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Leave of Absence without Pay


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Employees may be granted unpaid leave or “leave of absence without pay” (LWOP) for an employee absence. LWOP may be allowed for time that an employee is absent for any of the following reasons:

The terms and conditions under which an employee may take LWOP are specified by the terms of the employee’s employment program or collective bargaining agreement for each bargaining unit. This page provides links to the relevant section of each collective bargaining agreement as well as some general information that is applicable across employment programs and collective bargaining agreements.

Generally, employees returning from an authorized leave of absence are employed in the same position or in another position in the same class, geographical area and organizational unit. Such return to employment, however, must not be in conflict with rules relating to layoff or other terms of the employee’s employment program or collective bargaining agreement.


Approving LWOP requests

When an employee submits a written LWOP request, you will need to take the following steps:

  1. Verify the employee’s leave balances.
    • The employee’s accrued paid leave must be used before going on LWOP unless the leave is covered by the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) or taking a disability or parental leave of absence. Employees taking LWOP for personal reasons (e.g., extended vacation), must exhaust all appropriate paid leave balances prior to going on LWOP.
    • If your department uses the Online Work/Leave System (OWLS) to maintain its employees’ leave records and you are authorized to review the employee’s record, log in to OWLS, and review the employee’s balances. If your department uses another authorized alternative system, check with your department’s timekeeper.
  2. Check the employee’s employment program or collective bargaining agreement to determine the applicable LWOP rules and eligibility.

    You are not required to approve the LWOP request unless the employment program or collective bargaining agreement specifies otherwise. Generally, a request for LWOP is not approved if there are paid leave or compensatory time balances that could be used to cover the absence.

  3. Follow your department’s normal leave request/approval procedures to obtain from the employee a written LWOP request in advance of the effective date(s).
  4. Review the LWOP request to ensure that it identifies the reason and duration ofthe requested leave.
  5. If you are reasonably certain that the employee’s position will be available upon his or her return, you may approve the request.
  6. A request for leave may be denied, but there must be valid business reasons for doing so. Please consult with your department’s area Human Resources Consultant before denying a requested leave.
  7. Forward the request to the appropriate dean or vice president for approval and processing in accordance with your departmental leave processing practices.


Employees whose LWOP may extend beyond one month should be sure to review information about benefits retention during a leave of absence without pay.

Reminder: Update information in the UW payroll system when an employee is returning from a leave of absence on or before their first day back to work.

All LWOP should not exceed 12 months in duration with the exception for extended military service leave and leave covered by the disability leave allowance.

If the employee’s position is eliminated while the employee is on leave and if there is no other comparable vacancy in the unit, the employee will be separated under the provisions for Layoff-Reduction in Force.