VRS - Frequently Asked Questions

These FAQs aim to answer many of the questions you may have about the Voluntary Redundancy Scheme.

General background to the scheme

Why is the University running the VRS?

The University needs to generate a 5% operating surplus each year in order to ensure our buildings, equipment and IT infrastructure remain fit for purpose. Healthy finances are required to support our academic endeavour and ensure that we remain competitive.

However, a combination of upward pressure on our costs and downward pressure on some areas of our income means that our surplus is declining and, at 3%, is less than we need to achieve.  The University is therefore implementing a number of measures to improve this position.  Further details can be seen at www.ox.ac.uk/staff/universitys-financial-position

Is the University planning compulsory redundancies?

No. The VRS is one element of a range of measures the University is considering in order to reduce its operating costs in the longer term.  (However, there may already be redundancy discussions ongoing within departments and the introduction of the VRS does not affect these).

My department is talking about a reorganisation so that the work that is currently by done the team I work in will be carried out by a smaller team of staff working at different grades: is this allowed under the VRS?

Yes, departments have been asked to find cost savings and where, instead of simply closing individual posts, departments wish to reorganise, they can do this under the VRS.  Closing some posts at the same time as creating different ones is allowable as long as any costs associated with enhanced voluntary redundancy payments will be ‘paid back’ within two years of the reorganisation taking effect. 

Is this the same as OMIS?

No, OMIS (the Oxford Mobility Incentive Scheme which most recently ran in 2009-2010) offered different enhanced terms for voluntary redundancy or early retirement, and required that staff could never return to the employment of the University.  The current Voluntary Redundancy Scheme uses pre-existing principles and processes. Whilst early retirement under the relevant pension scheme rules is an option for eligible staff, no enhanced retirement benefits are available through VRS and there is only a requirement that staff are not re-engaged sooner than three months after they leave their post with the University.

I am over 55 and would like to think about early retirement; is this possible?

This depends on the terms of your pension scheme. An individual who qualifies for early retirement through their pension scheme may choose to take up this option at any time, regardless of the VRS.  The VRS is looking for cost savings that can be made by stopping or reducing certain activities, so all departures through the scheme will be considered to be redundancy, and no special enhanced retirement terms are currently offered through OSPS or USS for staff who leave due to redundancy[1].  However, if an individual who takes voluntary redundancy through the scheme wishes to subsequently take up the early retirement options available through their pensions scheme they are, of course, free to do so.  It will be for individuals to explore the retirement options with their pension schemes.

You can retire and draw your pension at any time after age 55.  You may apply to the Trustees of the pension scheme to receive your pension early. If the Trustees agree, your pensions will be reduced to reflect the early payment. OSPS members who were in the scheme before 6 April 2006 can retire at any time after age 50 (subject to certain eligibility criteria).

USS members who were in the scheme before 6 April 2006 and are made redundant can access their pension from age 50. USS members would not be deemed to have retired if the person intends to commence another job that is pensionable in USS with the University, or any other employer that participates in USS.

[1] If you have transferred into the University and are a member of a different pension scheme, or think you have some eligible transferred-in benefits under USS, please contact the pensions team on ext 16133 for advice.

If you have been offered a VRS payment

My department has identified that my post is one of the posts being considered under the VRS; how can I find out how much money I would get?

A calculator is available.  You will need to know how many complete years of continuous service you have had with the University.  You can find this information on your contract of employment or you can ask your departmental administrator/HR contact to help you.

My department has told me that my post is one of the posts being considered under the VRS  but I don’t want to take a voluntary severance package – do I have to accept it?

No, this is an entirely voluntary scheme.

My department has suggested that it is considering closing my post but I don’t want to take a voluntary severance package: if no-one volunteers will my department start a compulsory redundancy process?

This voluntary severance exercise is operating outside the normal redundancy procedures so there will be no automatic progression to the compulsory redundancy stage of that procedure.  Departments have been asked to look at a range of cost saving measures so, typically, where an individual is advised that their post might be considered for closure, there may be other cost-saving options that the department is considering.  If no volunteers come forward the department will need to review its other options for saving staffing costs.

I’ve been invited to a meeting to discuss VRS – can I bring someone with me?

Yes, if you are a member of a Trades Union you can ask for your TU representative to come with you.  If you aren't  TU member you may bring a colleague from within the University with you.

How would I receive any voluntary redundancy payment?

You would be paid this sum following termination of your employment with the University, together with any contractual payments due, normally on the next published monthly pay day.  Where a voluntary redundancy payment is over £30,000 (the threshold beyond which redundancy payments are taxable) individuals may wish to speak to the pensions team to explore options for amounts over £30,000 to be waived in exchange for additional pension benefits.

If I decide to accept a VRS offer and resign do I have to work my notice, and what would happen about any holiday that I have not yet taken?

It would normally be expected that the contractual notice period would be worked, and that any holiday entitlement that you had accrued but not yet taken would be taken before your last day of employment. 

If I take voluntary redundancy, when will I leave the University?

The actual date you would leave would need to be agreed between you and your department but would normally be no earlier than the date that your application was approved by the Individual Severance Agreement Panel and no later than the end of the normal ‘notice’ period stated in your contract of employment. Once a date is agreed, no extension will be possible.

If I take voluntary redundancy will I be eligible to apply for a job at the University in the future?

Yes.  Decisions about which posts might be eligible for the VRS will be made purely on the operational needs of the department for the post, and will not imply any judgement about the individual who is currently occupying the post.   The University will not be able to re-engage you for at least three months after you leave and you will not be able to come back to do the same job (as that post will be closed), or to do the same job but as a self-employed contractor.  However, after the agreed re-engagement period, you could be appointed to any posts that are advertised on the University’s jobs website, and the recruitment and appointment process would be the same as for any other applicant.

I have been advised that my post is eligible for the Voluntary Redundancy Scheme.  I don’t want to leave the University and I have seen a post in another department advertised on the Jobs website that I would like to apply for – can I apply as a ‘priority candidate’?

No. A ‘priority candidate’ is someone who has been advised that their post is ‘at risk of redundancy’ and who is therefore given preferential consideration for any posts which are currently vacant.  Individuals who have been invited to consider a voluntary severance arrangement through the VRS are not ‘at risk’ since currently no compulsory redundancies are planned as part of this scheme.  You can, of course, in common with anyone apply for any advertised post.  

However, you are eligible to apply for jobs advertised on the ‘bump severance register’. The VRS includes a ‘bump severance’ scheme through which individuals whose posts are not included in the VRS scheme can indicate that they would be interested in leaving in return for a voluntary severance package.  In such circumstances, their posts can be made available to staff whose posts are included in the VRS.  The bump severance register lists any posts which might be freed up through this mechanism and gives a summary of the post.  If you see a post on this register that you feel you would be suitable for, speak to your departmental administrator or HR contact who can get full details of the post for you and explain how the bump severance works. You may find the flowchart helpful in understanding how bump severance works. VRS flowchart (191kb)

I have two separate posts– but only one of them is potentially closable under the VRS.  Can I take voluntary redundancy from one but stay employed in the other?

Yes.  This scheme is about closing posts, so if only one of your posts is closing you may remain employed in the other since there would still be a reduction in the overall FTE Headcount of the department.

If you have not been offered a VRS payment but want to know if you would be eligible

I’d like to take voluntary redundancy but my department has advised me that my post is not one that has been identified under the scheme; is there any way I can volunteer?

There is no obligation for your department to offer you voluntary redundancy. Where individuals are offered voluntary redundancy their department needs to be able to demonstrate that it will close (ie not refill) the post held by that individual and that this post closure will bring financial savings for at least five years.  It may not be operationally possible for your department to close your post, ie to manage without someone being employed to do the work you do.  Also, some specific types of posts are excluded from the scheme, these include academic posts, externally-funded posts, and individuals who have already tendered their resignation or where procedures leading to dismissal have already been started.

You can, however, speak to your department about the Bump Severance scheme.  ‘Bump Severance’ enables individuals to offer to leave the University voluntarily, for a voluntary severance payment, in the event that the post they are currently occupying would be a suitable redeployment opportunity for someone who has been offered voluntary redundancy but who would prefer to take another post in the University see ‘Bump Severance’.

I have a fixed term contract which is ending soon - can I opt to take VRS benefits? 

No, since the VRS is about identifying post closures which are not already planned, in order to make savings against planned longer-term staff costs.  Savings need to be demonstrated over a period of at least five years.