Taking an Unpaid Leave of Absence? Here’s What You Need to Know About Continuing Your Benefits

UBC offers many different types of leaves, and if you are planning to take an unpaid leave of absence, you will want to think about continuing your group benefits, if eligible.

The first step is to notify your department of the start and end dates of your leave. Other documentation may be required depending on the type of leave, so ensure you visit our Vacation & Leaves page to learn more.

The second step is to ensure your contact information and mailing address is up to date on the UBC Faculty and Staff Self Service Portal. If you do not keep this current during your leave, you may not receive important communications from the University.

When beginning an unpaid leave of absence, the UBC Leave of Absence Desk will mail you an invoice with the cost of continuing your group benefits. You can choose to continue all, some or none of your benefits. You are responsible for paying the full cost (employee plus employer share) for any benefits you choose to continue.

An important benefit to consider maintaining during your unpaid leave is the Income Replacement Plan/Disability Benefit Plan (IRP/DBP), also referred to as Long-term Disability. These plans provide faculty and staff members with a long-term illness or injury with a monthly income if approved on claim following the completion of a qualifying period. If during your unpaid leave, you experience an illness or injury that prevents you from returning to work, and you have not maintained this coverage, you may not be eligible to apply for IRP/DBP benefits. You may also be declined on claim if you were reinstated on IRP/DBP upon return to work, and became subsequently ill due to an illness/injury that occurred while on unpaid leave. Your illness/injury may be considered a pre-existing condition because you were diagnosed/treated during the period before your IRP/DBP benefits were reinstated.

Consider the following scenarios:

In the first scenario, a faculty/staff member goes on maternity/parental leave, and decides not to continue IRP/DBP coverage. While on maternity/parental leave, they are diagnosed with an illness or injury, and their physician anticipates they will not be able to return to work for at least 9 months.

Since the faculty/staff member did not continue their IRP/DBP coverage, they did not have coverage on the date their injury/illness first prevented them from working (i.e. their date of disability). Therefore, they are not eligible to claim long-term disability benefits.

~~~

In the second scenario, a faculty/staff member goes on unpaid leave and does not continue IRP/DBP coverage. While on leave they are diagnosed and treated for a medical condition. Initially, this condition does not prevent the faculty/staff member from returning to work. Upon their return to work, the faculty/staff member’s IRP/DBP coverage is reinstated. However, six months after returning to work, the condition that they were diagnosed and treated for during the unpaid leave results in total disability and the faculty/staff member cannot work. After their sick leave expires, they apply for IRP/DBP benefits but the claim is denied because the illness/injury is considered a pre-existing condition and was first diagnosed/treated when the faculty/staff member did not have IRP/DBP coverage. The pre-existing condition limitation would not apply if the faculty/staff member returned to work for 12 or more continuous months.

~~~

We encourage you to keep the implications of not maintaining certain benefits in mind during an unpaid leave.

If you are enrolled in the Faculty or Staff Pension Plan, and would like information on your pension plan contributions during an unpaid leave, please visit their website or contact them directly.

Faculty Pension Plan
Tel: (604) 822-8100
Email: fpp@hr.ubc.ca
Staff Pension Plan
Tel: (604) 822-8100
Email: spp@hr.ubc.ca

Other Considerations

Depending on the type of unpaid leave, you may be eligible to apply for Employment Insurance benefits through Service Canada (e.g. maternity and parental benefits, sickness benefits or compassionate care benefits). Please contact Service Canada directly to learn more.

Questions?

If you have questions about your benefits invoice, contact the UBC Payroll Leave of Absence Desk. The following contact information applies to both campuses:

  • If your last name starts with a letter from A-L, contact Cecilia Chen at 604-822-9290 or cecilia.chen@ubc.ca
  • If your last name starts with a letter from M-Z, contact Wentworth Iwasiuk at 604-822-8979 or wentworth.iwasiuk@ubc.ca