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 /

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by Brocade

    Best of 2016 Federal Forum eBook

    Earlier this summer, Federal and tech industry leaders convened to talk security, machine learning, network modernization, DevOps, and much more at the 2016 Federal Forum. This eBook includes a useful summary highlighting the best content shared at the 2016 Federal Forum to help agencies modernize their network infrastructure.

  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    GBC Flash Poll Series: Merger & Acquisitions

    Download this GBC Flash Poll to learn more about federal perspectives on the impact of industry consolidation.

  • Sponsored by One Identity

    One Nation Under Guard: Securing User Identities Across State and Local Government

    In 2016, the government can expect even more sophisticated threats on the horizon, making it all the more imperative that agencies enforce proper identity and access management (IAM) practices. In order to better measure the current state of IAM at the state and local level, Government Business Council (GBC) conducted an in-depth research study of state and local employees.

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    The Next Federal Evolution of Cloud

    This GBC report explains the evolution of cloud computing in federal government, and provides an outlook for the future of the cloud in government IT.

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    A DevOps Roadmap for the Federal Government

    This GBC Report discusses how DevOps is steadily gaining traction among some of government's leading IT developers and agencies.

  • Sponsored by LTC Partners, administrators of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

    Approaching the Brink of Federal Retirement

    Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement age per day, and a growing number of federal employees are preparing themselves for the next chapter of their lives. Learn how to tackle the challenges that today's workforce faces in laying the groundwork for a smooth and secure retirement.

  • Sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise

    Cyber Defense 101: Arming the Next Generation of Government Employees

    Read this issue brief to learn about the sector's most potent challenges in the new cyber landscape and how government organizations are building a robust, threat-aware infrastructure

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    GBC Issue Brief: Cultivating Digital Services in the Federal Landscape

    Read this GBC issue brief to learn more about the current state of digital services in the government, and how key players are pushing enhancements towards a user-centric approach.

  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    Joint Enterprise Licensing Agreements

    Read this eBook to learn how defense agencies can achieve savings and efficiencies with an Enterprise Software Agreement.

  • Sponsored by Cloudera

    Government Forum Content Library

    Get all the essential resources needed for effective technology strategies in the federal landscape.


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.