Accommodating Family Needs: Guidelines for Faculty

Iowa State University recognizes that faculty face a difficult balancing act in combining family and work commitments. To help meet this challenge, the university provides leave for certain family situations, such as the birth or adoption of a child, or a personal or family illness. This leave may be partial or full, paid or unpaid, as specified below.

It is critically important for faculty to inform, and to work with department chairs or directors to assess your individual circumstances and devise a work plan to accommodate the situation.

Faculty Modified Duties Assignment (FMDA)

Tenured and tenure-eligible faculty may use an FMDA to reconfigure their faculty duties for one semester as associated with the birth or adoption of a child, or the foster care placement of a child.

Faculty responsibilities remain at a 100 percent effort level, as specified in the position responsibility statement, but effort levels in areas of responsibility (e.g., teaching, research, service, clinical service, extension and outreach) are rebalanced to provide greater flexibility during the semester.

Leave Options

In many cases, faculty will be able to draw from current accumulations of sick leave and vacation time to help them address family situations. The employee should consult with the chair/director and with University Human Resources about the appropriate use of such paid leave.

Faculty may also qualify for the use of the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). Iowa State may provide up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave for certain family and medical reasons. Paid leave runs concurrently with FMLA. Employees are eligible under FMLA if they have worked for Iowa State for at least one year, and for 1,250 hours over the previous 12 months.

New employees who have not been at Iowa State long enough to accumulate substantial paid leave or to qualify for FMLA can explore with the department chair/director other options for flexible work assignments.

Work Assignments

Department chairs/directors should help faculty develop appropriate accommodation plans by reviewing work schedules, assignments, and responsibilities. Certain changes may allow the department to continue to fulfill its responsibilities while accommodating faculty members’ changing responsibilities or schedule.

Possible adjustments may include the temporary reassignment of certain duties; adjustments in office/department protocols to improve communication (both on campus and electronically); flexible work schedules; the hiring of replacement work for a portion of the faculty member’s responsibilities; the sharing of certain duties (teaching, advising, supervision of other personnel); or a temporary reduction to part-time.

Work Plans

To assure that consideration is given to the faculty member’s career and family needs, while allowing the department or unit to manage workload during the absence, each accommodation should be documented by a written work plan (Faculty Work Plan - PDF, 137KB or DOC, 24KB).

Faculty should meet as soon as possible with their department chair or director to indicate the need for paid or unpaid leave, and provide a proposed work plan that addresses the anticipated length of leave, any inclusion of part-time work, proposed use of paid and unpaid leave, and needs for computing or other facilities or equipment. The plan must provide for regular contact between the faculty member and their chair or director.

Tenure-eligible faculty can also request an extension of the probationary period as specified in the Faculty Handbook ( There is also a policy for part-time appointments for tenured and tenure-track faculty (FH

Best practice is for the faculty member and chair/director to discuss details of the work plan in an initial meeting, followed by the sharing of a draft plan. A copy of the final plan, once it is signed by the faculty member and chair/director, must be forwarded to the dean and provost.

The plan may be amended by mutual agreement. Subsequent changes in the medical condition of the employee or employee's family may require amendment of the plan to meet FMLA or other requirements.

Employees must have prior permission from their department chair or director for any compensated outside work during the period of the leave.

Summary of Responsibilities

What the university does:

  • Adheres to the rights of employees authorized in FMLA.
  • Allows for flexibility in sustaining professional commitments.
  • Allows temporary changes in faculty work assignments to accommodate family needs as part of a written, agreed-upon plan.
  • Manages accruals and other benefits appropriate to the paid and/or unpaid leave.
  • Assists department chairs and directors in identifying strategies and resources to facilitate the employee's leave (full or partial) and return to the department.

What the department does:

  • Works with the faculty member to develop a written plan for the relevant time frame, while at the same time understanding that situations arise for which it is not able to plan ahead.
  • Provides flexibility in the employee's work schedule and responsibilities.
  • Coordinates coverage of employee's duties during leave.
  • Reviews written requests from tenure-eligible faculty for extensions of the probationary period, in accordance with the Faculty Handbook.
  • Works with the employee to assess appropriateness of performance evaluation timelines and review schedules.
  • May support electronic connectivity to assist employee in sustaining involvement in projects from home.
  • Maintains consistent communication with employee and considers changes to the leave plan as the employee's circumstances may change.
  • Retains liability in the departmental budget for employer paid portions of relevant university benefits and retirement programs.

What the faculty member does:

  • Consults early with department chair or director when the need for leave is anticipated.
  • Develops a leave proposal with the chair or director that encompasses anticipated length of leave, any inclusion of part-time work, proposed use of paid and unpaid leave, provisions for regular contact with the chair/director and department, and needs for computing or other facilities or equipment.
  • Receives, upon proper written request and when eligible, an extension of the probationary period (tenure-eligible faculty only, see Faculty Handbook (
  • Maintains consistent communication with department and informs the department of circumstances that may alter the original agreed-upon plan.
  • Retains liability for income taxes, medical premiums, and employee portions of relevant University benefits and retirement programs.

Updated December 2014