If you need to be away from work for a period of time, you may be eligible for a paid or unpaid leave of absence.

Paid Leave of Absence

If you use paid time off during your leave of absence, your benefits are not affected by a leave of absence.

Unpaid Leave of Absence

During an unpaid leave of absence, you generally have two options:

  • Continue coverage during the leave either by paying your share of premiums through payroll before your leave starts or through personal payment to the UW System during your leave (not an option for FSA and/or HSA). The employer contribution towards any applicable premium will resume for the coverage month on or after you return to work; or
  • Let the coverage lapse. If you let coverage lapse by not paying the premium while on leave, you have 30 days from your return to work to submit applications to re-enroll.

How Benefits are Affected During an Unpaid Leave of Absence

Below is information on how each benefit plan is affected by an unpaid leave of absence.

Contact your human resources office before your leave so they can explain your options to help you maintain your benefits.

Remember to submit the Employee Benefit Checklist before you go on an unpaid Leave of Absence so you know what will happen to your benefits during your leave.

You are eligible for the employer contribution towards your health insurance for the first three months of your unpaid leave of absence. After the first three months, you can continue coverage but you are required to pay the total premium.

Example: You go on an unpaid leave of absence beginning on January 20. Health insurance premium has already been deducted for February coverage. The UW System will pay its contribution for coverage in March, April and May. If you remain on an unpaid leave of absence after that time, you are responsible for the full monthly premium cost.

You may continue coverage for up to 36 months while on an unpaid leave, provided you continue to pay the full premium.

Note: If you allow your family coverage to lapse while on leave and you pass away, your surviving family members will not have access to your sick leave credits to pay health insurance premiums.

If you are receiving the Opt-Out Incentive, payments will continue for up to three months while you are on an unpaid leave of absence.

You may continue coverage for up to 36 months while on an unpaid leave, provided you continue to pay the premium.

You may continue coverage for up to 36 months while on an unpaid leave, provided you continue to pay the premium.

You may continue coverage for up to 36 months while on an unpaid leave, provided you continue to pay the premium.

You may continue coverage for up to 36 months while on an unpaid leave, provided you continue to pay the premium.

You may continue coverage for up to 36 months while on an unpaid leave, provided you continue to pay the premium.

If you have paid the premium for the plan year, coverage continues until September 30th following the start of your unpaid leave.

If you are not actively on payroll on November 1st when the annual deduction occurs, you will receive a bill for the annual $24 premium and you will have until December 1st to pay your premium. If premium is not paid by December 1st, your coverage will end as of the prior September 30th with no option of conversion.

You may continue coverage for up to 36 months while on an unpaid leave, provided you continue to pay the premium.

You may continue coverage for up to 36 months while on an unpaid leave, provided you continue to pay the premium.

Income Continuation Insurance (ICI) premiums are paid for the current month of coverage. For example, the premium deduction from June earnings is for June coverage.

If you are not receiving ICI benefits while on an unpaid leave, you may continue coverage for up to 36 months, provided you continue to pay the premium. You are eligible for the employer contribution towards the premium for the first three months of your unpaid leave. You will pay the full premium after the third month.

If you are approved for ICI benefits while on leave, your ICI premium is waived (you pay no premium).

Pre-tax contributions made via payroll will end on your last paycheck prior to your unpaid leave of absence.

Within 30 days of the start of your unpaid leave of absence, you may decrease your annual election by completing an Election Change Request Form. You can decrease your annual election to an amount equal to or greater than what you have already contributed for the current plan year.

Return to Work: When you return to work, your annual election amount will be recalculated for the remaining payrolls in the calendar year and your pre-tax payroll contributions will resume. Within 30 days of your return to work, you may enroll in the FSA or increase your annual election by completing an Election Change Request Form.

Incurring Eligible Expenses:

  • Health Care FSA: You may continue to incur eligible expenses to submit for reimbursement while you are on an unpaid leave of absence if you meet your annual election amount with your pre-tax contributions prior to and after your unpaid leave of absence. If you do not meet your annual election amount with your pre-tax contributions prior to and after your unpaid leave of absence, expenses incurred during your unpaid leave of absence are not eligible for reimbursement.
  • Dependent Day Care: Regardless of whether you meet your annual election amount with your pre-tax contributions prior to and after your unpaid leave of absence, you may continue to incur eligible expenses until December 31st.

You may continue to request HSA distributions for qualified medical, dental and/or vision expenses if adequate funds are available.

Pre-tax employee contributions made via payroll will end on your last paycheck before your unpaid leave of absence. Your employee contributions will resume when you return to work. Employer contributions to your HSA will continue for up to three months while you are on an unpaid leave of absence (if eligible) if you continue your High Deductible Health Plan (i.e. do not let coverage lapse).

You do not earn WRS creditable service while on an unpaid leave of absence. Depending on the number of days you are on an unpaid leave of absence and the employee class you are in you may receive a partial year of creditable service. A partial year would be a percentage of the year that is equivalent to the hours spent in paid status (i.e. actual hours worked, vacation, sick leave or other paid leave status) divided by the number of hours required to qualify for a creditable year of service:

  • For faculty, academic staff, or limited appointees 1,320 hours are needed from 7/1 – 6/30 to receive a full year of creditable service.
  • For university staff employees, 1,904 hours are needed from 1/1 – 12/31 to receive a full year of creditable service.
  • Note: An individual can only earn 1.0 year of creditable service within a calendar year, no matter how many hours an employee is in paid status.

Note that for employees who first became eligible for the WRS after July 1, 2011, five years of creditable service are needed to be vested in the WRS.

Contributions end on your last paycheck and resume when you return to work.

To increase or decrease your dollar or percentage amount, log into MyUW Portal or complete a Salary Reduction Agreement (SRA) and submit it to your institution human resources office.

To stop your contribution or change your provider(s), complete a Salary Reduction Agreement (SRA) and submit it to your human resources office.

Contributions end on your last paycheck and resume when you return to work.

To change your contribution amount contact WDC directly at wdcprogram@empower-retirement.com or 877-457-9327.

You do not earn any paid leave (sick leave, vacation, legal holiday) while you are on an unpaid leave.

Your annual vacation will be reduced for any time you are on an unpaid leave.

Employee Assistance Program (EAP) benefits are available to employees on leave of absence. Click here for information on how to contact the EAP provider.

Premium Payment

For an unpaid leave of absence, benefits may be continued as long as premiums are paid.

You have the option of being direct billed or having deductions from your last paycheck (if time permits).

Direct billing includes paying via check or money order. If you choose direct billing, you will receive a monthly invoice. Invoices are sent around the 25th of each month and payment is due on the 10th of the month. For example, for July coverage, you will be billed on May 25th. Payment is due June 10th. If payment is not received by June 10th, your coverage may be cancelled.

If you go on an unpaid leave of absence, complete the Employee Benefit Checklist and return to your institution human resources office before you go on leave.

If you go on an unpaid leave you may lapse coverage and re-enroll within 30 days of returning to work. Coverage is effective the first day of the month on or after the date the application is received. If coverage was cancelled (an application submitted to cancel coverage) you are not eligible to enroll upon return to work; coverage must lapse, not be terminated voluntarily.

Most premiums are taken one month in advance of the coverage month. If you let your coverage lapse by not paying the premium, coverage will typically end at the end of the month following the start of your leave of absence. For example, if your leave starts on May 15th and you had deductions taken from your last paycheck, most of your benefits will be paid through the end of June.

Family & Medical Leave and Military Leave

See the Family and Medical Leave information to find out if your leave is eligible for coverage under Wisconsin or Federal Family and Medical Leave.

If you are on military leave, different provisions apply. See Military Leave for details.

Ending Employment During Leave

If you end employment while on an unpaid leave of absence, refer to Employment Changes for information about continuing your coverage.

Beneficiary Designations

Remember to review and update your beneficiary designations when you have a life event to make sure that your benefits are paid according to your wishes. Benefit plans that have beneficiary designations include life insurance plans, retirement plans and the health savings account.

Click here for more information

Every effort has been made to ensure this information is current and correct. Information on this page does not guarantee enrollment, benefits and/or the ability to make changes to your benefits.

Updated: 05/29/2020