Policy Number: 405

Policy Suffix:

I. General Policy

Rice University grants staff members who are eligible for benefits an amount of paid time off (PTO) during which an employee may be absent for any reason, including vacation, personal business, illness, or religious holidays. The university encourages employees to use their PTO regularly in order to increase productivity, job satisfaction, work-life balance and overall retention.

The use of PTO must be scheduled in advance with supervisors, who approve requests according to departmental workload and available staffing levels. In the event of sudden illness or emergency when there is no opportunity for advance scheduling, the employee's supervisor should be notified as soon as possible and preferably before the normal time that the employee would begin work.

The manner in which employees use and track PTO depends upon their Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) status – either exempt or non-exempt. Non-exempt employees are paid on an hourly basis and are entitled to overtime pay when they work more than 40 hours in one week; exempt employees are salaried and are not eligible for overtime. Under no circumstances is compensatory (comp) time permitted for either non-exempt or exempt employees.

II. Roles and Responsibilities

Exempt benefits-eligible employees submit PTO in full-day increments and track PTO in the current HCM system. Staff members should plan and request PTO in advance when foreseeable. Supervisors will review and approve or reject PTO requests.

Non-exempt benefits-eligible employees take PTO in hour or half-hour increments. Staff members should plan and request PTO in advance when foreseeable in iO. Supervisors will review and approve or reject PTO requests.

Part-time benefits-eligible employees accumulate PTO according to the percentage of a full year they regularly work. For example, a non-exempt person who works 20 hours a week all year (50 percent of full time) would accumulate 84 hours a year if they had worked at Rice for more than five years but less than ten years. An exempt person who works 20 hours a week all year (50 percent of full time) would accumulate 10.5 days if they had worked at Rice less than ten years.

New benefits-eligible employees accumulate PTO beginning with the first pay period worked. However, PTO accumulated during the first six months of employment is not vested until the first six months of employment has been completed. With supervisor approval, accumulated PTO may be taken in the first six months of employment. Once the employee reaches six months of employment, the accumulated PTO is vested with the employee and may be used as approved by the supervisor.

Supervisors are responsible for approving and monitoring the appropriate use of PTO.

Human Resources is responsible for keeping records of time used, and periodically reviewing the administration of this benefit.

III. Elaboration of Policy

A. Basis of PTO Accumulation

An employee accumulates PTO in hours per pay period. The employee’s designation as either exempt or non-exempt is classified by the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) overtime provisions. The rate of accumulation also depends on the seniority date, which takes into account all full years of any prior benefits-eligible service at Rice University in a benefits-eligible position.

In order to accumulate paid time off for any given pay cycle, the employee must work or be on PTO (other than short term disability leave or Workers Compensation) at some point during that pay cycle (semi-monthly for exempt staff, bi-weekly for non-exempt staff).

On a staff member's anniversary of employment, they may carry forward a maximum of one year's accumulated PTO. They then begin accumulating additional days or hours of PTO.

Postdoctoral research associates (postdocs), regardless of their length of service, accumulate PTO at the same rate as other exempt staff members with less than 10 years of service. The postdoc must exhaust all PTO prior to the end date of the appointment specified in the current appointment letter. If a postdoctoral research associate's current appointment letter specifies a term beyond one year, the postdoc may carry forward a maximum of one year's accumulated PTO, with the understanding that all PTO must be used by the end date of their current appointment; any extensions, renewals, or subsequent appointments reset the amount of accumulated PTO to zero.

B. Pay Cycle Accrual

The schedule of PTO accumulation for full-time employees is as follows:

Nonexempt Staff
Length of continuous benefits-eligible service Paid time off hours accumulated per employment year
0 – 5 years 128 hours
5 – 10 years 168 hours
10 + years 208 hours
Exempt Staff

Length of continuous benefits-eligible service

Paid time off days accumulated per employment year
0 – 10 years 168 hours
10+ years 208 hours

C. Coordination with Short-Term Disability Program

In the case of major illness or injury (not work related), the elimination period (first five days of leave) is covered with available PTO, or a combination of PTO and unpaid leave. If the individual does not have any PTO available, the first five days will be unpaid. Thereafter, short-term disability coverage, if available, may be used according to the provisions of that program (see Policy No. 423). If a holiday or recess occurs during the first five days, it is counted as PTO and not as holiday or recess pay. Staff members do not get extra holiday or recess time for missed holidays or recess time while on leave (even if using PTO during the elimination period). Staff cannot use PTO to supplement their pay while on short-term disability pay.

D. Payout of PTO at Termination

Effective July 1, 2012, the payout of unused PTO to a staff member (other than a postdoctoral research associate as described in IIIA above) with at least six months of continuous benefits-eligible service who terminates from Rice for any reason will be no more than one year’s accumulation based on FTE and years of service (e.g., a maximum of 26 days, or 208 hours, for a full-time staff member with fifteen years of service.) Staff members on research grants are eligible for the payout of unused PTO. However, if the grants from which they are paid do not allow the payout of terminal PTO, principal investigators and departments must identify another appropriate source of funds for the payout.

E. Policy Implementation

This policy is effective immediately. Staff members who had 20 or more years of service on January 1, 1993, or were in the 20th year of Rice employment on that date, are entitled to an accumulation rate of 31 PTO days each year; and upon termination of employment, these staff members may receive a maximum payout of 31 days of unused PTO.

V. Cross References to Related Policies

Rice University Policy 403, Benefits Eligibility
Rice University Policy 415, Holiday Policy
Rice University Policy 423, Short-Term Disability Policy
Rice University Policy 438, Research Positions

VI. Responsible Official and Key Offices to Contact Regarding the Policy and its Implementation

Responsible Official: Executive Vice President for Operations, Finance, & Support; Associate Vice President for Human Resources

Key Offices: Human Resources, Payroll Office

VII. Links to Additional Information

Benefits Information Page


David W. Leebron, President

Policy History


Revised: January 10, 2017; February 17, 2011

Clerical Changes

September 30, 2022

January 31, 2023

February 6, 2023

August 15, 2023

March 4, 2024