Maternity Leave


Maternity leave is absence by a pregnant employee for the birth of her child. Leave of absence for other child care needs is Family Care Leave of Absence, described on the pages following Maternity Leave.


Staff members who have at least a year of service at Northwestern University AND who have worked at least 1,250 hours within the past continuous 12 months, are eligible for The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) to coincide with their maternity leave. FMLA provides certain employees iwth up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave per year. It also requires that their group health benefits be maintained during the leave.

Staff members who are not eligible for FMLA should contact the Benefits Division to discuss their options. In some instances, they may be referred to our Office of Equal Opportunity and Access to request maternity leave as an accommodation under the American's with Disability's Act. 


Holding the job. For FMLA eligible employees, the job is held for up to 12 weeks following the birth of the child. If department operations permit, the employing department may agree to hold the job beyond 12 weeks. 

Pay. Benefits Eligible staff who have at least six months of continuous service with Northwestern University are eligible for Extended Sick Time (EST) benefits to cover the disability period of their maternity leave. The disability period for maternity leaves is typically 6-8 weeks depending on the types of birth. EST pays out at 100% of the employee's salary, after satisfying a 7 consecutive day waiting period. Incidental Sick Time, vacation, and personal floating holiday time can be used to cover the 7 day waiting period.

Benefits eligible staff with at least 3 years of continous service at Northwestern University may qualify for additional paid time through our Birth and Adoption Parental Leave (BAPL). BAPL provides an additional 4 weeks of paid leave to eligible staff. This benefit pays out 100% of the staff member's salary. For more information visit birth and adoption parental leave (BAPL).

Staff members are also able to use any available vacation and personal floating holiday time to cover any additional time off following the period of disability within their approved leave period. 

Below are some typical pay breakdowns for FMLA eligible maternity leaves:

Natural Birth C-Section
Without BAPL

Week 1: Incidental Sick Time

Week 2-6: Extended Sick Time

Week 7-12: Personal floating holiday and vacation Time (and/or unpaid)

Week 1: Incidental Sick Time

Week 2-8: Extended Sick Time

Week 9-12: Personal floating holiday & vacation Time (and/or unpaid)


Week 1: Incidental Sick Time

Week 2-6: Extended Sick Time

Week 7-10: Birth and Adoption Parental Leave

Week 11-12: Personal floating holiday and vacation time (and/or unpaid)

Week 1: Incidental Sick Time

Week 2-8: Extended Sick Time

Week 9-12: Birth and Adoption Parental Leave 

If an employee is not eligible for EST, they may use their own Incidental Sick Time, vacation, and personal floating holiday time to receive pay during their leave. Once this time is exhausted, the remainder of their leave would be unpaid. 

Benefits. An individual on a paid maternity leave willl continue to receive benefits. The University continues to pay the employer contribution during this time. If enrolled in Flexible Spending Accounts (FSA) these benefits are frozen until the individual returns from leave. The dependent care FSA can only be used when the employee is actively at work. Any health claims incurred while on leave can be submitted to the health care FSA for reimbursement once the employee returns to work. 

Unpaid leave. An individual on an unpaid leave will be billed for benefits coverage. Flexible Spending Accounts are temporarily terminated until the individual returns from leave. Commuter benefits cannot be accessed or changed when on an unpaid leave of absence. The deadline to make changes to commuter benefits is the 5th of the month prior. Please make any necessary changes prior to that deadline, as refunds will not be given under any circumstances. For additional question on the commuter benefits, visit

Maternity Leave Checklist

Click here for a comprehensive list of things to do and consider from the time you find out that you are pregnant to the time you return to work. 

How to Apply for a Maternity Leave

Application. The staff member must contact both the Benefits Division and The Hartford 30 days prior to the leave to apply for FMLA, EST, and/or BAPL benefits or as soon as possible. Instructional faculty must contact The Hartford 60 days prior to the start of the leave as well as their Dean's office for academic planning. You can reach The Hartford at 1-888-541-7283. Click here to view the step by step process for applying for a leave.

End of the leave

Return to work. At the expiration of an approved leave, staff members and instructional faculty members are expected to return to their job or an equivalent position for which they are qualified if able to return to work. 

Extension. If the leave of absence is needed beyond The Hartford approved period, the staff member or instructional faculty member must request an extension from The Hartford pror to the expiration of the leave. If the staff member or instructional faculty member does not return from the leave of absence and does not request an extension, their employment may be subject to termination.


If you are having a difficult time navigating the leave process, would like a better understanding of your leave benefits, or are trying to decide if a leave of absence is right for you, please contact the Benefits Division at (847) 491-7513 or