The following list of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) is designed to address questions that often emerge for faculty who are contemplating applying for family or medical leave. The document has been developed by the ADVANCE Office for Faculty Equity & Resilience in consultation with people knowledgeable about the UMass Lowell (UML) policies and procedures. The information provided is for general informational purposes only. None of the following answers should be viewed as legally binding given that many issues and options are shaped by each individual’s specific situation. An employee seeking information on or in need of a family or medical leave should contact the UMass Lowell Benefits Office by email at: to review the leave process and possible options based on their individual circumstances.


What is Family and Medical Leave?

It is a temporary job-protected leave from your position for family or medical reasons. Most commonly, people take such leaves to care for a spouse, child or parent who has a serious health condition, or when they are unable to work because of their own serious health condition.

What are the laws that cover family and medical leave?

There is a federal law called the Federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). In addition, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts has passed a law called the Paid Family and Medical Leave (PFML) Act.

How is FMLA related to accommodations for disabilities?

Accommodations for disabilities are covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), There are separate processes for initiating requests for medical leave and for accommodations related to disabilities. For guidance about the process and services available and to request a work accommodation, please contact Equal Opportunity and Outreach (EOO) by email at: or by phone: 978-934-3565.

How long is FMLA or PFML family and medical leave?

In accordance with the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), eligible employees of the University are entitled to up to 12 weeks of job-protected unpaid leave during any calendar year. Under the Massachusetts Paid Family and Medical Leave (PFML) act, you may apply for up to 26 weeks of job-protected leave per year for your own medical leave or less for an eligible family member, subject to specifics of your situation.

Am I eligible?

To be eligible for FMLA, employees must have been employed by the University for at least 12 months and have worked at least 1250 hours during the 12-month period immediately preceding the commencement of the leave. To be eligible for PFML, employees must have earned at least $5,700 over the past 4 calendar quarters. In addition, you must have earned at least 30 times the benefit amount that you are eligible for.

What documentation do I need and from whom?

You will need to email: to formally request family and medical leave. Visit the Leaves of Absence webpage for the request form and for more information. You will typically need to complete two forms, which can be explained in more depth when you reach out to Benefits. Benefits can help to outline a plan for your specific situation.

How do Federal leave (FMLA) or State leave (PFML) work?

Under FMLA, your family or medical leave will be covered using the sick time you have accrued at the university. However, FMLA and PFML can work in conjunction with each other such that, if you do not wish to use your sick time, you can apply for paid leave under PFML. The Massachusetts Department of PFML (not UML) determines eligibility and approval of benefits under that program. Please see the state of Massachusetts' Department of Family and Medical Leave (DFML) webpage for more information.

Is it paid? Where does the money come from?

Under FMLA, leave days are without pay; however, an employee may use accrued paid time for any covered FMLA leave (typically sick time). If you apply for PFML, you will receive a percentage of your average weekly wage; the PFML website contains a calculator tool to determine your pay.

How does the approval process work for FMLA? How does it work for PFML?

For FMLA, documents are submitted to the UML Benefits Office for approval and then the employee is notified of the final determination. For PFML, the application is submitted directly to the Massachusetts Department of PFML.

Is unpaid leave possible?

Unpaid leave may be granted under FMLA. Please email: for more information.

What family relationship(s) qualify for medical leave?

Where the leave is for the serious medical condition for another person, under federal FMLA, qualifying persons include the employee’s spouse, child, or parent. The employee must submit a medical certification form supporting the need for leave. Under Massachusetts PFML, family member definitions are expanded. Visit the state of Massachusetts' Types of Paid Family and Medical Leave webpage for more information.

What health conditions are covered?

In accordance with the FMLA, a “serious health condition” means one of the following conditions affecting the employee or the employee’s child, spouse, or parent:

  • An illness, injury, impairment, or physical or mental condition involving inpatient care in a hospital, hospice, or residential medical-care facility;
  • Any period of incapacity requiring absence of more than three calendar days from work, school, or other regular daily activities for a condition that also requires continuing treatment (that is, being treated two or more times, or one treatment resulting in a regimen of continuing medication or therapy) under the supervision of a health care provider (i.e. doctor, dentist, clinical psychologist);
  • Continuing treatment by or under the supervision of a health care provider for a chronic or long-term health condition that is incurable or so serious that, if not treated, would likely result in a period of incapacity of more than 3 calendar days; or
  • Prenatal care
Can I combine medical leave with parental leave?

Yes. Medical and parental leave can work in conjunction with one another under PFML. Please contact for more details.

Will leaves be considered which require absences for less than a semester or intermittently?

Yes. Please email: to review other types of medical leave that may be of short duration or only need to be taken intermittently.

What is intermittent leave and what is the process for it?

Under FMLA, leave taken for the serious health condition of a spouse, child, parent, or of the employee may be taken intermittently or on a reduced schedule, if medically necessary. This means, where appropriate, taking leave in blocks of time, or by reducing the normal weekly or daily work schedule, so long as FMLA leave does not exceed a total of 12 weeks during the calendar year. PFML also allows intermittent leave for your own medical condition or that of a qualified family member.

How does medical leave impact future leaves, if at all? For example, will it affect when I qualify to apply for a sabbatical?

Both federal FMLA and MA PFML have designated periods for job-protected leave. Any medical leave requests outside of these periods would need special approval. Every situation is different, and it is best to review this with the benefits office.

An approved leave of absence for a full-time faculty member or librarian is not counted toward years of service – nor will it be considered a break in service – when determining eligibility for a sabbatical leave.

Does medical leave affect my tenure and/or promotion clock? Do the timelines pause, and if so for how long?

For reasons consistent with those outlined in the Family and Medical Leave Act, a faculty member can receive up to two 1-year extensions of their tenure clock per FMLA. In other words, tenure year extensions due to parental and/or FMLA leaves are additive for up to a maximum of two leaves.

If I am in the State Employees’ Retirement System (SERS), does taking medical leave impact my retirement date (i.e., vested years/weeks)?

For employees participating in the SERS, periods during which an employee is not paid do not count toward service credit. Please contact the State Board at 617-367-7770 for more information, or review with the UMass Lowell Benefits Office.