Paid Time Off

Your benefit days are your right, guaranteed in our contract. Keep your students, your colleagues and yourself healthy by taking time off when necessary. Providing the educational services your students deserve requires that you care for your own needs and those of your loved ones.

CTU has negotiated for and defended members’ right to paid time off for decades. Despite clear guidelines, too many principals either mistakenly or purposefully seek to deny educators their rightful benefit days. The rules can be confusing, but we have written this brief guide to clarify common questions. If, after reading this page, details relevant to your situation are unclear, please contact your field rep.

Benefit Days (Ten Days or Fewer)

For employees of CPS, shorter periods of paid time off are governed under CPS Policy Manual Section 302.9. Charter management companies operate under different rules depending on the network. For more information, educators at charter schools should consult with their field representative.

Sick Days

In addition to the information laid out in CPS policy, the CTU has negotiated terms of sick days in Article 37 of the contract.

Qualifying for a Sick Day

In Section I, the policy defines a Sick Day as paid time off for personal illness or illness in the immediate family or household. In this definition, “illness” includes medical, dental and mental health appointments. Immediate family includes spouse or partner, children, stepchildren, foster children, siblings, parents, grandparents, grandchildren, aunts, uncles, nieces and nephews. For the complete list see CPS Policy Manual Section 302.9, section I.

Educators who take more than three consecutive days may be required to provide a note from the professional who treated them. In addition, if a principal has a “reasonable suspicion” that an employee is abusing sick days, they may demand a physician’s certificate, no matter how much or little time was taken.

New Hires

During the first 60 calendar days of employment, members do not have access to sick days. After 60 days those days become accessible back to the first day of employment. If an educator needs a sick day within those first 60 days, they’ll need to take an unpaid zero day, but after completing their first 60 days, the educator may apply to use their newly released sick days and get paid for any qualifying days taken previously.

Sick Day Bank

Our 2019 contract has new language in Article 37 that expands the number of current sick days employees can bank from 40 to 244 days. Out of the sick days granted each year (10 for most teachers) any unused sick days can be added to that bank (known as the “CTU bank”) until you reach 244 days banked. Those banked sick days can be used for FMLA leave (see below) to supplement short-term disability pay or for pension credit when you retire.

Members who accumulated sick days prior to July 1, 2012 have a “Grandfather bank” of days that can be used for all the purposes above, but will also be paid out upon resignation or death, either fully or partially based on number of years worked (with a minimum of 20 years). See Article 37-4 for further details.

Longevity Days

Article 37-2 stipulates that teachers at Step 13 and PSRPs at Step 6 with at least 13 years of experience get one additional sick day each year. Teachers at Step 14 or above and PSRPs at Step 7 or above with at least 18 years of experience get two additional sick days each year.

Personal Business Days

Educators get three personal business days (PB days) per year. At the end of the year, any unused PB days are forfeited. New hires get their PB days after 60 days of employment, with the number prorated based on the month in which they were hired. The details for personal business days are laid out in Part III of Section 302.9 of the CPS Policy Manual.

Personal Business days cannot be barred based on the reason or based on which date the employee has chosen. There cannot be blackout dates. The only reason a personal business day can be denied is if the principal will not be able to find coverage for the day. Principals cannot deny a PB day based on the reason for taking it and CTU advises that members not share any reason with administrators, since your personal business is personal.


Our strike won new contract language in Article 33-4 that extends an educator’s right to bereavement days. Like before, the first five days are paid, the second five are excused, but unpaid. Sick days can be used to get paid for days 6–10 of a bereavement leave. Now, Bereavement Days do not need to be taken consecutively, provided that they are taken in no more than two installments within one month of the date of death.

Religious Holidays

Board Rule 4-10 governs religious holidays. Members can take off for up to three religious holidays with full pay. In the past, the Board charged members for the cost of a substitute on those days, but that policy was rescinded in 2023.

Leaves (More Than Ten Days)

Any absence for more than ten consecutive days must be authorized with an official leave. Read on for description of the types of leave for which you can qualify. If you do not formally take any leave after ten days you will be classified Absent Without Leave (AWOL). See the last paragraph for consequences of being AWOL.

The CTU strongly advises you to contact your field rep if you anticipate taking any of these extended leaves.

Parental Leave

In a historic mid-contract win, the Chicago Board of Education expanded its Parental Leave Policy to provide for 12 weeks of paid parental leave for qualifying CPS employees (birth and non-birth parents, those adopting and fostering children) — the standard for parental leave allocated for other City of Chicago employees. This was critical for Chicago Public Schools’ overwhelmingly female workforce and our majority female union.

Please read the Parental Leave page on our website for detailed information on taking parental leave under the new policy.

Family and Medical Leave Act

The Family and Medical Leave Act is a federal law that guarantees you the right to take unpaid leave to care for your own or your immediate family members’ medical needs. For FMLA purposes, “immediate family” means a parent, spouse or child. Accrued sick days can be used to receive pay during this time off. The Board of Education policies regarding FMLA are laid out in Section 513.1 of the CPS Policy Manual.

To apply for FMLA leave, use this Application for FMLA form (up-to-date as of February 2020) or find the most current form on HR4U. You will need to supply medical evidence, so a physician will need to fill out a large portion of the form.

If you return from FMLA within ten months, you’re guaranteed to return to your school.

You can have up to 25 school months of leave with guaranteed medical insurance (you must pay the premium). If you return after ten months, but within those 25 school months, you are assigned to the teacher reassignment pool.

Supplemental Child-Rearing Leave

Parents who qualify for FMLA leave can extend their time off with an unpaid childrearing leave for up to four years. The leave is unpaid, and secures your school up to ten months. If you take a longer leave, you will return to the reassignment pool (not your old school), but will maintain your seniority and step (no advancement during leave). This leave is governed by Section 513.3 of the CPS Policy Manual.

Leave for Victims of Domestic or Sexual Violence (VESSA)

Section 513.8 of the CPS Policy Manual establishes the policy allowing leave for victims of domestic or sexual violence. This policy is based on Illinois’ Victims Economic Security and Safety Act of 2003. The policy provides for unpaid leave. Members who qualify for this leave should consider seeking short-term, paid disability leave. Contact your field rep to determine the best option for you.

Short-Term Disability

Short Term Disability is a paid leave for up to 90 days. It supplements your ten yearly sick days (no impact on banked sick days). You can only apply for short-term disability once your ten annual sick days are exhausted. The latest form can be found on HR4U, this version of the Application for Short Term Disability is up-to-date as of February 2020.

The first 30 days are paid at 100% of salary, next 30 days are paid at 80% of salary and the final 30 days are paid at 60% of salary. During the days that are paid at less than 100%, you can supplement the pay (up to 100%) by using banked sick days. That is, during the second 30 days, you can use one banked sick day to bring an entire week’s pay from 80% to 100% of normal (the one day is divided into five days, or 20%, so that 80% + 20% = 100% for all five days). Similarly, two banked sick days will supplement an entire week in the final 30 days, when disability would normally only provide 60% of salary.


A sabbatical is a leave to pursue further education in your field. To qualify for a sabbatical, you must be in your seventh year or later. You may only receive one sabbatical in any seven year period. During a sabbatical, you receive medical coverage, but must pay the premium yourself.

Unpaid Sabbatical

Most sabbaticals are unpaid. You are guaranteed a position in the school upon your return.

Partially Paid Sabbatical

If your network chief and principal approve a partially paid sabbatical, you can–like a religious holiday–receive your regular pay minus the cost of a substitute teacher for the days you are on sabbatical.

AWOL: Absent Without Leave

After ten consecutive days absence without an approved leave, you will be considered AWOL. If a principal designates you AWOL, contact your field rep immediately for help in pursuing a qualified leave to resolve the situation.

Find Your Field Representative

Just as knowledge must be shared, your voice must be shared. Take action. Join a committee, represent your school community.

Current Contract

Your contract defines your rights and responsibilities as agreed by the Board of Education or by charter school operator. Study the contract and you will have the knowledge to defend your rights. Union staff will help you enforce them.

Layoff Rights

Despite inadequate staffing and large class sizes, CPS continues to disrespect educators with layoffs that hurt our members, our students and our schools. Thanks to our contract, CPS is required to follow some rules when they make these layoffs and laid off teachers have rights.

Learn More