OPM relaxes annual leave rules for feds called to help in national emergency

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The Office of Personnel Management is relaxing its 'use it or lose it' rules for annual leave for federal employees who were called to the nation's assistance following the Sept. 11 attacks.

On Sept. 14, President Bush declared a "national emergency by reason of certain terrorist attacks" on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Since then, many federal agencies have been involved in response and recovery efforts to the attacks as well as ongoing efforts to protect the nation from future attacks. Under an interim rule published in the Nov. 2 Federal Register, OPM is letting federal employees involved in work related to the national emergency since Sept. 11 to hold on to any unused vacation time until the end of the national emergency or until the employee is transferred to another position that is not essential to emergency work.

In the aftermath of Sept. 11, many government employees have been working long hours and must continue doing so to fulfill their agencies' critical missions. Without the rule, many federal employees would have had to give up some of their annual leave under the government's 'use-it-or-lose-it' policy.

"Since it is known in advance that it is not possible for employees involved in the national emergency to be absent on leave, the scheduling and canceling of such leave places an unnecessary administrative burden on the employees and agencies involved," the rule states. As a result, annual leave forfeited as a result of the national emergency will be deemed to have been scheduled in advance, OPM said.

Under the proposed rules, a full-time employee will be required to schedule and use excess annual leave of 416 hours or less by the end of the leave year in progress two years after the date the employee is no longer involved in job duties created by the national emergency. OPM last relaxed its 'use it or lose it' leave policy for federal employees who worked on the Y2K problem. The interim rule goes into effect Nov. 2, 2001. Comments on it must be received on or before Jan. 2, 2002.

Send comments to:

Donald J. Winstead
Assistant Director for Compensation Administration
Office of Personnel Management, Room 7H31
1900 E Street N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20415