Consider a situation in which a professor starts a position at one institution on the 1st of a month, and finishes their position at their previous institution of the 30th of that month.

What are the potential legal, conflict of interest, and professional issues? Would these be mitigated if the month is spent on leave? Are there other considerations?

  • 2
    Why don't they just arrange to terminate the contract with university #1 when they start at university #2? It can't be the first time that contract periods overlap between institutions. – Jon Custer Aug 17 '18 at 14:11
  • Country matters. A professor was found out to hold two positions (in parallel) in Germany (he spent half the week on one, and the other half on the other) and he was fired (which shows how big an offence that was - it is almost impossible to fire a German professor), as they are not allowed to hold two state positions at once. Such an overlap may be reason for termination. Better check with your institutions, in private institutions it might be possible. – Captain Emacs Aug 18 '18 at 12:43
  • A related situation: in the US it's quite common that if a professor wants to quit her job at University X to go work at University Y, then X will let her go on unpaid leave for a year instead of resigning. Thus for the first year she is on leave from X and employed by Y. If at some point during the year, she decides she liked X better after all, she can just go back there, without having to reapply for her previous job. This doesn't seem to cause any particular problems, though I don't know if there are special arrangements involved. – Nate Eldredge Aug 19 '18 at 0:04
  • From the standpoint of the law it should be fine. Most (close to all?) countries allow you to hold several appointments in the same month. If not, some part-time workers (think waiters, bartenders, etc.) would have a hard time making ends meet.
  • The other legal factor is the employment contracts. These could require you to seek authorization from the current employer before starting outside employment.
  • It absolutely is a conflict of interest, but one that should be possible to solve by disclosing the situation to both employers. The actual solution might be the one-month leave you mention, quitting the first position earlier, getting a thumbs up from the current employer, or doing a 50/50 time split the first month. Either way, the current institution deserves to know if you begin to work for, and earn money from, a new institution - whether you intend to leave your current job or not.
  • Note that the possible conflicts of interest don't just concern the pay - if you use resources from the first institution to benefit the second it can also be bad. This isn't really solved by a leave, but by disclosure and then handling the resources responsibly.
  • I don't really see any professional issues, assuming you handle the conflict of interest issues professionally (i.e. disclose them). After all, it is rather common in academia to have more than one affiliation. Of course, one also needs to be professional in choosing which affiliation to put on papers.
  • Another consideration, especially in the US, would be benefits and medical insurance. The easiest way to handle this is probably to waive those benefits for a month at the new job. And if the two institutions are in different jurisdictions you might have a fun time figuring out how to do your taxes correctly...

Another benefit of disclosing the situation properly is that you can then ask HR (at both institutions!) if there are other relevant issues in the specific case. Ultimately, it's their job to know how to handle these things, not yours.


I suspect there will be legal issues, but it ultimately depends on the two employment contracts. Conflicts of interest might include the old institute not getting the recognition it deserves. Neither is truly mitigated by a month spent on leave.


This is purely a contractual issue in the US. In Germany it can be statutory but in the US it is in the detail of the contract. Usually an employment contract will specify the outside appointments one may enter into, if any, and the means for getting approval. Some institutions are liberal and others far less so. I know a Duke Univ professor running his own hedge fund, and a UCL professor running a computer-assisted fashion design company out of his office (literally, as in his business partner sits in an extra seat in his office). But many institutions have a problem with this.

It is best to check the detail of your contract and if there is any conflict to be up front about it. It is a very small amount of money involved compared to the legal and potentially reputational burden which may ensue. If you have questions it is possible to consult employment lawyers who specialise in these matters. Unlike regular contract, there are many terms which are not viable or not enforceable depending on the jurisdiction.

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