Definition of Catastrophic Illness or Injury:
"Catastrophic illness or injury" means an illness or injury resulting in a health condition for which a treating health care provider has certified the condition is likely to result in a loss of 30 or more workdays (6 weeks) during a 12-month period.


All faculty and staff who hold regular appointments of 50% or greater and accrue vacation or sick leave benefits are eligible to receive donations if they meet the standard definition above. The employee will need to provide the required certification that they will have to miss at least 30 workdays, have exhausted all paid leave, and are not receiving any other supplemental payments (e.g., long-term disability payments, workers' compensation benefits).

Applying for Catastrophic Leave

Applications will only be considered if the treating provider indicates the illness or injury will result in the absence from work for at least 30 workdays. If extended absences are needed beyond the anticipated return to work date indicated on your application, new medical documentation to support the extended absences will be required.

To avoid delays, please provide all requested information on the application. Incomplete applications will be returned.

Please Note:  Applications received after you have returned to work will not be considered. 

Complete one of the following forms and send it to University Benefits

University Benefits will review your submitted application

Approximately 7-10 business days after University Benefits receives your application. A letter with the determination of eligibility will be sent to your UIOWA email address and mailed to your home address. 

Please note:  Unless you are on FMLA, being deemed eligible for catastrophic leave does not mean that you are approved for the use of donated hours as that is at the discretion of your department. 


How to Obtain Donations

The University of Iowa does not send a notice to campus indicating employees are seeking donations for catastrophic leave. However, options for obtaining donations may include:

  • Upon applying, applicants should indicate whether to have their name included on the website list of employees in need of donations.
  • The recipient may ask for donations directly from their peers, colleagues, coworkers, etc. 
  • The recipient may ask their department to post and/or send an email to their department/college indicating an employee (name optional) in need of donations and contact their local Human Resources representative to donate.   

How to Use Donations

Communicate absences related to the qualified injury or illness regularly to your department, so the correct number of hours is reported to University Benefits.

Our office will then process donations as you need them for absences related to the qualified injury or illness: 

  • beyond those absences that can already be covered by your own vacation and sick leave accruals for an employee's own catastrophic illness or injury.
  • Beyond those can be covered by your own vacation and family caregiving leave accruals for a family member's catastrophic illness or injury. 

Please note: If you are on a non-FMLA Leave of Absence, approval for the use of donated hours is at the discretion of your department.

The total leave donations used by an employee shall not exceed:

  • The six-week period immediately following the birth of a child (non-medically required bonding beyond six weeks must be taken as unpaid leave);
  • The amount necessary to cover the long-term disability (LTD) waiting period; or
  • One year (12 months) if the employee is not eligible for LTD benefits.
  • The 12 months may be extended for a new occurrence of the same illness/injury if the individual is not eligible for LTD. However, new medical documentation must be provided AND a new 30-day waiting period must be met.

How donated accruals are applied to your time record:

  • For an employee's own catastrophic illness or injury, donations are applied to the employee's time record as sick leave. This occurs after the employee has exhausted all paid sick leave, vacation, and compensatory time to which they are entitled and has not yet satisfied the 90-working day waiting period for long-term disability benefits. The need for donations is reviewed monthly.
  • For a family member’s catastrophic illness or injury, donations are applied to the employee's time record as vacation leave, except for 9-month faculty and staff members whose received donations will be applied as family caregiving leave. Donations are used when the employee has exhausted all the family caregiving (sick) leave, vacation, and compensatory time to which they are entitled.


The catastrophic leave application and healthcare provider certification form are confidential medical documents maintained only in the University Benefits Office.

Applicants will not have their names added to the list of faculty and staff in need of donations unless they elect this option on the catastrophic leave application form.