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Unpaid leave

Unpaid leave

Where individuals have requested a period of unpaid leave for up to 3 months, it should be approved by senior management (line manager/Head of Discipline and Director of Service/Pro-Vice-Chancellor), who will take account of the operational needs of the area. Ordinarily individuals will be expected to have exhausted their annual leave entitlement before a request to take unpaid leave will be approved (excluding unpaid Emergency Leave, please see policy for further information). Unpaid leave is for a period of up to 3 months. If you require a longer period please see the Career Break Scheme.

There is no statutory or contractual entitlement to unpaid leave, although the University will give due consideration to all requests from eligible staff. If you are working on a visa please contact the International Immigration Adviser before applying.

Is the individual's contract of employment affected?

An employee will continue to accrue continuous service during a period of unpaid leave for the purposes of statutory employment rights, but the period of unpaid leave will not count towards any service related benefits e.g. occupational sick pay. For these purposes service before the unpaid leave will be aggregated with service after the unpaid leave. During this time an individual remains an employee of the University and will continue to be bound by the terms and conditions of their contract, including the duty of good faith and fidelity, the disciplinary procedure and policies on data protection and safeguarding intellectual property.

Payment Arrangements

Your pay will reduce for the period of your unpaid leave. For example if your unpaid leave is from 1 June 2020 to 31 July 2020 you will receive nil pay in June and July.

Annual Leave

You are required to take the annual leave you have accrued up to the date you commence your unpaid leave before you begin the unpaid leave. An employee is not entitled to contractual annual leave or paid University closure days during unpaid leave. An employee continues to accrue statutory annual leave at 28 days per year inclusive of bank holidays: Statutory annual leave must be taken during the unpaid leave and will not be paid.


The period of unpaid leave will not count towards benefits in either the USS, ERRS or NHS pension schemes; membership of USS,ERSS and NHS will be suspended for the duration of unpaid leave and the Death in Service and other benefits may be impacted for the duration of unpaid leave. No contributions from the employer will be paid. The employee can, upon return from unpaid leave, investigate the possibility of making extra contributions by way of Additional Voluntary Contributions to mitigate some of the suspended benefits. Employees considering applying for unpaid leave are strongly advised to speak the Pensions team in HR to discuss how their individual circumstances will impact their pension scheme entitlements.

Work during unpaid leave

There is an expectation that no work will be undertaken during unpaid leave. If an employee wishes to take up any paid work during their unpaid leave (that they have not previously requested) they must obtain written consent from the Pro-Vice Chancellor of their College/Director of Service (in agreement with their HRBP on behalf of the Director of HR) before commencing any work.

Requests for unpaid work must also be communicated to the Pro-Vice Chancellor of their College/Director of Service (in agreement with their HRBP on behalf of the Director of HR), such requests will not be unreasonably refused.

Sick pay

An employee may be entitled to statutory sick pay, subject to the usual qualifying conditions, but there is no entitlement to occupational sick pay. Unpaid leave may affect eligibility and/or the amount of statutory sick pay to which an individual is entitled. For more information see the government web pages on statutory sick pay

National Insurance

It is the responsibility of the employee to check what impact any gaps in National Insurance contributions may have on their entitlement to state benefits and/or state pension.

University Property

All University property should be returned to your manager unless agreed in writing by the University.


If during unpaid leave an employee’s post is part of an area which is subject to restructuring they will be included in the communications and consultation in the same way as other employees in accordance with the University’s restructuring and redundancy framework. It is the employee's responsibility to ensure their contact details are up to date. 

Contact People Services

The authorising manager should inform their HR contact prior to the period of leave being taken so that salary adjustments can be processed in a timely manner.