Living Donation and Employment

Questions to consider when you’re employed.

One of the most important things to consider before donating is if you can afford being away from work during the testing, surgery, and recovery. Your ability to get income or paid leave often depends on your job and the benefits offered by your employer. 

In general, we recommend that you figure out how you would pay the costs of daily living for 3 months after donating.  Individuals donating part of their liver may take up to three months for recovery; it is also good to have a financial plan should you need additional time to recover.  Most kidney donors return to work at, or before, 6 weeks, but it’s better to overestimate your time away from work so you can put energy into your healthy recovery instead of worrying about finances.

These key questions can help you make a plan to get income or paid leave while you miss work.

Q: How much time will I need to be away from work if I donate an organ?
A: The time you need to take off will be different depending on the organ you donate, your health, and the type of work you do. This chart shows the usual amount of time donors spend away from work:

Part of donation process

Usual amount of time off work

Testing before surgery

1–3 days, depending on which organ you donate and the results of your tests

Surgery and hospitalization

2–7 days, depending on which organ you donate and how well the surgery goes. If you don’t live near the hospital, you may need to stay near the hospital for several days after your surgery.


Depends on your health, any problems you may have during recovery, and which organ you donate, but is usually:

  • 2–6 weeks for a kidney donation
  • 8 weeks for a lung donation
  • 12 weeks for a liver donation

Timing also depends on the duties of your job. If your job requires heavy lifting (more than 10 pounds) or is physically hard, it may take more time to return to your normal duties.

Plan ahead so you don’t feel guilty or worried about returning to work before you’re ready. Talk with your supervisor to see if you could return to work part-time or have lighter duties as you begin your return to work.

Q: When should I tell my employer I’m thinking about donating?

A: It depends on your job and your relationship with your employer. Some people wait to see if they’re approved to donate by the transplant center before sharing their decision with their employer. Others tell their employer before they decide to become donors so they can find out what benefits they might get while they’re away from work, such as paid medical leave.

Q: What kind of work leave benefits might be available to me during donation?

A: It depends on your job and employer. You may not qualify for work leave benefits if you’re:

  • Self-employed
  • A consul­tant, contract, or casual employee
  • A part-time employee
  • Working for a small company

However, if you work full-time, have a long work history with a company, or work for a large employer, you probably qualify for some type of leave benefits.

This chart shows the type of benefits that may pro­vide income to you during donation: 

Type of paid benefit


Vacation days

Also known as paid time off (PTO)

Medical or sick leave

Paid time off due to an illness, varies by employer

Short-term disability insurance

Usually paid at 60-75% of your regular income. Some insurance plans may not cover organ donation because it’s considered elective (non-necessary) surgery – especially if you buy a plan on your own instead of getting it through your employer.

Long-term disability insurance

Only used in the rare cases where donors have a long recovery because of complications

Living organ donor leave

A new type of paid leave some employers offer in addition to other types of leave, usually for 30 days. Only available from some employers, including the federal government and sometimes state or local governments.

Vacation days or sick leave donated from coworkers

A choice some employers offer to coworkers of an employee who donates

To find out if you might qualify for these options, ask your employer’s Human Resource (HR) Department or your supervisor. Some employers may not know about all of the benefits available to donors, so ask your donor team to help you educate them.

These options vary by state and by employer, so discuss this with your donor social worker.


Q: What should I know about unpaid leave benefits?

A: Employees who qualify for the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) can take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for certain personal or family health reasons without worrying that it’ll make them lose their job.

To qualify, you must:

  • Work for a company with 50 or more employees
  • Work full-time (1,250 hours) for at least a year

FMLA protects your job security, but does not pay for your time off. Your HR department can explain the FMLA benefit and tell you if you would qualify for it during donation. To learn more online, visit:

Q: Should my caregiver ask about work leave benefits?

A: Yes. If your spouse or other caregiver works, they’ll probably need to take some time off to help you while you recover from surgery. They should ask their employer if they need to use vacation time or if they qualify for FMLA benefits. This is especially important if your household counts on your income and your caregiver’s income to pay for living expenses.

Q: How can I keep records of my work leave options?

A: We recommend that you keep a folder or notebook for papers about your work leave benefits, such as:

  • Notes about meetings or with your employer; dates they took place; and any deadlines for completed forms.
  • Important contact names and resources people may have recommended.
  • Documents about filing for and getting work leave benefits to accommodate recovery and return to work.
  • Completed medical forms with a doctor’s signature, which are usually required by employers and insurance companies