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Annual Leave

how is annual leave accrued


Annual leave (sometimes called vacation leave) is leave accrued each month by all eligible, monthly-paid contract-classified staff, classified non-union staff, professional staff, and librarians, and may be used in accordance with department and University policy for such reasons as:

  • Personal time
  • Illness
  • Emergency child care
  • Inclement weather when the employee is otherwise scheduled to work

The conditions under which an employee accrues and may use annual leave are specified by the terms of the employee’s employment program or collective bargaining agreement.

For all classified and professional staff employees, leave accrues at the end of the month in which it is earned and is available for use by eligible employees the following month.

Classified Staff - Maximum Annual Leave Accrual

Contract classified and classified non-union employees may carry a maximum annual leave balance of 240 hours between employment anniversary dates, even if the employee has more than one appointment. Contract classified and classified non-union employees should monitor their annual leave balances and arrange to use their annual leave before exceeding the 240-hour maximum.

There are two conditions under which a classified non-union or contract classified employee's annual leave balance may exceed the 240-hour limit as follows:

1) Voluntarily Exceeding the 240 Hour Limit

A contract classified or classified non-union employee may voluntarily accumulate annual leave hours above the 240 hour maximum as long as the employee uses the excess hours by his or her next employment anniversary date. Once the employee goes over 240 hours the voluntarily accrued excess annual leave accrual is in jeopardy. If the employee does not or cannot use the excess hours by the next employment anniversary date, regardless of the reason, they are forfeited and must be deducted from the leave record on the anniversary date. This restriction is specified in the RCW 43.01.044 and cannot be waived under any circumstances.

2) Involuntarily Going Over the 240 Hour Limit

If you cannot approve an employee’s leave request for operational reasons, and if your denial of the leave request will cause the employee’s leave balance to exceed 240 hours, you may request approval from Human Resources for the employee to carry the excess annual leave past the employee's anniversary date. You must make the request at the time you deny the employee’s request and before the employee’s balance actually exceeds the 240-hour maximum.

To request approval of an extension to allow annual leave to exceed 240 hours:

  • Prepare a written request for an extension identifying the departmental staffing needs that prevent approving the employee's annual leave request.
  • Specify a plan for allowing the use of the excess annual leave in the near future.
  • Send the request to your department’s Human Resources Operations Office for review and determination.

Professional Staff - Maximum Annual Leave Accrual

As specified by the Professional Staff Program. The University expects employees and supervisors to plan annual leave use so that the leave balance does not exceed 240 hours on the employee's anniversary date. If extraordinary work requirements prevent meeting this limit, supervisors and employees are expected to schedule the employee's use of annual

leave at the earliest opportunity in order to bring the balance within the 240-hour limit. After completing six months of continuous service and upon termination of employment, the University pays for annual leave balances up to a maximum of 240 hours. An employee may not receive payment for accrued annual leave instead of taking it as time off work.

Annual leave use should be properly documented and recorded in the employee’s Work/Leave record. As a supervisor, it is important that you ensure that the employee's record of annual leave accrual and use is properly documented either through OWLS or an authorized alternative system.

If you are already familiar with how to view an employee’s OWLS record, visit the OWLS login page and log in as a supervisor to view the employee’s leave use and balances.

If you supervise contract-classified or classified non-union employees, both you and the employee are responsible for monitoring employee leave balances. By monitoring employee leave balances you can assist the employee in ensuring that annual leave is used and does not exceed the 240 hour maximum.

Payment upon Separation from Employment

Upon separation from the University, eligible employees are paid for their unused annual leave balance in accordance with terms of their employment program. The Employee Separation Payment Authorization form, which will be generated when ending an employee’s OWLS record, must be completed and submitted to the Payroll Office in order for annual leave to be paid out.


Approving Requests for Annual Leave Use

If an employee has requested approval to use accrued annual leave, consider the following items in order to act on the employee’s request:

  1. Check the employee’s annual leave balance. If your department maintains employee leave records in the Online Work/Leave System (OWLS) and if you are authorized to view the employee’s OWLS record, log in to OWLS and review the employee’s annual leave balance. If your department uses another authorized alternative system, check with your department’s timekeeper to verify that the employee has sufficient annual leave to cover the requested time off.
  2. Check the employee’s employment program or collective bargaining agreement to determine whether the employee is eligible to use accrued annual leave. In some cases, employees may need to complete a trial service period or probationary period before they can use annual leave.
    • Classified non-union
    • Librarians
    • Professional staff
    • Contract classified staff
      • SEIU 925 University-wide Non Supervisory Unit
      • SEIU 925 University-wide Supervisory Unit
      • SEIU 925 Research Tech Non Supervisory Unit
      • SEIU 925 Research Tech Supervisory Unit
      • SEIU 925 Laboratory Technical Unit
      • SEIU 1199 Units (Harborview Medical Center)
      • Teamsters 117 (UW Police Officers)
      • WFSE Master Agreement
      • WFSE Police Management Association
      • WSNA
      • Inlandboatmen's Union
  3. Provide the employee with written approval in advance of the effective date(s) for use of annual leave.


Prior state service credit can affect annual leave accrual rates and may allow for reinstatement of sick leave. To learn how to request Prior Service Credit, visit the Crediting of Previous Washington State Employment page.

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