Policies & Contracts

522 - FMLA Policy

Subject: Family and Medical Leave of Absence

Section: U522

Date: January, 2022


The University is committed to compliance with the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (the "FMLA"). The purpose of this policy is to provide employees with a basic understanding of their rights and obligations under the FMLA. The University will grant eligible employees up to 12 workweeks of job protected unpaid leave during a rolling 12-month period.

who is governed by this policy: 

This policy applies to all FMLA-eligible University employees. To be eligible to take FMLA leave an employee must:

  • have been employed by the University for at least 12 months (separate periods of employment will be counted, provided that the break in service does not exceed seven years); and
  • have worked at least 1,250 hours in the preceding 12 months from the first date of leave (must be actual hours worked, not including time off whether paid or unpaid).

Policy statement:

Before Your Leave

Reasons for FMLA Leave

To be eligible, the leave must be for one of the following reasons:

  • An employee's own serious health condition, which makes them unable to perform the essential functions of their job;
  • Birth of, or to care for, the employee's newborn child;
  • Placement of a child with the employee for adoption or foster care;
  • To care for an immediate family member (employee's spouse, child, or parent) with a serious health condition;
  • A qualifying exigency arising out of the fact that the employee's spouse, son, daughter, or parent is a member of a regular component of the U.S. Armed Forces or is a member of the National Guard or Reserves, and who is deployed to a foreign country on active duty pursuant to Section 101(a)(13)(B) of Title 10 of the United States Code. Qualifying exigencies for which an employee may take FMLA leave include:
    • making alternative childcare arrangements for a child of the deployed military member,
    • attending certain military ceremonies and briefings, or
    • making financial or legal arrangements to address the military member’s absence; or
  • To care for a U.S. servicemember or veteran with a serious injury or illness incurred or aggravated in the line of duty while on active military duty if the employee is the spouse, son, daughter, parent, or next of kin of the servicemember or veteran. For military caregiver leave, the University will grant eligible employees up to 26 workweeks of job protected unpaid leave during a rolling 12-month period.

Intermittent Leave

Leave is normally taken in a block of time, however, if medically necessary, employees may take FMLA leave intermittently (periodically when needed over the year), or by reducing their normal weekly or daily work schedule for:

  • their own serious health condition;
  • an immediate family member's (employee's spouse, child, or parent) serious health condition;
  • to care for the employee’s newborn child;
  • placement of a child with the employee for adoption or foster care; or
  • to care for the serious injury or illness of an eligible servicemember.

Employees who require intermittent leave or a reduced schedule must try to schedule their leave so that it will not disrupt the department's operations.

If the intermittent leave or the reduced schedule is foreseeable due to planned medical treatment, the employer may require the employee to transfer to a different position during the period that the intermittent leave or reduced schedule is needed.  In order for the transfer to occur, there must be an available position for which the employee is qualified that better accommodates the intermittent leave or reduced schedule.  

Requests for Leave

When the need for the leave is foreseeable, the employee must provide the University with at least 30 days’ advanced notice. When the employee becomes aware of a need for FMLA leave less than 30 days in advance, the employee must provide notice of the need for leave as soon as practicable. When the need for FMLA leave is not foreseeable, the employee must comply with both their unit’s customary call-in procedures and the process for requesting leave.

Employees requesting FMLA leave are required to submit a leave request through Workday. Following this submission, Workday will send a notification of the request to Leave Administration.

Leave Administration will respond in Workday to provide the employee with a Notice of Eligibility, Rights, and Responsibilities and inform the employee of additional obligations, including a medical certification supporting the need for FMLA leave, if applicable. 

Leave requests that are not submitted according to policy and as soon as practicable may be delayed or denied based on individual facts and circumstances.

Certification for FMLA Leave

The University requires medical certification for the employee's serious health condition, or for a family member's serious health condition. Supporting documentation may be required to approve leave for other FMLA qualifying reasons. All certifications and supporting documentation are to be submitted directly to Leave Administration. If applicable, the Notice of Eligibility will outline what documentation is required. The employee must respond with the required documentation within 15 calendar days of the Notice of Eligibility. Failure to comply may result in delay or denial of leave, potentially subjecting the employee to corrective action up to and including termination.

Incomplete Certification

If the certification is incomplete, Leave Administration will provide the employee with the opportunity to correct or complete the certification. The employee will have 7 calendar days to resolve any deficiencies or the FMLA leave request may be denied. 

2nd and 3rd Opinions

The University may request recertification and/or a second opinion for the serious health condition of the employee or the employee's family member in accordance with FMLA regulations. If a second opinion is required, the University will choose a healthcare provider to give the second opinion and will pay the cost. If the first and second opinions differ, the University may require a third opinion. The healthcare provider giving the third opinion will be jointly approved by the University and the employee. The third opinion will be binding. The University will pay the cost of the third opinion.

Approval/Denial Notice

Once Leave Administration receives a completed medical certification, the employee will be notified within 5 business days whether the leave is approved or denied and whether the leave will be designated as FMLA leave.  This notification will be provided in Workday and through another means such as mail or email.

If an employee is absent from work for a serious health condition or a condition that progresses into a serious health condition, the University may designate all, or some portion, of the absence as FMLA leave, to the extent that the absence meets the necessary qualifications.

During Your Leave

Duration of Leave

Employees may receive up to 12 workweeks of unpaid leave during any rolling 12-month period, measured backward from the first date that any FMLA leave is used.

Birth and Bonding: FMLA leave to care for a newborn or for the placement of a child for adoption or foster care, must conclude within 12 months after the birth or original placement.

Military Caregiver Leave: An eligible employee may take up to 26 workweeks of leave during a single rolling 12-month period to care for a servicemember or veteran with a serious injury or illness. Leave to care for an injured or ill servicemember or veteran, when combined with other FMLA qualifying leave, may not exceed 26 workweeks in the single rolling 12-month period.

Extension of Leave

If the employee’s healthcare provider believes the employee will need additional leave beyond the dates outlined on the approval notice, the employee must contact Leave Administration and their supervisor immediately.  To request additional leave, the employee will be required to submit an extension request such as a Leave Extension Request form no later than 7 days before their scheduled return to work date. Failure to comply may result in delay or denial of additional leave, potentially subjecting the employee to corrective action for their unexcused absence(s) up to and including termination.

Once FMLA leave is exhausted, additional leave may be available under the Non-FMLA Medical Leave Policy or Personal Leave Policy .

Intermittent Leave Recertification

Employees who are on an intermittent leave may be required to periodically recertify in accordance with the Department of Labor guidelines.  Recertification is required at least every 6 months for ongoing medical conditions.  Recertification may also be required if the circumstances described in the previous certification have changed significantly, or if the University receives information that casts doubt on the employee’s stated reason for the absence or the continuing validity of the certification.

In order to recertify, the employee will be required to submit a new certification to Leave Administration.

Failure to comply may result in delay or denial of leave, potentially subjecting the employee to corrective action for their unexcused absence(s) up to and including termination.

Call-In Procedures

Employees must comply with their unit’s customary call-in procedures when they are absent from work for reasons covered by FMLA leave, unless the employee is on an approved block leave.  During the call in, the employee must indicate that the absence is for an FMLA-covered reason. It is also the responsibility of the employee to designate their absence in the University’s time-tracking system as an FMLA-covered event each time intermittent leave is used.  If an employee is taking a block leave, the department is responsible for entering the employee’s time into the University’s time-tracking system. 

Communications While on Leave

The employee must keep their department apprised of any changes to their leave. Failure to keep the department appropriately updated may result in delay or denial of leave, potentially subjecting the employee to corrective action for their unexcused absence(s) up to and including termination.

While on leave, an employee is to be fully relieved of their work.  However, the department may make brief, sporadic contact to the employee with reasonable requests, such as straightforward questions to obtain vital or institutional knowledge. 

When an employee is on a block leave, the department must contact the employee to obtain a status update prior to the end of their leave.

Attendance and FMLA

Absences covered by FMLA leave will not be counted as an unscheduled absence under University Policy 502 Attendance (Absenteeism, Tardiness and Job Abandonment). During FMLA leave, employees must continue to comply with Policy 502 and departmental call-in procedures, as applicable. However, employees may be subject to corrective action if, during their leave, they engage in activities inconsistent with the stated purpose for the leave. 

Pay Status While on Leave

All FMLA leave time taken, regardless of whether it is paid or unpaid, will count against the employee's leave entitlement. FMLA leave is generally unpaid, however, the University has made provisions for employees to receive pay during FMLA leave under certain circumstances, described below:

Accruals: Non-exempt (biweekly) employees taking intermittent leave must use available time off accruals, as described below, on an hour-for-hour basis, in increments of at least 30 minutes before taking unpaid time.

Exempt (monthly) employees taking FMLA leave will be paid for workweeks that include any FMLA leave. However, whole days not worked due to FMLA leave will be charged against the employee's accrued time off unless there are insufficient accruals. Accruals must be used in full day increments.  If the employee does not have a full day of accruals that day will be unpaid.  Exempt employees taking intermittent leave will not be charged for time off for less than a full day, but the hours taken as FMLA leave must be submitted using the absence tracking system as “FMLA-hours tracking only”.

Accruals cannot be used in place of an otherwise applicable leave of absence.  The University may designate a leave of absence or benefit as appropriate.

An employee on an approved FMLA leave for more than half of the workdays in a month will not accrue sick or vacation time.

Accruals will be used in the following order:

  • Sick Leave: An employee is required to use any available accrued sick time concurrently with FMLA.
  • Personal Holiday: An employee is required to use any available vacation and personal holiday accruals with the option to save 5 days total if they are on a block leave. Short-term disability may affect this requirement. The employee must be at work or use accruals (sick, personal holiday, or vacation) on the award date, to be awarded a personal holiday.
  • Vacation: An employee is required to use any available vacation and personal holiday accruals with the option to save 5 days total if they are on a block leave. Short-term disability may affect this requirement.

University Holiday Pay: The employee must use accruals (sick, personal holiday, or vacation) or work on the day before and the day following the University holiday, to be paid for a University holiday.

Short-Term Disability: An employee who is eligible for Short-term disability will receive 60% of the employee’s primary position’s regular base rate of pay at the time of the benefit, minus normal deductions. Payment begins once an employee is totally disabled for a continuous period of 14 days or when an employee’s accrued sick leave is exhausted, whichever is longer.  This benefit is available for 13 weeks maximum.

Paid Parental Benefit: An employee who is eligible for the Paid Parental Benefit may receive up to 6 weeks of pay to be completed within 12 months of when the employee’s child is born or adopted. Pay is determined by the employee’s primary position’s regular base rate of pay at the time of the benefit, minus normal deductions.  The paid parental benefit cannot be used to extend an employee’s leave beyond FMLA entitlement except as allowed by short-term disability eligibility.

Workers’ Compensation: If applicable, FMLA leave and Workers’ Compensation run concurrently.

Employee Benefits While on Leave

Health Insurance: During an employee's FMLA leave, the University will maintain health insurance and other group benefits on the same conditions as if the employee was working, subject to applicable plan documents and law. An employee must pay the same contribution rate as if they were an active employee to continue benefits during an FMLA leave. If any portion of the leave is paid, the employee's share of the benefit premiums will be paid through automatic payroll deductions. During unpaid FMLA leave, the employee will be billed by a third-party administrator and must make payments for their share of the premiums monthly. The University's obligation to maintain health benefits ceases if an employee fails to pay their share of premiums. Any FMLA leave will not be considered a break in service.

Retirement Plans: FMLA leave will be treated as continuous service (i.e., no break in service) for purposes of vesting and eligibility to participate in the University's retirement plans. If the leave is unpaid for a full calendar month an employee participating in the retirement plans will not continue to contribute, but contributions that the employee has already made will not be affected.

Tuition Benefits: Please refer to the Educational Assistance Plan Summary of Benefits.

Notice Requirements for Returning from FMLA Leave

Employees are expected to return to work at the end of their approved leave. Prior to returning from a block leave for their own serious health condition, the employee must secure a medical release, such as the Return to Work Notice, from their healthcare provider confirming their ability to return to work with or without restrictions. The release should be completed and submitted to Leave Administration no later than 3 business days before the scheduled return to work date.

If an employee on a block leave for their own serious health condition is released to return to work sooner than the expected return date listed on the approval notice, the employee must notify their supervisor and provide the release to Leave Administration as soon as received and before the updated return to work date.

If the employee is released to return to work with restrictions, the department, in consultation with Employee and Labor Relations, will determine whether the restrictions can be met.

After Your Leave

Job Restoration

An employee who takes FMLA leave will normally return to the same position or a position with equivalent status, pay, benefits, and other employment terms.  Exceptions to job restoration are permitted when the original assignment ended, or the original position is eliminated during the FMLA leave due to reduction in force, reorganization, or if the employee would not otherwise have been employed even if leave had not been taken. In the event the University will not be able to restore the employee, written notification will be provided.

Long-Term Disability (LTD)

Employees who anticipate being on leave longer than 90 continuous days and who may be eligible to receive the LTD benefit should contact Leave Administration for more information.

Failure to Return after FMLA Leave

Any employee who exceeds their FMLA entitlement without extension or fails to return to work as scheduled after FMLA leave may be subject to termination of employment.


Employees represented by a union may be governed by the provisions of the appropriate collective bargaining agreement.

Key definitions:

Word/Phrase Definition
Serious Health Condition A serious health condition is an illness, injury, impairment, or physical or mental condition that involves either an oversight stay in a medical care facility, or continuing treatment by a health care provider for a condition that either prevents the employee from performing the functions of the employee's job, or prevents the qualified family member from participating in school or other daily activities. Subject to certain conditions, the continuing treatment requirement may be met by a period of incapacity (inability to work) of more than 3 consecutive calendar days combined with at least two visits to a health care provider or one visit and a regiment of continuing treatment, or incapacity due to pregnancy, or incapacity due to a chronic condition. Other conditions may meet the definition of continuing treatment.
Immediate Family Member Spouse, Child, or Parent

roles and responsibilities:

Governed Party Roles and Responsibilities
Employee The Employee is responsible for submitting a completed FMLA Leave Request Form and any additional necessary documentation to their supervisor, HR Partner or Leave Administration.
Supervisor The Supervisor is responsible for setting time off request procedures, ensuring they are followed, staying in contact with the employee on leave as appropriate, and approving the time off calendar.
HR Partner The HR Partner is responsible to act as a liaison to ensure employees and Leave Administration have all necessary information.

key contacts:

Name Email Extension
Center of Expertise - Benefits: Leave Administration leaveadministration@uchicago.edu 2-9634

Related information:

Policy U222 Compensable Time, Record-Keeping and Tracking Absences

Policy U509 Vacation

Policy U511 Personal Holidays

Policy U512 Sick Leave

Policy U703 Progressive Corrective Action

Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act

Illinois Occupational Diseases Act

FMLA Employee Guide

FMLA Employee Rights And Responsibilities Poster