Catastrophic Leave

The Catastrophic Leave Sharing Program allows employees to support colleagues in need.


Catastrophic Illness: A serious illness or injury that incapacitates an employee or an eligible family member and is expected to use up all of the employee's accrued leave.

Eligible Family Member: An employee's spouse, parent, child, sibling, grandparent or grandchild; in-laws and step-relatives in these relationships; or any other person in the employee's household for whom there is a personal obligation.

Catastrophic Event: The death of an eligible family member; or a catastrophic casualty loss suffered due to a terrorist attack, fire, or natural disaster.

Employees can contribute PTO and vacation leave to:

  • A general pool for those who have exhausted their paid leave due to a catastrophic illness or catastrophic event.
  • A specific individual as the recipient.
Departments are responsible for telling an employee about this program if it is likely that they could be an eligible recipient.

Eligibility for Donors

  • Any staff or academic employee who accrues vacation or PTO may act as a donor.
  • Employees may donate vacation but not sick leave, extended sick time or compensatory time off. The donation must be 8 hours or more, in whole hour increments. 
  • An exclusively represented employee may participate as a donor or recipient if permitted by their collective bargaining agreement.

Eligibility for Recipients

  • Employee must hold a career appointment, have passed probation and their waiting period to use vacation (if one exists).
  • Employee must be on an approved leave without pay for the donation period (leaves are to be designated under the Family & Medical Leave Act, as applicable).
  • Employee must exhaust all paid leave (sick or extended sick time, vacation or paid time off, compensatory time off) before using donations. 
  • Employee must not be receiving disability benefits or Workers’ Compensation payments. 

Policy, Procedures & FAQs

  • Departments are responsible for telling an employee about this program if it is likely that they could be an eligible recipient.

  • Donations may be made across all fund sources, divisions, and departments within UC Davis and UC Davis Health.

  • Employee may receive up to 160 hours of catastrophic leave donations in a calendar year, up to 40 hours of which may be from the general pool, to the extent donated leave is available.

  • Requests for exceptions to the maximum hours received by an employee are to be submitted by a department head to the Employee and Labor Relations via UCDCampusELR@ucdavis.eduand will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis.
  • Catastrophic leave donations may be applied to the recipient’s waiting period for University-paid or supplemental disability benefits up to the maximum of 160 hours.

  • An employee who has applied for and received Workers’ Compensation benefits is not eligible to apply for catastrophic leave; however, that employee may apply if their claim is denied.

  • Donations for specified employee recipients are used in the order received, except that a donation from an employee who is at the maximum vacation accrual is used before other donations when an individual recipient is specified. Donations to the general pool are allocated to eligible employees in the order approved Requests for Catastrophic Leave forms (Exhibit A) are received by Payroll Services in increments of up to 40 hours to the extent donated hours are available. Once processed in UCPath, the donor may not revoke the donation.  If the donation is not used, the donation form is returned to the donor or the donor may choose to have the unused hours donated to the general pool.  

  • Vacation or PTO is transferred hour for hour, regardless of differing pay scales. For each pay period, the recipient uses their own accruals from the prior pay period, then the number of donated hours needed to equal their pre-leave percent of time.

  • Catastrophic leave donations may be retroactively applied only if the employee is already on leave.

  • Information about the nature of the leave may be communicated to potential donors to the extent authorized by the employee.  Information about a donor shall not be disclosed except by the donor.

Approval Process

A request for catastrophic leave requires the approval of the department head (or equivalent position) and their Employee Relations Consultant. The employee must request, and the department head must approve, a catastrophic leave for a specified period of time. In order to receive donated vacation or PTO hours, the employee must provide the department head with appropriate medical certification of catastrophic illness (from a licensed health care provider) or documentation of a catastrophic event. 

  1. The employee submits a written request for catastrophic leave to the department head or designee using the Request for Catastrophic Leave form (Attachment A). If the employee is unable to make this request, a representative may do so on the employee's behalf.
  1. For catastrophic leaves due to catastrophic illness or injury, the employee, or their representative, is responsible for ensuring that appropriate medical certification of their, or their family member’s, catastrophic illness or injury has been submitted to their service channel. For catastrophic leave due to the death of a family member or a catastrophic casualty loss, the employee, or their representative, is responsible for ensuring appropriate documentation is submitted to their service channel upon request by the university.
  1. The department head reviews the request, and may consult with their employee relations consultant, and either approves or denies the request. If approved by the department head, or designee, the department submits the request to their Employee Relations Consultant. The Employee Relations Consultant reviews the request and either approves or denies it. The Employee Relations Consultant notifies the department of their decision and if they approve the request, the Employee Relations Consultant notifies Payroll Services.
  1. The department then submits the approved form to their service channel for processing.
  1. The department puts out a call for donations for a designated recipient using the Request for Donations form (Attachment B). A department shall solicit no more than one call for donations for a designated recipient.
  1. Human Resources broadcasts a call for donations to the general pool semi-annually, as well as in response to a catastrophic casualty loss event, such as a natural disaster.
  1. Employees make donations of vacation/PTO by using the Catastrophic Leave Donation form (Attachment C).
  1. When donations are for a designated employee:
  • Davis Campus: Employees return the donation form to the representative who asked for donations. The form is held in the service channel and the service channel, in coordination with Central Payroll, credits the hours to the recipient once per pay period, using only as many hours as are needed for that pay period, using form UPAY 3-640C. When the catastrophic leave ends, any remaining donations are transferred to the general pool. If the donations are exhausted and the employee has not returned to work, the employee is placed on leave without pay.
  • UC Davis Health: Employees return the donation form to the department representative who requested donations. The forms are collected by the department representative and sent to UCDH Payroll Office (Broadway Building), with a courtesy copy to the service channel. UCDH Payroll Coordinator then prioritizes them and creates a register. As donations are allocated, UCDH Payroll processes them in UCPath. The service channel manages the timesheet during catastrophic leave. When the catastrophic leave ends, any remaining donations are transferred to the general pool. If the donations are exhausted and the employee has not returned to work, the employee is placed on leave without pay.
  1. When donations are to the general pool, employees submit the form to:


  • For more information about this program, call your Employee Relations Consultant in Davis at 530-754-8892 or Sacramento at 916-734-3362.
  • For information about benefits or disability insurance, call the Benefits Office in Davis at 530-752-1774 or Sacramento at 916-734-8099, or via email at:



Office of the President: Delegation of Authority—Catastrophic Leave Sharing (DA2085).

Personnel Policies for Staff Members, UCD Procedure 41 (Vacation)

Accounting Manual, Chapter P-196-13 (Payroll: Attendance, Time Reporting and Leave Accrual Records)