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Chapter 5, Section 1: Paid Time Off

The federal government has made provisions for authorized absence from work, usually through earned leave, for most of its employees. These provisions are in Chapter 63 of Title 5, U.S. Code.

General Leave Rules

The federal government has made provisions for authorized absence from work, usually through earned leave, for most of its employees. These provisions are in Chapter 63 of Title 5, U.S. Code.

An employee may use annual leave for vacations, rest and relaxation, and personal business or emergencies. Except for emergencies, an employee's use of annual leave generally must be authorized in advance, usually by the employee's immediate supervisor. Agency policies vary regarding the timing, format, and approval requirements for annual leave requests, and they may be affected by collective bargaining agreements.

Office of Personnel Management policy is that federal supervisors are not to make it a standard practice to require with every request for annual leave that employees inform them how the annual leave will be used. Supervisors may from time to time ask employees how they will use the requested annual leave so that the supervisors may make informed decisions about scheduling the leave. In such cases, employees are not required to provide the supervisor with this information, but in the absence of such information, their request for annual leave may be denied based on the workload of the agency.

An agency cannot require an employee to use annual leave when the agency has placed the employee on extended excused absence (such as in cases where adverse actions are being pursued by the agency).

An employee may use sick leave when he or she: is incapacitated for the performance of duties by physical or mental illness, injury, pregnancy, or childbirth; receives medical, dental, or optical examination or treatment; or would, as determined by the health authorities having jurisdiction or by a health care provider, jeopardize the health of others by his or her presence on the job because of exposure to a communicable disease. Also, sick leave may be authorized within limits for certain family-related purposes as described in Section 2 of this chapter. There is no limitation on the amount of accumulated sick leave an employee may use for personal medical needs per leave year.

Sick leave approval policies vary among agencies and may be affected by collective bargaining agreements. An agency may require employees to request advanced approval for sick leave for their own medical, dental, or optical examination or treatment; to attend to a family member receiving such an examination or treatment; to care for a sick family member or one with a serious health condition; for bereavement purposes; and for adoption-related purposes.

Employees absent from work because of illness without prior sick leave approval may be required to submit administratively acceptable evidence that they were ill and unable to work for periods in excess of three workdays or for a lesser period under agency policy. Under 5 CFR 630.403(b), an agency may require an employee to provide such evidence no later than 15 calendar days after the date the agency requests that documentation. If it is not practical to provide the requested certification, despite the employee's diligent good faith efforts, the employee may be given an additional 15 calendar days.

If an employee is on annual leave, an agency may allow substitution of sick leave for any of the standard reasons for which sick leave may be approved but is not required to do so.

Charges for annual and sick leave normally are in increments of one hour. However, an agency may on its own initiative, or on the basis of union negotiations, establish a policy for charging leave in lesser amounts.

Both annual and sick leave may be used when employees perform military duty, as explained in Employment Rights of Those on Military Duty in Chapter 8, Section 8.

Generally, when employees transfer between positions, accrued amounts of annual and sick leave are transferred to the new employing agency. When employees transfer to agencies with a different leave system, the leave may be transferred on an adjusted basis.

New employees may use their annual leave as they earn it during their first 90 days if their appointments are for 90 days or longer.

General rules covering sick leave are at 5 U.S.C. Chapter 63, subchapter I, and 5 CFR, Part 630, subparts B and D. General rules covering annual leave are at 5 U.S.C. Chapter 63, subchapter I; 5 CFR 351.606; and 5 CFR Part 630, subparts B and C. An index of the laws and regulations for various leave policies is at www.opm.gov/oca/leave/html/levindex.asp, and fact sheets are at www.opm.gov/oca/leave/html/factindx.asp.

Advanced Leave, General -- Advanced annual or sick leave is not an employee right and typically will not be granted when it is known or reasonably expected that the employee will not return to duty -- for example when the employee has applied for disability retirement.

When an employee who is indebted for advanced annual or sick leave transfers to another agency without a break in service, the old agency may not require an employee to refund the amount of the advanced leave. In such cases, the employee starts at the new agency with a negative leave balance.

Generally, when employees who are indebted for advanced leave separate from federal service, they must refund the amount for which they are indebted. Exceptions can be made if the employee dies, retires for disability, or is separated or resigns because of disability.

Advanced Annual Leave -- Supervisors may grant advance annual leave consistent with agency policy. The amount of annual leave that may be advanced is limited to the amount of annual leave an employee would accrue in the remainder of the leave year.

Employees do not have an entitlement to advanced annual leave. An agency may consider factors such as the expectation of a return to duty, the need for the employee's services, and the benefits to the agency of retaining the employee.

Advanced Sick Leave -- At its discretion, an agency may advance sick leave for the same reasons it grants sick leave, subject to the limitations described below. The same approval requirements under agency policies apply.

An agency may advance up to 104 hours (13 days) of sick leave to a full-time employee: when he or she receives medical, dental, or optical examination or treatment; to provide care for a family member who is incapacitated by a medical or mental condition or to attend to a family member receiving medical, dental, or optical examination or treatment; to provide care for a family member who would, as determined by the health authorities having jurisdiction or by a health care provider, jeopardize the health of others by that family member's presence in the community because of exposure to a communicable disease; or to make arrangements necessitated by the death of a family member or to attend the funeral of a family member.

An agency may advance up to 240 hours (30 days) of sick leave to a full-time employee: who is incapacitated for the performance of his or her duties by physical or mental illness, injury, pregnancy, or childbirth; for a serious health condition of the employee or a family member; when the employee would, as determined by the health authorities having jurisdiction or by a health care provider, jeopardize the health of others by his or her presence on the job because of exposure to a communicable disease; for purposes relating to the adoption of a child; or for the care of a covered military service member with a serious injury or illness, provided the employee is exercising his or her entitlement to Family and Medical Leave Act leave to care for a covered military service member.

For a part-time employee or an employee on an uncommon tour of duty, these amounts are prorated according to the number of hours in the employee's regularly scheduled administrative workweek.

See Qualifying Family Members, below, for the definition of family members whose situations warrant advancing sick leave for family purposes.

An employee may not be indebted for more than 30 days of advanced sick leave at any time.

RIF Situations -- In a reduction in force (RIF) or where an employee is being separated by adverse action procedures because of the employee's decision to decline relocation (including a transfer of function), an employee may use annual leave to establish initial eligibility for retirement, including discontinued service or voluntary early retirement, or to continue health insurance coverage into retirement so that the employee may remain on the agency's rolls after the effective date the employee would otherwise have been separated. Employees may use accrued or restored annual leave and leave donated to the employee under leave bank or leave sharing programs that has been credited to their account before the effective date of a RIF or relocation, as well as annual leave earned while in a paid leave status after the effective date of the RIF or relocation. They may not use advanced annual leave for these purposes. See 5 CFR 630.212.

In a RIF situation, whatever retention standing an employee had when these rights are exercised remains in force until the RIF is completed. Once employees exercise these rights and they are retained under this authority, they may not use any other type of leave.

Volunteer Activities -- OPM encourages agencies to be flexible in responding to requests for time off to allow employees to engage in volunteer activities, while giving due consideration to the effect of the employee's absence on work operations and productivity. See Volunteer Activities in Chapter 8, Section 2.

Severe Weather and Other Emergencies -- See Chapter 8, Section 2 for policies regarding special grants of time off for severe weather and other emergencies.

Part-Time Employees -- A part-time employee earns annual leave and sick leave on a pro-rata basis. The available leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act is calculated on an hourly basis and equals 12 times the average number of hours in the employee's regularly scheduled administrative workweek.

If an employee works concurrently in two part-time federal positions, the employee accumulates leave on a pro-rata basis for the hours worked in each position. Only the leave earned in a given position may be used for absences from that position.

The total amount of sick leave a part-time employee may use for family care or bereavement purposes in a leave year may not exceed the number of hours of sick leave normally accrued by that employee in that position during a leave year.

Injury Compensation -- An employee receiving Office of Workers Compensation benefits is not entitled to accrue sick or annual leave if he is solely in a non-pay status. However, employees do accrue annual and sick leave if they work less than full time and draw OWCP benefits for the rest of the time. See Annual and Sick Leave under Leave Without Pay in Section 4 of this chapter.

Qualifying Family Members

Under policies governing sick leave for family care or bereavement purposes (see Section 2 of this chapter) and the leave transfer, leave bank and emergency leave transfer programs (see Section 3 of this chapter), the situations of other persons can entitle an employee to use leave.

Rules governing persons whose needs trigger eligibility under those programs are at 5 CFR 630. Those rules were amended effective July 14, 2010, to: make domestic partners, including same-sex and opposite-sex partners, qualify as family members if they meet certain standards; clarify that certain other individuals including grandparents, grandchildren, and spouses of parents qualify; and more explicitly define who is considered a parent or child.

Under the rules, a qualifying family member means an individual with any of the following relationships to the employee:

  1. spouse, and parents thereof;
  2. sons and daughters, and spouses thereof;
  3. parents, and spouses thereof;
  4. brothers and sisters, and spouses thereof;
  5. grandparents and grandchildren, and spouses thereof;
  6. domestic partner and parents thereof, including domestic partners of any individual in (2) through (5); and
  7. any individual related by blood or affinity whose close association with the employee is the equivalent of a family relationship.

A parent means:

  1. a biological, adoptive, step, or foster parent of the employee, or a person who was a foster parent of the employee when the employee was a minor;
  2. a person who is the legal guardian of the employee or was the legal guardian of the employee when the employee was a minor or required a legal guardian;
  3. a person who stands in loco parentis (in the place of a parent) to the employee or stood in loco parentis to the employee when the employee was a minor or required someone to stand in loco parentis; or
  4. a parent, as described in (1) through (3), of an employee's spouse or domestic partner.
Son or daughter means:
  1. A biological, adopted, step, or foster son or daughter of the employee;
  2. A person who is a legal ward or was a legal ward of the employee when that individual was a minor or required a legal guardian;
  3. A person for whom the employee stands in loco parentis or stood in loco parentis when that individual was a minor or required someone to stand in loco parentis; or
  4. A son or daughter, as described in (1) through (3), of an employee's spouse or domestic partner.

The rules do not contain an explicit list of who qualifies under the "close association" test, but OPM has interpreted that category to include such relationships as brother- and sister-in-law, fiancé and fiancée, cousin, aunt, uncle, and other relatives and close friends, to the extent that the connection between the employee and the individual is significant enough to be regarded as having the closeness of a family relationship, even though the individuals might not be related by blood or formally in law.

For purposes of these policies, a domestic partner means an adult in a committed relationship with another adult, including both same-sex and opposite-sex relationships. A committed relationship means one in which the employee, and the domestic partner of the employee are each other's sole domestic partner (and are not married to or domestic partners with anyone else), and share responsibility for a significant measure of each other's common welfare and financial obligations. This includes, but is not limited to, any relationship between two individuals of the same or opposite sex that is granted legal recognition by a state or by the District of Columbia as a marriage or analogous relationship (including, but not limited to, a civil union).

The rules instruct agencies to follow the same procedures and apply the same standards of verification for requests for leave to care for domestic partners that they apply to requests for leave to care for spouses, including exercising their authority to request more information in cases of suspected leave abuse.

The definition of domestic partner for these purposes differs from that used for eligibility to take unpaid leave to care for a child under the Family and Medical Leave Act leave (see Section 4 in this chapter), to enroll in the Federal Long-Term Care Insurance Program (see Eligibility in Chapter 2, Section 3), or for certain other benefits (see Overseas Employment in Chapter 8, Section 1, and Domestic Partners in Chapter 8, Section 4). Also see Time Off for Family Obligations in Section 4 of this chapter.

Sick Leave Accrual and Accumulation

Full-time employees earn four hours of sick leave each biweekly pay period (13 days a year); part-time workers earn one hour of sick leave for every 20 hours in a pay status. The biweekly accrual rate for employees on uncommon tours of duty is four hours times the average number of hours per biweekly pay period, divided by 80. There is no limit on the amount of sick leave that can be accumulated.

Employees who leave federal service are not entitled to lump-sum payments for unused sick leave. However, if workers are re-employed in the federal service, the amount of previously accumulated, unused sick leave is recredited to their accounts (unless it was previously forfeited due to re-employment before Dec. 2, 1994).

For a re-employed annuitant, any sick leave that was used in the computation of the annuity cannot be recredited, but any not used in the computation (an issue only for retirements under the Federal Employees Retirement System) will be recredited. For policies on crediting unused sick leave as time served in annuity calculations, see Credit for Unused Sick Leave in Chapter 3, Section 3.

Unused sick leave cannot be included when calculating high-3 salary or used to meet a minimum length of service requirement for retirement eligibility.

Annual Leave Accrual and Accumulation

General Accrual Rules -- Annual leave is earned on the basis of years of federal service, including creditable military service. Normally, full-time employees with 15 years or more service earn 26 days of annual leave a year (that is, one eight-hour day per biweekly pay period); those with three but less than 15 years earn 20 days; and those with less than three years earn 13 days. Normally, part-time employees with 15 years or more service earn one hour of annual leave for each ten hours in a pay status, those with three but less than 15 years earn one hour for each 13 hours in pay status, and those with less than three years earn one hour for each 20 hours in pay status.

Creditable Civilian Service -- All civilian service that is potentially creditable for CSRS or FERS purposes is also creditable for annual leave accrual. Potentially creditable service includes service that could be credited if the employee made deposits to the retirement fund. Such deposits are not required before the employee gets credit for annual leave accrual purposes.

Creditable Military Service -- For non-retired members, full credit for uniformed service (including active duty and active duty for training) performed under honorable conditions is given for annual leave accrual purposes.

For retirees, annual leave accrual credit is given only for:

  • actual service during a war declared by Congress or while participating in a campaign or expedition for which a campaign badge is authorized; or
  • active duty when retirement was based on a disability received as a direct result of armed conflict or caused by an instrumentality of war and incurred in the line of duty during a period of war as defined in 38 U.S.C. 101(11).

Special rules apply to annual leave accrual rates for individuals appointed to a federal civilian position while on military "terminal" leave pending military retirement. See CPM 2009-03 at www.opm.gov/oca/compmemo.

Military academy time is creditable for leave accrual purposes for both CSRS and FERS employees.

Credit for Nonfederal Service -- Under 5 U.S.C. 6303, a newly appointed or reappointed employee may receive service credit for prior nonfederal service or active duty uniformed service that otherwise would not be creditable for the purpose of determining his or her annual leave accrual rate.

Under the implementing rules at 5 CFR 630.205, the head of the agency or designee must determine that the skills and experience the employee possesses were acquired through performance in a nonfederal or active duty uniformed service position having duties which directly relate to the duties of the position to which he or she is being appointed and are necessary to achieve an important agency mission or performance goal. This provision applies only to a newly appointed employee or an employee who is reappointed following a break in service of at least 90 calendar days from the date of his or her last period of federal civilian employment, and only may be applied upon an employee's appointment to a position on or after April 28, 2005.

The amount of service credit that may be granted to an employee is determined at the discretion of the agency, up to the actual amount of service during which the individual performed duties directly related to the position to which he or she is being appointed.

Further information is at www.opm.gov/oca/leave/html/creditableservice-forannualleaveaccrual.asp.

Accrual Rates for High-Level Employees -- Under 5 U.S.C. 6303(f), Senior Executive Service members and senior level and senior scientific and technical employees accrue annual leave at the maximum rate of one day for each biweekly pay period regardless of years of service. OPM has extended that policy to certain positions at comparable levels. See www.opm.gov/oca/leave/html/sesannual.asp. Agency heads may request OPM to include additional pay systems they consider equivalent.

Annual Leave Accrual Rates*
Employee Type Less than 3 years of service 3 years but less than 15 years of service* 15 or more years of service*
Full-Time employees 1⁄2 day (4 hours) for each pay period 3⁄4 day (6 hours) for each pay period, except 11⁄4 day (10 hours) in last pay period 1 day (8 hours) for each pay period
Part-Time employees** 1 hour of annual leave for each 20 hours in a pay status 1 hour of annual leave for each 13 hours in a pay status 1 hour of annual leave for each 10 hours in a pay status
Uncommon tours of duty** 4 hours times average number of hours per biweekly pay period divided by 80 = biweekly accrual rate.*** 6 hours times average number of hours per biweekly pay period divided by 80 = biweekly accrual rate.*** 8 hours times average number of hours per biweekly pay period divided by 80 = biweekly accrual rate. ***

* See accompanying text for creditable service and special provisions
** Leave is prorated for part-time employees and employees on uncommon tours of duty
*** In computing leave accrual for uncommon tours of duty, the accrual rate for the last full pay period in a calendar year must be adjusted to ensure the correct amount of leave is accrued
Note: Leave accrual rates are transferable without change when an employee moves between agencies covered under 5 U.S.C. 6303 (which includes all departments and most agencies). For example, an employee who is entitled to an accrual rate of eight hours per biweekly pay period will be entitled to the same accrual rate on transfer to another agency covered under that statute.

An employee who moves from a covered pay system to a non-covered pay system is no longer entitled to the higher annual leave accrual rate; the employee's rate is redetermined based on years of creditable service. Any annual leave accumulated under the covered position remains to the employee's credit.

Annual Leave Accumulation -- Employees are permitted to accumulate annual leave within certain limitations. Under this system, employees have to "use or lose" their excess leave by the end of the leave year with certain exceptions as described in Restoration of Forfeited Annual Leave, below.

The law permits most employees to carry 240 hours (30 days) of annual leave from one leave year to the next. Overseas employees are allowed to carry forward 360 hours (45 days). U.S. Postal Service bargaining unit employees typically may carry forward 440 hours (55 days) and Executive and Administrative Schedule employees may carry forward 560 hours (70 days). Employees in senior level (SL), senior scientific and technical (ST) and intelligence senior level employees may carry forward 720 hours (90 days), under 5 CFR 630. A 720-hour limit also generally applies to Senior Executive Service members, although there are exceptions (see SES Members: Annual Leave Rules, below). Employees with an authorized accumulation in excess of 240 hours who return to a position with a 240-hour limit are allowed to retain their excess annual leave until used.

Restoration of Forfeited Annual Leave

Agencies may restore annual leave that was forfeited because it was in excess of the maximum leave ceilings if the leave was forfeited because of an administrative error, exigency of the public business, or sickness of the employee, under Section 6304 (d) of Title 5, U.S.C.; see below for policies in certain special circumstances. An agency must restore the annual leave in a separate leave account.

The employing agency determines what constitutes an administrative error, that an exigency is of major importance and that excess annual leave cannot be used, or that the annual leave was forfeited because of a period of absence due to an employee's sickness or injury that occurred late in the leave year or was of such duration that the excess annual leave could not be rescheduled for use before the end of the leave year. (Note: Leave years do not run concurrent with calendar years. See the accompanying leave year dates table.)

An agency typically may consider for restoration annual leave that was forfeited due to an exigency of the public business or sickness of the employee only if the annual leave was scheduled in writing before the start of the third biweekly pay period prior to the end of the leave year. An employee's use of earned compensatory time off or credit hours does not constitute an exigency of the public business. If the use of earned compensatory time off or credit hours that are about to expire results in the forfeiture of excess annual leave, the forfeited leave cannot be restored.

An employee must schedule and use restored annual leave not later than the end of the leave year ending two years after:

  • the date of restoration of the annual leave forfeited because of administrative error;
  • the date fixed by the head of the agency or designee as the date of termination of the exigency of the public business; or
  • the date the employee is determined to be recovered from illness or injury and able to return to duty.

Restored annual leave that is not used within the established time limits is forfeited with no further right to restoration. Administrative error may not serve as the basis to extend the time limit within which to use restored annual leave. This is so even if the agency fails to establish a separate leave account, fix the date for the expiration of the time limit, or properly advise the employee regarding the rules for using restored annual leave, absent agency regulations requiring otherwise.

National Emergency -- Under 5 CFR 630.311, "use or lose" annual leave may be restored to employees whose services are determined to be necessary for national emergency reasons. Such employees are entitled to have their excess annual leave restored without the administrative burden of scheduling and canceling such leave. In addition, the time limitations for using restored annual leave are suspended for the entire period during which employees' services are determined to be essential for activities associated with the national emergency. At the end of the national emergency, or when the services of the employee no longer are determined to be necessary, a new time limit will be established for using all restored leave available to the employee.

Base Closings -- 5 U.S.C. 6304(d)(3) allows automatic restoration of forfeited annual leave earned by Defense Department employees who are assigned to installations or activities affected by the base closing and realignment process regardless of whether the leave was scheduled in advance. The law also stipulates that a closure or realignment is deemed to create an exigency of the public business. This policy applies to all employees working in an activity scheduled for closure or realignment, even if the installation where the activity is located is not closing or realigning.

Closures and Special Holidays -- Dismissal from work or closure of agency offices due to weather conditions or other emergencies, end-of-year holidays granted by executive order, and other unexpected paid time off without charge to leave may disrupt plans to use scheduled annual leave. Workdays on which a federal activity is closed are considered nonwork days for leave purposes, and employees are not charged annual leave. If such circumstances result in an employee being unable to reschedule and use "use or lose" leave before the end of the leave year, the leave will be forfeited. When "use or lose" leave is forfeited under such conditions, it cannot be restored.

Extended Excused Absence -- Being placed on extended excused absence (for example, pending possible disciplinary action) does not relieve an employee of the responsibility to schedule any annual leave that would otherwise be forfeited. If the employee fails to request the use of annual leave that would otherwise be forfeited, the agency cannot restore it to the employee. If an employee requests to use annual leave and the agency denies the request, the agency would be required to restore the annual leave.

Leave Year Dates

A leave year begins on the first day of the first full biweekly pay period in a calendar year and ends on the day immediately before the first day of the first full biweekly pay period in the following calendar year.

Employees generally must use annual leave in excess of a maximum amount of accrued annual leave allowable for them (240 hours for most employees) by the end of a leave year or they will lose it. However, leave may be restored under certain circumstances (see Restoration of Forfeited Annual Leave, above).

The dates in the table apply to most employees; however, some agency payroll systems use a different pay period schedule. Employees should contact their agencies to verify the beginning and ending dates of a particular leave year.

Leave Year Leave Year Beginning Date Leave Year Ending Date Date for Scheduling Use or Lose Annual Leave
2012 January 01, 2012 January 12, 2013 December 01, 2012
2013 January 13, 2013 January 11, 2014 November 30, 2013
2014 January 12, 2014 January 10, 2015 November 29, 2014
2015 January 11, 2015 January 09, 2016 November 28, 2015
2016 January 10, 2016 January 07, 2017 November 26, 2016
2017 January 08, 2017 January 06, 2018 November 25, 2017
2018 January 07, 2018 January 05, 2019 November 24, 2018
2019 January 06, 2019 January 04, 2020 November 23, 2019
2020 January 05, 2020 January 02, 2021 November 21, 2020

Lump-Sum Payments

Separation or Retirement -- Generally, upon separation from federal employment, including separation for active military duty or for retirement, employees are entitled to payment for annual leave credited to their accounts, including the carry-over balance, the unused leave accrued during the year, and any unused restored leave. Under 5 U.S.C. 5551 (see 5 CFR Part 550, subpart L), payments are calculated as if individuals had remained employed until their annual leave ran out. If a pay raise becomes effective during that period, the payment reflects the higher rate from the effective date of the raise forward.

See Annual Leave Accrual and Accumulation, above, for rules on how much annual leave can be carried from one leave year to the next.

Note: U.S. Postal Service bargaining unit employees receive a lump-sum payment for accumulated annual leave carried over from the previous year and accrued annual leave for the year in which they separate, but only up to the carryover maximum for their bargaining unit, typically 440 hours (55 days). Postal Executive and Administrative Schedule employees receive a lump-sum payment for accumulated annual leave carried over from the previous year plus accrued annual leave for the year in which they separate, not subject to their carryover maximum of 560 hours (70 days).

An agency calculates a lump-sum payment by multiplying the number of hours of accumulated and accrued annual leave by the employee's applicable hourly rate of pay, plus other types of pay the employee would have received while on annual leave, excluding any allowances that are paid for the sole purpose of retaining the employee in government service, such as retention incentives and physicians comparability allowances. Included are: basic pay; locality pay or other similar geographic adjustment; within-grade increase (if waiting period met on date of separation); across-the-board annual adjustments; administratively uncontrollable overtime pay, availability pay, and standby duty pay; night differential (for wage system employees only) including the portion of the lump-sum period that would have occurred when employee was scheduled to work night shifts; regularly scheduled overtime pay under the Fair Labor Standards Act for employees on uncommon tours of duty; supervisory differentials; non-foreign area cost-of-living allowances and post differentials; and foreign area post allowances. If a statutory pay adjustment becomes effective during the employee's lump-sum leave period, the lump sum is adjusted to reflect the increased rate beginning on the effective date of the pay adjustment.

In calculating a lump-sum payment, an agency projects forward an employee's annual leave for all the workdays the employee would have worked if he or she had remained in federal service. By law, holidays are counted as workdays in projecting the lump-sum leave period. However, time-in-grade increases are not. Under 5 CFR 550.1205(b)(5), lump-sum payment for employees who work a regular rotating schedule involving work on both day and night shifts is calculated as if the employee had continued to work the same schedule beyond the effective date of separation. That is, a night differential is payable for that portion of the lump-sum period that would have occurred when the employee was scheduled to work night shifts. The lump-sum period extends only through the last hour of annual leave.

For tax purposes, the lump-sum payment is treated like salary. Deductions will be made for federal income tax, Medicare, and applicable state, local and Social Security taxes.

If an employee is re-employed in the federal service prior to the expiration of the period of annual leave (i.e., the lump-sum leave period), he or she must refund the portion of the lump-sum payment that represents the period between the date of re-employment and the expiration of the lump-sum period. An agency re-credits to the employee's leave account the amount of annual leave equal to the days or hours of work remaining between the date of re-employment and the expiration of the lump-sum leave period. (Also see Leave Policies in Chapter 4, Section 4, and www.opm.gov/oca/leave/html/lumpsum.htm).

In the event of an employee's death, survivors are entitled to payment for all annual leave credited to the employee at time of death.

Postal Leave Exchange Program -- Some U.S. Postal Service bargaining unit agreements provide a leave exchange program for covered full-time and part-time regular employees. To be eligible, the covered employee must have a balance of 440 hours at the end of the leave year, and must have used less than 75 hours of sick leave during the leave year. Those eligible are permitted to exchange for cash up to 40 hours of the annual leave they would otherwise earn during the next leave year.

Full-Time and part-time regular career Executive and Administrative Schedule employees have the option to exchange for cash up to 128 hours of the annual leave they will earn during the next leave year. To be eligible, an employee must have an annual leave balance of 160 hours at the end of the current leave year.

An open season for this purpose runs November 15-December 15 each year. Eligible employees are notified of the opportunity in advance. The exchange is effective the first full pay period of the new year.

Accumulated leave and leave accrued during the current leave year cannot be exchanged under this program, nor can leave already earned that exceeds the employee's annual carryover limit.

SES Members: Annual Leave Rules

Members of the Senior Executive Service (SES) are subject to special annual leave rules and procedures, most of which became effective October 13, 1994, with enactment of Section 201 of the Government Management Reform Act of 1994 (GMRA), Public Law 103-356.

GMRA established a 90-day (720-hour) limit on the amount of annual leave that SES members may carry over from one leave year to the next; previously there had been no limit on SES annual leave accumulation. If the amount of annual leave in an SES member's leave account -- excluding advanced or restored leave -- as of October 13, 1994 was in excess of 90 days, that amount became his or her personal leave ceiling.

Under 5 U.S.C. 6304(c), an SES member's personal leave ceiling must be reduced by the number of hours used in excess of the number of hours earned during the previous year. If the personal leave ceiling falls below 90 days, it is eliminated and the SES member becomes subject to the 90-day limit.

If an SES member begins a new leave year with 720 or more hours of annual leave and earns more annual leave than is used in that leave year, the excess leave hours will be forfeited at the beginning of the succeeding leave year. All SES members are subject to the "use or lose" rules for the forfeiture of excess annual leave under 5 CFR 630.302 for any leave earned and not used in a leave year that is in excess of the 720-hour ceiling. Thus, SES members who have 1,000 hours as a personal leave ceiling at the start of a leave year and earn 100 hours more than they use in that year will lose those 100 hours, and their personal leave ceiling will remain at 1,000 hours at the beginning of the next leave year.

SES members are eligible for the temporary restoration of annual leave forfeited under certain conditions, as described under Restoration of Forfeited Annual Leave, above.

At an SES member's separation or retirement, unused accrued annual leave is payable as a lump-sum, as described under Lump-Sum Payments, above.

Holidays

Government workers are entitled to the following ten regular holidays:

  • New Year's Day, January 1
  • Martin Luther King Jr.'s Birthday, 3rd Monday in January
  • Washington's Birthday, 3rd Monday in February
  • Memorial Day, last Monday in May
  • Independence Day, July 4
  • Labor Day, 1st Monday in September
  • Columbus Day, 2nd Monday in October
  • Veterans Day, November 11
  • Thanksgiving Day, 4th Thursday in November
  • Christmas Day, December 25

When Inauguration Day falls within the regularly scheduled tour of duty of an
employee in the metropolitan Washington, DC, area, it is observed as a holiday for such employees.

All full-time employees, including those on flexible or compressed work schedules, are entitled to an "in lieu of" holiday when a holiday falls on a non-workday. In such cases, the employee's holiday is the basic workday immediately preceding the non-workday. A basic workday for this purpose includes a day when part of the basic work requirement for an employee under a flexible work schedule is planned or scheduled to be performed. There are three exceptions:

  • If the non-workday is Sunday (or an "in lieu of" Sunday), the next basic workday is the "in lieu of" holiday.
  • If Inauguration Day falls on a non-workday, there is no "in lieu of" holiday.
  • If the head of an agency determines that a different "in lieu of" holiday is necessary to prevent an "adverse agency impact," he or she may designate a different "in lieu of" holiday for full-time employees under compressed work schedules.

An employee is not entitled to another day off as an "in lieu of" holiday if a federal office or facility is closed on a holiday because of a weather emergency or when employees are furloughed on a holiday.

Time Off as an Incentive

Federal employees are eligible for paid time off as an incentive. Agencies may grant employees time off from duty, without loss of pay or charge to leave, to recognize excellent employee performance.

Agencies may grant time-off awards alone or in combination with monetary or non-monetary awards to recognize the same kinds of employee contributions. Time-off awards are not intended to replace other awards.

Agencies may choose to exclude certain categories of employees from eligibility for time-off incentives (for example, SES members or intermittent employees). However, unless agencies make such an exclusion, all federal employees who meet the definition of employee under 5 U.S.C. 2105 are eligible for time-off awards. Similarly, agencies may choose to restrict the kinds of contributions that time-off awards will be used to recognize.

If a scale of benefits is used, agencies are to avoid creating an equivalency between time-off awards and cash awards. Under no circumstances may a time-off award be converted to a cash payment.

Special policies apply to non-career employees under general schedule "Schedule C" appointments (see Compensation Policy Memorandum 2009-13 at www.chcoc.gov/transmittals).

Compensatory Time Off

Compensatory time off is time off with pay in lieu of overtime pay for irregular or occasional overtime work, or when permitted under agency flexible work schedule programs, time off with pay in lieu of overtime pay for regularly scheduled or irregular or occasional overtime work (see 5 U.S.C. 5543 and 5 U.S.C. 6123(a)(1), and 5 CFR 550.114 and 551.531). One hour of compensatory time off is granted for each hour of overtime work.

Compensatory time off may be approved in lieu of overtime pay for irregular or occasional overtime work for both FLSA exempt and nonexempt employees who are covered by the definition of "employee" at 5 U.S.C. 5541(2). Compensatory time off can also be approved for a prevailing rate employee, as defined at 5 U.S.C. 5342(2), but there is no authority to require that any prevailing rate employee be compensated for irregular or occasional overtime work by granting compensatory time off.

Agencies may require that an FLSA exempt employee receive compensatory time off in lieu of overtime pay for irregular or occasional overtime work, but only for an FLSA exempt employee whose rate of basic pay is above the rate for GS-10, step 10. No mandatory compensatory time off is permitted for wage employees or in lieu of FLSA overtime pay. Compensatory time off may be approved (not required) in lieu of regularly scheduled overtime work only for employees, including wage employees, who are ordered to work overtime hours under flexible work schedules. See Overtime vs. Compensatory Time Off in Chapter 1, Section 6.

The time earned generally must be used within 26 pay periods, as described in 5 CFR 550.114. If accrued compensatory time off is not used by an FLSA nonexempt employee within 26 pay periods or if the employee transfers to another agency or separates from federal service before the expiration of the 26 pay period time limit, the employee must be paid for the earned compensatory time off at the overtime rate in effect when earned.

An agency may provide that an FLSA exempt employee who fails to take earned compensatory time off within 26 pay periods or transfers to another agency or separates from federal service before the expiration of the 26 pay period time limit will either: receive payment for the unused compensatory time off at the overtime rate in effect when earned; or forfeit the unused compensatory time off, unless failure to use the compensatory time off is due to an exigency of the service beyond the employee's control. An FLSA exempt employee whose earned compensatory time off would otherwise be forfeited due to an exigency of service beyond the employee's control must receive payment for the unused compensatory time off at the overtime rate in effect when earned.

Compensatory time in lieu of overtime may not be used when performing uniformed military service.

Compensatory Time Off for Travel

Compensatory time off for travel may be earned by an employee for time spent in a travel status away from the employee's official duty station when such time is not otherwise compensable. It was authorized by Public Law 108-411, which added a new section 5550b to subchapter V of Chapter 55 of Title 5, United States Code. Rules are found at 5 CFR 550, subpart N.

The provision applies to an "employee" as defined in 5 U.S.C. 5541(2) who is employed in an executive agency as defined in 5 U.S.C. 105, without regard to whether the employee is exempt from or covered by the overtime pay provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act. The definition includes employees in senior level (SL) and senior scientific or technical (ST) positions as well as part-time employees under certain circumstances. Wage grade employees are eligible, but Senior Executive Service, Senior Foreign Service, Foreign Service, non-appropriated fund, and intermittent employees are ineligible. Criminal investigators who receive availability pay generally are precluded from earning compensatory time off when they travel during unscheduled duty hours.

Compensatory time off for travel may only be earned for time in a travel status that is not otherwise "compensable." Compensable refers to periods of time that are creditable as hours of work for the purpose of determining a specific pay entitlement (see Hours of Work for Travel in Chapter 11, Section 1).

Agencies may authorize credit in increments of one-tenth of an hour (six minutes) or one-quarter of an hour (15 minutes). Agencies must track and manage compensatory time off for travel separately from other forms of compensatory time off.

To qualify for this purpose, travel must be officially authorized -- that is, it must be for work purposes and must be approved by an authorized agency official or otherwise authorized under established agency policies.

Time spent traveling for performing union representational duties does not count, nor does travel time during basic (non-overtime) holiday hours because the employee is entitled to his or her basic rate of pay during those hours. Permanent change of station travel is not considered time in a travel status for the purpose of earning compensatory time because it is not travel between an official duty station and a temporary duty station or between two temporary duty stations.

Compensatory time off for travel is not considered in applying the biweekly or annual premium pay limitations under 5 U.S.C. 5547 or the aggregate limitation on pay under 5 U.S.C. 5307.

Earning Time -- An employee receives compensatory time off for travel only for those hours spent in a travel status. Travel status includes only the time actually spent traveling between the official duty station and a temporary duty station, or between two temporary duty stations, and the usual waiting time that precedes or interrupts such travel. Determining what is creditable as "usual waiting time" is within the discretion of the employing agency but may include, for example, a recommended time to arrive before an airline flight's scheduled departure and time spent waiting between connecting flights. Time spent eating meals during creditable travel time counts toward the total time accumulated.

If an employee experiences an unusually long wait prior to his or her initial departure or between actual periods of travel during which the employee is free to rest, sleep, or otherwise use the time for his or her own purposes, the extended waiting time that is outside the employee's regular working hours is not creditable time in a travel status. An extended waiting period that occurs during an employee's regular working hours is compensable as part of the employee's regularly scheduled administrative workweek. Once an employee arrives at the temporary duty station, he or she is no longer considered to be in a travel status. Any time spent at a temporary duty station between arrival and departure is not creditable travel time for the purpose of earning compensatory time off.

Travel outside of regular working hours between an employee's home and a temporary duty station or transportation terminal outside the limits of his or her official duty station is considered creditable travel time. However, the agency must deduct the employee's normal home-to-work/work-to-home commuting time from the creditable travel time. Travel outside of regular working hours between a worksite and a transportation terminal is creditable travel time, and no commuting time offset applies.

An employee's time spent traveling outside of regular working hours to or from a transportation terminal within the limits of his or her official duty station is considered equivalent to commuting time and is not creditable.

There is no limit on the amount of compensatory time off for travel an employee may earn.

Using Time -- Agencies establish procedures for requesting credit for compensatory time off for travel. An employee must comply with his or her agency's procedures for requesting credit of compensatory time off within the time period established by the agency. An employee must request permission from his or her supervisor to schedule the use of his or her accrued compensatory time off for travel in accordance with agency policies and procedures.

An employee must use his or her accrued compensatory time off for travel by the end of the 26th pay period after the pay period in which it was credited or forfeit it, except in certain circumstances involving separation to perform military duty or due to compensable injury. Except when those circumstances apply, an employee also must forfeit all unused compensatory time off for travel upon separation from federal service. The time also is forfeited when an employee voluntarily transfers to another agency. Unused time has no cash value.

Under 5 CFR Part 353.208, compensatory time off for travel may be used to perform uniformed service.

Military Leave

Any full-time federal civilian employee whose appointment is not limited to one year is entitled to military leave under these authorities (military leave under 5 U.S.C. 6323(a) is prorated for part-time career employees and employees on an uncommon tour of duty):

5 U.S.C. 6323(a) provides 15 days per fiscal year for active duty, active duty training, and inactive duty training. An employee can carry over a maximum of 15 days into the next fiscal year. Inactive duty training is authorized training performed by members of a Reserve component not on active duty and performed in connection with the prescribed activities of the Reserve component. It consists of regularly scheduled unit training periods, additional training periods, and equivalent training. Military leave under 5 U.S.C. 6323(a) is prorated for part-time career employees and employees on an uncommon tour of duty proportionally based on the number of hours in the employee's regularly scheduled biweekly pay period. Employees who request military leave for inactive duty training (which generally is two, four, or six hours in length) are charged only the amount of military leave necessary to cover the period of training and necessary travel. Members of the Reserves and the National Guard are no longer charged military leave for weekends and holidays that occur within the period of military service.

5 U.S.C. 6323 (b) provides 22 workdays per calendar year for emergency duty as ordered by the President, the Secretary of Defense, or a state governor. This leave is provided for employees who perform military duties in support of civil authorities in the protection of life and property or who perform full-time military service as a result of a call or order to active duty in support of a contingency operation as defined in section 101(a)(13) of Title 10, United States Code -- one that is designated by the Secretary of Defense as an operation in which members of the armed forces are or may become involved in military actions, operations, or hostilities against an enemy of the United States or against an opposing military force; or results in the call or order to, or retention on, active duty of members of the uniformed services under section 688, 12301(a), 12302, 12304, 12305, or 12406 of Title 10, United States Code, chapter 15 of Title 10, United States Code, or any other provision of law during a war or during a national emergency declared by the President or Congress. There is no requirement that the days be taken consecutively. Employees are charged military leave only for days when the employee would otherwise have worked and received pay. The leave must be taken in workday increments. Special incentives pay, such as hazardous duty pay, hostile duty pay and other special pay and bonuses are included in the employee's gross military pay and allowances.

5 U.S.C. 6323(c) provides unlimited military leave to members of the National Guard of the District of Columbia for certain types of duty ordered or authorized under Title 39 of the District of Columbia Code.

5 U.S.C. 6323(d) provides that Reserve and National Guard technicians are entitled to 44 workdays of military leave for duties overseas under certain conditions.

Military leave is credited to a full-time employee on the basis of an eight-hour workday. The minimum charge to leave is one hour. An employee may be charged military leave only for hours that the employee would otherwise have worked and received pay. Employees who request military leave for inactive duty training (which generally is two, four, or six hours in length) are charged only the amount of military leave necessary to cover the period of training and necessary travel. Members of the Reserves and National Guard are not charged military leave for weekends and holidays that occur within the period of military service.

An employee's civilian pay remains the same for periods of military leave under 5 U.S.C. 6323(a), including any premium pay (except Sunday premium pay) an employee would have received if not on military leave. For military leave under 5 U.S.C. 6323(b) and (c), an employee's civilian pay is reduced by the amount of military pay -- other than travel, transportation or per diem -- or the days of military leave. However, an employee may choose not to take military leave and instead take annual leave in order to retain both civilian and military pay.

An employee who has been activated in support of a national emergency may use the 15 days of military leave available under 5 U.S.C. 6323(a) and the 22 days of military leave available under 5 U.S.C. 6323(b) consecutively.

Note: Public Law 108-136, effective November 24, 2003, added the provision allowing employees to use military leave when called or ordered to active duty in support of a contingency operation or a national emergency declared by the President or the Congress. The effect was to make the 22-day entitlement -- which provides those activated with the higher of their civilian or military pay -- apply to mobilizations for overseas service as well as to mobilizations for domestic law enforcement duties.

Excused Absence Upon Return -- A November 14, 2003, presidential memo directed agencies to grant employees returning from active duty five days of uncharged leave (excused absence) from their civilian duties, upon notification to the employing agency of their intent to return to federal employment. The authority covers all employees who were activated for military service in connection with Operation Noble Eagle, Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation Iraqi Freedom, or any other military operations subsequently established under Executive Order 13223. Agencies may grant this period of excused absence prior to the employee's resumption of his duties, or at a time mutually agreeable to the agency and the employee, if the employee has already returned to duty. Under Office of Personnel Management guidance (CPM 2008-12 and CPM 2008-21, available at www.chcoc.gov/transmittals): to be eligible, employees must be deployed in support of such operations for at least 42 consecutive days; the benefit applies to each deployment, for employees deployed more than once; and employees are entitled to the excused absence only once in a 12-month period, dating from the start of prior use of the benefit.

Military Leave for Funeral Honors Duty -- Section 563 of Public Law 107-107 authorized use of the 15 days of military leave for "funeral honors duty" as described in Section 12503 of Title 10 and Section 115 of Title 32, United States Code. Each agency is responsible for administering the use of military leave for funeral honors duty for its employees.

Court Leave

Under 5 U.S.C. 6322, 5537, and 5515, federal employees called to court as witnesses on behalf of the U.S. government, the District of Columbia, or a state or local government, or to serve on a jury in those courts, are authorized to receive pay during such absence from work status without charge to leave.

Court leave includes periods of absence in which employees are summoned to appear as witnesses on behalf of a private party in a judicial proceeding to which the United States, the District of Columbia, or a state or local government is a party. Any fees payable for such service must be collected and turned in to the employing agency. Any payments designated as expenses by the court or other appropriate authority may be retained.

Employees must reimburse to their agency fees paid for service as a juror or witness. However, monies paid to jurors or witnesses which are in the nature of expenses (such as transportation) do not have to be reimbursed to the agency.

An employee who is summoned as a witness in an official capacity on behalf of the federal government is on official duty, not court leave.

An agency may adjust the schedule of an employee who works nights or weekends and is called to jury duty.

Home Leave

Home leave is earned by employees who serve abroad in addition to their annual leave. Generally, employees are entitled to home leave only when they have completed a basic service period of 24 months of continuous service abroad. The granting of home leave is at the discretion of each agency.

An agency may grant home leave in combination with other leaves of absence according to existing agency policy. An employee may only use home leave in the United States, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, or a territory or possession of the United States.

Home leave may only be taken during a period of service abroad, or within a reasonable period after the employee's return from service abroad when the worker is expected to return to service abroad immediately or on completion of an assignment in the United States. Also, employees are entitled to have their home leave account transferred or re-credited to their accounts when they move between agencies or are re-employed without a break in service of more than 90 days.

Employees working abroad can accrue from five to 15 days of home leave per 12 months of service abroad, depending on the overseas post of duty. (For more detailed information on home leave, see 5 U.S.C. 6305; 5 CFR Part 630, subpart F; and your agency's policy.)

Shore Leave

Employees who are regularly assigned to duties aboard an oceangoing vessel for an extended voyage of not less than seven consecutive days earn shore leave. Oceangoing vessel means one used on the high seas or the Great Lakes. Voyage means the sailing from one port and its return to that port or to the final port of discharge.

Shore leave is earned at a rate of one day for each 15 calendar days of absence on one or more extended voyages. It is earned in addition to annual leave and may be accumulated for future use without limitation.

An employee has an absolute right to use shore leave, subject to the right of the agency head to fix the time at which it may be used. Any request for shore leave must be submitted in writing. If the request is denied, the denial also must be in writing. The minimum charge for shore leave is one day. Additional charges are in one-day increments.

Employees with unused shore leave who separate from federal employment are not entitled to a lump-sum payment for that leave. See 5 CFR 630, subpart G.

Notes: Leave accrual rates are transferable without change when an employee moves between agencies covered under 5 U.S.C. 6303 (which includes all departments and most agencies). For example, an employee who is entitled to an accrual rate of eight hours per biweekly pay period will be entitled to the same accrual rate on transfer to another agency covered under that statute.

A temporary employee with an appointment of less than 90 days is entitled to annual leave only after being currently employed for a continuous period of 90 days under successive appointments without a break in service. After completing the 90-day period of continuous employment, the employee is entitled to be credited with the leave that would have accrued to him or her during that period.

An intermittent employee (a part-time employee who does not have an established regular tour of duty during the administrative workweek) is not entitled to accrue annual leave.

 

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