New Plan Would Give Feds a Year to Make Up for Religious Time Off

Elena Dijour/

The Obama administration wants to require federal employees to provide proof of religious holidays in order to take compensatory time off, but would grant them an extended period to make up the hours.

The new guidance updates proposed rules the Office of Personnel Management put forth in 2005. In October, the Government Accountability Office called on OPM to clarify government standards for issuing time off for religious occasions.

GAO found some agencies provided as many as 120 days for employees to use accumulated compensatory time off for religious observances, while others simply required employees to use annual leave.

Federal statute allows employees to take religious time off if they make up the hours at another time. When employees take of eight hours for a religious holiday, for example, they must work eight hours of overtime into their regular schedules. OPM originally proposed that employees must take the overtime within three pay periods -- or six weeks -- of taking the religious time off, but in its new proposal suggested giving employees 26 pay periods -- or one year -- to make up the time.

The one-year timeframe would better align religious time off with other compensatory time off provisions provided for federal employees, OPM said.

Feds could take the overtime one year in advance of a scheduled religious time off, or one year after. They would simply have to present their plan for both taking off and making up the hours in advance to their agency.   

“An agency is required to approve religious compensatory time off to the extent that modifications in work schedules do not interfere with the efficient accomplishment of its mission,” OPM said.

If employees take religious compensatory time off and do not make up the hours within the one-year timeframe, the agency would then have to deduct the time from the employees’ annual leave. If the employees do not have enough annual leave to cover the compensatory time, the agency would require them to take leave without pay.

Earned compensatory time off would never qualify federal employees for overtime or any other premium pay, OPM clarified. 

Federal agencies would reserve the right to ask their employees for “the name and/or description of the religious observance.” Additionally, OPM’s rules would make agencies responsible for tracking all religious compensatory time taken by each employee and ensuring the time is not used for “purposes that do not meet the intent of the law and regulations.”

OPM will take comments on its proposal for 60 days and plans to issue a final rule by December.

(Image via Elena Dijour /

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