Policy on Leaves of Absence

Policy Number: 421

Human Resources

The permanent link for this policy is: https://policies.northeastern.edu/policy421/

I. Purpose and Scope


This policy provides general information on the types of leaves of absence that may be available to university employees. This policy also provides general information about certain terms that apply to each type of leave of absence.

The policy does not apply to absences under workers’ compensation

II. Definitions


For the purposes of this policy, the university offers the following Leaves of Absence:

1. Family and Medical Leave
2. Paid Leave Program
3. Military Leave
4. Small Necessities Leave
5. Personal Leave
6. Faculty Leave

III. Policy


a. General

i. Pay while on Leave

The university offers eligible employees paid leave for qualifying reasons pursuant to the Policy on Paid Leave Program (PLP).

Any leave provided under the PLP policy will run concurrent with any leave taken under this policy to the extent permitted by law. Other than leave available under the PLP policy, a leave of absence is generally an unpaid absence from employment at the university. Depending on the type of leave, employees may be eligible to use available sick, vacation, or personal time to remain in a paid status during a leave.

If a benefits-eligible employee is absent in excess of five (5) consecutive workdays due to their own medical condition, the employee and/or the employee’s supervisor must notify the HR Leave Management Team (LMT) as the employee may be eligible for leave under the PLP.

ii. Benefits while on Leave

While employees are being paid during a leave of absence, the usual contributions for their health, dental, retirement, and all other benefits will be deducted from their paycheck. While employees are on unpaid leaves of absence, they may continue participating in their health and dental plans, but they must notify HR Benefits in advance that they desire to remain active on these plans and they must continue making their required contributions. There may be circumstances where an employee is required to repay premiums if they do not return from an unpaid leave.

Life insurance and long-term disability insurance may remain in effect during a leave, depending upon its duration. Travel accident, eligibility for workers’ compensation, and vacation accrual will cease when an employees’ unpaid status exceeds 30 days. The tuition waiver program will be limited to covered dependents if an unpaid leave of absence exceeds 30 days.

b. Family and Medical Leave Act Leave of Absence

i. Description

The university complies with the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), as well as any applicable state leave laws, such as the California Family Rights Act (CFRA) for California Employees. The purpose of this section is to provide employees with a general description of their FMLA rights.

 Leave under the FMLA and any applicable state leave laws will run concurrent with PLP leave in most circumstances and the PLP policy is more generous than the FMLA requires. Please refer to the PLP policy for details about that leave benefit.

Under this policy, eligible employees may be entitled to an unpaid, job-protected leave of up to 12 weeks in a 12-month period for the following reasons:

  • To bond with a child following the child’s birth or placement for adoption or foster care (leave to bond with a child must be taken within 12 months of the child’s birth or placement;
  • To care for the employee’s spouse, child (under age 18 unless incapable of self- care due to disability), or parent who has a qualifying serious health condition;
  • For the employee’s own qualifying serious health condition that makes the employee unable to perform the employee’s job; and
  • For qualifying exigencies related to military service of the employee’s spouse, child, or parent.

      The CFRA provides the same duration and reasons for leave as the FMLA. Employees in California may also take leave under the CFRA to care for a grandparent, grandchild, sibling, or parent-in-law who has a qualifying serious health condition.

      An eligible employee who is a covered service member’s spouse, child, parent, or next of kin may also take up to 26 weeks of FMLA leave in a single 12-month period to care for the service member with a serious injury or illness (referred to as “Military Caregiver Leave”). Under this type of FMLA leave, an employee is entitled to a maximum of 26 weeks of leave in the 12-month period beginning on the first day that the employee takes this form of leave and ending 12 months later.

      Except for those employees taking Military Caregiver Leave, an eligible employee will be entitled to a maximum of 12 weeks of leave under this policy during any 12-month period.

      Northeastern’s method for calculating the 12-month is a look-forward method. Using this method, an employee is entitled to 12 weeks of leave during the year beginning on the first date leave is taken and measured forward 12 months. The next 12-month eligibility period would begin the first time leave is taken after completion of any previous 12-month period. If certified for medical reasons or if otherwise permitted, leave may be taken intermittently or to reduce the workweek.

      To the extent permitted by applicable law, if both spouses work for the university, they are entitled to a combined 12 weeks of FMLA leave (as well as CFRA leave for California employees), during any 12-month period, (1) to bond with their new born or newly placed child; or (2) to care for a seriously ill parent.

      Where applicable, leave under this policy will run concurrently with other available Leaves of Absence.

      At the end of any leave under this policy, employees will generally have the right to return to their same position or to an equivalent position with equivalent benefits, pay, and other terms and conditions of employment. The university will not interfere with an employee’s FMLA rights or retaliate against someone for using or trying to use FMLA leave, opposing any practice made unlawful by the FMLA, or being involved in any proceeding under or related to the FMLA.

      ii. Eligibility & Application

      To be eligible for leave (as well as CFRA leave for California employees), an employee must have (1) worked for the university for at least 12 months; and (2) worked a minimum of 1,250 hours during the 12 months preceding the need for leave.

      Generally, employees are expected to provide the HR LMT at least 30-days’ advance notice of the need for leave. If it is not possible to give 30-days’ notice, employees must notify HR LMT as soon as practicable. Employees must complete a Leave of Absence Application, which is available through Workday, and may be required to provide supporting medical documentation to HR LMT. HR LMT may require periodic recertification of the need for leave and it may require certification that the employee is able to resume work at the conclusion of leave, if applicable.

      The university will inform employees who request leave under this policy whether they are eligible. If eligible, the university will notify the employee of their rights and responsibilities under the FMLA and any applicable state law. If they are not eligible, the university will tell the employee why they are ineligible. The university will also notify employees whether and what portion of their Leave of Absence will be designated as FMLA leave.

      Leave under this policy is unpaid, but will run concurrent with PLP when employees are eligible under both programs. Additionally, employees may use available vacation, personal, or sick time, depending on the type of leave, to continue to receive their pay while on leave. During an approved leave, the university will continue the employee’s medical and dental insurance coverage as usual, provided the employee remains eligible for such coverage and continues to pay their premiums.

      An employee may file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Labor or may bring a private lawsuit against the university to enforce their rights under the FMLA. The FMLA does not affect any federal or state law prohibiting discrimination or supersede any state or local law or collective bargaining agreement that provides greater family or medical leave rights.

      c. Military Leave of Absence

      i. Description

      It is the university’s policy to comply with all applicable laws that protect the rights of employees serving in the uniformed services, the Armed Forces, the Reserves, and the National Guard, including the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act(“USERRA”).

      There are two situations in which military leave is granted: temporary military duty and active duty. In any calendar year, if an employee is ordered to temporary military duty for a period of two weeks or less, the university will make up the difference, if any, between the employee’s military pay and the employee’s regular wages. For active duty or enlistment that exceeds two weeks, employees should request an unpaid Military Leave.

      Upon an employee’s return from military service, they will be eligible for reinstatement as provided in the USERRA. The employee must report to work and provide the university with a discharge certificate of satisfactory completion of service within the time period dictated by the USERRA.

      ii. Eligibility and Application

      Individuals seeking to take military leave should complete and submit an application for Leave of Absence through Workday and include a copy of the orders to report for duty.

      All university arrangements governing military duty are subject to modification caused by any special circumstances that may exist during an emergency period and any government regulations that may then be in effect.

      d. Small Necessities Leave – Massachusetts Employees Only

      i. Description

      Pursuant to the Small Necessities Leave Act, eligible employees may take up to 24 hours of unpaid leave during a twelve-month period to attend activities directly related to the education of a dependent child (e.g. parent-teacher conferences), and/or to accompany a dependent child or elderly relative to a routine medical, dental or other professional services appointment (e.g. annual physical, vaccination appointment, nursing home interview/intake). This leave is referred to as “Small Necessities Leave.”

      ii. Eligibility and Application

      To be eligible for Small Necessities Leave, an employee must have worked (1) for the university for at least 12 months; and (2) worked a minimum of 1,250 hours during the 12 months preceding the need for leave. Eligible employees should coordinate this leave with their supervisor. Such leave time shall be charged to an employee’s available vacation or personal days, if any. Where none exists, the time will be unpaid.

      e. Pregnancy Disability Leave – California Employees Only

      If a California employee is disabled by pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions, they are eligible to take a pregnancy disability leave (“PDL”) that shall run concurrently with PLP Leave,  If affected by pregnancy or a related medical condition, an employee also is eligible to transfer to a less strenuous or hazardous position or less strenuous or hazardous duties, if such a transfer is medically advisable and can be reasonably accommodated. Employees disabled by qualifying conditions may also be entitled to other reasonable accommodation where doing so is medically necessary. Employees should contact Human Resources to request leave, accommodation, or transfer.

       Employees may receive up to four months of PDL per pregnancy to be used during any period(s) of actual disability caused by the employee’s pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical condition – per pregnancy.  To receive a reasonable accommodation, obtain a transfer, or take a PDL, an employee must provide sufficient notice so the university can make appropriate plans – 30 days advance notice if the need for the reasonable accommodation, transfer or PDL is foreseeable, otherwise as soon as practicable if the need is an emergency or unforeseeable.

      An employee is required to obtain a certification from the employee’s health care provider confirming the need for PDL, or the medical advisability of an accommodation or a transfer.  A certification of reasonable accommodation or a transfer is sufficient if it contains:

      (1)        A description of the requested reasonable accommodation or transfer;

      (2)        A statement describing the medical advisability of the reasonable accommodation or transfer because of pregnancy; and

      (3)        The date on which the need for reasonable accommodation or transfer became or will become medically advisable and the estimated duration of the reasonable accommodation or transfer.

      A medical certification indicating disability necessitating a leave is sufficient if it contains:

      (1)        A statement that the employee needs to take pregnancy disability leave because they are disabled by pregnancy, childbirth, or a related medical condition;

      (2)        The date on which the employee became disabled because of pregnancy; and

      (3)        The estimated duration of the leave.

       Upon request, the Human Resources Department will provide an employee with a medical certification form that can be provided to their doctor.

      As a condition of an employee’s return from PDL, the university requires all employees to obtain a release to return to work from their health care provider stating the employee is able to resume their original job duties. 

      PDL leave is unpaid. PDL will run concurrent with PLP if an employee is eligible for leave under both programs.  At an employee’s option, an employee may use any accrued vacation time or other accrued paid time off (e.g., paid sick time or newborn/adoption leave) as part of their PDL before taking the remainder of the leave on an unpaid basis.  The use of any paid leave will not extend the duration of an employee’s PDL. The university encourages employees to contact the EDD regarding eligibility for state disability insurance for any unpaid portion of leave. 

      Employees who participate in the university’s group health insurance plan shall continue to participate in the plan while on PDL under the same terms and conditions as if they were working.  Employees should make arrangements with Human Resources for payment of their share of the insurance premiums.  Benefit continuation under PDL is distinct from benefit continuation for employees who also take new child bonding leave under the California Family Rights Act. 

      PDL will be designated and run concurrent with any other law or program under which an employee is eligible for benefits other than CFRA.  Employees should refer to other  leave provisions in this and other university policies for additional information.

      Failure to notify the university of their ability to return to work when it occurs may be deemed a voluntary termination of employment.  Failure to return from a PDL when it expires may be deemed a voluntary termination of employment unless the employee requests, in advance of the expiration of their leave, additional time off under the FMLA/CFRA or the Medical Leave of Absence policy.  Upon an employee’s return from PDL, an employee will be reinstated to their same position in most instances.

      Personal Leave of Absence

      i. Description

      Staff and faculty may seek a Personal Leave of Absence for reasons not covered by another leave option or to extend their available leave. Such leaves will be granted solely at the university’s discretion.

      During an unpaid Personal Leave of Absence that is one month or longer in duration:

      • Vacation time will not accrue;
      • Group medical and dental will continue, provided the employee continues to make the required contribution to these plans;
      • University contributions to the employee’s retirement plan will cease; and
      • Tuition waiver benefits will cease.

      ii. Eligibility and Application

      Absences for less than five days must be approved by and are administered directly by an employee’s supervisor. To apply for a Personal Leave of Absence beyond 5 days, employees must complete an Application for Leave of Absence through Workday.

      Supervisor approval is required. For leaves over a month, approval from their academic dean or vice president is required.

      f. Faculty Leave

      Faculty leaves, such as sabbaticals and leaves for academic study, are covered by the Faculty Handbook in the Sabbatical and Leaves of Absence and Vacation modules. Any questions regarding faculty leaves should be addressed to the Provost’s Office. It is important that faculty let HR Benefits know when they are going on one of the unpaid faculty leaves. Faculty must meet with HR Benefits if they are entitled to continuation of benefits during their leave. As with any other type of leave, faculty must continue contributions to the health and dental plans and any other benefits if coverage is to continue during the leave.

      IV. Additional Information


      Unless otherwise stated in this policy, when the need for leave is foreseeable, the employee must apply for and be approved in advance of the leave begin date.

      Typically, thirty days’ notice, or as much notice as is practical, must be given.

      V. Contact Information


      For questions about this policy, please contact the HR Service Center.

      HR Customer Service Center: 250 Columbus Place; 617-373-2230


      Responsible Office/Department(s)

      Human Resources

      Related Procedures





      Leaves of Absence; Paid Leave Program; Adoption; FMLA; Military Leave

      Version History

      Last Revision Date: September 15, 2022

      Issued: April 2, 2014