7.5 Leaves of Absence and Faculty Teaching Relief

This policy was last updated January 4, 2021. 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 Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA) occur during sabbatical, the faculty member may request an FMLA leave and a suspension of the sabbatical for the period of FMLA leave. (See MIT Employment Policy Manual Section 4.8.3.)

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 Leave 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.

During the transition period (School years 2000-2001 and 2001-2002) where existing junior faculty who have not previously had this opportunity take advantage of this new program, the following schedule applies. In Year 1, 2000 - 2001, leaves are only available to faculty who are in the fifth and sixth years on the tenure track. In 2001-2002, the leave is available to faculty in years three through six. In the third and subsequent years, faculty in years two through six may take the leave.

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.

7.5.2 Other 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 medical, personal, or family 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 medical, personal, or family crises or who have urgent obligations that interfere with their work. The conditions include, but are not limited to, those defined in the Family and Medical Leave Act and detailed in Section 4.8.3 of the MIT Employment Policy Manual, which states that leaves may be taken for the purpose of:

  1. an employee's own serious health condition (including conditions related to pregnancy and childbirth);
  2. the birth and care of the employee's newborn child (leave must be completed within 12 months of the date of birth);
  3. the placement of a child with the employee for adoption or foster care (leave must be completed within 12 months of the date of placement); or
  4. the serious health condition of the employee's child, parent, or spouse* requiring the employee's participation in care.

(*This policy will also include same-sex "spousal equivalent," according to the following definition: the partner is the same sex as the employee and is at least 18 years of age; the partner has shared a common residence with the employee for a period of at least four consecutive months and intends to reside indefinitely with the employee; the partner and the employee consider themselves life partners, share joint responsibility for their common welfare, and are financially interdependent.)

In consideration of such conditions, eligible faculty members are entitled to a leave without pay of up to 12 weeks in a 12-month period. More detail on the FMLA may be found in the MIT Employment Policy Manual Section 4.8.3. Unpaid leave beyond 12 weeks may be granted subject to approval and required documentation. 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 FMLA leave. Except as stated in Section 7.5.3 Faculty Teaching Relief or otherwise specifically stated, the time included in these special arrangements is included in the calculation of years of service for tenure decisions.

7.5.3 Faculty Teaching Relief

Faculty members, regardless of gender, who wish to spend 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, normally, they will not increase their usual outside professional activities.

Faculty members can take advantage of this policy in any term they choose within one year after the arrival of a child. 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.

For policies on tenure and family-care issues, see 3.2.1 Extension of Tenure Clock for Childbearing and 3.2.2 Part-Time Appointment with Tenure for Family Care. For information on unpaid leaves associated with family or medical situations, see Section 7.5.6 Parental Leaves of Absence Without Pay and the MIT Employment Policy Manual Section 4.8.3 Leaves Provided under the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993.

7.5.4 Sick Leave Policy for Faculty, Academic Staff, Research Staff, and Administrative Staff

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 (again, up to 40 hours per year); see Section 7.5.7 Leaves of Absence for Victims of Domestic Violence.  A family member under this policy is a spouse, domestic partner, child, parent, or parent of spouse or domestic partner; a person who stood in loco parentis to the employee when the employee was a minor child; or a grandchild, grandparent, or sibling of the employee. 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.

Extreme cases of extended illness or accident 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. Medical evidence may be required 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. Departments are responsible for reporting a continuous absence greater than one month to the office of their School dean or senior officer or to their human resources officer for review.

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 leave used by a faculty member will run concurrently with the PFMLA to the extent of any overlap.

Sick leave for academic, research and administrative staff, as well as for support staff, are described in the MIT Employment Policy Manual Section 4.3.

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 Other Leaves for the Faculty and 7.5.3 Faculty Teaching Relief.

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 7.5.7.1 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.

7.5.7.1 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.

7.5.7.2 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 his or her health or safety, prior notification is not required, but the employee must notify his or her 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.

7.5.7.3 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.