Incidental Sick Time and Extended Sick Time

Northwestern University provides paid time away from work as a form of income protection for a staff member who is unable to work because of illness or injury. The University’s sick time program has two main components:

Incidental Sick Time (IST): Used for absences due to personal illness or the illness of a qualifying family member who requires direct care by the staff member as described in the Using IST section on page 6.8 of the Staff Handbook. For IST purposes, qualifying family members are defined as a spouse, domestic partner/civil union partner, child, stepchild, child of a civil union or domestic partner, parent, stepparent, grandparent, grandchild or sibling and those bearing the same relationship to the staff member’s spouse or domestic partner/civil union partner. The Incidental Sick Time allocation is replenished at the start of each fiscal year (September 1) with no “carrying over” or banking of sick time from one year to the next.

Extended Sick Time (EST): Provides 100% of a staff member’s hourly rate or monthly salary for an approved extended illness or injury after a seven-calendar day elimination period, for up to six months. Any additional compensation such as overtime, bonus, on-call pay, incentive pay, or additional pay is excluded. Extended Sick Time is provided at no cost to employees and is available after a staff member has been employed in a benefits-eligible staff position for six months. If the staff member has at least five years of continuous service, the staff member will return to their job or an equivalent job for which they are qualified if able to return to work before or immediately upon exhaustion of Extended Sick Time benefits.

IST Accrual

A staff member is granted Incidental Sick Time on September 1 of each fiscal year (September 1 – August 31). A new staff member hired on or after September 1 is granted Incidental Sick Time as follows:

Fiscal Year (Sept 1-Aug 31) Current Staff New Hires
Sept 1- Nov 30
New Hires
Dec 1 - Feb 29
New Hires
Mar 1 - May 31
New Hires
June 1 - Aug 31
2014-2015 15 days 15 days 10 days  5 days 2 days
2015-2016 12 days 12 days 8 days 4 days 1 day

Incidental Sick Time will be granted on each subsequent September 1 following the date of hire. If a staff member is not in paid status on September 1, the sick time will be refreshed upon return to paid status based on the table above.

Part-time staff members receive the percentage of IST and EST proportionate to the percentage of full-time that they are scheduled to work.

Using IST

Northwestern University may require satisfactory evidence for any paid Incidental Sick Time. Visits to licensed/certified caregivers for treatment or checkups qualify for use of paid IST, and must be scheduled at a time least disruptive to department/unit operations and require advanced supervisory approval. Incidental Sick Time for exempt staff members is to be used in half- or wholeday increments and recorded in the University-approved time entry system.

Absence due to an injury on the job or occupational disease is not charged to IST or EST if it is approved as Workers’ Compensation. For more information, refer to Workers’ Compensation on page 6.9 of the Staff Handbook.

While Incidental Sick Time is limited to the seven calendar days immediately prior to an approved Extended Sick Time absence, there are specific circumstances when staff members may use up to their annual allowance of Incidental Sick Time consecutively. These are:

  • Staff members with less than six months of service and unable to work due to their own illness (this includes birth of a child).
  • Staff members who have been approved for intermittent FMLA and need to be away from work.
  • Staff members who must care for a sick family member and be absent from work.


Unauthorized or misuse of sick time is a basis for denial of sick time pay and subject to corrective action, up to and including termination of employment.

Incidental Sick Time is renewed at the beginning of each fiscal year (September 1) and any unused IST at the end of the fiscal year (August 31) is forfeited.

Transfer and Separation

When a staff member transfers to another staff position at Northwestern University, the staff member and supervisor should ensure that the University-approved time entry system is up to date and accruals are approved by the supervisor. Staff members who transfer from one department/unit to another retain their sick time balance.

When a staff member’s primary role is changed from staff to faculty, sick time will not be paid out upon transfer to the faculty status.

On separation from the University, the staff member will not be paid for accrued and unused sick time.

For more information about the IST and EST policies, refer to page 6.7 in the Staff Handbook.