Understanding Personal Time Off


The successful pursuit of a graduate degree is highly demanding. It involves an investment of time and intellectual energy, while taking courses, participating in internships, conducting research, engaging in independent study, and writing. SGS is aware that you are more likely to reach your full potential in graduate studies when you are able to take time off for physical and intellectual rest and rejuvenation.  For these reasons, SGS has developed the Personal Time Off Policy.

What is the Personal Time Off Policy?

This policy allows you to take 15 business days off annually, during an academic year (September to August), to support your wellbeing and mental and physical health. For professional-stream students, the days allotted for personal time off are predetermined by your program and should be included in your academic calendar. For research-stream students, these days are scheduled in consultation with your supervisor. Personal time off is in addition to statutory holidays and days designated as University’s closures or holidays.

Reading weeks can be included towards the 15 days of personal time off.

Does my graduate program fall under the Personal Time Off Policy?

Yes, if you are a full-time graduate student in a research-stream program or a professional-stream program that is longer than 12 months in duration.

What if my Professional program is 12 months or less in duration?

Your program is exempt from this policy. Programs that are designed to be 12 months or less are intended to be intensive in nature to accommodate learners who take time off work to pursue a graduate degree. As such, these programs may not have the capacity to incorporate time off into their tight schedules and are exempt from this policy.

Does the policy apply to part-time or full-time extended-option programs?

The policy does not apply to part-time programs or full-time extended-option programs where the degree requirements are completed on a part-time basis.

Is there a difference between the implementation of this policy if I am in a research-stream program versus a professional stream program?  

Yes. By design, research-stream programs involve more independent work, research, and writing, where the timing is more flexible, whereas professional-stream programs involve more coursework and internships / placements where the timing is more scheduled. As such, there are significant differences between the implementation of this policy across these two types of programs.

  • Research-stream programs: If you are in a research-stream program, the timing of your personal time off can be flexible, as long as it does not interfere with your coursework or your grant / scholarship application deadlines. Students should work with their supervisors to determine a schedule for personal time off across the academic year.
  • Professional-stream programs: If you are in a professional-stream program, your personal time off will be pre-scheduled and determined by your program’s curriculum, considering both coursework and internships / placements schedules.

SGS encourages professional-stream program administrators to integrate the 15 scheduled days off into the academic calendar in a way that best supports students’ well-being and mental health, while meeting the requirements of the program. To allow students to rest and rejuvenate, SGS recommends programs schedule consecutive days for personal time off, wherever possible and feasible. However, SGS recognizes that for some programs, scheduling non-consecutive days off across the academic calendar may be the most feasible option for implementation of the policy. Both approaches are permitted under this policy.

Can I take time off through this policy if I am employed by the University?

The policy only pertains to your role as a student, not your role in any employment you may have with the university. If you have any kind of employment relationship with the University, e.g., Teaching Assistants, Research Assistants, Graduate Student Library Assistants, etc., you should speak with your employment supervisor and consult the applicable collective agreement(s), if any, on all matters and questions pertaining to your employment, including for obtaining approval of any time off work.

Can I take time off in the middle of coursework or an internship?  

No. If you are a research-stream or a professional-stream student taking courses or participating in an off-site internship or practicum, you are not allowed to take personal time off.

  • For research-stream students: Consult with your supervisor before scheduling days for personal time off to ensure the time-frame does not interfere with courses or important deadlines (e.g., grant applications).
  • For professional-stream students: Your program will pre-select days throughout the academic calendar for personal time off that should not interfere with your coursework, internship, or practicum

What if I need to take time off for medical reasons or because of a personal emergency?  

The Personal Time Off Policy was created to enable you to take time off for physical and intellectual rest and rejuvenation. If you need to take time off for medical reasons or because of a personal emergency, you should communicate this with your unit. Your unit will help you understand the documentation that is needed to take a short leave for medical reasons or a personal emergency. If you need to take a longer leave, for medical or personal reasons, we strongly encourage you to consider a Leave of Absence.

Am I responsible for identifying and communicating my time off?  

If you are in a research-stream program, your time off is highly individualized and determined in close consultation with your supervisor.

If you are in a professional-stream program that falls under this policy, your academic administrators (e.g., graduate chair / coordinators / curriculum committee chairs) are responsible for identifying time off periods in the curriculum and communicating it to you.

How much time am I allowed to take as personal time off? 

During an academic year (September to August), you are permitted 15 days in personal time off under this policy. The personal time off is in addition to statutory holidays and days designated as University’s closures or holidays.

  • For research-stream students: Note that taking time off is not required, but instead encouraged to support your well-being and mental and physical health. You can take off anywhere between 1 to 15 business days. To use the policy more effectively, we recommend that you take a minimum of 5 or more days at once, to truly have a break. Please discuss with your supervisor when and how it would be best to take time off.
  • For professional-stream students: Personal time off will be integrated into your program curriculum

Will my funding, fees, or access to university resources be affected? 

No. This short leave will not affect your standing in the program or pause your program in any way. The time off will not affect funding for those in the funded cohort. The time off will not affect student status, fees, or students’ access to university services and facilities.

What if my supervisor does not allow me to take time off from my research work?  

For research-stream students: Your supervisor is required to accommodate your request for personal time off. If there are disagreements regarding the details of the time off, or scheduling time off, please engage with your graduate coordinator, graduate chair, or program director, who will help you negotiate your time off with your research supervisor. You may also discuss your time off with members of your supervisory committee.

What if my professional program does not specify time off in its curriculum?  

If you are in a professional program which is longer than 12 months in duration, your program will be required to implement this policy within 2 academic years past its inception (July 1, 2022). This extension will allow your unit to review the program curriculum and / or go through a formal approval process to designate specific periods of time for ‘personal time off’.

How do I go about planning my time off?

If you are a research-stream student, please begin by discussing the time off with your supervisor. You should allow your supervisor to plan their research activities in relation to your time off. As such, please discuss your time off schedule with your supervisor with as much advanced notice as possible. If you are in a professional-stream program, please consult your program curriculum.

If you are an international student and have questions about how taking personal time off may impact your immigration status in Canada, contact an International Student Immigration Advisor on your campus: UTSG, UTM, UTSC.