GSH APPENDIX F - Guidelines for Time Off for Graduate Students Appointed as GAs, Fellows, and Trainees

Introduction - F.1

These guidelines formalize a set of expectations, strongly encouraged by the Graduate School, to be used by academic and administrative units at Ohio State to support graduate associates (GAAs, GRAs, and GTAs, collectively referred to hereafter as GAs), fellows and trainees during instances of personal and/or family illness, bereavement, childbirth and adoption as well as other instances that may require time-off. The specific details of these expectations are found in  Section 11.2.

It is impossible to list every life circumstance and every academic situation that an individual graduate student might face. It is also impossible to list every situation that a faculty or administrative supervisor might face in a teaching, research, or administrative setting. These guidelines recognize that it is important for faculty and administrative supervisors to retain flexibility in working with individual students to determine the most fitting response to a particular student’s situation.  At the same time, Section 11.2 sets out guidelines that are intended to provide more consistency across the university in managing leaves of absence for funded graduate students. Nothing in these guidelines should be read to require the alteration or diminution of policies presently in place in programs that go beyond what is presented here. 

Whenever possible and academically appropriate, these guidelines aim to preserve student status and the student’s means of financial support (including stipend, fee authorization, health care subsidy, and other appointment benefits). 

Leaves of absence for GAs, fellows, and trainees should be less than one semester in duration.  

Types of Leaves of Absence - F.2

Types of leaves of absence include Sick/Bereavement Leave, Personal Leave, Professional Development Leave, and Parental Leave (see Section 11.2 for details).

Eligibility Criteria - F.3

Ohio State graduate or professional students must:

  • Be on fellowship, traineeship (Section 10) or associateship (Section 9) appointments of at least 50 percent FTE paid through the Ohio State payroll system (hereafter collectively referred to as “funded graduate students”). 
  • A GTA, GRA or GAA must hold an appointment of at least 50 percent FTE (or multiple concurrent appointments combined for at least 50 percent FTE) paid through the Ohio State payroll system to be approved for a leave of absence. In the case of multiple appointments, different appointing units should work together with the student (and their enrolling unit, where appropriate) to create a coherent plan for the leave of absence. 
  • Fellows and trainees funded by external agencies are also subject to the guidelines established by the funding agency.
  • Be making reasonable progress (Section 5.4) toward the degree.
  • Be in good academic standing (Section 5.1).
  • Be enrolled at the level required to hold the appointment (Sections 9 and 10) Requirements for full-time enrollment may be reduced with the approval of the appropriate Graduate Studies Committee, the Graduate School, and other relevant entities (such as a funding agency, Office of International Affairs, etc.).

Procedures and Guidelines for Leaves of Absence - F.4

Unexpected absences are usually the most difficult to manage, since they require careful balancing of the student’s personal needs with academic and administrative policies, the student’s academic standing and degree progress, unit or principal investigator needs, and funding realities. Appropriately addressing these challenging life situations, which can also jeopardize degree progress or degree completion, typically involves not only the graduate student and their supervisor but also the student’s advisor, Graduate Studies Committee Chair, and often the department head. Some situations may require additional expertise (from the Graduate School, the Office of International Affairs, the Office of Human Resources, the Office of Student Financial Aid, the Office of the Ombuds, or other areas). 

Notification/Documentation. To be granted a leave of absence, the students must notify their advisor, in writing, as soon as possible. For parental, personal and professional leaves, advisor approval must occur before deciding to take these leaves of absence. All requests for leaves must be approved by the graduate advisor and/or the appointment unit, as applicable. Graduate associates and fellows in need of leave or workplace accommodations related to a medical condition should be directed by their advisor and/or their graduate program to contact Integrated Absence Management and Vocational Services (IAMVS) within the Office of Human Resources. IAMVS provides assistance/consultation to units and employees (faculty, staff, and student employees) regarding FMLA leave, disability benefits including workers’ compensation, and workplace accommodations related to a disability (e.g., scheduling adjustments, physical limitations, leave as an accommodation, assistive technology, etc.). Furthermore, in order to maintain confidentiality, supporting medical documentation is requested by and maintained solely within IAMVS.

Approval Process. The Graduate School has made these suggestions based on reasonable actions, but requests for all leaves of absence are handled at the local level. When in need of a leave of absence, the funded graduate student would make a request in writing (via e-mail) as promptly as possible to their immediate academic and/or administrative supervisor. A completed GA request for leave form should be attached to the student’s e-mail. In the case of short-term absences (less than 2 weeks) such as sick or professional development leaves, it is suggested at least the advisor make the decision. In the case of leaves of absence of longer duration, the academic and/or administrative supervisor should consult with the student’s advisor and chair of the Graduate Studies Committee in the student’s program of study. The appointing unit may designate additional individuals who must approve requests for leaves of absence. In some cases it may be necessary for the supervisor and/or student to consult with other entities (such as a funding agency, the Office of International Affairs, etc.). For students on a Graduate School fellowship appointment, the student’s program of study must notify the Office of Fellowship Services of the student’s leave of absence.

Denial. A request for a leave of absence without requiring makeup time may be denied by the advisor, graduate committee, supervisor of the unit, or IAMVS due to an inappropriate or unreasonable request, including inadequate documentation; repeated requests for leaves of absence; documented unsatisfactory performance; and/or incompatibility with funding agency or other institutional guidelines (such as requirements applying to international students). 

Appeal ProcessIf a dispute over a request arises, the graduate student should follow the appointing unit’s appeal guidelines. Such guidelines often begin with an informal discussion with an advisor, Graduate Studies Committee Chair, department chair, college dean, and/or unit director. Such discussions will often lead to a successful resolution. In cases where a successful resolution cannot be reached at the local level, the Graduate School is available to offer advice and, in certain situations, to provide a formal hearing and adjudication. The Office of Human Resources and the Office of the Ombuds can also provide information and consultation.

Appointment and Stipend Protection. Whenever possible and academically appropriate, the funded graduate student’s appointment and stipend (including fee authorization, health care subsidy, etc.) should be protected and should extend as long as is necessary by proper documentation, or until the end of the academic semester or summer term, whichever comes first. A funded graduate student who has been appointed for more than one year at or above 1,250 hours/year may be eligible for FMLA or ADA benefits. However, leave consideration is not contingent upon FMLA eligibility.

Extension of Leave of Absence. In some cases, it may be appropriate to extend a leave of absence into a new, contiguous appointment. Leaves of absence that need to be extended beyond the initial appointment may be stipend-protected (in whole or in part) for reasons stated in Section F.5 and Section F.6 and at the sole discretion of the appointing unit.

Registration Requirements. Graduate students on stipend-protected leaves of absence must meet the minimum Graduate School registration requirements to hold an appointment (Sections 9 and 10). Students on an approved medical leave of absence may request a reduced course load during their absence period. The student may also discuss with their advisor the possibility of registering for courses with more flexibility such as research credits or courses offered online. 

Coverage of Responsibilities. Funded graduate students who are requesting paid or unpaid leaves of absence must follow the procedures established by their appointing units to cover responsibilities in cases of absence. When managing coverage of duties for an absent funded graduate student, appointing units must be sensitive to the load of other graduate students.

Appointing units currently use a variety of practices to manage leaves of absences that extend beyond two weeks. Approaches include temporary assignment of responsibilities to another funded graduate student, accompanied by a temporary increase in that graduate student’s appointment percentage (e.g., from 50 percent to 75 percent) or a special payment to that graduate student to compensate for additional effort over a period of time. 

In some situations it is not necessary to cover the duties and the assignments can be held until the student returns from a leave of absence. In some cases, a graduate student who is not funded is placed on a new appointment to cover the duties. Graduate students may not serve as “volunteer GAs” for the duration of a leave of absence; that is, graduate students may not serve without a stipend, at a stipend not commensurate with the expected load, or without appropriate payment of tuition and fees. Circumstances that may warrant an exception must be approved in advance by the Graduate School. 

Funding for Leaves of Absence - F.5

Appointing units at Ohio State currently manage the financial aspects of GA leaves of absence within their departmental budgets, seeking assistance from their colleges, the Graduate School or other offices (such as the Office of Research) in cases of hardship. College deans have expressed preference for continuing to use the present approach of managing GA leaves of absence locally. 

As current practices are formalized, it is not intended that appointing units would experience financial hardship in managing leaves of absence. It is also recognized that principal investigators with externally funded research grants may have issue with the requirements of particular grants, where flexibility may be limited. If such concerns arise, appointing units should contact their college offices or the Office of Sponsored Programs (for PIs). The Graduate School will also be available to help with problem-solving. 

In many cases, the costs associated with GA leaves of absence are fairly modest, such as the cost of temporarily increasing a funded graduate student’s appointment percentage (e.g., from 50 percent to 75 percent) or making a special payment to that graduate student to compensate for additional effort over a period of time. In some cases, it is not necessary to cover the duties, and the assignments can be held without harm until the student returns from a leave of absence. 

There are cases where a person who is not currently on a university appointment has to be placed on a new appointment to cover the duties; this person would most often be another graduate student but, especially in the case of the performance arts, could be an instructor or lecturer with special skills. In such situations, costs could potentially include a stipend or salary and any benefits associated with the appointment, such as coverage of tuition and fees. 

Selected Definitions for Medical Conditions - F.6

Serious Health Condition. An illness, injury, impairment, or physical/mental condition that meets either one of the following:

  • Involves inpatient care in a hospital, hospice, or residential medical care facility, including any period of incapacity or any subsequent treatment in connection with such inpatient care. 
  • Continuing treatment by a health care provider that consists of a period of incapacity that also involves treatment multiple times by a health care provider or treatment at least once by a health care provider that results in a regimen of continuing treatment and continuing incapacity. 
  • Chronic conditions, episodic incapacity (e.g., diabetes, epilepsy, etc.), permanent/long-term conditions (e.g., Alzheimer’s, cancer, etc.) or multiple treatments (e.g., chemotherapy, dialysis, etc.). 

Relevant Selected Definitions for Parental Leave of Absence - F.7

This leave of absence allows for a specified period of appointment- and stipend-protected leave associated with the birth or adoption of a child. 

A funded graduate student on an approved paid leave of absence from appointment responsibilities for childbirth or adoption may receive 100 percent of their stipend and other benefits associated with the appointment (fee authorization, health care subsidy, etc.).  See Section 11.2 for more information.

The same appointment status (with equivalent benefits, pay, and other terms) is to be available after this leave of absence has been taken, provided the appointment or reappointment would normally have been available. Assigned duties, however, may be subject to change. 

A leave of absence following the birth or adoption of a child is not to have a negative impact on appointment status or opportunities. 

For funded graduate students who are eligible for leave:

  • The birth parent’s stipend is to be maintained for up to six weeks (see Section 11.2) or until the last day of the appointment, whichever comes first.
  • Non-birth parent’s (up to two parents per new birth or adoption) stipend is to be maintained for up to three weeks or until the last day of the appointment, whichever comes first.


  • Birth parent, an individual who gives birth to a child
  • Non-birth parenta parent who is legally responsible for child rearing as the spouse or domestic partner of the birth parent
  • Domestic partner, a same- or opposite-sex adult partner who has met the requirements of and has a completed Affidavit of Domestic Partnership for Funded Graduate Students’ Leaves of Absence on file with the Graduate School
  • Adoptive parent, a parent who has taken a child into one’s family, through legal means, to raise as one‘s own child. This is not applicable to foster parents.

Use. A leave of absence for childbirth or adoption for a funded graduate student should generally commence immediately following the birth or adoption of a child and not be used intermittently. In some instances parental leave may commence prior to the event when deemed medically necessary or when requisite to fulfill the legal requirements for an adoption.

If both parents are funded graduate students, parental leave can be taken consecutively but is not intended to be used intermittently.

A leave of absence for childbirth or adoption is available for each funded graduate student, for each birth or adoption event. The number of children involved does not increase the length of a leave of absence granted for that event.


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