Policies & Contracts

526 - Victims' Economic Security and Safety Leave

Subject: Victims' Economic Security and Safety Leave

Section: U526

Date: January, 2022


 The University is committed to compliance with the Victims’ Economic Security and Safety Act (VESSA). The purpose of this policy is to provide employees with unpaid time off as provided by VESSA. 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:

All University employees are eligible.

Policy statement:

Before Your Leave

Reasons for VESSA Leave

Employees may request VESSA leave for absences for the following reasons related to domestic violence, sexual violence, gender violence, or stalking:

  • Seeking medical attention for, or recovery from, physical or psychological injuries caused by domestic, sexual, or gender violence to the employee or employee’s family or household member;
  • Obtaining victim services for the employee or employee’s family or household member;
  • Obtaining psychological or other counseling for the employee or the employee’s family or household member;
  • Participating in safety planning, including temporary or permanent relocation or other actions to increase the safety of the victim from future domestic, sexual, or gender violence; or
  • Seeking legal assistance to ensure the health and safety of the victim, including participating in court proceedings related to the violence.

Intermittent Leave

If necessary, employees may take VESSA leave intermittently (periodically when needed over the year), or by reducing their normal weekly or daily work schedule.

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.

Requests for Leave

When the need for the leave is foreseeable, the employee must provide the University with at least 48 hours’ advanced notice. When the employee becomes aware of a need for VESSA leave less than 48 hours in advance, the employee must provide notice of the need for leave as soon as practicable. When the need for VESSA leave is not foreseeable, the employee must comply with both their unit’s customary call-in procedures and the process for requesting leave, unless circumstances render such compliance impossible.

Employees requesting VESSA 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, if applicable, and will inform employees of additional obligations, including the need for certification supporting the need for VESSA leave. If FMLA leave applies, it will run concurrently with VESSA leave; additional certification may be required.

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 VESSA Leave

The University requires certification; all certifications and supporting documentation are to be submitted directly to Leave Administration. Certification may be provided in the form of:

  • Documentation from a victim services organization, attorney, member of the clergy, or medical or other professional from whom the employee or the employee’s family or household member has sought assistance;
  • A police or court record; or
  • Other corroborating evidence.

If the appropriate documents are not available at the time of leave, the employee may provide a written statement to Leave Administration. Once the employee has received the appropriate documents, they must submit those to Leave Administration. Failure to comply may result in delay or denial of leave, potentially subjecting the employee to corrective action up to and including termination.

Incomplete Certifications

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 request may be denied. 

Approval/Denial Notice

Once Leave Administration receives a completed 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 VESSA 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 reason covered by VESSA, the University may designate all, or some portion, of the absence as VESSA 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 VESSA leave is used.

Extension of Leave

If the employee believes they will need additional leave beyond the dates outlined on the approval notice, the employee must contact Leave Administration and their supervisor immediately.  Additional documentation may be required.  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.

Intermittent Leave Recertification

Employees who are on an intermittent leave may be required to periodically recertify. 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 upon 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 new documentation 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 VESSA, unless the employee is on an approved block leave. It is also the responsibility of the employee to designate their absence in the University’s time-tracking system as a VESSA leave-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 VESSA Leave

Absences covered by VESSA leave will not be counted as an unscheduled absence under University Policy 502 Attendance (Absenteeism, Tardiness and Job Abandonment) (Add link to policy 502).  During VESSA 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 VESSA leave time taken, regardless of whether it is paid or unpaid, will count against the employee's leave entitlement. VESSA leave is generally unpaid however, the University has made provisions for employees to receive pay during VESSA 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 VESSA leave will be paid for workweeks that include any VESSA leave. However, whole days not worked due to VESSA 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 VESSA leave must be submitted using the absence tracking system as “VESSA-hours tracking only”.

An employee on an approved VESSA 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 VESSA leave.
  • Personal Holiday: An employee is required to use any available personal holiday and vacation 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.

Worker's Compensation: If applicable, VESSA leave and Workers’ Compensation run concurrently. (Add link to FAQs)

Employee Benefits While on Leave

Health Insurance: During an employee's VESSA 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 a VESSA 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 VESSA 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 VESSA leave will not be considered a break in service.

Retirement Plans: VESSA 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.

Notice Requirements for Returning from VESSA Leave

Employees are expected to return to work at the end of their approved leave. Prior to returning from a block of leave for their own medical 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 VESSA leave for their own medical reason 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 VESSA 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 VESSA 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 VESSA Leave

Any employee who exceeds their VESSA leave entitlement without extension or fails to return to work as scheduled after VESSA 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
Parent The biological parent of an employee or an individual who stood in loco parentis to an employee when the employee was a son or daughter. "Son or daughter" means biological, adopted, or foster child, a stepchild, a legal ward, or a child of a person standing in loco parentis, who is under eighteen (18) years of age, or is eighteen (18) years of age or older and incapable of self-care because of a mental or physical disability. 
Family or Household Member A family or household member for employees with a family or household member who is a victim of domestic or sexual violence, means a spouse, parent, son, daughter, other person related by blood or by present or prior marriage, other person who shares a relationship through a son or daughter, and persons jointly residing in the same household. This definition applies only to this VESSA Policy 526, and not to other University policies or benefits referencing family members or similar terminology.

roles and responsibilities:

Governed Party Roles and Responsibilities 
Employee The Employee is responsible for submitting a completed VESSA 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. 

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 

key contacts:

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

Employees represented by a union may be governed by the appropriate bargaining unit agreement.