Policy Manual

Leave of Absence Without Pay

A leave of absence without pay may be granted to staff members for periods up to one (1) year for personal reasons, such as attending to family matters, child rearing or performing community service without loss of University service credit and position. For more information on how to track and manage time away from work, click here.

Before approving or denying a leave request, the department head considers the department's operating needs and the staff member's needs, job performance and length of service.

When a request for leave is endorsed, the school/center will usually return the staff member to active status in a similar or equivalent position, pay grade and salary within the school/center at the end of the leave. The University reserves the right to terminate a leave of absence or deny reinstatement at the end of a leave of absence. A staff member has no greater right to conditions of employment than if the staff member had been continuously in the workplace. For example, the position of a staff member on an approved leave of absence may be subject to position discontinuation in accordance with the University's Position Discontinuation and Staff Transition Policy (No. 628).

An early termination of a leave of absence or denial of reinstatement must be reviewed by the Division of Human Resources/Staff and Labor Relations prior to any action by the department.


The request is submitted in writing to the immediate supervisor or the department head and specifies the length of the leave, not to exceed one (1) year, the dates and the reason for the proposed leave.

The department head must forward copies of the endorsed leave request and departmental approval to Staff and Labor Relations and Benefits.

Questions concerning the handling of requests for leave should be referred to Staff and Labor Relations at 215-898-6093.


During personal leaves without pay, there is no accrual of sick days or paid time off days. Time while on leave is counted as service credit in determining eligibility for those benefits that are dependent upon length of service.

The staff member's current coverage will automatically continue for Medical, Dental, Vision, Life, and Long Term Care benefits during the leave unless the individual contacts the Penn Benefits Center within 30 days of when the leave begins. If the coverage continues, the staff member will be billed directly, at full cost, on an after-tax basis for these benefits. Any other health and welfare benefits in which the staff member participates (Accidental Death and Dismemberment Insurance, and Health Care and Dependent Care Pre-Tax Expense Accounts) will automatically be discontinued. However, the staff member may continue to contribute to the Health Care Pre-Tax Expense Account at the current annual coverage level through COBRA. If the staff member is interested in continuing participation in the health care expense account, the staff member must contact the Penn Benefits Center.

Once the staff member's Business Administrator has updated PennWorks to reflect the change in status to Leave of Absence Without Pay, the Penn Benefits Center will mail a personalized notice explaining the benefits continuation process. The staff member is responsible for paying the full cost of any benefits continued during the unpaid leave, and will be billed directly from ADP COBRA Services, the University's third party administrator (exception: billing for the continuation of Long Term Care insurance comes directly from John Hancock Life Insurance Company). Benefits are billed and paid monthly.

It is the staff member's responsibility to contact his/her Business Administrator when s/he will be returning to work. Once the Business Administrator has updated PennWorks to reflect the change back to active status, the Penn Benefits Center will automatically reinstate all benefits that were in effect prior to the unpaid leave*. Coverage will be reinstated as of the first of the month following the month in which the individual returns from leave. Please note: if the staff member returns to work in a different plan year, they will be given the opportunity to enroll in the benefits again. If the staff member wishes to make changes to his/her reinstated elections, s/he must contact the Penn Benefits Center within 30 days of his/her return.

If the University contribution is to be paid by the department, the department must supply Benefits Accounting (215-898-7282) with a budget number to charge; otherwise, the staff member must pay the full amount.

Questions concerning benefit continuation while on leave of absence should be referred to the Penn Benefits Center at 1-888-PENNBEN (1-888-736-6236).

Staff members eligible for the Tax-Deferred Retirement (TDR) Plan may not continue to make contributions to the TDR Plan.

*The long-term care insurance also will be reinstated upon the staff member's return. If the staff member waived long-term care insurance during his/her leave, s/he will have to reapply and supply evidence of insurability for this benefit before it goes into effect. Acceptance is not guaranteed, and the staff member may pay a higher premium based upon his/her age at the time of the reapplication. Also, note that any changes to the staff member's long-term care insurance will need to be coordinated through John Hancock Life Insurance Company.


University employees covered by collective bargaining agreements should refer to the appropriate article in their contract. However, employees covered by collective bargaining agreements must contact the Penn Benefits Center to avoid termination of benefits.

Policy Number: 616
Effective Date: 5/12/2010
Supersedes Policy Number(s): 616 (06/01/1998), 616 (11/23/1998), 616 (07/01/2000), 616 (02/01/2002)
Applicability: All Regular Full and Part-Time Staff
Cross-reference: Policy 114Policy 602Policy 607Policy 631

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