Leaves of Absence

At Harvard, your physical and emotional health—and that of your family—come first.  That is why we offer a broad menu of leaves of absence and related benefits that provide the time and resources to address and heal from health challenges.

If you think you may need a leave, please contact the FAS Leaves Consultant, Nikki Brown, at leaves@fas.harvard.edu as early as possible for assistance.

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)

In accordance with the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), Harvard provides up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave (”FMLA Leave”) to eligible employees during a twelve-month period (as defined below) for one or more of the following reasons:

  • For incapacity due to pregnancy, prenatal medical care, or child birth;
  • To care for the employee’s child after birth or placement for adoption or foster care;
  • To care for the employee’s spouse (which includes qualified domestic partner as per Harvard policy), son or daughter, or parent who has a serious health condition; or
  • For a serious health condition that makes the employee unable to perform his or her job; or
  • To attend to certain obligations relating to a family members' military service.

Additional unpaid time off is allowed for Multiple Births/Adoptions (8 weeks per child born or adopted concurrently, under the Massachusetts Maternity Leave Act); and Military Family Leave (up to 26 weeks, depending on the reason for the leave).

For more information on the rights and responsibilities under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and how the FMLA Leave process works at Harvard, please review the Family and Medical Leave Act guide.

Substitution of Paid Leave for Unpaid Leave

Employees may choose to use accrued paid leave while taking FMLA leave. Accrued vacation, personal days, and compensatory time may be used during any FMLA leave, as well as MA Paid Family and Medical Leave benefits. If the leave is for the employee’s own serious illness or childbirth, sick time and/or Short Term Disability benefits will generally be available. If the leave is for a family illness, the employee must use accrued “family sick” days at the onset of the leave; after exhausting those days, the employee may choose to use accrued vacation or personal time during the remainder of the leave. In order to use paid leave during FMLA leave, employees must comply with normal paid leave policies.

If the leave is for an employee’s work-related injury, Workers’ Compensation benefits will generally be available. However, due to differences in the two statutes, there may be cases where Workers’ Compensation benefits might end but FMLA leave would continue, or vice versa.

Other University policies and benefit programs may provide salary continuation and additional benefits. Harvard will simultaneously administer any policies and benefit programs that apply (for example, Maternity and Parental Leaves, Short Term Disability Plan, or Workers’ Compensation) when an employee is on a Family and Medical Leave.

Family and Medical Leave will automatically run concurrently with certain qualifying absences.

Sick Time. You may use this time to care for yourself. You may also use up to 12 days total of your sick accruals per year to care for your dependent - a sick member of your family or household.

Vacation and Personal Days.  Vacation and personal days allow you to find time for those things you want or need to pursue outside of work.

Short Term Disability provides pay for up to 168 days (following a wait period) if you are unable to perform the material duties of your job due to illness or injury. This coverage may also be used for up to eight weeks of maternity leave. Harvard provides this at no cost to you and you do not need to enroll.

Long Term Disability provides 60 percent of pay if you are not able to work for more than 180 days. You must enroll to participate and there is a small payroll deduction.

MA Paid Family and Medical Leave provides paid medical leave for employee’s own serious health condition that incapacitates them from performing essential functions of their job for up to 20 weeks. Also provides Paid Family Leave for the following:

  • Up to 12 weeks to bond with a child during the first 12 months after the child’s birth, adoption, or foster placement.
  • Up to 26 weeks to provide care to a family member who is a covered service member.
  • Up to 12 weeks because of any qualifying exigency arising out of the fact that a family member is on active duty or has been notified of an impending call or order to active duty in the Armed Forces.
  • Beginning July 1, 2021, employees may take up to 12 weeks of paid Family Leave to care for a family member with a serious health condition.

Additional Resources

  • Planning for Your Leave. For purposes of your own planning as well as your departmental planning, it’s important for you to communicate your anticipated need for medical leave to your manager, Department Administrator and the FAS Leaves Consultant as early as possible, and to provide the information needed to determine whether FMLA applies to your situation.
  • Transitioning your Work. Depending on your particular situation, you may or may not be able to help your department prepare for your leave.  Transitioning from work to leave and then back to work can be eased by planning and preparation.
  • Crimson Cares: A Guide to Harvard's Resources for Faculty of Arts and Sciences' Prospective & New Parents includes information on Harvard's health insurance, leave policies, services for finding and paying for child care, tools to prepare for your absence, and much more. 
  • What Happens When... includes guidelines regarding Harvard's parental leave policy and information on the benefits you may want or need to update as your family grows and your needs change.