Leave Sharing

Chapter 5: Section 3

General Leave Sharing Rights

Leave sharing for federal employees was authorized under the Federal Employees Leave Sharing Amendments Act of 1993 (P.L. 103-103). The law (5 U.S.C. 6331-6340; 5 CFR 630 subpart I) requires all agencies to operate a leave transfer program, allows agencies to establish leave banks, permits employees to participate in both programs if available, specifies which employees qualify to be leave recipients, and permits leave recipients who exhaust transferred leave to use leave accrued while in a shared leave status.

Participation in either program is strictly voluntary. Agencies may not coerce employees to participate or refrain from participating.

Under both programs, in any leave year you may donate not more than one-half of the amount of annual leave you would accrue during the leave year. If you have “use or lose” annual leave, you may donate the lesser of one-half of the annual leave you would accrue in a leave year or the number of hours remaining in the leave year for which you are scheduled to work and receive pay.

While using donated leave, a leave recipient may accrue no more than 40 hours of annual leave and 40 hours of sick leave in “set-aside accounts.” The leave in the set-aside accounts will be transferred to the employee’s regular leave accounts when the medical emergency ends or if the employee exhausts all donated leave.

Also see fact sheets at www.opm.gov/policy-data-oversight/pay-leave/leave-administration and the Handbook on Leave and Workplace Flexibilities for Childbirth, Adoption and Foster Care at www.chcoc.gov/files/handbook-on-leave-and-workplace-flexibilities-for-childbirth-adoption-and-foster-care.pdf.

Qualifying Family Members—See Qualifying Family Members in Section 1 of this chapter for the definition of who qualifies as a family member for purposes of entitling employees to use shared leave for family reasons. (Note: Donated leave may not be used to care for or bond with a healthy child, or for adoption or foster care related purposes.)

Disability Retirement Applicants—You can receive donated annual leave under the federal leave transfer and leave bank programs if you have filed a claim for disability retirement. A leave recipient awaiting approval of an application for disability retirement further may retroactively substitute donated annual leave for leave without pay or advance leave that was taken during the medical emergency. If the application is approved, the leave recipient may no longer receive or use donated annual leave beyond the end of the pay period in which the agency receives the notice of allowance of disability retirement.

Leave Transfer Program

The leave transfer program is designed to help employees who are experiencing a medical or family emergency and who have exhausted all of their available leave. They can receive donations of annual leave from fellow employees to help ease financial hardships that would be caused by being forced to take extended leave without pay or resigning from their jobs. Donated annual leave may not be used to care for a newborn or newly adopted child unless the child is ill.

An employee wishing to receive leave under this program must make written application to the agency describing the reasons the leave is needed and may be required to submit certification from physicians or other appropriate experts to provide justification. The expected absence without available paid leave must be at least 24 hours; for part-time employees or employees on uncommon tours of duty, the period of absence without paid leave is prorated. There is no limit on the amount of donated annual leave a leave recipient may receive.

To make a donation, an employee submits a request to the agency that a specified number of hours of his or her accrued annual leave be transferred to a specified recipient. Annual leave may not be transferred to the donor’s immediate supervisor.

An employee who receives and uses donated leave continues to be paid at his or her pay rate as if in work status. When the medical emergency ends, unused transferred leave is restored to the donors on a prorated basis.

Transferred leave under the leave-sharing program is not a tax deduction for the donor, but its dollar value is taxable to the recipient when it is used.

Wounded Veterans—5 U.S.C. 6333(b) allows certain wounded veterans to participate in the voluntary leave transfer program without first having to exhaust their own available paid leave. This provision applies to an employee who sustains a combat-related disability while serving as a member of the Armed Forces (including a Reserve component) and is undergoing medical treatment for that disability. A qualified leave recipient is eligible to receive donated annual leave for up to five years from the start of the employee’s treatment, as long as the employee continues to undergo treatment.

Leave Bank Program

Under the leave bank program (5 CFR 630, subpart J), employees may make a contribution of annual leave to the agency’s leave bank in order to become leave bank members. To become and remain a leave bank member, an employee must donate each leave year not less than the amount of annual leave he or she normally accrues in a pay period (normally four hours for those with less than three years of service, six hours for those with between three and 15 years and eight hours for those with 15 or more years). A leave donor generally may contribute no more than half of the amount of annual leave he or she would be entitled to accrue during the year.

Should a leave bank member then experience a medical or family emergency, he or she can apply to the leave bank for withdrawal of annual leave from the bank. Donated annual leave may not be used to care for a newborn unless the child is ill. Banked leave also can be distributed to fellow employees in much the same way as under the leave transfer program.

In agencies that have leave banks, the employee joins by making a written application to the agency’s “bank board,” which runs the program.

To withdraw leave, a leave bank member must make written application to the bank board describing why the leave is needed, and may be required to provide certification from physicians or other appropriate experts.

When the medical emergency ends, any annual leave withdrawn from the bank and not used is returned to the bank, not to the donor.

Emergency Leave Transfer Program

In the event of a major disaster or emergency that results in severe adverse effects for a substantial number of employees, the President may direct the Office of Personnel Management to establish an emergency leave transfer program. Under such a program, employees in any executive branch agency may donate a designated amount of leave for use by employees of their own or another agency. Agencies also may make similar donations from their existing leave banks under a leave transfer program established by OPM. Employees approved as leave recipients will be able to use donated leave without having to exhaust their own accrued annual and sick leave.

In the event of a major disaster or emergency that results in severe adverse effects for a substantial number of employees, the President may direct the Office of Personnel Management to establish an emergency leave transfer program. Under such a program, employees in any executive branch agency may donate a designated amount of leave for use by employees of their own or another agency. Agencies also may make similar donations from their existing leave banks under a leave transfer program established by OPM. Employees approved as leave recipients will be able to use donated leave without having to exhaust their own accrued annual and sick leave.

Each agency is responsible for determining whether, and how much, donated annual leave is needed by affected employees; approving leave donors and/or leave recipients within the agency; and facilitating the distribution of donated annual leave from approved leave donors to approved leave recipients within the agency. When a federal agency notifies OPM that the amount of annual leave donated by its employees is not sufficient to meet the needs of its approved emergency leave recipients, OPM will coordinate a government-wide transfer of annual leave from donating agencies to affected agencies for crediting to their emergency leave recipients. During such a transfer, a leave bank at an agency may donate, with the concurrence of the leave bank board, donated annual leave to an emergency leave transfer program administered by another agency.

An emergency leave donor may donate between one and 104 hours of annual leave. Agencies may waive the limitation if sufficient annual leave is not donated. An emergency leave donor may not donate annual leave for transfer to a specific emergency leave recipient.

In order to receive donated annual leave, an employee who has been adversely affected by the disaster or emergency or has a family member who has been adversely affected must make a written application to his or her agency. If an employee is not capable of making a written application, a personal representative may make the application on behalf of the employee. The employing agency must notify the employee of its approval or disapproval generally within 10 business days.

An emergency leave recipient may not receive more than 240 hours of donated annual leave at any one time. An employing agency may allow an employee to receive additional disbursements of donated annual leave based on the employee's continuing need. Each disbursement of transferred annual leave may not exceed 240 hours.

An emergency leave recipient is not required to exhaust his or her accrued annual and sick leave before receiving donated leave. The donated leave can be substituted retroactively for any period of leave without pay used because of the disaster or emergency or used to liquidate an indebtedness incurred by the recipient for advanced annual or sick leave used because of the disaster or emergency. An emergency leave recipient using donated annual leave continues to accrue annual and sick leave at the same rate as if the employee were in a paid leave status.

If the amount of leave donated for an emergency exceeds the amount used, each agency must determine the amount to be restored to any leave bank and/or to individual employees. The amount restored must be proportional to the amount donated. Any unused annual leave remaining after the distribution will be subject to forfeiture. See 5 CFR 630, subpart K.

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