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Phased Retirement

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Phased retirement offers eligible CUNY faculty and staff a less abrupt transition to retirement than stopping work all at once, through agreed-upon reduced workload, reduced pay and benefits for up to 3 years.

Since 2013, under a contract provision negotiated between PSC and CUNY, certain full-time instructional staff (faculty, HEOs, CLTs and other annual F/T titles) have been eligible to apply to “phase” towards retirement for up to 3 years. Applicants must be 65 or older, have at least 15 years of pensionable service, be members of the Optional Retirement Program (primarily TIAA)[1] and irrevocably commit to retire at the end of the phasing period. Applicants must apply by November 15th each year.

Tenured faculty (including Librarians, Counselors and Lecturers with CCE) who meet the above eligibility requirements can apply to receive 50% of their salary during their designated phasing period in exchange for continuing to perform 50% of their workload[2]. Eligible employees in HEO, CLT and other professional staff titles can apply to receive 80% of their salary in exchange for a 20% workload reduction (usually working 4 instead of 5 days a week). Everyone participating in phased retirement is eligible to receive the Travia Leave for which they are eligible at full pay, either during the last semester of “phasing” or as a lump sum payment following the phasing period.

Of primary importance is agreement between the faculty/staff member and the chair/supervisor about what constitutes a “phasing” plan and the reduced workload (50% or 80%). For faculty, it is possible to schedule the 50% workload in one semester in an academic year or work the 50% over two semesters. That agreement is reflected in the employee’s application form which specifies the length of the phasing period (up to a maximum of 3 years) and how it is scheduled. (The form is available on the CUNY OHRM website and from your college HR Office.)

The employee and the chair/supervisor must sign the application, and you must submit it to HR at the college by November 15th for approval by the president. If the department chair or the college president does not approve a faculty member’s proposed schedule for working 50% one year, they are obligated to accept the proposed schedule the following year, if nothing can be worked out. Once approved, an employee’s “phasing” period cannot be extended, but s/he can reduce the number of years in the plan (and adjust when Travia Leave is taken). S/he must inform the chair/supervisor and HR of the desired change.

During the phasing period, employees receive full health insurance coverage. Pension contributions and accrual of sick leave (and annual leave for staff) are on a pro-rata basis (50% or 80%). “Phasing” employees will continue to receive movements in salary schedule and any applicable contractual increases during the phasing period. The agreement—Appendix K of the PSC-CUNY collective bargaining agreement —covers a number of other issues, particularly for faculty.

Retirement is a very personal decision, and the phased retirement program offers some employees an alternate approach; members should get all the details and consider all the implications for themselves. If eligible and interested, review the application and discuss with your chair/supervisor.

 

[1] Members of the Teachers Retirement System (TRS), a defined benefit pension program, are not eligible for phased retirement because reducing their pay would reduce their long-term retirement benefit which is based on salary during their final years of employment.

[2] For faculty, workload is not defined by teaching load alone, but also includes all departmental responsibilities.


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