Leaves of Absence

Individuals covered

Anyone who has a regular employment relationship with the University and meets the eligibility requirements has entitlements under the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993. This policy describes these and other leave benefits available to members of the University administrative and research staff.


Northwestern University grants leaves of absence for medical care for oneself, for maternity or other family care, for some personal reasons, and for military duty. With a leave of absence, an individual may under some circumstances temporarily leave a University position with an intention to return to active university employment and during the leave maintain a relationship with the University that provides access to certain benefits and does not break service.

Types of Leaves of Absence

The following pages describe the provisions for six kinds of leave of absence available from the university:

  • Medical leave is absence to care for a personal serious health condition.
  • Maternity leave is absence for a woman following the birth of her child.
  • Family care leave is absence for the adoption of a child, or for a father of a newborn child, or for placement of a child in foster care, or for a serious health condition affecting a spouse, parent, child, or declared same-sex domestic partner.
  • Worker's Compensation Leave
  • Illinois Victims' Economic Security and Safety Act (VESSA) leave is for a staff member who is a victim of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, or stalking, or has a family or household member who is a victim of domestic or sexual violence.
  • Military training leave is absence for military reserve training.
  • Military active duty leave is absence for active military service for employees who enlist or are inducted into the armed forces of the United States.
  • Military Caregiver Leave
  • Personal leave is absence taken for personal development related to University employment, for research, for travel, or after the expiration of leave for personal medical or family care.
  • Repatriation Leave (Qatar)

Benefits during leave

Insured benefits. During leaves of absence, insured benefits are available. The payment of premiums varies among the kinds of leave as described on the following pages. 

Retirement contributions. University contributions to the individual’s retirement accounts continue as a percent of the University salary paid during the leave, such as for vacation or holiday pay, but these contributions are not made when the individual receives income from insurance benefits. Employees on unpaid leave may make their own contributions directly to the retirement plan without the University matching funds.

Paid time benefits. Vacation continues to accrue while paid vacation and extended sick time is being taken and during University scheduled and personal floating holidays. Vacation and sick time do not accrue during unpaid leave.

End of the leave

A leave of absence ends upon resuming active employment, whether at the University or another employer.

An employee on leave of absence who takes temporary work at the University within six months of the start of a leave has returned to regular, benefits-eligible employment, having already qualified for benefits under ERISA; and the leave of absence ends. An employee on leave of absence who takes temporary work at the University after six months from the start of the leave becomes a temporary employee not eligible for benefits under ERISA, even though the person continues to have access to University benefits programs as may be provided by the leave of absence.

On taking a benefits-eligible position at another employer, a leave of absence ends and the individual is separated from the University.