How to take parental leave: tips from your UW Human Resources leave specialists

Posted on by Ed Kromer. This entry was posted in Life Events and Changes and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

So, you’re expecting a new child, either through birth or adoption. Congratulations! It’s wonderful news, but also one of the biggest life events that can come along. Here are tips for taking time away from work to bond with the new member of your family.

What are my leave options?

Erin Rice, assistant vice president of UW Human Resources Campus Operations, says that parental leave is complicated by multiple overlapping state and federal laws, UW policies and union contracts that play into the amount of time you can take off and the means of getting paid during your leave.

“The good news,” she says, “is that there are a lot of options, and UWHR has resources and people to help you understand and navigate your options.”

Below, Rice and her team answer the most commonly asked leave questions.

What are the different components of parental leave?

Birth parents can take 6 to 8 weeks for temporary pregnancy disability, or as prescribed by a health care provider, immediately following the birth. Bonding leave starts after the disability period for birth parents, after birth or placement for non-birth parents.

What government policies affect my leave?

The federal Family & Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is a leave entitlement that provides job and health insurance protection when eligible employees take a leave of absence for a qualifying reason. Eligible employees have worked for the UW for at least 12 months and 1,250 hours.

The Paid Family & Medical Leave (PFML) program is a program of the state of Washington that provides partial wage replacement for employees on qualifying leave who have worked in the state of Washington for 820 hours during the “qualifying period.”

How long can I take leave?

Under UW policy, union contracts and civil service rules, parental leave (after post-birth parent disability) is 4-6 months, depending on which policy or contract applies to you.

For FMLA-eligible parents, the FMLA period (12 weeks minus any FMLA you have used within the last year) runs concurrently with pregnancy disability and parental leave. FMLA is not a separate leave period.

PFML-eligible birth parents can receive up to 16 weeks benefits (up to 18 weeks if you have pregnancy complications). Non-birth parents can receive up to 12 weeks.

Do I have to take leave all at once?

UW Parental Leave is generally taken as continuous (full) leave of absence or, if it meets business needs and has the approval of your unit, can be granted as intermittent leave or a modified work schedule.

Leave covered by PFML can be taken intermittently or on a reduced schedule for the 12 months following the date of a child’s birth, adoption or placement.

How do I get paid?

If you accrue paid time off, you can be paid while on leave by using your paid time off or through parental shared leave. For parental shared leave:

  • Donations from other UW and state employees can be used once your Vacation Time Off and Sick Time Off balances in Workday are each reduced to 40 hours or less.
  • Birth parents can use donated time during disability period + the following 16 weeks.
  • Non-birth parents can use donated time for the 16 weeks immediately after birth or placement.

Faculty can use available paid sick leave to care for the birth parent by following the process to request leave to care for a family member.

It is also possible to take approved leave as unpaid time off.

Through PFML, the weekly benefit amount is generally up to 90% of weekly wages, with a $100 per week minimum and a $1,456 per week maximum (2024).

During a PFML leave, it is the employee’s choice whether to use accrued paid time off. Employees can receive both paid time off from the UW and the PFML benefit for the same period. This is called using “supplemental benefits.”

How do I maintain health benefits while on leave?

If you have worked for the UW for 12 months and 1,250 hours prior to taking parental leave, your health insurance benefits continue just as if you were working during FMLA and PFML.

After your FMLA and/ or PFML is exhausted, or if you are not eligible for FMLA or PFML, you will need to remain in “pay status” to maintain your benefits.

Pay status means that you either use eight hours of paid time off or work eight hours a month.

The UW Benefits office can help with additional questions regarding benefits. And UW WorkLife offers a wide range of other child care resources.

How do I request leave?

All staff and academic personnel complete and submit a parental leave form. Request the entire period you would like to take parental leave in Workday (see Leave of Absence – Sick/Injured or Becoming a Parent User Guide) at least 30 days prior to birth/placement. After approval, request time offs (sick, vacation, unpaid) for each day of your parental leave in Workday.

Parental shared leave is requested by checking a box on the parental leave form.

PFML is requested through the Employment Security Department.

Who can I contact for help with family leave?

Campus staff and academic personnel –

Medical Centers staff –

Students –

“The most important thing to know is that you should not hesitate to reach out to our leave specialists at to discuss any of these issues and how they relate to your leave situation,” Rice says. “They can answer questions by email or over a meeting on Teams or Zoom. They want to help you get your questions answered so you can get on to enjoy being a parent!”

Online resources


Pregnancy Accommodation –


Academic Personnel –

Students –

UW Benefits –

UW WorkLife –

For more information, you can watch this new panel discussion on navigating leaves and benefits for new caregivers: