Paid Time Off
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 5 U.S.C. 63.
You may use annual leave for vacations, rest and relaxation, and personal business or emergencies. Except for emergencies, your use of annual leave generally must be authorized in advance, usually by your 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.
According to the Office of Personnel Management, supervisors should not require employees to tell them how the annual leave will be used every time they request it. However, supervisors may from time to time ask employees how they will use the requested leave so that they can make informed decisions about scheduling that leave. Although employees are not required to provide their supervisor with this information, in its absence their request for annual leave may be denied based on the agency’s workload.
You may use sick leave when you are incapacitated for the performance of duties by physical or mental illness, injury, pregnancy, or childbirth; receive 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 your 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 limit on the amount of accumulated sick leave you may use for personal medical needs during a leave year.
Sick leave approval policies vary among agencies and may be affected by collective bargaining agreements. An agency may require you to request advanced approval for sick leave for your 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. See Section 2 of this chapter.
If you are absent from work because of illness without prior sick leave approval, you may be required to submit administratively acceptable evidence that you 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 you 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 your diligent good faith efforts, you may be given an additional 15 calendar days.
If you are 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.
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.
General rules covering sick leave are at 5 U.S.C. 63 subchapter I, and 5 CFR 630 subparts B and D. General rules covering annual leave are at 5 U.S.C. 63 subchapter I; 5 CFR 351.606; and 5 CFR 630 subparts B and C. Links to an index of the laws and regulations, fact sheets, the Handbook on Leave and Workplace Flexibilities for Childbirth, Adoption and Foster Care and the Handbook on Leave and Workplace Flexibilities and Work-Life Programs for Elder Care are at www.opm.gov/policy-data-oversight/pay-leave. Also see below in this chapter for information on other forms of paid leave and unpaid leave and see Family-Friendly Schedules and Work Arrangements in Chapter 8, Section 2.
Advanced Leave, General—Individual agencies set certain policies regarding approval of requests for advances of sick or annual leave. In general, advanced leave may be approved for the same reasons that other leave is approved.
Under a presidential memo of January 15, 2015, agencies must ensure that, to the extent permitted by law, their policies offer 240 hours of advanced sick leave in connection with the birth or adoption of a child or for other sick leave eligible purposes regardless of the employee’s existing sick leave balance. That memo further required agencies to ensure that their policies offer the maximum amount of advanced annual leave permitted by law for foster care placement in their home or for bonding with a healthy newborn or newly adopted child, regardless of the employee’s annual leave balance.
Advanced leave is offset by leave earned subsequently. If you are indebted for advance annual or sick leave and transfer to another agency without a break in service, your old agency may not require you to refund the value of the advanced leave but you would start at the new agency with a negative leave balance.
Generally, if you are indebted for advanced leave and separate from federal service, you must reimburse the agency for the amount of your indebtedness. Exceptions can be made if you die, retire for disability, or separate or resign because of disability. Because of the repayment requirement, advanced leave typically will not be granted when it is known or reasonably expected that you will not return to duty.
Advanced Annual Leave—The amount of annual leave that may be advanced is limited to the amount you would accrue in the remainder of that leave year. Except as described above, an agency may consider factors such as the expectation of a return to duty, the need for your services, and the benefits to the agency of retaining you.
Advanced Sick Leave—Under the memo and the child-related handbook described above, an agency must advance (regardless of the employee’s sick leave balance) 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.
An agency further 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.For a part-time employee or an employee on an uncommon tour of duty, 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.
Parental Leave—Under changes enacted to 5 U.S.C. 6382 in 2019, federal employees are entitled to paid leave for parental purposes to substitute for some or all of the unpaid leave entitlement under the Family and Medical Leave Act, effective with births, adoptions or foster placements after September 30, 2020. Until the effective date, parental leave under that law remained unpaid except for several agencies that have provided paid leave under their own policies. See Family and Medical Leave in Section 4 of this chapter.
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 accrued or restored annual leave to establish initial eligibility for retirement, including discontinued service or voluntary early retirement, and/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 also may use leave donated to them under leave bank or leave sharing programs that was 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.
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 Severe Weather Policy and Emergency Dismissal Procedures in Chapter 8, Section 2 and Administrative/Investigative/Notice/Weather and Safety Leave, below.
Zika Virus Exposure—See Zika Virus Exposure in Chapter 8, Section 4 for policies regarding use of leave and other forms of time off related to potential or actual exposure to that virus.
Part-Time Employees—A part-time employee earns annual leave and sick leave on a prorated 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.
An employee who works concurrently in two part-time federal positions accumulates leave on a prorated 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 solely in a non-pay status. However, full-time employees accrue annual and sick leave at their regular rate if they work less than full time and draw OWCP benefits for the rest of the time.
Military Duty—Employees called to active military duty may use their accumulated annual leave, receive a lump-sum payment for it, or have it remain to their credit. For details on these and other leave policies in that situation, see Employment Rights of Those on Military Duty in Chapter 8, Section 8.
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.
Under 5 CFR 630, 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 (see below for qualification rules) 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 ancestry or formally in law.
For purposes of these policies, a domestic partner means an adult in either a same-sex or opposite-sex “committed relationship” with another adult in which the employee and the partner 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. Agencies are 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.
The definition of domestic partner for these purposes differs from that used for eligibility for other benefits as described in 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 (including phased retirees; see Phased Retirement in Chapter 3, Section 1) 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.
Sick leave generally can be used only as it accumulates, although advanced sick leave may be granted within restrictions as described above. See Disabled Veteran Leave, below, for a form of leave whose full amount can be used immediately upon hiring in specified circumstances for purposes similar to those of sick leave.
Employees who leave federal service are not entitled to lump-sum payments for unused sick leave. However, if workers are re-employed (other than in the U.S. Postal Service), the amount of previously accumulated, unused sick leave is recredited to their accounts regardless of the length of the break in service. In the Postal Service, unused sick leave is not recredited if the break in service was more than three years. 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 before 2014) 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.
New employees may use their annual leave starting as they earn it, if their appointments are for 90 days or longer. See above for policies regarding advanced annual leave.
Creditable Civilian Service—All civilian service that is potentially creditable for CSRS or FERS purposes is also creditable for annual leave accrual. This includes service that would be credited for retirement purposes if the employee made a required deposit to the retirement fund.
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 military 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 accrual rates for those hired into a federal position while on military “terminal” leave pending military retirement. See CPM 2009-03 at www.opm.gov/policy-data-oversight/pay-leave/reference-materials/compensation-policy-
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, an employee newly appointed (or reappointed following a break in federal civilian employment of at least 90 calendar days) may receive service credit for prior nonfederal service or active duty uniformed service for annual leave accrual rate purposes.
Under 5 CFR 630.205, the agency must determine that the skills and experience the employee possesses were acquired through performance in a position having duties which directly relate to the duties of the federal job and are necessary to achieve an important agency mission or performance goal. The amount credited is at the discretion of the agency, up to the length of such outside experience.
Accrual Rates for High-Level Employees—Under 5 U.S.C. 6303(f) and 5 CFR 630, 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, and agencies may request OPM to include additional pay systems they consider equivalent. 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.
Temporary Employees—A temporary employee with an appointment of less than 90 days is entitled to accrue annual leave only after being currently employed for a continuous period of 90 days under successive appointments without a break in service. This restriction only applies to the accrual of annual leave. An employee on such an appointment who already has annual leave to his or her credit from a previous appointment is allowed to use this annual leave during the temporary appointment.
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) if they meet certain requirements at 5 U.S.C. 6304(b). U.S. Postal Service bargaining unit employees typically may carry forward 440 hours (55 days) and postal Executive and Administrative Schedule employees may carry forward 560 hours (70 days). Employees in Senior Executive Service, senior level (SL), senior scientific and technical (ST) and intelligence senior level employees may carry forward 720 hours (90 days), under 5 CFR 630. (For a special consideration affecting some long-time SES members, see Other Policies in Chapter 8, Section 9.) 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.
Phased Retirement—Phased retirees, all of whom by definition have at least 20 years of service and thus earn annual leave at the maximum rate, have their accrual prorated for their half-time schedule. Their annual leave ceiling remains the same.
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 5 U.S.C. 6304(d); 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 Leave Year Dates, below.)
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. A fact sheet with examples of how restored leave is calculated and the time limits for using it in various situations is at www.opm.gov/policy-data-oversight/pay-leave/leave-administration.
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 limits 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 emergency. At the end of the 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.
Closures and Special Holidays—Dismissal from work or closure of agency offices due to weather conditions or other emergencies, excused absence 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 does not relieve you of the responsibility to schedule any annual leave that would otherwise be forfeited. If you fail to request the use of annual leave that would otherwise be forfeited, the agency cannot restore it to you.
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 sched. Contact your agency to verify the dates.
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. These payments are calculated as if individuals had remained employed until their annual leave ran out.
Note: This payment is not made on entry into phased retirement (see Chapter 3, Section 1), because phased retirees do not separate from service. A payment is made for them when they fully retire, reflecting their leave balance and salary rate at that time.
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 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).
Under 5 U.S.C. 5551 (see 5 CFR 550 subpart L), an agency calculates a lump-sum payment by multiplying the number of hours of accumulated and accrued annual leave by your applicable hourly rate of pay, plus other types of pay you would have received while on annual leave, excluding any allowances paid for the sole purpose of retaining you 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 the waiting period is met on the 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; post differentials; and foreign area post allowances. If a statutory pay adjustment becomes effective during your lump-sum leave period, the payment 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 your annual leave for all the days, including holidays, you would have worked if you had remained in federal service. Any within-grade increase that you would have received by remaining employed during that period is not counted. Under 5 CFR 550.1205(b)(5), the 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. The lump-sum period ends with 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. The payment cannot be invested in the Thrift Savings Plan.
If you are re-employed in the federal service prior to the expiration of the lump-sum leave period, you 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. Your agency will re-credit to your 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.)
In the event of your death, your survivors are entitled to payment for all annual leave credited to you 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 and the payment is determined according to the individual’s pay rate at that time. The payments are taxable income for the year they are received. 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.
Disabled Veteran Leave
Under 5 U.S.C. 6329 (5 CFR 630, subpart M), a veteran with a service-connected disability rating (including a combined degree of disability from multiple disabilities, if pertinent) from the Veterans Affairs Department of 30 percent or more is entitled to 104 hours of leave in the first 12 months of full-time federal employment for medical treatments, of the sort for which sick leave normally can be used, related to that disability. The amount is prorated for employees with part-time, seasonal, or uncommon tours of duty.
This “disabled veteran leave” applies to those hired after November 4, 2016 and to those reappointed after that date following a break in service of at least 90 days or returning to civilian service after any break to perform military service. If the disability determination is made after the hiring, the 12-month period of eligibility begins on the date of that determination. In limited circumstances, disabled veteran leave can be retroactivelysubstituted for other leave an employee may have taken for qualifying treatments.
The individual must be in a “Title 5” position (with exceptions for those employed by the Federal Aviation Administration, the U.S. Postal Service or the Postal Regulatory Commission, and “Title 38” medical professionals of the Department of Veterans Affairs) and the discharge or release from the military must have been under conditions other than dishonorable.
The employee must submit certification issued by a health care provider that the leave is being used for eligible reasons. Requests for specific hours and days generally must be made in advance within a reasonable time appropriate for the circumstances, with an exception for leave that is critical and not foreseeable.
Hours not used during the 12 months are forfeited. Also, employees whose disability ratings are discontinued or decreased below 30 percent during the period become ineligible as of that change and must notify their agencies.
Also see an August 9, 2016 memo at www.chcoc.gov/transmittals.
Administrative/Investigative/Notice/Weather and Safety Leave
Section 1138 of P.L. 114-328 of 2016 amended 5 U.S.C. 6329 to provide for specific categories of leave and requirements for their use in situations in which agencies may at their discretion excuse employees from their duties without loss of pay or charge to other forms of paid leave or time off: administrative leave; investigative leave; notice leave; and weather and safety leave.
Before that change in law, administrative leave—also called excused absence—was not expressly authorized in law but was exercised under the general power of agencies to govern their operations. It could be invoked in a variety of situations, including for various agency-sponsored or -approved activities, disciplinary investigation and notice periods, and for safety reasons.
Note: Implementing rules were needed to carry out the changes in law; rules for weather and safety leave took effect in May 2018, while rules for the other categories remained only in proposed form as of publication of this edition of the Federal Employees Almanac.
Administrative Leave—P.L. 114-328 generally limited administrative leave to situations where the absence would directly relate to the mission of the agency, such as to perform volunteer work related to the agency’s mission; for participation in activities or events officially sponsored by the agency, such as a blood donation drive, or those of interest or advantage to the agency or government as a whole, such as employee health promotion events.
Note: The law did not specifically address other situations in which administrative leave was granted under explicit authorities, including: to employees returning from active military duty (see Military Leave in Section 1 of this chapter); when the President issues an executive order excusing employees from duty on all or part of the day before or after a holiday or for other reasons; and to vote. Also see www.opm.gov/policy-data-oversight/pay-leave/leave-administration.
Investigative Leave and Notice Leave—P.L. 114-328 specified that before using either investigative leave or notice leave an agency must determine whether the continued presence of the employee may pose a threat to the employee or others, result in the destruction of evidence relevant to an investigation, result in loss of or damage to government property, or otherwise jeopardize legitimate government interests. An employee can challenge such a determination on grounds that it was made for retaliatory, discriminatory, or other prohibited purposes; otherwise placement on investigative leave or notice leave is not an appealable adverse action. If the agency determines that the employee poses such a threat, it must consider other options before using investigative or notice leave, including: assigning the employee to duties in which the employee is no longer a threat, requiring the employee to telework or allowing the employee to voluntarily take another type of leave such as annual leave.
If an agency decides to use investigative leave, it may place an employee on that leave for up to ten work days while the agency or other investigative entity investigates the matter. To use more than ten days an agency must go through a more rigorous approval process that generally allows for up to extensions of up to 30 work days each for a total of no more than 120 days. Under very limited circumstances longer extensions are allowed. At the end of the investigative leave period, an agency must either return the employee to working status in some capacity or, if warranted, take an adverse action to keep the employee out of the workplace. While agencies may continue to investigate, they may not keep employees in an extended indeterminate status.
Agencies may use notice leave to carry out a removal or suspension action if such an action has been proposed, for no longer than the period of notice.
Weather and Safety Leave—Under 5 CFR 630 subpart P, weather and safety leave may be used in the case of a severe weather event or other emergency that prevents an employee from safely traveling to or safely performing work at an approved work location.
Weather and safety leave primarily applies to conditions arising from an act of nature such as hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, wildfires, earthquakes, landslides, snowstorms, and avalanches. It may also be authorized for agency-specific emergencies such as a building fire, power outage, or burst water pipes). In addition, it could be invoked in terroristic type attacks.
Grants of weather and safety leave are made in the same minimum amounts as an agency uses for annual or sick leave. The amount is at the agency’s discretion; there is no upper limit.
Because employees who are participating in a telework program are typically able to safely perform work at their approved locations, in most cases their homes, they generally will not be granted weather and safety leave. If the employee could not reasonably have anticipated those conditions, and thus was unable to prepare for telework or otherwise unable to perform productive work, the agency has discretion to grant the leave. However, an agency may not grant the leave if the conditions could have been reasonably anticipated and the employee did not take reasonable steps within his or her control to prepare to perform telework at the approved site. See an April 10, 2018 memo at www.chcoc.gov/transmittals.
Weather and safety leave may be granted only for hours within an employee’s tour of duty. Agencies may not grant it for time employees are on other preapproved leave (paid or unpaid) or paid time off nor may they approve an employee’s request to cancel preapproved leave or paid time off if the agency determines that the request is primarily for the purpose of obtaining weather and safety leave instead.
Grants of weather and safety leave generally do not apply to those designated as “emergency” employees. They are expected to report to the agency-designated worksite unless the agency determines that it is unsafe to do so, in which case the agency may allow the employee to telework or work at another location. An agency may also determine that the circumstances justify granting weather and safety leave to emergency employees.
Federal workers are entitled to the following annual holidays (note: the government uses the term Washington’s Birthday because that is how the day, commonly termed President’s Day in other contexts, is specified in the pertinent law):
• New Year’s Day, January 1
• Birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr., 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 for those who otherwise would be eligible for a holiday as described above.
• 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, Senior Executive Service 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. A time-off award may not be converted to a cash payment.
Special policies apply to non-career employees under “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).
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 Federal Wage System employees or in lieu of FLSA overtime pay. Compensatory time off may be approved (but not required) in lieu of regularly scheduled overtime work only for employees, including Federal Wage System 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 that time or if the employee transfers to another agency or separates from federal service before the expiration of the 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. See 5 U.S.C. 5550b and 5 CFR 550 subpart N.
The provision applies to an “employee” as defined in 5 U.S.C. 5541(2) of an executive agency as defined in 5 U.S.C. 105, without regard to status under 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. Federal Wage System 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 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—You receive compensatory time off for travel only for 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 you experience an unusually long wait prior to your initial departure or between actual periods of travel during which you are free to rest, sleep, or otherwise use the time for your own purposes, the extended waiting time that is outside your regular working hours is not creditable time in a travel status. An extended waiting period that occurs during your regular working hours is compensable as part of your regularly scheduled administrative workweek. Once you arrive at the temporary duty station, you are 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 outside of regular working hours between your home and a temporary duty station or transportation terminal outside the limits of your official duty station is considered creditable travel time. However, your agency must deduct your 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. Time spent traveling outside of regular working hours to or from a transportation terminal within the limits of your 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 you may earn.
Using Time—Agencies establish procedures for requesting credit for compensatory time off for travel. You must comply with your agency’s procedures for requesting credit of compensatory time off within the time period established by the agency. You must request permission from your supervisor to schedule the use of your accrued compensatory time off for travel in accordance with agency policies and procedures.
You must use your 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, you also must forfeit all unused compensatory time off for travel upon separation from federal service. The time also is forfeited when you voluntarily transfer to another agency. Unused time has no cash value.
Compensatory Time Off for Religious Observances
Compensatory time off for religious observances, authorized under 5 CFR 550 subpart J, permits an employee to rearrange work hours to be absent from work for religious observances. The employee must provide the agency with the name and/or description of the observance, dates and times of absence, and dates and times the employee plans to earn compensatory time off. Such requests generally are to be in writing; if made orally, the agency must reduce them to writing for its record-keeping purposes.
Agencies must grant requests to the extent that modifications in work schedules do not interfere with the efficient accomplishment of an agency’s mission. Agency officials are not charged with determining whether an employee’s belief is the correct interpretation of a religious creed. It is sufficient that the employee’s sincerely held personal religious beliefs cause the employee to feel an obligation to be absent from work for a religious purpose.
Religious compensatory time off may be earned within 13 pay periods in advance of the pay period in which it is intended to be used, or within 13 pay periods following the pay period in which it was used. If an employee fails to work an equivalent additional time within 13 pay periods after the pay period in which it was used, an agency may make a corresponding reduction in the employee’s balance of annual leave, credit hours, compensatory time off in lieu of regular overtime pay, compensatory time off for travel, or time-off awards. Any remaining negative balance must be resolved by charging the employee leave without pay, which will result in an indebtedness subject to the agency’s internal debt collection procedures.
An employee may accumulate in advance up to as many hours as are needed for an approved future absence. If the earned hours are not used as planned, they remain to the employee’s credit until used or until the employee’s separation or transfer. Upon separation or transfer, the agency is to pay an employee with a positive balance of hours at the hourly rate of basic pay in effect when the compensatory time off was earned; a negative balance represents a debt owed to the losing agency by the employee which may be repaid through the same actions as described above for employees who do not earn corresponding hours within 13 pay periods of having taken such time off. Also see CPM 2019-15 at www.opm.gov/policy-data-oversight/pay-leave/reference-materials/compensation-policy-memoranda.
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. You 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 your regularly scheduled biweekly pay period. If you request military leave for inactive duty training (which generally is two, four, or six hours in length), you 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 not 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 10 U.S.C. 101(a)(13). This means 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 10 U.S.C. 15 or 10 U.S.C. 688, 12301(a), 12302, 12304, 12305 or 12406), 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.
Excused Absence Upon Return—A November 14, 2003, presidential memo directed agencies to grant five days of uncharged leave (excused absence) to employees who were activated (regardless of whether they were sent overseas) for military service in connection with military operations established in support of what was then called the Global War on Terror (now called the Overseas Contingency Operations). The main provisions are: 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; with limited exceptions, the days must be used for a continuous period as soon as the employee reports back for civilian duty or notifies the agency of his or her intent to return to civilian duty; the commencement of the five days constitutes a return to federal service for purposes of job restoration rights; employees are entitled to the excused absence only once in a 12-month period, dating from the start of prior use of the benefit; and the time is prorated for employees on unusual work schedules. See CPM 2008-12 and CPM 2008-21 at www.chcoc.gov/transmittals and the fact sheet Military Related Leave Issues at www.opm.gov/policy-data-oversight/pay-leave/leave-administration.
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 10 U.S.C. 12503 and 32 U.S.C. 115. Each agency is responsible for administering the use of this leave for its employees.
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 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. (See 5 U.S.C. 6305, 5 CFR 630 subpart F, and your agency’s policy.)
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.