10: Paid/Unpaid Time-Off and Leave Programs
- 10.1 Paid Time Off
- 10.2 Leave (Unpaid)
The university supports its employees' abilities to balance their work and personal lives (including support for employees’ personal and family health) by providing a variety of paid time off and unpaid leave options. For example, GW provides paid annual time and paid sick time, an above average number of paid holidays, birthday time (after 10 years of full-time service), time off for bereavement after a death in the family, and so on. The university also provides unpaid leave such as leave for military duty, Family and Medical Leave, Personal Medical Leave, Parental Leave, and others.
Administration of Paid Time Off and Leave
You, with the help of your supervisor, are responsible for managing your paid time off and leave, to ensure that you have accumulated paid time off and leave to use when you most want and need it while ensuring that the requirements of your position at GW and the operational needs of your department can be met in a satisfactory manner during your absences. You are also responsible for reporting your paid-time off and leave that you have taken, honestly, accurately, and in a timely manner.
Questions About Your Paid Time Off:
If you have questions or issues about your paid time off that cannot be resolved by working with your direct supervisor, you should contact the HR Client Partner assigned to your department or another HR representative. You can contact Payroll Services at 703-726-4277 for issues directly related to payroll. If you aren’t sure who to contact, please contact the HR Faculty & Staff Service Center at 202-994-8500, Rice Hall, 2121 Eye Street, N.W., First Floor.
Questions about Other Types of Leave (as described in Section 10.2 below): Questions about leave relating to personal health issues and/or health issues of a family member, your birth/adoption of a child, the military deployment of your family member, your short-term or long-term disability issues, or other leave that has been described earlier in this handbook, please contact the Benefits Administration Department at 703-726-8382.
The university reserves the right to modify or discontinue its benefits programs in whole or in part at any time.
Full-time Employee Annual Time Off Accrual
If you are a full-time regular employee (not in research and not faculty), the schedule below shows how your annual time is calculated and accrued.
Years of Service
Months of Service
0 - 2
0 – 24 months
3 - 4
25 – 48 months
5 - 15
49 – 180 months
Please note: For annual time calculation purposes, one day equals eight hours.
Part-time Employee Annual Time Off Accrual
If you are a regular part-time employee, your annual time accrual rate is based upon your percentage of effort; the number of hours you are scheduled to work per week divided by 40, and does not increase with years of service. For nonexempt employees, the accrual rate is the percentage of effort multiplied by one (1) day per month. If you are an exempt employee, your accrual rate is the percentage of effort multiplied by 1.25 days per month.
Upon transfer from a regular full-time position to regular part time position, a maximum of 16 hours of accrued annual time may be carried over to a regular part-time position. All accrued annual time may carry over upon transfer from a regular part-time position to a regular full-time position.
Research Employees and Medical Residents Annual Time Accrual
Full-time Research employees accrue annual time at the rate of 1.75 days per month. The accrual rate for full-time researchers does not change with years of service. Residents should consult the Resident Manual provided by the Office of Graduate Medical Education.
Supervisor Approval of Annual Time Use
Your supervisor must approve your scheduled annual time in writing, using a completed Paid Time Off Form, before it begins or be notified through established departmental procedures if you are not able to schedule the annual time beforehand. Upon your return from unscheduled annual time, you must complete a Paid Time Off Request Form for your supervisor’s signature. Annual paid time can be taken in a minimum of one-hour increments (unless usage is concurrent with FMLA).
Impact of Absence Without Approved Leave/Time Off (AWOL) on Annual Time Accrual
An employee who is “absent without approved leave” (time off), frequently referred to as AWOL, will not accrue annual time for the month in which the AWOL occurs. As importantly, the employee is not paid for the day(s) for which s/he was AWOL. Three absences without approved leave (AWOL) can result in disciplinary action up to and including termination.
Prorating Annual Time
Normally, annual time is accrued on the basis of a full calendar month of employment and is credited on the last working day of the month. You must use your annual time in the fiscal year in which you accrue it. You may use annual time in advance of accruing it, with the approval of your supervisor. Except as provided below, you may not carry over annual time across fiscal years. Any accrued annual time that is not used by the end of the fiscal year is forfeited. The fiscal year begins on July 1 and ends on June 30.
You are not eligible to use annual time during your first 90 calendar days of employment. However, at the end of your first 90 calendar days, you will be credited with the annual time that would have accrued during this period. If you leave the university for any reason during your first 90 calendar days, you will not be paid for any annual time. If you are hired on or after March 1 and successfully complete your first 90 calendar days of employment, you may be granted a one-time exception to permit carryover of annual time to the next fiscal year.
Under certain circumstances, your monthly accrual of annual time may need to be prorated. For example, if you started your employment at GW on the 14th of the month you would earn one-half day (4 hours) of annual time for that month. Annual time may also need to be prorated if you have periods of unpaid absences.
Borrowing Annual Time
Employees who borrow annual time before they have accrued it and then conclude their employment with the university will have an amount equal to the borrowed time deducted from their final paycheck.
GW will provide six continuous weeks of paid parental leave for eligible regular full-time staff. This applies to staff members who have given birth or are the spouse/partner of the birth mother; the placement of a child with the employee for adoption; or the placement of a child with the employee for whom the employee permanently assumes and discharges parental responsibility. The leave must be taken immediately following the birth, adoption, or other eligible circumstance.
Eligibility for paid parental leave will begin the first of the month following an employee’s two year benefit eligible service anniversary date or coincident with that date if the anniversary date falls on the first of the month. If a regular full-time staff member ends employment and is then rehired into another regular full-time position within 12 months, previous service will apply towards the two year service requirement.
Read more about Paid Parental Leave.
Regular employees receive paid bereavement time should you require time off from work because of the death of a family member.
Like other paid time off, you need to complete a Paid Time Off Request Form, as soon as possible, whether it is before the leave starts or when you return to work. If you need to make a verbal request for bereavement time you need to contact your supervisor through established call-in procedures as soon as possible. When completing the university’s Paid Time Off Request Form for bereavement time, it should also include the following: the name of the deceased, your relationship to the deceased, and the date of the death. Your supervisor may also request verification of the death, such as a funeral program or obituary. Once received, your supervisor will maintain the documentation with your time off record.
Bereavement time is paid time off due to a death of an immediate family member. For these purposes, immediate family members include an employee's:
- spouse or domestic partner
- child, stepchild, the child of a domestic partner
- brother or sister (including step-siblings)
- parent or stepparent
- son-in-law or daughter-in-law
- mother-in-law or father-in-law
- brother-in-law or sister-in-law
As a regular full-time employee, you may request paid bereavement time for a period up to three consecutive workdays. If you are in a regular part-time position, you may request paid bereavement time equaling the hours you are usually scheduled to work during the three consecutive workday absence.
Paid time off for jury duty is provided to regular employees who have been summoned by the courts to serve on a jury. Your supervisor will approve paid time off for scheduled work hours and workdays that are missed due to the required jury duty.
If you are summoned to jury duty you are expected to complete the university's Paid Time-Off Request Form and attach to it the supporting court documents. Your supervisor will forward all approved requests and supporting court documentation to HRIS for inclusion in the employee's permanent record.
Employees are required to report to work on those days or partial days when court attendance is not required, unless otherwise instructed by their supervisor.
The university generally recognizes the following paid holidays:
- Independence Day
- Labor Day
- Day after Thanksgiving
- Winter Holiday
- New Year's Day
- Martin Luther King, Jr. Day
- Inauguration Day (In any given year, if inaugration day coincides with THE DATE Martin
Luther King Day IS OBSERVED the university will observe both holidays
on the same day.)
- President's Day
- Memorial Day
Exact dates for observance of these holidays are announced annually by the university in a memorandum to department heads and are posted as the Holiday Schedule on the Human Resources website. Collective Bargaining Agreements may supersede the holiday schedule. An employee who is covered by a Collective Bargaining Agreement should review the Agreement for specific information on paid holidays.
Regular full-time employees are eligible to receive 8 hours of holiday time for each paid university holiday. Regular part-time employees receive prorated holiday time based upon percentage of effort; the number of hours you are scheduled to work per week divided by 40.
Because of the nature of some of the university’s operations (operating on a 24/7 schedule), some employees must work on scheduled holidays. An employee who works on an official university holiday will be compensated (paid) on the same basis as if the day were not a holiday and will be provided an alternate day off.
Regular employees must be in paid status immediately preceding a holiday to be paid for that holiday.
Holidays and Other Approved Paid Time Off
University holidays that occur during approved periods of paid time off (annual or sick) should be charged to holiday time on the employee’s timesheet, not to accrued annual or sick time.
Holiday Time for Part-Time Employees
Regular part-time employees receive prorate holiday time based upon percentage of effort.
The number of prorated holiday hours is equal to an employee’s weekly scheduled hours divided by 5 (days). See the table below for examples:
Scheduled Work Hours
Holiday Proration Hours
Below are a number of scenarios for using prorated holiday leave.
Holiday falls on an employee’s regular work day:
- Option 1 - Employee takes prorated holiday time (based on % of effort) and does not receive pay for the remaining hours not worked, if any.
- Option 2 - Employee takes prorated holiday time and uses annual time for the difference between the prorated holiday time and any additional time normally worked.
- Option 3 - Employee takes prorated holiday time and, if approved by supervisor, works any additional hours that would normally be worked on another day during the same week.
Holiday falls on a day an employee does not work:
- Option 1 - Employee works a regular day and gets additional pay for their prorated holiday time.
- Option 2 - Employee takes their prorated holiday time on a regular work day in the same week as the holiday.
One additional day of time off is awarded for an employee’s birthday once an employee completes a minimum of 10 years of full-time service. This leave is credited annually; starting with the birthday after the employee earns a 10-year career milestone, provided that the employee remains in a regular position at the university.
Employees must take time off on their birthday or within 10 calendar days before or after their birthday. Birthday time is not compensable upon termination or transferrable to a temporary position.
The Family and Medical Leave Acts, enacted by the District of Columbia government in 1991 and the federal government in 1993, provide unpaid, but job-protected, leave to eligible employees so that they can care for their families or themselves in the event of specified family and medical conditions. In some cases, benefits under the D.C. Act are more generous than those under the federal Act, and you, as a GW employee, are entitled to the most favorable benefits. The George Washington University follows the provisions of the District of Columbia Family and Medical Leave Act, no matter where your work is located, unless the federal Act has more lenient provisions (i.e., military related family leave) that are not covered by the D.C. Act. If something is not covered under the D.C. Act then GW follows the provisions under the federal FMLA.
The D.C. Act provides up to 16 weeks of medical leave if you, the employee, are unable to perform the functions of your position because of a serious health condition.
In addition, the D.C. Act provides up to 16 weeks of family leave, for one or more of the following reasons:
- The birth of an employee’s child
- The placement of a child with the employee for adoption or foster care
- The placement of a child with the employee when s/he permanently assumes and discharges parental responsibility for that child
- The care of a family member of the employee or a person with whom the employee shares a mutual residence and with whom the employee maintains a committed relationship who has a serious health condition
Leave can be taken intermittently, continuously, or on a reduced work schedule basis during a defined 24-month period, depending on the reason for the leave and the individual circumstances as documented in the employee’s request for such leave (see below).
See below for military-related caregiver and exigency family leave available under the federal FMLA.
Definition of Family Member under D.C. and the federal FMLA
Under the D.C. FMLA, a family member is defined as a person to whom the employee is related by blood, legal custody, or marriage; a child who lives with an employee and for whom the employee permanently assumes and discharges parental responsibility; or a person whom the employee shares or has shared, within the last year, a mutual residence and with whom the employee maintains a committed relationship (D.C. Code Ann. § 32—501(4)). The federal FMLA defines family member as a spouse, child, or parent.
In 2008 and 2009, the National Defense Authorization Act amended the federal FMLA by allowing eligible (see below for the federal eligibility requirements) employees to take unpaid military family leave of up to either 12 workweeks during any 12 month period for qualifying exigencies (see below) or up to 26 workweeks during a single 12 month period for military caregiver leave (see below). An eligible employee is limited to a combined total of 26 workweeks of leave for any federal FMLA-qualifying reason during the “single 12-month period.”
Under the federal FMLA, as amended, an eligible employee is able to take up to 26 workweeks of FMLA leave in a specifically designated 12-month FMLA leave year — measured forward from the first time an employee takes FMLA leave for this purpose — in order to care for a covered service member with a serious illness or injury, where the employee is the spouse, son, daughter, parent, or "next of kin" of the covered service member. The definition of a "covered service member" has been expanded to include a veteran who is undergoing medical treatment, recuperation or therapy for a serious injury or illness and who was a member of the Armed Forces, including the National Guard and Reserves, at any time during the five-year period preceding the date on which the veteran undergoes medical treatment, recuperation, or therapy.
Leave for Other Covered Exigencies
Also under the federal FMLA, as amended, an eligible employee is able to take up to 12 workweeks of FMLA leave during a designated 12-month FMLA leave year when the employee's son, daughter or parent — who is a "covered military member" — is on active duty or call-to-active-duty status for one or more qualifying exigencies, including: short-notice deployment, military events and related activities, certain childcare and related activities, financial and legal arrangements, counseling, rest and recuperation, post deployment activities and any other event that the employer and employee agree constitute a qualifying exigency. Covered active duty is when a member of the regular or reserve components of the Armed Forces is deployed to any foreign country.
Coverage under both the federal and D.C. FMLA
Although the university generally follows the provisions of the District of Columbia FMLA, there are additional provisions in the federal Act, as described above, that are not currently part of the D.C legislation. So, if a GW employee requests FMLA leave that is only available under the federal Act, s/he must meet the eligibility requirements of the federal Act (See below, Eligibility Requirements). Additionally, if an employee takes leave that is qualifying under both Acts, s/he would have to meet the eligibility requirements of both Acts and the leave taken under those Acts would run concurrently.
Employee Eligibility for FMLA
Under both Acts, an employee must have worked at the university for a period totaling 12 months during the previous seven years to be eligible to take FMLA leave. Breaks in employment during the seven years are allowed. The D.C. Act requires an employee to have been paid for a minimum of 1,000 hours during the previous 12-month period to be eligible for FMLA while the federal Act requires 1,250 hours of work immediately preceding the beginning date of the FMLA leave.
You may choose to request the use of your accrued paid time off for some or all of an approved FMLA period, provided that the occurrence qualifies for the use of such leave under university policy. For example, you use accrued sick time during an FMLA absence for purposes of your own or your family member’s serious health condition. Any paid period during family and medical leave also counts as part of the allowable period of FMLA leave.
Your GW Benefits during FMLA Leave
The university continues to make the employer’s share of contributions of benefits premiums during your periods of Family and Medical Leave, but you continue to be responsible for your portion of benefits premiums.
The university will bill you directly for your portion of benefits premiums if you are on unpaid status for over 30 days. Your failure to make timely payments for premiums may result in cancellation of your benefits. If you are on an approved FMLA leave of absence you can choose to cancel or change your benefits coverage. To cancel or change benefits coverage, employees must visit the Benedetails system on the Benefits Administration website within 30 days of the start of the leave.
Upon return to active employment, you may re-enroll or make a change (this is a qualifying life event) to your benefits within 30 days of returning to work. If you canceled your benefits while on leave, you must remember to re-enroll in your benefits through the Benefits Administration website within 30 days of returning to work or you will have to wait until the next Open Enrollment period to enroll.
If you do not return to work following your FMLA leave, you may be required to reimburse GW for the share of benefits premiums paid on your behalf, unless you are not returning for one or more of the following reasons:
- The continuation, recurrence, or onset of a serious health condition which would entitle the employee to FMLA leave;
- The continuation, recurrence, or onset of a covered service member’s serious injury or illness which would entitle the employee to FMLA leave; or
- Other circumstances beyond the employee’s control.
Your Obligations under FMLA
When possible, you should provide a minimum of 30 days advance notice for the need to take FMLA leave, particularly if you are going to require an absence of consecutive days, weeks, or months. When 30 days advance notice is not possible, you should provide notice as soon as practicable and, if applicable, comply with your normal call-in procedures.
GW will request you to provide a medical certification from a health care provider if you are requesting leave (under FMLA) because of a serious health condition for yourself or a family member. The certification should include the following:
- Date on which the health condition began;
- Probable duration of the condition; and
- “Appropriate medical facts within the knowledge of the health care provider” that qualifies you to take family and medical leave.
If you are taking leave for your own serious medical condition, you will also need to provide a statement from your health care provider stating that you are unable to perform the functions of your position. GW, in specific circumstances, has the right to require you to obtain second and third medical opinions, at GW’s expense. Employees may also be required to provide a periodic recertification to support the need for continued leave.
The University’s Obligations under FMLA
The university cannot take away any employment benefits or seniority accrued before your Family and Medical Leave. Additionally, upon return from FMLA leave, you must be restored to your position or to an equivalent position with equivalent benefits, pay, seniority, and other terms and conditions of your previous employment at GW. The only exceptions to this rule are if: 1) you are among the 10% highest paid employees at the university, 2) the university can demonstrate that denial of restoration of employment is necessary to prevent substantial economic injury to GW’s operations, and 3) GW has notified you of the intent to deny restoration of employment and the basis for that decision.
Who to Contact Regarding FMLA
You and your supervisor should work together with the Benefits Administration Department (703-726-8382) to assess your specific needs as they relate to the provisions of FMLA leave. Or, you can seek the assistance of the Benefits Administration Department directly if you believe you may be eligible for this leave and/or have questions that are not answered in this Handbook.
The D.C. Parental Leave Act requires the George Washington University to provide 24 hours of Unpaid Parental Leave per year to allow you to attend school-related events for your own children or other children in your direct family. When practicable, please give ten days’ advance notice, or as much notice as possible. A supervisor may only deny Unpaid Parental Leave if it creates an undue hardship on the department's operations. If you are a parent, an uncle, aunt, or grandparent, you qualify for Unpaid Parental Leave to attend school-related events sponsored by a teacher, school, or parent-teacher association, including: concerts, plays, rehearsals, sporting games or practices, and meetings with teachers or counselors.
To request Unpaid Parental Leave, you should submit a written request to your supervisor. Parental Leave under the D.C. Parental Leave Act is unpaid, although an employee can elect to use his or her paid annual time-off for school related events.
Recent updates to federal laws and legislation protect members of the uniformed services from certain workplace uncertainties, allowing uniformed service members to leave their civilian posts to serve their country without having to worry about job security, delayed compensation, revoked benefits, or other adverse reactions by an employer.
Job Protection for Uniformed Service Members
Since service members are at the mercy of their country's needs, certain rights safeguard their full-time work lives. The Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994 (USERRA) outlines the protections afforded to service members called into active duty. Under USERRA, it is unlawful for an employer (such as GW) to deny initial employment, reemployment, promotion, or any benefit of employment to a person who is obligated to perform in a uniformed service.
If a service member employed by a civilian employer is activated by order of the U.S. government, s/he is required to notify their employer, verbally or in writing. An employer does not have "right of refusal" for a military leave of absence, except in extreme cases. Employees are also not responsible for finding a replacement or altering their work schedule – that is the employer's responsibility.
USERRA forbids an employer from requiring an employee to use his or her vacation or similar accrued time-off/leave during a period of military service. In some cases, an employee may ask to use his or her accrued annual time-off for military duty; and, in such cases, the time- off would be paid at the employee’s regular base pay rate.
Healthcare Protections (VBIA)
When activated for duty, uniformed service members receive military healthcare. The Veterans Benefits Improvement Act (VBIA) of 2004 also expands the rights of military personnel to continue their employer-sponsored health insurance coverage for 24 months.
Under VBIA, the amount that an employee can be charged for continued coverage now depends on the length of the employee's military service. If the employee is absent for less than 30 days as a result of military service, the employee cannot be charged more than the employee's normal share of the cost of coverage. However, if the employee's military service results in an absence of 31 days or more, the maximum amount that an employee can be charged for continuing coverage is 102% (2% for the employer’s administrative costs) of the full premium under the plan. Finally, an employee may not be subjected to a waiting period for health insurance coverage after the employee returns from military service and is reemployed.
Employers must reemploy service members when they return from active duty, but may fill positions with temporary or contract workers for the duration of the original employee’s service. Employers must notify temporary workers when service members are slated to return, and keep the positions open for the returning employees. Service members must return to their jobs within a predetermined period after they are deactivated, based on how long they were gone.
According to USERRA, returning service members are "required to be reemployed in the job that they would have attained had they not been absent for military service, with the same seniority, status, and pay, as well as other rights and benefits determined by seniority." This has been coined the "escalator principle," as the absent employee moves up in rank and seniority in their job placement even though the actual person is on active military duty. USERRA also requires that an employer make concerted efforts to train or retrain returning service members to refresh or upgrade their skills.
Reasonable accommodation must be made for returning employees who have become disabled during their service. If the employer is unable to make reasonable accommodation within the old job, the employee will be offered another position for which he or she is qualified or could become qualified. Disabled veterans have two years to return to their jobs after their service ends.
10.2.4 Personal Leave
Unpaid Personal Leave may be requested after completion of the 90 day initial employment period. All applicable accrued paid time off must be exhausted before a request for personal leave is approved. Employees may request Personal Leave for situations that do not fall within the provisions of other university leave categories, such as FMLA, military duty, etc.
For guidance on requesting a personal leave of absence, please contact the Benefits Administration Department at 703-726-8382.
10.2.5 Leave for Religious Observances (other than scheduled university holidays)
Employees may request the use of annual time for religious observances that are not part of the university’s regular Holiday Schedule by providing his or her supervisor a request in writing. Since religious holidays are scheduled events, it is expected that an employee will provide his or her supervisor with as much notice as possible when requesting leave for this purpose. A supervisor may only deny leave when an employee's absence from work would create an undue hardship on the department's operations. If you need additional support regarding Religious Accommodations, please call the Office of Equal Employment Opportunity and HR Policy Compliance at 202-994-9656.