Volunteer and Professional Development Time Guidelines

COVID-19: Contacting the Benefits Department

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Office of Human Resources has limited on-site support and is primarily working remotely. During this time, Craig Hall is not open to the public; walk-ins will not be accepted and forms cannot be dropped off in-person or faxed. During this time, we recommend submitting all requests and inquiries online in lieu of sending physical mail. For Benefits forms not completed online via Pitt Worx or DocuSign, please submit an inquiry online.

If you have a Benefits-related inquiry, including the submission of forms or documentation, the quickest way to receive assistance is to call the Benefits Department at 833-852-2210. You can also submit an inquiry at www.hr.pitt.edu/contact-ohr.

University staff are eligible to receive paid time off per month to participate in community service or volunteer activities (Volunteer Time) or to participate in professional development opportunities (Professional Development Time) during regular working hours. These guidelines are effective as of January 1, 2022.

Staff are not required to participate in University-approved opportunities when taking volunteer or professional development time. However, staff that are interested in University-approved volunteer activities can find opportunities on the Faculty and Staff Volunteerism website. Staff interested in University professional development opportunities are encouraged to participate in the Faculty & Staff Development Program.

The temporary COVID-19 volunteer policy of eight hours per week and the Staff Handbook release time policy (for career-related development workshops/seminars) ended on December 31, 2021. For more information about these new guidelines, please refer to the University’s Staff Handbook.

Eligibility and Available Time

Full- and part-time regular staff are eligible for Volunteer and Professional Development time:

  • Full-time regular staff may use up to 7.5 hours during regular working hours per month for volunteer or professional development time.
    • 7.5 hours is the total available time per month; full-time regular staff cannot take 7.5 hours for volunteer time and 7.5 hours for professional development within the same month.
    • Full-time regular staff may take a partial day for volunteering and a partial day for professional development time in the same month; however, that time may not exceed a combined 7.5 hours in a month.
  • Part-time regular staff are eligible for pro-rated volunteer time and professional development time based on their full-time equivalency.
    • For example, an employee at 50% effort is eligible to take up to 3.75 hours of paid volunteer or professional development time per month.

These guidelines do not apply to faculty, temporary employees, or executives. Represented employees should review their collective bargaining agreement for eligibility for Paid Volunteer time, Professional Development time, or a combination of both. Temporary employees should work with their supervisor on professional development opportunities. 

More information about eligibility can be found in the Staff Handbook.

Utilizing and Recording Volunteer/Professional Development Time

Opportunities for volunteer and/or professional development time must be requested by the employee and approved by the supervisor prior to that time being taken. Time should be requested in the same method as requesting vacation or personal time.

Activities that are mandated by a supervisor or department do not fall under these guidelines and do not need to be recorded as volunteer/professional development time. Volunteer or professional development time that takes place outside of regular working hours is not paid and should not be recorded.

Both exempt (monthly pay) and non-exempt (biweekly pay) staff are required to document the appropriate time taken on their time card in Pitt Worx:

  • When taking volunteer time, use the Hours Type “Volunteer Time
  • When taking professional development time, use the Hours Type “Professional Development Time

A balance of Volunteer Time/Professional Development Time is not tracked in Pitt Worx. Employees and supervisors should manually track time taken to ensure it does not exceed 7.5 hours per month of paid volunteer time/professional development time. Employees can review prior time taken in Pitt Worx by viewing past time cards.

More information about the responsibilities for both staff and supervisors for requesting and utilizing volunteer or professional development time can be found in the Staff Handbook.  

Frequently Asked Questions

General Information

What is Volunteer Time?

Volunteer time is paid time off per month available to staff to participate in a community service or volunteer activity. 

What is Professional Development Time?

Professional development time is paid time off per month available to staff to participate in professional development opportunities either offered by the University, or through a professional organization associated with your field of work. 

How much time can I take off per month for Volunteer Time and Professional Development Time?

A full-time regular staff member may use up to 7.5 hours during regular work hours per month for Volunteer or Professional Development time but cannot take 7.5 hours for volunteer time and 7.5 hours for professional development within the same month. You may take a partial day for volunteering and a partial day for professional development in the same month, but that time may not exceed a combined 7.5 hours in a month. 

What happened to the volunteer policy available during COVID-19?

The COVID-19 volunteer guidelines, which allowed 8 hours of volunteer time each week, ended on December 31, 2021.  All staff must follow the new Volunteer/Professional Development Time guidelines effective January 1, 2022. 

Eligibility

I am a non-exempt (biweekly pay) regular staff. Does this time off count as hours worked when computing compensatory and overtime? 

Yes, both volunteer time and professional development time taken will count as hours worked when calculating compensatory and overtime during a pay period. 

I am a part-time regular staff employee. Is paid volunteer time and paid professional development time available to me?

Part-time regular staff are eligible for pro-rated volunteer time and professional development time based on their full-time equivalency. For example, if an employee is 50% effort, they would be eligible to take up to 3.75 hours of Paid Volunteer or Professional Development time per month. Pay for Paid Volunteer or Professional Development hours is based on the employee’s base pay. 

I am a temporary employee. Do I get paid time off for professional development or volunteering? 

Temporary employees are not covered under the scope of these guidelines and should work with their supervisor to identify professional development opportunities. 

I am covered under a collective bargaining agreement. Do I get paid time off for professional development or volunteering?

If you are covered under a collective bargaining agreement, please check your agreement for eligibility requirements for paid volunteer and/or professional development time. 

I am taking classes at the University as an enrolled student. Do I need to use paid professional development time?

The University encourages departments to offer flexibility around staff employees participating in the University’s academic programs during work hours, which does not fall under the scope of these guidelines. 

Utilizing Volunteer and Professional Development Time

Do I need to have my supervisor’s approval before taking the time off?

Yes, you must have your supervisor’s approval for all volunteer and professional development activities. Your request may be denied based on your department’s business needs or because of any performance issues. 

Do I need to volunteer with a University-approved event? 

No, the volunteer activity does not have to be a University-approved event. However, if you would like to volunteer for activities that are University-approved, opportunities can be found on the Faculty and Staff Volunteerism website. Volunteer time may not be used for service in conjunction with any activity or organization that may cause damage to the University, its employees, or reputation.

Can I participate in professional development opportunities outside of what the University offers? 

Yes, you may participate in any professional development opportunity, such as those offered by professional associations or organizations in your field. However, if you would like to participate in opportunities that are offered at the University, they are available through the Faculty & Staff Development Program.

I am a supervisor and my employee asked for approval to take paid volunteer time/paid professional development. Do I have to approve it? 

While an employee should be encouraged to take this time, paid volunteer or professional development time is not guaranteed. If the request conflicts with business needs or if there is a performance issue, it can be denied. Time should be approved/denied in the same method as vacation/personal time is approved/denied. 

My department requested that I attend a multiple-day conference. Do I need to use professional development time for this? 

No, conference attendance at the request of your department or supervisor is outside of the scope of these guidelines and does not require the use of professional development time. 

Are professional development opportunities that are required by my department/manager count towards this paid professional development time? 

No, activities that require mandated attendance by your department or supervisor are considered hours worked and should not be documented as professional development time.

I have requested and am approved for a week-long volunteer opportunity. Am I able to use paid volunteer time to cover that time off? 

You are eligible for one paid volunteer day (7.5 hours) per month. If approved, you may use that one day towards the week-long opportunity. You must use vacation time or personal time for the remainder of the week. However, if the activity is mandated by your department, you do not have to use your own time off to cover time missed from work.  

Recording Volunteer and Professional Development Time on a Time Card

Do I need to document my volunteer/professional development time on my time card?

Yes, both exempt and non-exempt regular staff must document volunteer time as “Volunteer Time” on their time card and their professional development time as “Professional Development Time.” 

Can I take both paid time for volunteer time and professional development within the same month? 

Maybe. A full-time regular staff member may use up to 7.5 hours per month for Volunteer or Professional Development time but cannot take 7.5 hours for volunteer time and 7.5 hours for professional development within the same month. However, you may take a partial day for volunteering and a partial day for professional development in the same month, but that time may not exceed a combined 7.5 hours in a month. 

If I don’t use this time in a particular month, does volunteer time and professional development time carry over from month to month? 

No, volunteer time and professional development time does not carry over from month to month and is not payable as a cash benefit. This time is not paid out upon termination of employment. 

I am volunteering outside of normal work hours. Do I need to document my volunteer hours on my time card? 

No, volunteer hours outside of your normal work hours do not need to be documented on your time card. You will not be paid for volunteer time or professional development time that falls outside of your normal work schedule (i.e., evenings and weekends). However, you should consider documenting this time with the Office of Engagement & Community Affairs.   

Should I continue to use “release” time on my time card to attend professional development sessions on campus, such as FSDP? 

No, all professional development time requested by the employee should be coded as Professional Development Time on the employee’s time card in Pitt Worx.

Where can I review my Volunteer Time/Professional Development Time balance? 

A balance of Volunteer Time/Professional Development Time is not available in Pitt Worx. You and your supervisor will need to manually track that you do not exceed 7.5 hours per month of paid volunteer time/professional development time. You can review prior time taken in Pitt Worx by viewing your prior time cards.