Extended Sick Time FAQs

Please contact the Benefits Division at benefits@northwestern.edu or 847-491-7513 if you have a question not addressed here.     

Why is the University changing its absence program?

After a comprehensive review of the current sick time, short and long term disability plans, the program was redesigned in order to meet the needs of Northwestern’s diverse workforce.  The design and features of this new program are based upon feedback around a number of considerations, including input and suggestions received from staff and supervisors/managers; ensuring long term disability income protection for all staff at affordable rates; addressing individual and organizational challenges associated with the current time-off programs; safeguarding the confidentiality of personal health information; ensuring financially sound and administratively efficient and compliant programs; and maintaining a competitive program in comparison with peer universities and other relevant labor markets.

Will Northwestern continue to manage the approval process for leaves of absence under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)? 

Yes. An employee should contact the Benefits Division to apply for this leave. This process, if approved, ensures a staff members’ position is held for up to 12 weeks. For additional information, visit the policies & procedures section.

Questions about Extended Sick Time (EST)

Who’s eligible?
All active benefits-eligible full-time and part-time staff including post doctoral fellows. For employees hired after January 1, a 37.5 hour workweek is the minimum to be considered full-time;18.75 hours/week is the minimum to be considered benefits-eligible part-time.  

What is the cost of EST to me?
There is none. The University pays the full cost.     

How long can I receive EST benefits?
After the seven-calendar-day elimination period, the plan will pay 100 percent of your salary for up to 26 weeks (this time period includes the elimination period).    

What happens to my existing sick bank?
Existing sick day balances for exempt employees will be eliminated since the Extended Sick Time (EST) provides 100 percent of base wages / salary for an approved absence. For non-exempt staff, any unused sick days as of August 31, 2012 will be frozen and paid out upon retirement based on the current policy (not to exceed $3,000). Hours for the retirement payout will be listed on Kronos under the accrual balances.     

Do I have to use all my vacation and sick time before going on EST for a personal health issue?
No. Extended Sick Time will be paid for an approved absence after a seven-calendar-day elimination period. Employees can use incidental sick and vacation time during this waiting period to continue getting paid.

What is considered a disability for Extended Sick Time?

  • You are considered disabled if you are unable to perform one or more of the essential duties of your occupation.
  • Things such as the birth of a child, injuries, accidents, surgeries, and serious illnesses are covered under Extended Sick Time.

How do I file an Extended Sick Time claim?

  • Please refer to the brochure File A Claim with Confidence.
    • After September 1, 2012, if you are going to be absent from work for more than seven calendar days, contact The Hartford to initiate a claim. 
    • The Hartford:  1-888-541-7283   Monday – Friday   8 a.m. – 8 p.m. Central Time
    • www.thehartfordatwork.com  is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week (24/7)
  • For a scheduled absence, you may call up to 30 days prior to your last day at work.
  • For an unscheduled absence, call as soon as possible.
  • You will speak with a nurse when you file your claim.


What else is required when I file a claim?

  • Contact the Northwestern University Benefits Division at 847-491-7513 to file your leave of absence claim.
  • Contact your manager or supervisor to let him or her know about your absence from work.


What can I expect when I am on an Extended Sick Time claim?

  • When a decision is made on your claim you will receive a phone call and a letter from The Hartford.
  • Extended Sick Time benefits will be included in your biweekly or monthly paycheck from   Northwestern University.
  • Resources available to you if you want to obtain information about your claim:

–        Call and speak to a representative during regular business hours (Monday – Friday 8 a.m. – 8 p.m. Central Time)

–        Call and use the automated voice system available 24/7

–        Go online to www.thehartfordatwork.com available 24/7


What do I need to do if something changes during my Extended Sick Time? 

  • Contact The Hartford if you need to request an extension of your claim.
  • Contact The Hartford if you are going to return to work earlier than expected.


Is there a pre-existing condition provision for the EST program?

Do vacation and service accrue while staff are out on Extended Sick Time?
Yes, provided the EST has been approved by The Hartford.