7.5 Leaves of Absence and Faculty Teaching Relief

This policy was last updated January 5, 2024. See the update history page for more information.

7.5.1 Sabbatical Leaves for the Faculty

Tenured Faculty Sabbatical Leave

The purpose of sabbatical leaves is to make it possible for members of the tenured Faculty to take time off from normal academic duties for scholarly research and study. The Institute's plan is based on the normal expectation of a one-half-year leave at full salary, or a full-year leave at half salary, following six years of full-time service as a member of the regular Faculty. Implementation of this policy in a specific case may be limited by the responsibility of the departments to meet their obligations and the financial resources that can be made available. Years in which faculty members are on leave or have served in any rank of visiting professor are not counted in the six years. Years of service beyond the six-year requirement cannot be counted toward qualification for subsequent sabbaticals.

Faculty members must apply to their department heads a reasonable time in advance (normally one year) and describe their proposals for the use of the sabbatical. In considering whether the request for sabbatical leave can be recommended to the dean, department heads must take into account the commitments for teaching and research in their departments. The final allocation of sabbaticals is made by the Provost. Awards for each applicant are on a no-loss, no-gain basis up to the maximum payment by MIT of half the academic year's salary. The objectives of the sabbatical can often be met by other leaves or by full-time employment on a grant or contract to the Institute. (See Section 7.4 Benefits for Faculty and Staff Members.)

If conditions covered by the Paid Family and Medical Leave Act (PFMLA) or Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) occur during sabbatical, the faculty member may request a leave under the PFMLA and/or FMLA and a suspension of the sabbatical for the period of PFMLA/FMLA leave. (See Section 7.5.4).

Eligible faculty members are expected to report their outside professional activities to their department heads annually, as described in Section 4.4 Conflict of Interest and 4.5 Outside Professional Activities.

Junior Faculty Research Leave

The purpose of the Junior Faculty Research Leave Program is to assist young scholars in their pre-tenure years by providing a concentrated period of time during which they can engage in research to advance their careers.

The research leave is a one-semester leave with pay taken during years two to six of the faculty member's probationary period. All tenure track faculty are eligible for the leave. Normally this leave may not be taken during the faculty member's first year of appointment or the last year at MIT. Faculty members who have been given a terminal appointment may not be granted a research leave.

Faculty members should apply to their department head for the research leave. Faculty are expected to consult with their mentors and the department head about the timing of leaves to ensure the best use of the opportunity and to be consistent with the faculty member's teaching and other obligations.

The application should be in the form of a proposal outlining how the faculty member will use the time and how the work proposed fits into the faculty member's research agenda. Applications should be submitted to department heads based on their local schedules, keeping in mind that planning and financing are part of the annual budget process. The Dean of the School and the Provost must approve all applications.

Financial arrangements for the research leave are the same as with traditional sabbatical leaves: the department keeps 40% of the salary which can be used for replacement teaching. The remaining 60% is returned to the Institute.

Junior Faculty Leaves are intended for research and should not be confused with other types of leave, such as Personal or Parental Leave, or with the various relief from teaching arrangements schools have in place. Leaves must be taken during the second through the sixth year and are lost if not taken. These leaves should also not be confused with the traditional Faculty Sabbatical which is only available to faculty who have been awarded tenure.

The Junior Faculty Leave does not stop the tenure clock and does not affect the timing of sabbaticals that might be awarded to junior faculty if they are subsequently awarded tenure. Departments may, at their discretion and expense, extend the leave beyond one semester or provide additional considerations, including components of a faculty start-up package or teaching relief.

There may be reasons why particular departments, with sufficient justification, may want to vary the schedule. Requests to deviate should be addressed to the Provost. Such a variation might reasonably exist when departments have faculty who are clustered in particular years due to a period of intense hiring, or where particular teaching requirements or other local conditions suggest that a different pattern would better serve all parties. If conditions covered by the Paid Family and Medical Leave Act (PFMLA) or Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) occur during sabbatical, the faculty member may request a leave under the PFMLA and/or FMLA and a suspension of the sabbatical for the period of PFMLA/FMLA leave. (See Section 7.5.4).

7.5.2 Sick and Family Leaves for the Faculty

There is no formal method of sick leave accrual or accounting for members of the Faculty. A reasonable number of justifiable absences are paid in full. These absences may be used for the employee’s illness and medical and dental appointments, as well as for the illness and medical and dental appointments of a family member (up to 40 hours per year), and during a leave of absence for victims of domestic violence (also up to 40 hours per year); see below regarding longer leaves to care for family members and Section 7.5.7 Leaves of Absence for Victims of Domestic Violence. A family member under this policy follows the definition in Employment Policy Manual Section 4.4.2. For determining the limits of 40 hours, full-time faculty members working a regular, five-day a week schedule are considered to work eight hour days, so that they can use five days per year to care for a sick family member.

Prolonged Absence Due to Serious Health Condition Cases of a prolonged absence due to a faculty member’s serious health condition will be treated on an individual basis, with due regard to length of service at the Institute and other relevant factors, and may be paid for the duration of the absence up to, but not normally exceeding, a period of six months. The faculty member will be paid their regular salary under the Modified Annual Plan (MAP) during their medical leave. Faculty who would have been paid for summer salary during the period when they are medically unable to work may be paid all or part of that summer salary, on a case-by-case basis, upon approval from the dean’s office.

If at least six continuous weeks of a medical leave fall during a semester when a faculty member otherwise would be teaching, Administrative Teaching Relief may be available in that semester immediately before and/or after the medical leave, depending on the timing of the leave and the needs of the department. This Administrative Teaching Relief may be granted by the dean’s office on a case-by-case basis. See Sec. 7.5.3. A faculty member with a prolonged medical leave may request an extension of the tenure clock from the Provost.

The faculty member is responsible for notifying their department as soon as they are aware of a need for a prolonged medical leave. Departments are responsible for reporting a continuous absence greater than one month to the office of their School dean or to their Human Resources Officer for review.

Medical evidence may be required by the department, for example, for Administrative Teaching Relief or when, in the opinion of the department head or supervisor, the need is indicated by the pattern of sick leave usage or the period of absence.

Faculty members may also be eligible for leaves under the Massachusetts Paid Family and Medical Leave Act, as described in the MIT Employment Policy Manual Section 4.3.7. As described in that policy, all leaves falling under the PFMLA are limited to 26 weeks in a Benefit Year. Any sick/medical leave used by a faculty member will run concurrently with the PFMLA to the extent of any overlap.

Family Leaves 

Parental Leave Faculty members who become new parents may take parental leave either as Teaching Relief (described in Section 7.5.3) or as Continuous Bonding Leave.

Continuous Bonding Leave may be taken for up to 12 weeks in a Benefit Year (see Employment Policy Manual Section 4.3.6 for the definition of Benefit Year). Continuous Bonding Leave must conclude within one year of the child’s birth, adoption, or foster placement.

Continuous Bonding Leave is paid for four weeks at full pay followed by eight weeks at the State Formula Rate (defined in Employment Policy Manual Section 4.3.6) and must be taken in consecutive weeks during the 9-month academic year. Generally, summer months do not count towards the 12 weeks of Bonding Leave and no paid leave is available during the summer months; however, case-by-case exceptions for all or part of the leave may be made by the dean’s office for faculty who would have worked and received summer salary during that leave period.

A faculty member may take either Continuous Bonding Leave or Teaching Relief but not both for the same birth, adoption, or foster placement. For the effect of parental leaves on the tenure clock, see Section 3.2.1 Extension of Tenure Clock for Child and Family Care.

Leave to care for Family Member with a Serious Health Condition A faculty member may take up to 12 weeks in a Benefit Year to care for a Family Member with a Serious Health Condition. Any such family leave over five days per year may be paid at the State Formula Rate and is more fully described in the Employment Policy Manual Section 4.4.2).

Leave related to Family Members currently or formerly in the Armed Forces Faculty members may be granted leave for specific reasons related to family members in the Armed Services. This leave may be paid at the State Formula Rate and is more fully described in Employment Policy Manual Section 4.4.3.

Each type of Family Leave is permitted for the specific time periods. Employees may take up to 26 weeks, in the aggregate, of total paid leave (that is, sick leave and family leave combined) per Benefit Year. (Benefit Year is defined in Employment Policy Manual Section 4.3.6)

7.5.3 Faculty Teaching Relief

Teaching Relief for Childcare and Bonding

Faculty members, regardless of gender, who commit to spending the majority of their academic time on the care of and responsibility for a newborn child or a child newly placed with them for adoption or foster care will be released from teaching and administrative duties for one semester at full pay, but they will continue to be expected to fulfill their thesis-advising responsibilities and sustain their research program.

Institute rules on outside professional activities for full-time faculty will remain in force for those on such release. Also, it is expected that they will not increase their usual outside professional activities.

Faculty members can take advantage of this policy in any term they choose that begins within one year after the arrival of a child. In cases where a child is expected during an academic semester, the faculty member may, with departmental approval, begin teaching relief as of the beginning of that semester.  Those seeking such release should notify their department heads in writing that they will spend the majority of their academic time on the care of the child over the period of the release. Such notification must be made as far in advance of the leave as possible (normally one semester's notification is required) so that steps can be taken to cover the faculty member's teaching obligations.

If a faculty member who takes teaching relief does not spend the majority of their academic time on child care (due to changes in child care arrangements or other reasons), the faculty member must notify their department as soon as possible. The department may then end the teaching relief period or may change the pay for any remaining leave. Failure to notify the department may result in discipline and may be considered in any future tenure, promotion, or other decisions.

Administrative Teaching Relief related to Prolonged Medical Leave

Upon request from a department, the dean's office may grant Administrative Teaching Relief for the weeks during a semester before and/or after a faculty member's prolonged medical leave due to their own serious health condition (including recovery from childbirth).  The faculty member must provide appropriate medical documentation upon request. See also Section 7.5.2.

For policies on tenure and family-care issues, see Section 3.2.1 Extension of Tenure Clock for Child and Family Care and 3.2.2 Part-Time Appointment with Tenure for Family Care.

7.5.4 Professional and Personal Leaves for the Faculty

Members of the Faculty may request professional and personal leaves. Professional leaves allow faculty members to undertake professional development or public service opportunities, whereas personal leaves allow faculty time to address urgent, personal matters that prevent full attention to academic and scholarly duties. Leaves are granted by department heads with the approval of the dean and in consideration of applicable law.

Professional Leave Unpaid professional leaves may be granted to allow faculty members to undertake professional development or public service opportunities. Such leaves may be granted in consideration of the purpose of the leave, the proposed activity, and departmental needs. The period of the leave must be specified and shall not normally exceed one academic year; however, the leave may be extended by the dean for a second year. Extension of such leaves beyond two academic years is only possible in extraordinary circumstances and requires approval of the Provost. For untenured members of the Faculty, professional leaves are included in the determination of years of service for tenure decisions.

In extraordinary cases and in further consideration of the School's mission and faculty development, one professional leave for up to one year may be excluded in determination of years of service for tenure decisions. This exception requires the approval of the Provost in advance.

Personal Leave Personal leaves may be granted to eligible faculty who face personal crises or other matters that prevent full attention to their academic and scholarly duties, or who have other urgent obligations that interfere with their work. Leaves related to personal medical conditions and family needs are generally covered under Section 7.5.2. Except as provided in Section 7.5.2, personal leaves are unpaid.

For the purpose of computing years of service for tenure decisions, personal leaves shall not be included. In counting years, the semester is the quantum by which years of service are determined (see Section 3.2 Tenure Process).

Faculty members may elect to take advantage of release arrangements offered by Schools to accommodate their personal needs. In appropriate circumstances, the release time may count as part of a faculty member's leave under applicable laws. Except as otherwise specifically stated, the time included in these special arrangements is included in the calculation of years of service for tenure decisions.

7.5.5 Unpaid Leaves of Absence for Staff Members

Leaves of absence without pay may be granted to academic, research, and administrative staff for a specified period of time, normally for educational or public service reasons and because the Institute wishes to maintain an association with the individual.  Unpaid leave may also be granted for religious observances and under the Family and Medical Leave Act. Detail and requirements for unpaid leaves are in the MIT Employment Policy Manual Section 4.8, Unpaid Leaves.

7.5.6 Parental Leaves of Absence

MIT provides a Paid Parental Leave of up to 20 working days during the first year following the  birth, adoption, or foster placement of a new child. This MIT Paid Parental Leave is available to eligible employees in all payroll categories except faculty. Detail on this paid leave is found in the MIT Employment Policy Manual Section 4.4.1 Parental Leave. Staff may also be eligible for partially-paid Bonding Leave. Unpaid leaves for new parents are also described in those sections and in the MIT Employment Policy Manual Section 4.8.3 Family and Medical Leave Act.

Faculty members should refer to Sections 7.5.2 and 7.5.3.

7.5.7 Leaves of Absence for Victims of Domestic Violence

Leaves of absence will be granted to all employees, including all part-time employees, for up to fifteen days in any twelve month period if the employee, or the employee’s family member, is a victim of "abusive behavior." Abusive behavior is defined as domestic violence as well as stalking, sexual assault, and kidnapping. This leave (often referred to as domestic violence leave) must be used to address issues directly related to the abusive behavior, as specified in Section below.

For purposes of this Section 7.5.7, a family member is (i) a parent, step-parent, child, step-child, sibling, grandparent or grandchild; (ii) a spouse or domestic partner; (iii) persons in a substantive dating or engagement relationship and who reside together; (iv) persons having a child in common regardless of whether they have ever married or resided together; or (v) persons in a guardianship relationship.

Domestic violence leave will generally be unpaid but the employee may elect to use any accrued vacation time, personal time (if applicable), or sick time if the leave meets the requirements for paid sick time. The leave may be taken in consecutive days or intermittently. Use of Leave

Domestic violence leave must be used for one or more of the following purposes: to seek or obtain medical attention, counseling, victim services or legal assistance; to secure housing; to obtain a protective order from a court; to appear in court or before a grand jury; to meet with a district attorney or other law enforcement official; to attend child custody proceedings; or to address other issues directly related to the abusive behavior against the employee or the employee’s family member. However, leave is not permitted under this Section 7.5.7 if the employee is the perpetrator of the abusive behavior. Notification

Except in cases of imminent danger to the health or safety of an employee or an employee's family member, the employee must provide the same advance notice that is required in the department, lab, or center for taking vacation or personal leave. If the employee or employee's family member faces imminent danger to their health or safety, prior notification is not required, but the employee must notify their supervisor within three work days after the leave begins. That notification can be made directly by the employee or by another person assisting the employee. Documentation

The department, lab, or center may require that an employee provide documentation showing that the employee or the employee’s family member has been a victim of abusive behavior, and that the leave is or has been taken for the purposes stated in this Section. Such documentation may include documents such as a protective order from a court or other court document, a police report, medical documentation, or a sworn statement. The employee must provide such documentation within a reasonable period of time. In the case of an unscheduled absence, the employee must provide such documentation within 30 days from the last day of the unscheduled absence. Any such documentation should be kept confidential.