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Winter Recess Information

For a list of upcoming scheduled Winter Recess days, see the Holiday & Winter Recess Calendar.

Winter Recess refers to the closing of the University’s academic and administrative offices between the scheduled Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve holidays. This is done in recognition of the season and dedication of Northwestern’s faculty and staff. Winter Recess days are not holidays but are provided in addition to the already scheduled University holidays of Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day.

The goal of Winter Recess is to close the University. However, a few areas of the University provide critical, essential services and therefore will not close during the Winter Recess. Those areas will maintain appropriate levels of staff for operations and continuity of service during this period. Staff members in those areas who are not able to be off during the Winter Recess period will be allowed to take the equivalent number of approved days off prior to August 31 of the following year. 



All Northwestern benefits-eligible and part-time, non-benefits eligible faculty and staff are entitled to participate in Winter Recess; temporary staff should not be scheduled to work during the Winter Recess period.  For NU-Q faculty and staff, please check with management to learn if and how Winter Recess will be handled.

Essential staff

Essential staff members provide services that relate directly to the health, safety, and welfare of the Northwestern community and ensure continuity of key operations.

The goal of Winter Recess is to close non-essential functions and provide staff with time off from work. Unit leadership determines individual department observance of Winter Recess and the roles that are essential to maintain key operations. Staff members not designated as essential may not work during Winter Recess.

Unit leadership determines the roles that are essential to maintaining key operations and is responsible for ensuring that unit staff receive the necessary communication. If there are questions, staff should direct those to their respective supervisor.

Pay and accruals

Paid Winter Recess

  • Staff members must be in a benefits-eligible position in order to receive pay for time spent not working during Winter Recess.
  • Union members: Staff members covered by a collective bargaining agreement should contact their respective union representative to determine eligibility.
  • Part-time staff: Staff members in part-time, benefits-eligible positions are paid on a prorated basis for days worked during Winter Recess.

Unpaid Winter Recess

  • Temporary staff and student workers: Essential staff will be the only staff scheduled to work. Given there will be minimal to no supervision, temporary staff and students should not be scheduled to work.


Winter Recess days cannot be used before the December holiday season. If essential staff work during the Winter Recess, alternate Winter Recess days can be used after January 1, through August 31.

There will be changes to Northwestern’s shuttle service and hours of operation at recreation facilities during Winter Recess.


To support Northwestern’s vision of fostering a culture of sustainability and environmental stewardship, sustainNU is leading the way during Winter Recess. Visit sustainNU to see an energy conservation check list for the time when work spaces are unoccupied for longer periods of time.


See our Winter Recess FAQs for answers to common questions, including those about essential staff, pay and accruals.