Managing 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 their department chair or director to assess their individual circumstances and devise a plan to manage the situation.

Where to Start? 

Faculty should meet as soon as possible with their department chair or director to indicate the need for increased flexibility in order to manage family needs. 

Department chairs/directors should assist faculty in developing appropriate plans for managing family needs by reviewing the work schedules, assignments, and position responsibility statement (PRS). Certain changes may allow the department to continue to fulfill its responsibilities while accommodating a faculty member’s changing responsibilities or schedule.

Possible adjustments to provide greater flexibility may include: the temporary rebalancing of certain duties through an FMDA; adjustments in department protocols to improve communication (both on campus and remotely); flexible work schedules; the sharing of certain duties (teaching, advising, supervision of other personnel); an extension of the tenure-clock; paid or unpaid leave; or a temporary reduction to a part-time appointment. 

Faculty Modified Duties Assignment (FMDA)

Tenured and tenure-eligible faculty may request a Faculty Modified Duties Assignment (FMDA) to rebalance 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% 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. If approved, the FMDA is reflected in a temporarily revised PRS.   

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.

Extension of the Tenure-Clock

The extension of the tenure clock policy (ISU Faculty Handbook section allows a tenure-eligible faculty member to request an extension of the probationary period in a range of special circumstances, including family responsibilities. 

Part-time appointment

Faculty may choose to request a temporary conversion from a full-time to a part-time appointment in consultation with their department chair or director. Requests may be made for personal or professional reasons, including work/life balance. Tenure-eligible faculty may make such a request only for reasons of balancing work and family for the arrival of a child, the care of a child with special needs, elder care, the care of a partner, or for personal circumstances related to the health of the faculty member. (See Faculty Handbook Section

Summary of Responsibilities

What the university does:

  • Adheres to the rights of employees authorized in FMLA.
  • Allows for flexibility in sustaining professional commitments.
  • 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 faculty member’s leave (full or partial) and return to the department.

What the department does:

  • Works with the faculty member to develop a 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 requests in Workday 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.
  • Supports remote work when appropriate. 
  • Maintains consistent communication with employee and considers changes to plans 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 flexibility or 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 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.


Father holding baby


Kaela Black,
Faculty Personnel and Policy Director,