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Staff Handbook

Staff Handbook

This handbook contains policy and program information that defines the responsibilities of staff members and the University's commitments to staff. Review the Staff Handbook for complete staff employment policies and procedures.




Please email or contact your Human Resources Business Partner ( with questions regarding the policies and programs within the Staff Handbook.


Attesting to the Handbook

Upon hire, each staff member (including Postdoctoral Fellows, Research Associates, and Faculty Librarians) is required to attest that he or she has received the Staff Handbook. This confirmation of receipt will be retained by the University. Complete the process in myHR

Summary of updates for 2021

The following key updates are reflected in the 2021 Staff Handbook; for any questions regarding these updates, please contact your HR Business Partner.

  • Transfer & Promotion Service Requirement (Page 2.6)
    Staff members may apply for other internal positions at Northwestern University at any time. Staff members are eligible for a transfer or promotion to a different department/unit at Northwestern once they have been in their current position for 12 months. Within the first 12 months, transfers or promotions to a new department/unit require mutual agreement between the current supervisor, Department/Business Administrator, new supervisor, and Human Resources. Transfers within the same department/unit may occur at any time provided there is approval by the current supervisor and the Department/Business Administrator.
  • Salary History Ban (Page 2.7)
    Includes information on the salary history ban as part of an amendment to the Illinois Equal Pay Act.
  • Resolving Workplace Issues and Reporting Obligations, Discrimination and Harassment (Pages 2.10, 4.3)
    Outlines Northwestern’s right to take reasonable actions to investigate and address complaints and other workplace concerns brought to its attention, as well as the expectation that staff members provide all relevant information as part of an investigation to an appropriate University authority.
  • Involuntary Termination of Employment, Immediate Discharge (Page 2.13)
    Includes conduct detrimental to Northwestern University’s interests or reputation as an additional violation of policy and rules that may be serious enough to result in immediate discharge.
  • Workplace Commitment (Page 4.1)
    Provides updated information to align to the Office of Equity’s policies and processes.
  • Benefits Eligibility (Page 5.1)
    Notes that Post-doctoral Trainees may have different eligibility requirements for benefits and provides the new website for Post-doctoral Trainee benefits.
  • Financial Benefits (Pages 5.1-5.2)
    If a staff member is single at the time of death, the condolence check is now paid to the beneficiary(ies) of the staff member’s basic life insurance benefits proportional to the beneficiary’s allocation percentage. If there is no surviving beneficiary on record, the condolence check is paid to the staff member’s estate.
  • Employee Portable Tuition Plan (Page 5.2)
    Provides updated information for this Plan.
  • Vacation Time Payout (Page 6.4)
    Accrued vacation time cannot exceed one and one-half times the annual accrual. Staff members in non-exempt positions cannot exceed one and one-half times the annual accrual in a pay period; staff members in exempt positions cannot exceed one and one-half times the annual accrual at the end of the fiscal year. If the vacation balance of an exempt staff member exceeds the maximum accrual at the end of the fiscal year, any accrual balances above the 1.5 times the annual accrual time is forfeited. Staff members and their departments/units must ensure that vacation time is scheduled to avoid losing it. Upon termination, staff members will be paid out their accrued and unused vacation time that has been approved by the supervisor in the time entry system.
  • Incidental Sick Time (Page 6.6)
    Updated to explicitly expand the definition of uses of IST to include absences due to mental health and to align to the Cook County and Chicago Sick Leave Ordinances.
  • Bereavement Absence (Page 6.9)
    Includes all of the family relationships that were previously eligible under bereavement absence into the most generous category of 10 days of absence (five of which are paid under bereavement absence). Also allows for the staff member to request additional time off in special circumstances.
  • Overtime (Page 8.2)
    Outlines that non-exempt staff members must have at least 24 consecutive hours off work every calendar week, in addition to the period of rest allowed at the close of each working day.
  • Adoption Assistance Reimbursement Program (Page 9.2)
    The Adoption Assistance Reimbursement Program has been expanded to include second parent adoption. This expansion now allows for the adoption of a spouse’s unrelated child, step child, or a child as a result of a surrogacy arrangement. The parameters surrounding the reimbursement maximum amounts are $5,000 per child and $6,000 for a child with special needs. All other program requirements still apply.