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 leave time 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 receive and/or donate vacation time to the catastrophic leave program, eligible staff must:

  • Accrue vacation leave and be covered by UNI's long term disability (LTD) insurance.
  • Have a health condition that meets the definition of catastrophic illness or injury.
  • Exhaust all paid leave and have not met the 90 working day waiting period for long term disability (LTD) benefits.
  • Require leave due to temporary pregnancy-related disability and/or the medically necessary recovery period following the birth of a child.
  • Have a work-related injury and elect to supplement workers' compensation benefits.


  1. Interested/eligible employees in need of leave donations should contact Human Resource Services (HRS) to apply for the catastrophic leave program.
  2. Catastrophic leave request form must be completed by the eligible employee's healthcare provider and submitted to HRS before request for donations is posted.
  3. After verifying the eligible employee’s medical condition, HRS sends an email to staff with an online link to voluntarily contribute vacation time.
  4. Donated leave hours will be accepted during a two week donation period.
  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, or the leave donations are depleted.

Donating Leave Hours

  • Vacation leave must be donated in full hour increments. Sick leave cannot be donated through the catastrophic leave program.
  • Staff members should not donate more vacation/compensatory leave hours 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 time 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 could occur up to one year later, donating staff members are encouraged to reserve the donated hours when utilizing their own leave accruals.

Catastrophic Leave Use

  • Total donations received/used cannot exceed the 90 working day LTD waiting period and must be used within one year from when the leave begins.
    • Any donations not used within one year of initial request will expire.
  • Donated leave may be used on a continuous, reduced schedule, or intermittent basis and only for the period of incapacity as 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.
  • All earned paid leave accruals must be depleted before catastrophic leave hours may be applied to the recipient’s leave balances.
  • Donated leave hours are not applied retroactively to unpaid time that occurred prior to the catastrophic leave request.

Additional Resources

For questions on catastrophic leave please contact

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: Donations are 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 or they may have returned to work before your donation was applied.

  3. 3Q: If I’m pregnant, can I ask for donations toward my maternity leave?

    3A: Yes, you may ask for donations toward your maternity leave if you will exhaust all sick and vacation hours. However, you may only receive donations for six to eight weeks of leave, depending on the medically necessary recovery period after childbirth. If you are unable to work due to temporary pregnancy-related disability before you deliver your baby, you would 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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