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Leave Without Pay

Section 516

A leave without pay is defined as an excused unpaid absence that lasts longer than 10 work days but does not exceed six months. A leave without pay may be granted for compelling personal reasons when time off is not available under any other applicable leave, including one of the college's leave plans, FMLA or Massachusetts Paid Family and Medical Leave.

A leave without pay is a privilege that involves responsibility on your part and on the part of your department, and it is therefore not granted automatically or as a courtesy. In recommending a leave without pay, your department is asserting that it will accommodate your absence and hold open your position because your services are of particular value to the department and the college. In turn, you must give assurance that you will return to active employment at the end of the leave. Under certain circumstances, with notice, an individual may be asked to return early from an approved leave without pay.


If you have been employed at the college for a minimum of 12 consecutive months in a regular position of half time or more, you are eligible to apply for a Leave Without Pay of up to six consecutive months.

If you hold a limited-term or temporary position, or if you have been employed at the college for less than 12 consecutive months, or work less than half time, you are not eligible for leave without pay.

Terms and Conditions

On occasion, unavoidable circumstances or extraordinary opportunities may occur which require your full attention for a period of several consecutive weeks or months. If you need to take time off from work, you are expected to first use all available paid time to cover your absence. After all your paid time has been used, you may request a leave without pay for the following reasons:

  • prolonged illness or injury;
  • personal problems or family obligations;
  • education related to your career at Smith College;
  • other compelling circumstances not covered by another college leave plan

A leave without pay will not be granted if the primary purpose is to enable you to seek or maintain employment elsewhere.

Length and Frequency of Leave Without Pay

The length of a leave without pay is determined on an individual basis as circumstances warrant; however, leaves of more than six consecutive months are normally not granted.  Please note the following:

  • A leave without pay which is initially granted for less than six months may be extended prior to expiration for up to a total of six months.
  • For academic-year employees, summer months and recess periods count as part of the six consecutive months.  
  • A leave without pay cannot be used to extend the length of a parental, adoption, or family leave, and may not be split between two academic years.

If you are granted a leave without pay, you must complete two years of consecutive service before you will be eligible to apply for another leave without pay.

Effect of Leave Without Pay on Paid Time Off and Benefits

While on leave without pay, you continue to earn personal time. You do not accrue sick leave or vacation, and you are not entitled to recess pay, holiday pay, bereavement leave, jury duty leave, or any other paid leave. Upon your return to work, vacation and sick leave accruals will resume at the rates in effect at the time the leave began.

You may retain membership in the college's group health, dental, life, and long-term disability insurance plans during a leave without pay. The college will discontinue its contributions and you must assume the full cost of premium payments for any plans you wish to continue.  No retirement contributions will be made. Tuition benefits are normally not available during a leave without pay.

Return from Leave Without Pay

Your position at the college will be held for the period of your leave without pay. You are expected to return to active employment at the end of your leave.

You should contact your supervisor or department head at least two weeks prior to the specified date of return to confirm arrangements for your return to active status. Failure to return to work from an authorized leave will result in termination of employment.

Review of Leave Without Pay Requests

A leave without pay is not an entitlement. The review of your request will include consideration of your service and performance record and the department's needs and constraints. Your department head is under no obligation to recommend a leave without pay if the leave would create operational problems for the department or would result in undue hardship to other staff members. 

If your department cannot accommodate your request for a leave without pay, you may have to resign from the college. However, if you are subsequently rehired, your prior service time will be reinstated provided that you meet the criteria outlined in Reinstatement of Previous Service Time.

Application Procedures

An Application for Leave Without Pay form must be completed as soon as the need for the leave is known, but generally no less than 30 days prior to the requested starting date of the leave. You may obtain this application from the Office of Human Resources. Submit the completed form to your department head. The request for leave without pay must be discussed with your supervisor and department head. Issues which must be addressed include the impact of the proposed leave on the department's workload and on co-workers.  

If your department head supports your request, s/he will formalize the terms of the leave or adjusted schedule and forward the request to the appropriate senior staff member and to the Office of Human Resources.  

The Office of Human Resources, in consultation with the senior staff member, is responsible for approving leaves without pay. If your request is approved, Human Resources will confirm the terms and duration of the leave.

When you receive confirmation, you should contact the Office of Human Resources to discuss benefit coverage and payment procedures during your leave. In order to extend a leave without pay beyond its original term (but typically not to exceed a total absence of six months), you must submit a written request to your department head or complete a new application form.  After consulting with your department head and senior staff member, the Office of Human Resources will advise you in writing of any extension or changes in the terms of your leave without pay.