Paid Staff Vacation


All benefits-eligible staff employees are eligible. Excluded are resource employees, per diem employees, faculty, postdoctoral scholars and those claiming student status, including teaching and research assistants. (Faculty vacation policies are detailed in the Faculty Handbook; postdoctoral scholar vacation policy is detailed in the Postdoctoral Scholar Policy, Appendix A). University officers and senior executives are covered under a separate vacation policy; contact HR Administration for information. In the event of a discrepancy between this policy and a collective bargaining agreement, the terms of the collective bargaining agreement will govern.

Vacation Accruals

The university’s official system of record for the calculation of vacation accruals is Workday. Vacation is accrued based on cumulative years of university service as a benefits-eligible employee (including any years of faculty service) as follows:

  • Upon hire, staff accrue vacation equivalent to 12 working days per year, with a maximum of 24 working days (applies through the first 4 years of cumulative service)
  • At the start of the 5th year of employment, staff accrue vacation equivalent to 18 working days per year, to a maximum of 36 working days (applies after 4 years and through the first 9 years of cumulative service)
  • At the start of the 10th year of employment, staff accrue vacation equivalent to 24 working days per year, to a maximum of 48 working days (applies after 9 years of cumulative service)

Vacation accruals may not exceed the amount an employee would have accrued in a two-year period. Vacation accruals will not be earned when the maximum is reached and will resume when vacation accruals fall below the stated maximums as described above.

Vacation accruals will not be earned during unpaid leaves of absence, regardless of reason, including but not limited to Medical Leave (inclusive of employees paid by Disability or Workers’ Compensation benefits), Pregnancy-Related Medical Leave, Family and Medical Leave Act, California Family Rights Act, Military Leave, and Personal Leave.

For employees working less than 100%, the rate of accrual will be prorated based on the percentage of time worked. If a new employee begins work other than on the first day of a pay period, s/he will earn a prorated vacation accrual for the first pay period.

The university’s official system of record for posting vacation accruals is Workday. Vacation accruals are posted to the employee’s vacation record in Workday, in hours, on the last day of the pay period for accruals earned during that period, and are available for use the following day.

  • For employees on a monthly pay cycle, this means vacation accruals are posted on the last day of the month
  • For employees on a biweekly cycle, accruals are posted the last day of the biweekly period

Although vacation accruals may be used beginning the day after they are posted, note that the new vacation balance will not be available in applicable timekeeping systems until the completion of the payroll processing cycle.

Employees reaching their fifth and tenth year of cumulative service will earn the higher vacation accrual rate in the pay period in which they reach this milestone. The new rate will be posted to the employee’s vacation record as indicated above.

Vacation is a protected employee benefit and once accrued cannot be taken away.

Requests for Vacation

The university recognizes the benefit employees receive when taking time off from work, and supports the appropriate use of vacation accruals. To ensure that departments are appropriately staffed to meet business requirements, all requests for vacation time must be approved by management.

Employee responsibility

Employees are urged to take advantage of their accrued vacation time in order to enjoy the benefits of time off.

  • Employees should request time off as soon as they know they wish to take it
  • All employees, both exempt and non-exempt, may request vacation in any increment of time, from less than an hour up to the accrual balance, in accordance with university and department procedures
  • To request vacation, employees must follow the procedures indicated below
  • Vacation requests may be submitted up to one year in advance of the requested time off, but departments may establish a maximum advance request for vacation time that is less than one year in order to meet business requirements
  • Employees may not use vacation accruals before they are earned and may not carry a negative vacation accrual balance
  • Employees at or reaching maximum vacation accrual balance are encouraged to request vacation time off to maximize their vacation benefit
  • Employees may not cash out vacation time in lieu of taking the time off; they cannot exchange accrued time for pay (except upon termination; see below)
  • Employees may not “gift” vacation time to another employee; only the employee who accrues it may use it
  • Employees may not request vacation time from their primary department in order to work and be paid by a secondary department
  • Employees failing to return to work at the end of an approved vacation, or those taking vacation without approval, may be subject to disciplinary action including termination

Employee request timeframe

Employees must submit requests for vacation to their manager using a university approved time off request system appropriate to their school/division, within the timeframes below. A manager has the discretion to accept and approve a request for vacation outside of the below timeframes if circumstances warrant.

  • Fewer than five days of vacation – a minimum of one week before the requested time off
  • Five or more days of vacation – a minimum of one month before the requested time off

Manager responsibility

Managers must either approve or deny all requests for vacation in a timely manner.

  • Requests for vacation must be coordinated with requests for time off by other staff in the department
  • Managers are expected to not unreasonably delay either approving or denying a request for vacation, but to respond within the suggested timeframe indicated below
  • Managers who are out of the office for an extended period of time should delegate the vacation review process to avoid delays
  • If an employee requests vacation immediately prior to his/her resignation date, managers must consult with their local HR department

Manager review timeframe

The university recommends the timeframes below to notify the employee of the outcome of their vacation request:

  • Requests for vacation of fewer than five days should be reviewed and the employee notified within two days of the date of request
  • Requests for vacation of five or more days should be reviewed and the employee notified within ten days of the date of request
  • If a request for vacation is made too far in advance for the manager to ascertain whether business requirements will allow the request to be approved, the request must be denied and the employee instructed to make the request again closer to the vacation date

There are other times when it is valid to deny a (or rescind a previously-approved) request for vacation. Such reasons would include, but are not limited to business necessity (e.g., staffing shortage, peak work period, project deadlines, deliverables, insufficient time to assess staffing needs at the time of the request, university or department emergency).

No Response/Appeal Process

If an employee has submitted a request for vacation according to policy and the manager fails to act on the request, the employee is not authorized to be paid for that vacation time. The employee should contact the manager to remind the manager take action on the request.

If a manager still does not act on the request, or if the request is denied, employees may follow the university’s Staff Complaint Process.


Workday is the system of record for vacation balances and accruals. If a manager or employee believes there may be a discrepancy in the vacation accrual rate or balance, s/he should contact the HR Service Center for help.

Vacation Payout

Unused vacation accrual balances are paid out at termination, or when authorized by Human Resources Administration. Such payment is based on the employee’s base hourly rate or equivalent base salary rate at the time of termination or at the time of payout. If the employee terminates other than on the last day of the pay cycle, s/he will earn a prorated vacation accrual.

Employees who transfer or who are promoted within the university will not receive a vacation payout; the vacation accruals will transfer to the new department.


Any exceptions to this policy may only be granted by the Senior Vice President for Administration or delegate; requests for exceptions must first be submitted for review to Human Resources Administration.

Responsible Office

Human Resources Administration
(213) 821-8111

Issued by

Todd R. Dickey, Senior Vice President, Administration
University of Southern California