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:

  • Accrue vacation time and/or compensatory time 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 time off and have not met the 90 working day waiting period for long term disability (LTD) benefits.
  • Require a leave of absence 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 weekly workers' compensation payments.


  1. Interested and eligible employees in need of donated leave time should contact Human Resource Services (HRS) to apply for the catastrophic leave program.
  2. The catastrophic leave request form or comparable medical documentation 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, a campus-wide email is sent to Staff with information to voluntarily contribute vacation or compensatory time.
  4. Donated leave time 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 donated hours are depleted.

Donating Leave Hours

  • 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 their leave balances could occur up to one year later, staff members donating catastrophic leave time are encouraged to reserve the donated hours when utilizing their own paid time off.

Catastrophic Leave Use

  • All earned paid time off must be depleted before catastrophic leave donations may be applied to the recipient’s 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 leave begins.
    • Any donations not used within one year of initial request will expire.
  • Donated hours may be used on a continuous, reduced schedule, or intermittent basis but 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.
  • Once catastrophic leave donations utilized on an intermittent basis are depleted, 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.
  • Employees on continuous medical leave who have not been released to return to work when their catastrophic leave is depleted 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

    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 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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