Faculty Leaves of Absence



There are three general types of leaves of absence available to the faculty: scholarly leave, leave for employment elsewhere, and child care leave. All require the approval of the department Chair, the Dean, and the Provost. Combinations of these types of leave are possible; however, such arrangements are governed by the principle that no faculty member will be on leave for more than four terms during any six years that include the period of a requested leave without the explicit approval of the Provost, President and Trustees except where child care leave is involved.

1. Scholarly Leave

  • A scholarly leave normally will be granted only to a faculty member whose appointment will continue with the University after the end of the leave and who, at the time of notification of approval for the leave, has not made a commitment inconsistent with return to the University.

    A scholarly leave is granted only to a faculty member who has presented an appropriate program of study or research. It is recognized, however, that scholarly leaves for faculty members in the arts and professions can be based upon programs designed to increase professional competence even though these may not normally be interpreted as research programs.

    Approval of a scholarly leave is contingent upon adequate fiscal and personnel resources being available to meet instructional assignments and other departmental responsibilities. Exigencies may make it necessary to postpone leaves.

    Scholarly leaves may be with or without salary from the university.

    (The following sections a. and b. are from the 2006 Handbook, Section II.E.2.)

Scholarly Leaves without Salary

  • Scholarly leaves without salary are occasionally granted. In these cases, the faculty member does not receive remuneration in the form of salary from the University or from any other organization. To the extent that personnel benefits are not financed under this arrangement, the faculty member may request that the University make contributions toward the cost of these personnel benefits as permitted by law and University benefits policies, provided that the faculty member continues individual contributions to the employee benefits plans.

Scholarly Leaves with Salary

  • Normally, an initial scholarly leave with salary is granted to a University faculty member holding the rank of assistant professor, associate professor, or professor after a period of six or more consecutive years of full-time service in the Standing Faculty, Standing-Faculty-Clinician-Educator, or Research Faculty at the University. Additional paid scholarly leave may be granted periodically.

    Eligibility for consideration for up to a maximum of two semesters of leave at full salary may be accrued at the rate of one semester of leave at up to half salary (or equivalent) for each six semesters of full-time service (accumulation cannot begin before July 1, 1982):

    Accrued Full-time Service Leave Eligibility
    Six semesters One semester at up to half salary
    Twelve semesters One semester at up to full salary or two semesters at up to half salary
    Eighteen semesters One semester at up to full salary and one semester at up to half salary
    Twenty-four semesters Two semesters at up to full salary

    Faculty members may not normally be granted scholarly leave with salary for more than two consecutive semesters. Faculty members on 12-month appointments will accrue eligibility for leave at full or half salary for six months or twelve months after full-time service for corresponding six month (rather than semester) periods.

    The University will administer all types of scholarly leave with flexibility, allowing faculty members to take advantage of special opportunities such as prestigious fellowships. In such cases, when a leave is granted earlier than would be expected, the interval between this leave and any subsequent leave will be adjusted to make the faculty member's leaves conform, on the average, to the guidelines above.

    Faculty members are encouraged to seek outside support wherever possible to permit them to take advantage of the full year leave option without loss of income. Total salary during the leave cannot exceed the normal academic salary for that period; if the outside support is such that the total would exceed the normal academic salary, the University contribution shall be appropriately reduced. Payments specifically designed by a supporting agency for travel or living expenses are exempt from this limitation; such payments may also be made from departmental or school budgets, but not from the benefits pool.

    It is the responsibility of an applicant for a scholarly leave to inform the University fully concerning the financial circumstances surrounding the leave, including any grant, fellowship, stipend or other compensation that is received during the leave period so that the University may make arrangements for appropriate financial support. Such information shall be presented as soon as it is available.

    A faculty member may not accept paid employment during a scholarly leave with salary except as provided within the University's policy governing extramural activity for compensation. Personnel benefits are continued to the extent permitted by law and University benefits policy during a paid leave provided the faculty member continues normal benefits contributions.

2. Research Leaves for Assistant Professors

  1. Introduction
    • The demands of teaching and departmental responsibilities often hinder young faculty members' efforts to find the periods of concentration required to bring their scholarship to distinguished levels. While fellowships and grants provide some junior faculty members with opportunities to focus their energies on their scholarship, these resources are not uniformly available in all disciplines. Moreover, they cannot be forecast with confidence in any discipline; few junior faculty members can plan on the availability of such resources to support their scholarship. We believe that it is essential that all of our promising junior faculty members be given an opportunity to focus attention on their scholarship at some time during their probationary period. Moreover, we are convinced that it is important that these faculty members know from the time they join the School of Arts and Sciences that this opportunity will be made available.

      The program we have developed is intended to guarantee that each assistant professor will receive, during the first five years of his or her appointment here, the equivalent of complete relief from teaching responsibilities for one semester. We anticipate that many junior faculty members will not need to seek support from this program. The program will, however, assure all promising junior faculty members that they can expect a period of concentrated scholarship prior to the end of their probationary period.

  2. Description

    • The School of Arts and Sciences may provide support, in the form of relief from teaching responsibilities, to Assistant Professors who have been reappointed in that rank. This support will normally be one semester of relief (or equivalent) from teaching for any junior faculty member who has not previously been able to devote extensive time to his or her scholarship. Junior faculty members who have or have had support available from fellowships or grants may receive additional teaching relief for up to one semester (or equivalent). In no case, however, may a Research Leave be used to extend the total period a junior faculty member is free from teaching for more than one full year (or equivalent) during the first five years of his or her appointment. Research Leaves may be taken at any time between the beginning of the fourth year and the end of the fifth year of full-time service at the rank of Assistant Professor at the University of Pennsylvania.

  3. Procedure
    • Assistant Professors who have been formally reappointed for a multi-year term after an initial appointment may apply to the School of Arts and Sciences for support for a Research Leave (SAS Form 99-23). An Assistant Professor who expects to request a Research Leave should discuss his or her plans with the department Chair well in advance of the formal application deadline. The application for support for a Research Leave for an Assistant Professor must be presented to the Chair no later than one full semester before the beginning of requested leave (by January 15 for leaves in the fall semester and by September 1 for leaves in the spring semester). The application should indicate the extent of the relief time requested and the specific work to be undertaken during the leave period. The endorsement of the Chair should indicate the extent of any previous teaching reliefs provided to the candidate and outline the department's plans to meet its teaching commitments during the period of requested leave.

(The following sections 3, 4, 5, 7 and 8 are from the 2006 HandbookSection II.E.2.)

3. Leaves for Employment Elsewhere

  • A leave of absence may be granted to a faculty member who wishes to accept a temporary post at another university, in governmental service, or in a private institution, agency, industry or firm. Such leaves are granted only when clear benefits in terms of scholarly opportunity or professional development derive from the leave and support the activities of the University. They are granted only when the personnel resources of the University are adequate to maintain the programs with which the faculty member is concerned in his or her absence.
  • Normally a leave of absence for employment elsewhere will be for a period of one year. If there is sufficient justification, a second year of leave may be approved. A leave of absence for employment elsewhere will never be extended beyond two years with the single exception of leave to accept a Presidential appointment to a high-level position in the federal government. In this one case, leave may be extended for a period as long as four years. The appointment of a faculty member who does not return to his or her duties at the University at the end of leave for employment elsewhere will be terminated as of the end of the leave period.
  • Normally the University does not contribute toward the salary or benefits of a faculty member on leave for employment elsewhere. Frequently employers will provide their own benefits plan to the faculty member or will reimburse the University in order to maintain University benefits coverage for the individual in question. However, the University urges the faculty member to retain appropriate benefits coverage while on leave and to make any necessary arrangements with the Office of Human Resources prior to the leave period.

4. Reduction in Duties (revised February 24, 2006)

  • Members of the standing faculty, the research faculty and Academic Clinicians may request a reduction in duties for a period not to exceed six years. Such a reduction is granted only for whole years and requires Trustee approval. It will be granted for good and sufficient reason such as serious illness or injury, child care, elder care or service to the community. [Faculty anticipating a move to emeritus status and seeking a reduction in duties should refer to Section II.E.9.] Typically, a reduction in duties does not exceed 50% of full duties. Reduction in duties is always accompanied by a proportional reduction in salary and in those benefits, such as life insurance and retirement contributions, that are salary-based.
  • For untenured members of the standing faculty on the tenure track, assistant professors on the clinician-educator track, and assistant professors on the research track, one year is removed from the appropriate probationary period for each two years granted with 50% reduced duties. For faculty with a normal seven-year (ten-year) probationary period, the total probationary period including time spent at reduced duties for child care cannot exceed ten years (thirteen years). Faculty members who wish to devote full time to child care should consider requesting personal leave as described under the heading "Other Leaves."

5. Other Leaves

  • Occasions may arise when faculty members may wish, or be forced, to request leaves of absence for purposes other than child care, scholarly study or employment elsewhere. The University will endeavor to be as generous as possible in granting these requests when they are compatible with the best interests of the faculty members, the students, and the University. If such a leave is granted to a member of the Standing Faculty on a term appointment, this leave will be counted as part of the time accumulated toward tenure unless expressly provided otherwise in the formal action approving the leave. Additional information on leave is included in the University of Pennsylvania's Personnel Policy Manual.

6. Application for Leave of Absence

  • The Application for Leave of Absence form must be fully completed by the faculty member requesting the leave and approved by the department Chair. A letter from the faculty member requesting leave to the department Chair with justification for the leave must be attached. If a leave replacement is required, the department Chair should indicate the amount needed and the courses to be covered together with the number of students enrolled when the course was last offered.

The request for leave will be presented to the Provost's Staff Conference for action.

7. Inactive Status

  • Special arrangements whereby faculty members are released from academic duties for periods of time shorter than a single semester are not called leaves. Such arrangements require the approval of the Dean only; they do not involve the University benefits pool

8. Resignation While on Leave

  • If a faculty member while on leave accepts an appointment to another institution, it is the custom among institutions of higher learning for the new institution to reimburse the former institution for sums paid to the faculty member, or on his or her behalf, from University funds during the period of the leave. The University of Pennsylvania generally observes this practice in its own appointment procedures, and it expects that faculty members who resign from the University while on leave will cooperate in seeking such reimbursement for the University from their new institutions.

9. School of Arts and Sciences Faculty Leave Benefit Definition for Leaves Resulting from the Birth or Adoption of a Child

The arrival of a new child into a family, either at the time of birth or adoption, typically requires that parents devote substantial time to child care duties. The assumption of these substantial child care duties often is incompatible with the obligations the University requires from a full-time faculty member.

Effective September 1, 2018, and following the birth or adoption of a child, the University now provides the following varieties of paid parental leave to eligible members of the Standing Faculty and the relevant Academic Support Staff with at least one year of prior service. The leave must be approved and taken within 12 months of the date when the first benefit starts.  The faculty member is expected to notify the department chair and/or dean in writing at an early date so that appropriate arrangements can be made.

a. Leaves for the birth parent.

  • Up to 8 weeks of paid short-term disability (STD) based on medical certification that a faculty member is unable to perform work as a result of the birth.  While on short-term disability, the birth parent should perform no work for the University.  Benefits-eligible faculty members are expected to take advantage of this benefit and should submit relevant paperwork to HR via their academic department chair.
  • Two semesters of teaching relief, to be taken within 12 months of the birth of the child.  The first semester of teaching relief will normally coincide with the semester in which the child is born and the STD benefit is taken.  If the child is born during the summer, the first semester of teaching relief will take place in the fall semester that immediately follows.

b. Leave for the spouse or partner of the birth parent.

  • One semester of teaching relief, to be taken within 12 months of the birth of the child.

c. Leaves for adoptive parents.

  • One semester of teaching relief for each parent employed by Penn, to be taken with 12 months of the adoption of the child.

In addition, please review the University’s Faculty Parental and Teaching Leave Policy, recently updated on November 6, 2019.  To view the updated University policy, see Section II.E.4 of the Handbook for Faculty and Academic Administrators, at https://catalog.upenn.edu/faculty-handbook/ii/ii-e
(Source: Offices of the President and Provost, Almanac, March 18, 1997; revised, Almanac, February 28, 2006; revised, Faculty Senate, May 21, 2015; revised, Office of the Provost November 6, 2019)