Unpaid leave is time off from work which is provided without pay. When an employee takes or is given this type of leave, he or she retains a position in a company, and many retain benefits as well, but the employee receives no salary. There are a number of reasons to take or institute this type of leave, and it is an option which is available from many companies. Employees who are curious about leave policies should talk to their supervisors or human resources directors, or read their employee manuals.
Many companies offer unpaid leave as a supplement to paid leave. For example, a company might give employees one week of paid leave each year, and allow employees to take up to three weeks of additional time off without pay, creating a month of combined time off. The time could be used for a vacation, to care for an ailing family member, or to engage in professional enrichment. Unpaid leave may also be allocated for employees who need to take sick days.
In some cases, a company may require employees to take unpaid leave, or a furlough. This is done as a cost cutting measure, with the company preferring to force employees to take time off instead of eliminating positions at the company. This tactic is designed to retain employees during periods of economic hardship, and while it may be onerous to employees, many people prefer unpaid leave to uncertain layoffs.
When an employee wants to take leave without pay, he or she must usually apply ahead of time. In some companies, the company will pay into benefit plans such as health insurance during a period of leave, and in other instances, the employee may be required to pay into such plans to keep them current. This information should be readily provided upon request. The employer can choose to refuse to grant a request for unpaid leave, on any number of grounds. A common reason is worker shortages; retail companies, for example, are unlikely to allow time off around the holidays.
The advantage of this type of leave is that it allows people to take time off without losing their jobs. In academic settings, for example, professors might be nervous about their tenure, but also desirous of academic enrichment at special programs and conferences. Taking a semester of leave can allow a professor to grow professionally, while ensuring that he or she still has a job at the end of the period of leave.