Leave Without Pay (LWOP) is generally used once all applicable and available paid time leave is exhausted. Although most LWOP is during an extended unplanned absence, LWOP for non-mandated reasons may be granted as long as such leave does not jeopardize the best interests of the institution based on the department’s ability to maintain adequate staffing during the absence.
Some types of LWOP require the use of some or all paid accruals first, including, but not limited to:
- Parental leave
- Family and Medical leave (except compensatory time)
- Approved discretionary and other non-FML health-related absences require the use of all applicable banked time. (e.g., EIB is not “applicable” to a request for educational leave.)
Some types of LWOP do not require the use of all paid leave accruals first, including:
- Military leave (may designate that accrued leave time not be used)
- Workers’ Compensation (may ask to not use accrued personal leave such as PTO or EIB)
- Disciplinary leave1
The order of using these leaves varies with the reason for the leave of absence. Please call the HR Leave Center at 713-745-3652 (5-FMLA) for assistance with discussing the sequence of leave.
All full-time and part-time (at least 50 percent) benefits eligible employees, including benefits-eligible educational appointees, students and trainees, are eligible for LWOP based on need and business constraints.
Process for Taking
STEP 1: Employee requests LWOP with reasonable advance notice through the timekeeping system and follows their Departmental Time Off Procedures. When the leave is forseeable, at least 30 days notice is needed.
STEP 2: Employee contacts the Leave Center at 713-745-3652 (5-FMLA) to request Family and Medical Leave (FML) or Parental Leave (if appropriate) to run concurrently with LWOP. If approved, FML and Parental leaves ensure job protection while the employee is on leave.
STEP 3: If the LWOP is not part of a job-protection program, approval is the decision of the employee’s immediate manager. The manager approves the LWOP request as appropriate or communicates reasons for not approving a request (e.g., scheduling conflicts, not eligible, etc.).
- Manager may approve non-mandatory leaves for 6 months or less, if the leave does not extend into a new fiscal year. Manager and one-up approval is required for requests for leaves greater than 6 months (either original leave or an extension that increases leave past 6 months) and leaves bridging 2 fiscal years. Leaves cannot exceed 12 months.
STEP 4: CODING TIME - If approved LWOP time is:
- Less than 14 days - Manager records time off in the timekeeping system as applicable.
- 14 days or greater - Manager submits an electronic Personnel Action Form (ePAF) indicating leave status to Financial Planning & Analysis as soon as possible.
If the leave is unforeseen, the first week of absence may be recorded in the timekeeping system, but to prevent overpayment, the manager must also contact Payroll Services at 5-myHR (713-745-6947).
STEP 5: Manager and employee work to ensure necessary coverage is in place for the employee’s absence.
- Manager may request the employee return property (e.g., pagers, laptop) as appropriate due to leave of absence.
STEP 6: If LWOP needs to be extended, employee submits a written request for a leave extension to their manager for approval.
STEP 7: Manager monitors the employee’s return to work takes place as scheduled.
STEP 8: Upon return, Manager immediately processes a return from leave ePAF to the Financial Planning & Analysis or processes the termination of an employee not planning to return from leave.
- To avoid delay in issuing the employee’s first paycheck following the leave of absence and to restart the leave accrual process, the manager must also notify Payroll Services at 5-myHR (713-745-6947) as soon as possible.
- To reduce institutional liability for legal notifications and benefit premiums for those employees who do not return from LWOP, managers should submit termination ePAFs in a timely fashion. A termination ePAF for employees not returning from leave shows both the last day worked and the termination effective date (either the date the employee resigns or the date established for the end of the leave).
Insurance Coverage While on Leave
Rules & Exceptions
- LWOP may not exceed 12 months.2
- According to the Fair Labor Standards Act, exempt employees must receive a full day of LWOP with the following exceptions. Exempt employees:
- may receive a partial day of pay if they are receiving Intermittent Family and Medical Leave (IFML) and have exhausted all applicable accruals
- may receive a partial day of pay if they are suspended from work without pay due to a Major Safety Violation
- will receive pay in weekly increments when the absences are not related to IFML, a Major Safety Violation or approved discretionary time away from work when accruals are exhausted.
- All approved leaves without pay constitute a guarantee of employment in the same department at the end of the leave (date specified in approval process). Some leave programs have specific reemployment and placement rights (e.g., Family and Medical Leave, Military Leave).
- If an official holiday occurs while you are on Leave Without Pay, you do not receive holiday pay or Earned Holiday hours.
- You do not accrue Paid Time Off or Extended Illness Bank hours during any full calendar month while on Leave Without Pay. You may resume accruals during the month you return from leave.
- You may not withdraw Teacher Retirement System (TRS) contributions while on Leave Without Pay.
- LWOP time is not extended into another fiscal year, except under the requirements for certain leaves (e.g., required military service, FML entitlements, Parental Leave, Workers’ Compensation) or unusual circumstances (e.g.,the institution is able to continue to hold a position open and the leave is for something such as continued graduate study, public service or other activity that reflects credit on the institution or enhances an individual’s ability to make subsequent contributions to the institution).