Unpaid Leave of Absence

(revised 9/18/2023)

According to university policy, a faculty member may request an unpaid leave of absence of one year with a one-year renewal; there is no option for renewal beyond two years.  If the faculty member does not return to Harvard Chan School upon the expiration of the leave, his or her faculty appointment will be terminated as of that date.  The tenure clock does not stop during a leave of absence taken for professional reasons, and time taken as a leave of absence does not count toward the years-in-residence requirement for tenured professors’ sabbatical eligibility. For more information, please see our HCSPH Appointments Handbook.

It is expected that the purpose of a requested leave of absence is to allow faculty members to conduct personal or professional activities of a temporary nature, and in requesting a leave of absence (rather than submitting their resignation), faculty members are signaling a good-faith intention to return to the school.  In particular, a leave of absence will not be granted to an individual who has accepted a regular faculty position at another academic institution on a permanent basis.

While on leave of absence an individual may accept a position as a visiting faculty member at another institution; this is the only status that is permitted by Harvard University, and it is required that the individual’s title include the word “visiting.”  A faculty member may not be a regular (i.e., voting) faculty member at another institution or hold an administrative position at that institution while on leave of absence from Harvard Chan School.

Faculty members on leave of absence are prohibited from participating in certain school or university activities during the period of their leave. For example, they may do occasional teaching, but may not serve as primary instructor of a course; they may serve as a member of a dissertation committee, but may not chair such a committee. Faculty members on leave may not be a principal investigator on grants at Harvard University, but may be an investigator on a formal subcontract agreement between the university and another institution/organization.

Faculty members wishing to request a leave of absence should write to their department chair, outlining the reasons for the proposed leave and describing how their obligations (e.g., teaching and advising) will be carried out in their absence. The department chair should forward this request, with his or her endorsement, to the dean for academic affairs for approval.