Leaves of Absence: What are they and how do they work?

The Academic Staff Collective Agreement between ULFA and the Board of Governors contains several types of leave provisions for continuing Members. These provisions are all contained in article 33, “Leaves of Absence, excluding Sessional Lecturers.” This page will provide basic information about taking a leave and some details on each kind of leave available. If you desire more detailed information on any of these leaves or wish to confidentially discuss taking a leave, please contact ULFA staff for assistance. 

Article 33.01 provides general information on taking a leave of absence for any purpose. Time spent on paid leave does not interrupt your period of service for the purposes of determining seniority, career progress, probation (including maximum probationary period) or tenure. Time spent on unpaid leave, or on a leave that places you on less than full time status, does interrupt your period of service for these purposes, though it does not reset any accumulated time for these purposes either. Article 33.13 (Status of a Member on Leave) provides some further information relevant to the various leaves and which Collective Agreement provisions continue to apply to Members on each type of leave. 

The following leaves are detailed in the following sub-articles: medical leave (33.02), maternity and parental leave (33.03-33.07), personal, compassionate care, and domestic violence leaves (33.08), political leave (33.09), leave without pay (33.10), secondment leave and exchange leave (33.11), and other leave (33.12). We will examine each type of leave below.

Medical Leave 
This kind of leave provides up to 75 working days paid leave of absence due to medical reasons. The 75 working day maximum is for any 365 day period, so time spent on multiple medical leaves within a single year all count toward the maximum time. Whenever possible, the Member should inform their supervisor (Department Chair or Dean) when such a leave is required. When a medical leave lasts longer than ten working days, the Wellness and Recognition department is notified and the Member must supply it with a medical certificate in support of the leave. In these cases, the Member must also submit a medical certificate in support of their return to work once they no longer need to be on leave. After 50 working days on medical leave, Wellness and Recognition will contact the Member about filing a claim for long term disability with the insurance carrier or arrange a return to work if the Member is able and willing to do so. 

Maternity and Parental Leave 
This kind of leave is provided for Members during pregnancy or when they have a new addition to their family. Maternity leave provisions apply only to pregnant Members for a period before and after they give birth. Parental leave provisions apply to any Member with a new addition to their family, including Members who were not pregnant, and Members who adopt a child. The same Member may benefit from both Maternity and Parental Leaves in succession. 

Maternity and Parental Leaves are in some ways the most complex types of leave because they apply to a range of scenarios and interact with government benefits. Some details are left out of the following summary, but the main points to keep in mind include that:

  • You should inform your Dean as soon as practically possible when planning to take Maternity or Parental Leave so that provisions may be made for the performance of your duties while you are on leave;
  • You will need to provide a medical certificate to Wellness and Recognition in support of your leave application;
  • Through both Maternity and Parental Leave the university will provide you with a Supplement Unemployment Benefits (SUB) Plan. Under this plan, the university will provide a “top up” to the pay you receive from the government’s Unemployment Insurance (EI). 
  • While on maternity and/or parental leave, Members do not receive their usual salary from the university. These leaves are unpaid, with the exception of the benefits provided through the SUB Plan.
  • The top up provided by the SUB will make up the difference between your pre-leave salary and the pay you receive from EI so that you receive 100% of the salary you would have been making had you not been on leave for a specified period of time. The duration of this “top up” varies based on how many qualified Members take Maternity and/or Parental leave, but in any possible case for the addition of one or more new children to a family at one time it adds up to a total of twenty (20) weeks. 
  • After twenty weeks any Member on Parental Leave will not receive the SUB “top up” from the university and will only collect money from EI. Here are the possible combinations of maternity and parental leave:
    • A single qualified Member is the birth parent and takes maternity leave up to a maximum of 16 weeks. The SUB plan “tops up” the Member’s salary to its full pre-leave amount during this period. The Member follows their maternity leave by a parental leave up to a maximum of 57 weeks. The Member’s salary is only “topped up” for four weeks of parental leave in addition to the 16 weeks of “topped up” salary while on maternity leave. For the remaining period of the parental leave the university SUB plan does not provide additional salary on top of what EI provides and the Member does not draw a salary from the university. 
    • A single qualified Member who is not the birth parent is entitled to a maximum of 62 weeks of parental leave. The first 20 weeks of this leave are covered by the SUB plan, ensuring the Member’s salary is “topped up” to their pre-leave salary for 20 weeks. The remaining 42 weeks of leave is not covered by the SUB plan, so the Member only receives money from EI during this time.
    • In cases where both parents are qualifying Members: the Members may take their leaves concurrently or in succession. The two Members get a combined total of 69 weeks of parental leave (in addition to the maximum 20 weeks of maternity leave). No more than 62 of the 69 weeks of parental leave may be used by a single Member. A combined maximum of 20 weeks of maternity and/or parental leave will be covered by the SUB plan, “topping up” the salaries of either (or both) Members during this time. (Note: the 20 week maximum for the salary top up is shared by the two Members in this case. It is not the case that each Member receives 20 weeks of salary top up in these scenarios.)

Other important notes

  • If you are serving a probationary period (i.e. you are pre-tenure or pre-continuing), you must notify your Dean (or equivalent) if you do not want the period of your leave to count against your probationary period (as per article 33.03.10.b). If you choose to not include the period of the leave, your probationary period will be extended by one year. 
  • By default for all Members, the time you spend on maternity and/or parental leave is not evaluated, but you may choose to have it evaluated (as per article 33.03.10.c).
  • You choose to maintain or discontinue your Schedule B benefits (such as medical coverage and pension contributions) through the period of your maternity and/or parental leave. If you maintain the benefits, the Board will continue to pay their portion of the contributions for these benefits on the condition that you continue to pay your contributions. If you discontinue some or all of your benefits for the duration of the leave, then the Board will not make its contributions for these benefits. Article 33.07 contains more details on how benefit provisions function during maternity and parental leave.

Personal Leave, Compassionate Care Leave, and Domestic Violence Leave
These three types of leave are treated together in article 33.08 of the Collective Agreement. When taking any of these three types of leave, the Member is responsible for working with their Department Chair (when one exists) and Dean to take “reasonable measures to minimize the effects of the Member’s leave” (33.08.5). 

Personal Leave: Articles 33.08.1-2 address personal leave. This kind of leave allows a Member to take up to five working days of paid leave to address circumstances in their personal life which requires a limited time away from their duties. By design, this kind of leave applies to a broad range of situations not covered by other types of leave. To initiate this type of leave, the Member must inform their Dean immediately when it is required. 

Compassionate Care Leave: This type of leave is addressed by article It provides a Member with up to 27 weeks of unpaid leave to provide care or support “to a gravely ill family member at risk of dying within twenty-six (26) weeks, as established by a Medical Certificate.” The Wellness Department should be given two weeks’ written notice before the leave commences when possible, and the notice should include an estimated date of return to work. Two Members may take concurrent Compassionate Care Leave to care for the same family member. Members must be employed by the university for at least ninety consecutive days to be eligible for this kind of leave.

Domestic Violence Leave: Article 33.08.4 addresses Domestic Violence Leave. Members are eligible for up to five paid working days followed by an additional five unpaid working days of domestic violence leave. Members are eligible for this type of leave if they, or their dependent child or a protected adult living with the Member, is the victim of domestic violence. Members must be employed by the university for at least ninety consecutive days to be eligible for this kind of leave.

Political Leave
Members who hold political office at the municipal, provincial, or federal level are eligible for unpaid political leave. Members serving at the provincial or federal level are eligible for leave for the duration they hold their office, or for the portion of each year they are occupied by the duties of their office. Members holding a position at the municipal or other local government level can make arrangements “appropriate to the circumstances.” Article 33.09 applies to this kind of leave.

Secondment Leave and Exchange Leave
Article 33.11 covers these two types of leave and they share eligibility criteria. Secondment leave is utilized when Members provide assistance to an outside agency and exchange leave is utilized when faculty engage in an exchange with another institution. To be eligible for either kind of leave, a satisfactory replacement must be able to perform the Member’s primary duties, and when granting this leave the Board will specify if the Member has any responsibilities to the university during the period of the leave. The Board need only grant one year of this kind of leave in every five years of paid, full-time service of the Member to the university, though additional leave can be granted by mutual agreement.

Leave Without Pay and Other Leave
Articles 33.10 and 33.12 specify the conditions for “leave without pay” and “other leave,” respectively. Both of these types of leave allow for leaves in situations not otherwise covered by the kinds of leave specified above. Such leaves may be with pay if they are granted under the “other leave” provision; the Board will specify the rate of pay (if any) to the Member before the commencement of this kind of leave. 

ULFA is Here to Help!
When seeking a leave, Members must consult with their Dean. We encourage you to reach out to ULFA Staff if you have any questions about the various leave provisions, or want assistance in navigating the leaves process, including accompaniment to any meetings you have with their Dean.