Use of Sick Time and Dependent Care Sick Time

This policy addresses the use of sick time and paid time off for care of dependents (both sick and well) with some temporary changes for Harvard staff during the COVID-19 emergency.

  • Massachusetts COVID-19 Emergency Paid Sick Leave: Employees who need leave to take care of themselves or a covered family member due to COVID-19 (including diagnosis, symptoms, to get or recover from a COVID-19 immunization, and required quarantines) between May 28, 2021 and September 30, 2021, may use up to 40 hours of MA COVID-19 Emergency Paid Leave. Leave amount is based on average number of hours the employee works (ex: 40 hours for those who work 40 hours a week). See MA COVID-19 Emergency Paid Sick Leave for more information and how to request leave.
  • Paid sick time: Harvard provides significant paid sick time for all benefits-eligible faculty and staff. Visit this summary, the Harvard Staff Personnel Manual, or the applicable union contract or faculty handbook for additional details. Other workers, such as those working temporarily on assignment at Harvard, may have paid sick time under Massachusetts law.
  • Advanced use of paid sick time: Employees may accrue negative sick leave balances of up to 14 days for illness or to meet isolation or quarantine requirements through December 31, 2021. This means that, if necessary, eligible staff may use up to 14 days of sick time that they have not yet earned. Negative balances may be recouped from the final paycheck of employees who terminate before they rebuild their sick banks. For needs that exceed available sick time, employees should consult local HR about options, including short-term disability (STD), Family Medical Leave (FML) and MA Paid Family and Medical Leave.
  • Flexible use of paid sick time: Sick time may be taken for illness, isolation or quarantine due to exposure, or for care of immediate family or household members who are ill, or who are required to isolate or quarantine. Please report these absences online in PeopleSoft or other Harvard timekeeping systems promptly, or ask that it be done for you. Public health authorities may ask employers like Harvard to monitor and report trends in absences. For quarantine that is required by Harvard or the Commonwealth of Massachusetts as a result of personal/leisure travel, personal, vacation or time at own expense (TOE) should be used, unless you are able to work remotely.  
  • Flexible use of dependent care sick time: Employees may use paid family and dependent care sick time to care for immediate family and household members who are ill or must isolate or quarantine due to exposure. Normally, dependent care sick time is limited to 5-12 days annually. This annual limit remains waived until December 31, 2021.
    • Normally, Harvard’s flexible work guidelines prohibit remote work while caring for dependent family members. Those guidelines have been temporarily amended. That means:
      • If you are not working in order to actively care for ill or quarantining/isolating dependents or household members – use dependent care sick time.
      • If you are not working in order to actively care for well dependents or household members whose schooling or care arrangements have been disrupted, use an Emergency Excused Absence for Dependent Well Care. This is a new, temporary paid-time-off benefit provided to reduce family stress during the pandemic. The benefit is up to 10 days of paid time that may be used if needed between January 1 and August 31, 2021 (no additional days are provided between July 1 and August 31, 2021. Rather, the time to use the 10 days has been extended).
      • If you are working remotely with relatively self-sufficient dependents or household members at home due to COVID-19 disruptions – no need to report the use of paid time off.
  • Annual limits on the use of dependent care sick time: Employees may exceed the regular limits on the use of sick time for immediate family or household members (normally 5 to 12 days per year for staff) to care for dependents who are ill or need to isolate/quarantine. As noted above, "negative" sick balances may be deducted from the final paycheck of employees who terminate before they can rebuild their accrued sick time. For this reason, staff may prefer to reduce their time commitment or use personal or vacation days for this purpose.  
    • Use of sick time for family and dependent care is still subject to the availability of regular sick time, plus an additional 14 days of "unearned" (i.e., not yet earned) sick time. For example, if an employee has 15 sick days already accrued, all 15 days plus an additional 14 days of unearned sick time are available.
  • Emergency excused absence for dependent well care: Harvard is providing an additional paid time off benefit that can be used if needed for care of members of the immediate family or household (including children, adults and elders) who are well but whose schooling or care arrangements have been disrupted by COVID-19.
    • Members of Harvard’s core, non-temporary staff, both nonunion and represented, are eligible. This includes actively-employed members of the administrative/professional, support and service and trades staffs. Staff members on leave or furlough are not eligible.
    • The benefit is up to 10 days of paid time off for dependent well care between January 1 and August 31, 2021 (no additional days are provided between July 1 and August 31, 2021. Rather, the time to use the 10 days has been extended). Unused well care days from 2020 may not be carried forward to this period. This benefit is prorated based on FTE (e.g., someone normally working half time is eligible for 5 days during this period.)
    • This time must be requested and approved online in PeopleSoft or another Harvard timekeeping system. Exempt staff should report use of this time in increments no smaller than a half-day.
    • Use of an emergency excused absence for dependent well care should be part of an overall flexible work arrangement for each affected employee that balances Harvard’s need for operational continuity with individual and family needs. Managers and employees are strongly urged to make these arrangements explicit, and to talk through what combination of flexible schedules, paid time off and temporary time status reductions will be used to create a sustainable, workable situation for all involved, including coworkers. Please consult HR for support, guidance and assistance as needed.
    • ​​​​Paid sick time and other benefits (such as Family Medical Leave) remain available to care for dependents who are ill or need to isolate or quarantine, in addition to the MA COVID-19 Emergency Paid Sick Leave noted above.
  • Return to Work: In general, medical clearance for return to on-campus work after confirmed or presumed illness from COVID-19 must be obtained from Harvard University Health Services, and a Crimson Clear pass must be obtained each day of on-campus work after that. Contact Health Services when you become ill initially, and when you are ready to return to on-campus work by emailing
  • Documentation: A “doctor’s note” or documentation of illness or dependent care responsibilities will not be required, except in very rare cases where abuse of paid sick/dependent care time is suspected. It is assumed that Harvard employees are honest and trustworthy in their dealings with each other and the University.
  • Remote Work: Harvard asks all faculty and staff who can work remotely to do so at least until August 2, 2021. This will help the University minimize the number of people in the workplace, make social distancing easier, and comply with government and public health guidance. This will also reduce exposure for our essential and required personnel working on campus.

Updated: 6/24/2021