up to 18-months.  In limited cases, the GIC will charge 100% for the first 39 weeks for employees who meet the category of Layoff from State Service.  There are also additional provisions for those who leave with ten or more years of full-time service, as defined by the State Board of Retirement.
Limited COBRA coverage is also offered if you participated in the Health Care Flexible Spending Account Plan.  There are no continuation of coverage options for the Dependent Care Assistance Program.  The FSA plans are administered by Benefit Strategies.  More information is available at
Life Insurance Conversion/Portability Options: While you are on the standby status, your life insurance coverage will continue as long as you continue to make payments to the GIC.  Once your status later changes, you have the right to continue your basic life and/or optional life insurance under portability or conversion options.  
Long-Term Disability: Coverage through the GIC’s Long-Term Disability (LTD) program will cease on the last day of the month for which you have paid premiums.  

Other Benefits Not Administered by the GIC

Dental/Vision Coverage: Dental (and if applicable) vision coverage varies by bargaining unit. Please check with the union representative and/or vendor for options for continuing coverage during this temporary layoff. 
Tuition Benefits: While on temporary layoff or stand-by status, you may continue to seek tuition benefits for both you and your eligible depends. Below is a summary of the program if you then have a status change which is regarded as a regular employment separation. Please refer to the Tuition Benefits program for more information.
  1. Termination During Program - If a university employee leaves the employment of the university while the employee or a spouse or dependent child is enrolled in a program of study, the spouse or dependent child may complete the semester course(s) already begun without paying tuition. At the end of the semester eligibility for tuition waiver ceases.
  2. Death – Please refer to the union contract or non-union policy manual for any provisions for coverage for dependents.
  3. Retirement - Please refer to the union contract or non-union policy manual for any provisions for coverage for dependents.
Paid Time-Off Benefits: While on temporary layoff or stand-by status, vacation hours will not be paid out and will be available upon recall to work.  However, if your status is later changed to a regular employment separation or you elect to separate employment or retire, if you are eligible for vacation benefits, you will receive a payment of any accrued, unused vacation hours. Personal and sick hours, if applicable, are not paid out. However, employees who are retiring (as defined by the State Board of Retirement) may be eligible receive a portion of their sick balance. Any employees who return to benefited service within three years of separation of employment will also have their sick time balances restored.
Retirement Plan: Any earnings received from employment at the university are not covered under Social Security. Under the Social Security law, there are two ways Social Security benefit amounts may be affected; through the Windfall Elimination Provision and through the Government Pension Offset Provision.   However, Medicare benefits will not be affected.  Please refer to Employees of the university are not subject to tax on compensation for the Social Security portion of the Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA).  Employees do contribute to the Medicare portion of FICA taxes.
Massachusetts State Employees’ Retirement System (SERS): The Massachusetts State Employees’ Retirement System (SERS) is a defined benefit plan. Benefits are calculated using a formula based on age at retirement, years of service contributing into the pension system and average of highest three consecutive years of salary. Vesting is after 10 years of creditable service. Temporary layoffs (or furloughs) of up to 20 days will not have an impact on the retirement plan. No contributions are made to the plan while you are on an unpaid furlough or temporary layoff. However, if you are on a temporary layoff beyond 20 days, you will not receive service credit for any unpaid periods. The following information further describes what happens if your status is changed to a regular employment separation.
Employees who separate from service have three options:
  1. Leave your retirement contributions in the system and receive a state pension if vested later (as early as age 55);  
  2. Request a distribution or 
  3. Request a rollover to another qualified plan. 
Please note that if you are laid off with at least 20 years of creditable service, you may be eligible for a “Section 10” retirement allowance. The Massachusetts State Board of Retirement is the SERS plan administrator. Please contact the State Board of Retirement for more information or call 617-367-7770.
Optional Retirement Program: The Optional Retirement Program (ORP) is an alternative to the Massachusetts State Employees Retirement System for certain faculty and administrators at the Commonwealth's public institutions of higher education. ORP is a defined contribution plan. Participants are immediately 100% vested in both employee and university contributions to their individual ORP account. No contributions are made to the plan while you are on an unpaid furlough or temporary layoff. The Massachusetts Department of Higher Education is the ORP Plan Administrator.  For information on ORP please visit the website or contact the vendor.  
403(b) Plan: The University of Massachusetts’ 403(b) Elective Deferral Savings Plan (the “403(b) plan”) is a voluntary defined contribution retirement plan that operates under Section 403(b) of the Internal Revenue Code. There are no contributions from the university. The university is the Plan Sponsor.  Please refer to the website for more information. While on temporary layoff, no deductions are made to the plan.
Commonwealth of Massachusetts 457 Deferred Compensation Plan (SMART Plan): The SMART Plan allows for voluntary pre-tax contributions through payroll deduction. Empower, on behalf of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, serves as the third-party administrator and record-keeper for the SMART Plan. No deductions are made to the plan while on unpaid furlough or temporary layoff. Visit or call 877-457-1900 if you later separate and wish to request a distribution from the Plan or for more information on the SMART Plan. 

Other Benefits

During any periods of unpaid leave, temporary layoff or a later separation of employment, please contact vendors directly regarding continuation of coverage and payments you will need to arrange for your Automobile/Homeowners Insurance. Once you separate, your coverage in the Group Legal Plan, if applicable will end.  

Payroll Information

Your email address should remain active during periods of temporary layoff or unpaid leave. However, once you are moved to a regular separation of employment, you access to HR Direct ends 15 days after your employment separation date. If you are not able to access your final paycheck, contact or 978-934-3560 to request a copy of the pay advice which can be sent by email to a personal email address.  Please make sure you have updated HR Direct or contacted payroll with a current home address. As you know, W-2s are mailed in January of the year following your employment separation. You may also want to access HR Direct before you leave to print prior copies of W-2s if needed.
Please feel free to contact the Benefits Office at UMass Lowell if you have any additional questions. The direct line is 978-934-4100 and the email address is

Other Unemployment Benefits

Please see the Unemployment Benefits page for information on filing, etc.