Pay & Benefits Watch Pay & Benefits WatchPay & Benefits Watch
Key developments in the world of federal employee benefits: health, pay, and much more.

Faking It


Sick leave can accumulate quickly as unused days from the 13 granted annually to federal employees carry over year after year. For employees under the older Civil Service Retirement System, leftover sick days are credited toward retirement pensions. But Federal Employee Retirement System workers have no such luck.

This discrepancy is causing FERS employees to use substantially more sick leave than their CSRS counterparts, the Congressional Research Service reported in 2004. One possible interpretation is that FERS employees calling in sick may not truly have the sniffles.

Now, a coalition of federal management groups is coalescing around the issue. The newly formed Government Managers Coalition -- made up of the Federal Aviation Administration Managers Association, Federal Managers Association, National Council of Social Security Management Associations, Professional Managers Association and Senior Executives Association -- is pushing compensation for FERS employees' unused sick days as one of its first agenda items.

"We really see this as a management issue of finding a creative way to encourage employees to be more results-oriented while maintaining their health," said Thomas Richards, government affairs representative for the FMA.

Granting extra pension money for unused sick leave is expensive, and coalition leaders said they understand that the introduction of FERS in 1986 tried to trim the cost of federal employment entitlements and loosen the so-called "golden handcuffs," which forced workers to stay in the civil service or lose valuable benefits.

As an answer, the coalition is looking at a New York state public employees program that puts funds calculated from unused sick leave into an account to help pay health insurance premiums in retirement years.

"With the rising costs of health care and the fact that retirees don't see the same tax benefits on their premiums that active employees do," Richards said, "this is one way of alleviating some of the stress of health care benefits that many retirees face."

Leaders of the coalition, which just announced its formation Monday, said they are intrigued by the New York solution, but are not wedded to it.

"We're not necessarily saying it has got to be this solution but here is a creative solution that has been tried and something needs to be done," said William Bransford, general counsel for SEA. "It's just going to get worse as more and more [FERS] employees near retirement."

Bransford said the group will be lobbying members of Congress and the subcommittees that oversee federal workforce issues to take action on FERS sick leave policy.

"The difficulty is going to be convincing the members of Congress that whatever cost is associated with the reform is going to be made up in increased productivity," Bransford said.

Perhaps the associations will have more sway under the umbrella of the coalition. The group also is advocating extended probationary periods for most new federal employees and more training for supervisors.

"By uniting, we can be sure that these solutions, which can and will make a big difference, receive the attention they deserve on the Hill and in the White House," said Darryl Perkinson, president of FMA.

Close [ x ] More from GovExec

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

  • Forecasting Cloud's Future

    Conversations with Federal, State, and Local Technology Leaders on Cloud-Driven Digital Transformation

  • The Big Data Campaign Trail

    With everyone so focused on security following recent breaches at federal, state and local government and education institutions, there has been little emphasis on the need for better operations. This report breaks down some of the biggest operational challenges in IT management and provides insight into how agencies and leaders can successfully solve some of the biggest lingering government IT issues.

  • Communicating Innovation in Federal Government

    Federal Government spending on ‘obsolete technology’ continues to increase. Supporting the twin pillars of improved digital service delivery for citizens on the one hand, and the increasingly optimized and flexible working practices for federal employees on the other, are neither easy nor inexpensive tasks. This whitepaper explores how federal agencies can leverage the value of existing agency technology assets while offering IT leaders the ability to implement the kind of employee productivity, citizen service improvements and security demanded by federal oversight.

  • IT Transformation Trends: Flash Storage as a Strategic IT Asset

    MIT Technology Review: Flash Storage As a Strategic IT Asset For the first time in decades, IT leaders now consider all-flash storage as a strategic IT asset. IT has become a new operating model that enables self-service with high performance, density and resiliency. It also offers the self-service agility of the public cloud combined with the security, performance, and cost-effectiveness of a private cloud. Download this MIT Technology Review paper to learn more about how all-flash storage is transforming the data center.

  • Ongoing Efforts in Veterans Health Care Modernization

    This report discusses the current state of veterans health care


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