Human Resource Services

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Catastrophic Leave Program

Catastrophic Leave Program

Administered by Human Resource Services


The University of Northern Iowa provides eligible staff the ability to receive and donate paid time off due to a personal catastrophic illness or injury. A personal catastrophic illness or injury is defined as a medical condition for which a healthcare provider has certified is likely to result in a loss of 30 or more work days.

Faculty members are not eligible to participate in the catastrophic leave program; however, a sick leave bank is established each year for use by faculty who meet certain criteria. See the Faculty Handbook for more information.

Eligibility Criteria

In order to participate in the catastrophic leave program, eligible staff must meet the following criteria:

  • Accrue vacation time and compensatory time (if applicable) and are covered by UNI's long term disability (LTD) insurance.
  • Have a medical condition that meets the definition of catastrophic illness or injury.
  • Exhaust all paid time off and have not met the 90 working day waiting period for long term disability (LTD) benefits.

In addition, employees experiencing pregnancy-related disability that prevents them from being able to work and/or who require medical recovery following the birth of a child are eligible. Employees on medical leave for a work-related injury are also eligible if they have elected to supplement their weekly workers' compensation payments.

Employees may not utilize the catastrophic leave program to request paid time off related to the care of an ill or injured family member.


  1. Eligible employees who wish to request donated paid time off for their situation should contact Human Resource Services (HRS) and complete the online catastrophic leave request.
  2. HRS will contact the employee if additional medical documentation is needed before the request for donations is posted for contributions.
  3. After verifying the eligible employee’s medical condition, a campus-wide email will be sent to Staff with instructions regarding how to voluntarily contribute vacation or compensatory time.
  4. Donated paid time off will be accepted during a two week period that will be identified in the email notification to staff.
  5. Total catastrophic leave hours are calculated using the donor and recipient’s base rate of pay.
  6. Catastrophic leave donations are applied to the recipient’s leave balances as needed until the employee returns to work, the health condition is resolved, the 90 working day waiting period for LTD benefits has been met, or the donated hours are exhausted.

Donating Paid Time Off

  • Vacation or compensatory time must be donated in full hour increments. Sick leave cannot be donated through the catastrophic leave program.
  • Staff members should not donate more vacation or compensatory time than they have available.
  • Once hours are pledged to the catastrophic leave program, those hours cannot be returned to donating employees unless the recipient no longer needs the donated hours or the donating employee terminates employment.
  • Donated hours are not deducted from a donating staff member’s leave balance report until the hours are transferred to the recipient.
    • Since deductions to leave balances could occur up to one year after the request, staff members are encouraged to reserve the donated hours when utilizing their own paid time off.
  • Paid time off donated to an employee is applied to the recipient's leave balances in the order the donation was received.

Catastrophic Leave Use

  • All earned paid time off must be exhausted by the recipient before catastrophic leave donations may be applied to their leave balances.
  • Total donations received or used cannot exceed the 90 working day LTD waiting period and must be used within one year from when the need for leave began.
    • Any donations not used within one year of the initial request will expire.
  • Catastrophic leave may be used on a continuous, reduced schedule, or intermittent basis but only for the period of incapacity certified by a healthcare provider.
  • Employees may only apply for catastrophic leave donations one time per 12 month period for the same injury or illness.
  • Donations used by an employee each pay period cannot exceed the employee's regularly scheduled hours of work.
  • Once catastrophic leave donations utilized on an intermittent basis are exhausted, employees may not reapply for donations until 12 months have passed since the original request.
  • Donated leave hours are not applied retroactively to unpaid time that occurred prior to the catastrophic leave request.
  • Any catastrophic leave donations for an employee who gives birth to a child may only be utilized to cover the medically necessary recovery period after childbirth.
    • Donated paid time off may not be used during approved FMLA bonding with the newborn child after postpartum recovery.
    • Pregnant employees unable to work due to temporary pregnancy-related disability may use donated paid time off for this period of incapacity and the postpartum recovery period, if needed.
  • Employees on continuous medical leave who have not been released to return to work by the time their catastrophic leave donations are exhausted will be placed on medical leave without pay.
    • UNI benefits may be impacted by medical leave without pay. See the I Need to Take a Leave supporting web page for more information.

    Additional Resources

    Questions regarding catastrophic leave may be directed to

    Frequently Asked Questions

    1. 1Q: I need to be off work for two weeks because of an illness or injury and I don’t have any vacation or sick leave available. Can I apply for catastrophic leave donations?

      1A: In this situation, you would not be eligible to apply. To qualify for catastrophic leave donations, your healthcare provider must certify that you will miss 30 or more work days due to your illness or injury.

    2. 2Q: I donated vacation time to an employee yet the hours were not deducted from my vacation balance, why is that?

      2A: Donation paid time off is applied to a recipient’s leave balance in the order received, which could take up to one year. If that period of time has passed, the recipient may have reached the maximum number of hours needed for their leave situation or they may have returned to work before your donation was applied.

    3. 3Q: If I’m pregnant, may I request donations toward my maternity leave?

      3A: Yes, you may request donations to be used toward your maternity leave if you will exhaust all paid time off before you are released back to work by your healthcare provider. You may only receive donations to cover the medically necessary recovery period after childbirth. If you are unable to work before you deliver your baby due to temporary pregnancy-related disability, you may be eligible to request catastrophic leave donations for that time period.

    4. 4Q: I missed the two week period for donating catastrophic leave. Can I still donate hours to the employee in need?

      4A: Unfortunately, no. Once the donation period has ended, no additional donations will be accepted.

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