Skip to main content

Leave of absence procedure for academic staff

The arrangements described here concern leave of absence for academic purposes, i.e. for teaching and research. Leave of absence for the discharge of public or civic duties or for Compassionate leave may be granted by the College and details are set out separately in either the Family leave arrangements or the Public duties policy.

PROCEDURE FOR APPROVAL: LEAVE OF ABSENCE DURING COLLEGE VACATIONS

Requests for leave of absence during College vacations need not be approved. However members of staff will recognise that some departmental or College duties in teaching, research and administration continue throughout the calendar year, as determined by the Executive Dean in consultation with the Assistant Dean (for subject area). It is therefore necessary that proper arrangements should be made by the member of staff to cover these duties during any period of leave (including vacations).

The Executive Dean and Assistant Dean (for subject area) should be notified of any proposed absence from such duties in good time and how the member of staff can be contacted in an emergency. It is the responsibility of all supervisors to arrange appropriate deputy supervision for their research students during any period of leave including vacations. This will not, of course, preclude the continuation of contacts with the existing supervisor if so desired, but it will ensure that the student has someone to consult directly in the school if difficulties demanding immediate solutions arise.

PROCEDURE FOR APPROVAL: LEAVE OF ABSENCE DURING TERM-TIME

All members of academic staff will be expected to carry a normal teaching load and to be present during term, with the exception of probationary staff, other categories of staff mentioned below and those staff on agreed leave of absence, as follows:

  • Leave of absence during term-time is defined as leave to be absent from College teaching and administrative duties.

Leave of three days or less

Staff are expected to consult their Assistant Dean (for subject area) on each occasion prior to taking leave of absence for up to three days. It is not necessary to consult the Executive Dean but he or she should be informed. It is also not necessary to complete an application form. The Assistant Dean (for subject area) shall determine whether the proposed leave of absence may be granted.

LEAVE OF MORE THAN THREE DAYS BUT LESS THAN ONE TERM

Applications shall be made to the Executive Dean via the Assistant Dean (for subject area). The Executive Dean (in consultation with the Assistant Dean and/or course director of inter-disciplinary courses whose teaching programme would be affected by the absence) shall determine whether the leave of absence may be granted.

Applications should be made by completing the Application form for leave of absence (Word) (Birkbeck staff only).

Staff on probation and those in their first two years of employment at the College may apply for paid leave of absence of up to five consecutive working days to attend conferences and meetings.

LEAVE OF ONE TERM OR MORE (STUDY LEAVE)

Study Leave is defined as paid leave from teaching and administration for the purposes of research, study, or the preparation of academic publications for a period of one term or more. Academic members of staff on Study Leave will continue to be paid their full salary during the period of Study Leave. However, if absent from the College they will be expected to make their offices available to their school for other uses. Study Leave is primarily for the benefit of the College, as well as enhancing the career of the staff member concerned. Therefore the normal expectation is that staff will not take Study Leave directly before ceasing their employment at the College.

With the exception of the Deputy Vice-Chancellor and the Executive Deans (see below) Study Leave will not involve the College paying any additional costs incurred, e.g. for replacement teaching, from any central College budget.

Academic staff may apply for one term’s Study Leave after the completion of nine terms' service. Credits can be accumulated to form longer blocks, if required. In exceptional circumstances (e.g. to comply with the British Academy research leave scheme) staff may take Study Leave one term earlier than when a credit is due and such applications will be treated sympathetically, according to circumstances.

It should be noted in this context that Maternity and Paternity Leave does count towards a member of staff’s length of service on which Study Leave credit is based, as does a period of Study Leave.

Applications should be made by completing the Application form for leave of absence (Word) (Birkbeck staff only).

A staff member applying for Study Leave should submit the completed form to their Executive Dean for approval, via the Assistant Dean, regarding its timing. Assistant Deans, having consulted departmental colleagues, must make their own decisions about priorities in submitting applications for Study Leave to the Executive Dean. Assistant Deans will be expected to pay due regard to previous leave taken under school Study Leave schemes, and to previous periods of Unpaid Leave taken.

In all cases Study Leave credit will be treated as having accumulated since the beginning of the employment of the member of staff concerned as a member of the academic staff at the College (provided they have three years or more service at the College at the start of the pilot scheme), up to a maximum of one year’s accumulated credit in the case of a long-serving member of academic staff who has not previously taken Study Leave. Assistant Deans should normally provide equal opportunities to all post-probationary staff to apply for Study Leave.

The leave shall be reported by the Executive Dean to the Chair of the Staffing Committee, Academic Board, the Research Committee, and to Governors (via an annual composite report submitted to each in the Autumn Term). All staff members completing a period of Study Leave must submit a brief report on how the Leave was used to their Executive Dean, via their Assistant Dean.

Study leave for office holders

Executive Deans and the Deputy Vice-Chancellor will receive two terms’ Study Leave credit in addition to their normal Study Leave credit, on completing a five-year term of office. An Executive Dean or Deputy Vice-Chancellor who resigns before completing five years but after completing three, would receive one term’s additional Study Leave credit. A Deputy Vice-Chancellor who completes seven years in office will be given three terms’ additional Study Leave credit. On completing a five-year term of office, a Dean of the College will be given one term’s additional Study Leave credit. The cost of replacing teaching in all these cases will be met by the College centrally.

Executive Deans and the Deputy Vice-Chancellor will apply to the Vice-Chancellor for Study Leave referred to in paragraph above. Where the leave requested is for a period greater than one term the Strategic Planning Committee shall approve the absence and nominate an Acting Executive Dean for the Governors’ approval. The Academic Board and Governors shall be notified of the Committee’s decision.

Unpaid leave

Unpaid Leave is defined as a period of exemption from College teaching and administration duties of one term or more, during which the College does not pay the salary of a member of staff in question, or alternatively it receives external funds to cover his or her commitments to the College in those respects. It may be for any approved purpose.

The possibility of rearranging timetables to cover for the staff member’s absence will need to be fully explored. Only where the rearrangement of the timetable would be demonstrably impractical will the measures outlines in the following paragraph be considered.

Alternatively, having regard to such factors as the size of departmental establishments, the continuation of vacant posts and the varying patterns of teaching, and to ensure equity in the operation of the policy, his or her department will be paid from school funds sufficient sums so his or her teaching and supervision can normally be met by part-time teachers (or in mutually agreed circumstances, where this is demonstrably not possible or practical, through other arrangements).

No member of staff will normally be permitted to take Unpaid Leave for a period of less than one term.

Unpaid Leave shall not count towards a member of staff’s length of service on which Study Leave credit is based.

Applications for Unpaid Leave require the approval of the Executive Dean.

Applications should be made by completing the Application form for leave of absence (Word) (Birkbeck staff only).

In considering applications for Unpaid Leave, the Executive Dean will give consideration to the frequency and duration of periods of Study Leave and Unpaid Leave taken by the member of staff concerned over the previous five years.

The Executive Dean will determine whether such leave shall be granted and the leave shall be reported to the Chair of the Strategic Planning Committee, the Academic Board and to Governors (via a composite annual report submitted to each during the Autumn Term).

No members of staff may take Unpaid Leave during their first two years of employment at the College, or if they are on probation.

LEAVE TO TAKE UP A FIXED-TERM POST AT ANOTHER INSTITUTION

Applications shall be recommended by the Executive Dean, in consultation with the Assistant Dean (for subject area) and any other department whose teaching programme would be affected by the proposed leave, and approved by the Strategic Planning Committee.

If leave of absence to hold a post for more than one year at another institution is approved by the Strategic Planning Committee, the member of staff will be required to give one year’s notice of his or her intention of return. The leave shall be reported to the Academic Board and Governors.

Appeals against decisions

The Executive Dean will inform any unsuccessful applicant of the reasons. Any applicant who is unsuccessful in an application for leave for more than three days, or Study Leave, or Unpaid Leave, shall have the right to appeal to the Vice-Chancellor (or nominee).

GUIDELINES FOR THE ASSESSMENT OF APPLICATIONS

Academic considerations

The grounds for granting Study Leave or Unpaid Leave of absence is where the Executive Dean in consultation with the Assistant Dean (for subject area) is satisfied that the proposed leave of absence is directly related to the further development of promising research activity or to the high quality of teaching. The nature of the work is a matter for the member of staff concerned provided that it is academically relevant.

The maximum period of Unpaid Leave of absence shall normally be one year; in the case of an application for more than one year, a fully argued case shall be presented on the lines of a research grant application to a Research Council or Foundation.

In considering applications for either Study Leave or Unpaid Leave the Executive Dean, in discussion with the Assistant Dean and/or course director of interdisciplinary courses whose teaching programme would be affected by the absence, will need to be satisfied that the staff member has made adequate provision for providing cover for his or her duties in their absence. In no department should more than one-quarter of the teaching hours be covered by postgraduate research students teaching on a part-time basis.

The member of staff applying for either Study Leave or Unpaid Leave needs to apply to their Executive Dean, via the Assistant Dean, in good time before the proposed leave period. Where Study Leave or Unpaid Leave of one term or more is sought, applications should be sent to the Executive Dean, via the Assistant Dean, and at least six months before the first day of term from which the leave is requested, accompanied by an outline of the proposed scheme for the leave, including the purpose, date and duration proposed. The submission should be accompanied by written comments about the application from the Assistant Dean (for subject area) concerned.

When Study Leave or Unpaid Leave has been approved, the Assistant Dean will notify the Academic Registrar of arrangements for the supervision of research students.

Financial arrangements

No applications can be approved until appropriate arrangements are made. These may include the options set out below:

  • External organisations may pay either the member of staff’s salary or replacement teaching costs when he or she is on Unpaid Leave.

  • The Assistant Dean also needs to ensure that proper arrangements have been made for the supervision of postgraduate research students. Departments will either establish joint supervision for all research students, or ensure that students of staff members on Study Leave are provided with an alternative supervisor for the duration. This will not, of course, preclude the continuation of contacts with the existing supervisor if so desired, but it will ensure that students can seek advice and support in their studies.

Superannuation arrangements

The school will bear the employer's superannuation costs of Unpaid Leave only after a member of the academic staff has been employed for a minimum of five years, and only if the individual elects to continue their employee superannuation contributions during their period of Unpaid Leave. 

Employees' superannuation contributions should be paid on a monthly basis, however, given the practical difficulties that this may entail, advanced agreement may be entered into for members to repay their contribution balance on a single fixed date as soon as they return to work. If this is not an option at all because of costs or for other reasons of choice, the member can further opt to pay a smaller premium just to cover death in service and ill health, in which case there would be no associated employer's costs.

The College will not pay towards superannuation costs of any further periods of Unpaid Leave for another seven years after the date of return from the last period.

Members of staff who are granted permission to take Unpaid Leave within five years of appointment, or more often than one year in seven, shall be required to bear both the employee and employer's superannuation costs themselves if they wish to maintain their pensionable service.

This rule will normally be applicable to members of staff who are on Unpaid Leave for a period of up to one academic year.

In the case of those members of staff who are on Unpaid Leave for more than one year, employer's superannuation costs are normally met by the host institution.

Please note that for the avoidance of confusion it should be noted that 'Study Leave' or 'Paid leave' means that the member of staff’s salary is paid by the School during the leave. 'Unpaid Leave' means that the salary is not paid by the school.