Best Practices: Unpaid Medical Leave for Employee’s Own Health Condition
University Human Resources encourages organizations and their departments to utilize best practices that are in the interests of The University of Iowa when considering the approval of unpaid medical leave. This document is intended to guide the approval of such leave when an employee is unable to work due to his/her personal health condition, and is either not eligible for or has already exhausted FMLA.
Consideration of Unpaid Leave for an Employee’s Personal Health Condition
Situations arise requiring department consideration of unpaid medical leave for an employee who is unable to work due to his/her personal health condition, and is either not eligible for or has already exhausted FMLA. Such requests for leave may be considered a form of accommodation under the American’s with Disabilities Act.
When making a request for unpaid leave, the employee may be expected to provide documentation of the health condition and the need for leave. A valid request for leave would be because the employee’s condition does not allow them to perform the essential duties of their position and work accommodation is not reasonable or available.
What is Unpaid Medical Leave?
Unpaid leave is time away from work for personal health reasons when FMLA or paid leave accruals are not available.
What is the Purpose of Unpaid Medical Leave?
Unpaid leave due to a health condition is intended to provide the recovery time necessary for the employee to return to work and perform the position’s essential functions with or without accommodation, including regular and consistent attendance.
Unpaid leave should be for a specified duration with the expectation of the employee’s return to work, and should be approved if it can be reasonably accommodated by the employing department.
What Unpaid Medical Leave is Reasonable?
Unpaid leave is reasonable for the following employee situation:
- The employee is in the healing period of a work related injury and is unable to work.
- The employee is receiving ADA Referral, temporary assignment is not available and paid leave is exhausted.
- The employee is within the 90 day waiting period for Long Term Disability and paid leave is exhausted.
Factors to consider in determining whether approval of other unpaid leave situations is reasonable:
- If it was possible, was the leave requested at least 30 days in advance?
- Is the duration of the period of leave known?
- Is the information sufficient to determine the employee will return to their position at the end of the leave, perform the essential functions of their job with or without reasonable accommodation and be able to maintain regular and consistent attendance?
- Would granting the leave create an unreasonable hardship upon the Org or the University?
- How will the work be completed while the employee is on leave?
- Is there additional expense to get the employee’s work completed? What is the estimated amount?
- Is there significant financial hardship on the organization or University?
- Is there significant operational hardship on the organization or the University?
- Will peer employees be negatively impacted?
Prior to determining and informing an employee a request for unpaid leave due to a health condition is unreasonable, the employing department HR Representative is to:
- contact Faculty Staff Disability Services for guidance2, and
- consider the additional parameters for use of unpaid medical leave as established within University policy, Merit Rules or
Collective Bargaining Agreements, as applicable.
- Employees in Faculty, Professional and Scientific, Post-Doctoral, Resident, MERIT Supervisory Exempt and Confidential, AFSCME, SEIU and COG positions.
- Faculty/Staff Disability Services will guide the department in review of the reasonableness of the request and assist with review of other policy requirements such as University policy, Merit Rules and Collective Bargaining Agreements (CBA), as applicable.
Examples of What May be Reasonable Unpaid Medical Leave Include But Are Not Limited To:
- The employee’s FMLA health certification requires two weeks of leave for the employee to return to their job; FMLA and accrued leave will exhaust before the end of the two weeks.
- The employee is not eligible for FMLA, has no sick leave and has four weeks of vacation. The medical documentation requires leave for twelve weeks and is able to return at the end of the leave period.
- The employee is not eligible for FMLA, has no sick leave and has two weeks of vacation. The personal health condition requires two days of leave every two weeks for six months of chemo treatment.
- The employee’s FMLA will exhaust prior to the employee’s release to work date. The employee needs four additional weeks of leave. The employee has no paid leave available. The employee is also requesting a reduced schedule of 20 hours a week for three weeks when released to work.
- It is in the fall of the calendar year and the employee’s medical documentation states 16 weeks of leave are required and the employee is expected to be able to return to their job February 16 of the following calendar year. The employee’s FMLA will exhaust December 15 and the employee has no paid leave.
Some unpaid leave may be unreasonable, prior to determining a leave is unreasonable, HR Representatives are requested to contact FSDS for assistance in making the appropriate decision. The interactive process must be completed prior to making a decision of whether to grant a leave or not.
Examples of What May Be Unreasonable Unpaid Medical Leave Include But Are Not Limited To:
- The employee has exhausted paid leave and FMLA and also received a second four weeks of unpaid leave, the employee is requesting a third leave of four weeks.
- The employee has exhausted paid leave and FMLA and received a second leave of two weeks, the employee is requesting a third leave of unknown duration.
- The employee has exhausted paid leave and FMLA and is requesting intermittent leave of unknown duration.
- The employee has exhausted paid leave and FMLA and is requesting intermittent leave of known duration but unknown frequency.
Last updated December 2011