OPM Reminds Employees to Use or Lose Annual Leave

Policies on restoring excess leave are not affected by sequestration or the shutdown.

If government offices are quieter than usual this month, it’s because federal workers are racing to use their excess annual leave before the end of the current leave year.

The Office of Personnel Management has issued a reminder to employees and supervisors that they need to use or lose any annual leave they have over the maximum allowed for the year, which is 240 hours for most workers. The OPM memorandum from Director Katherine Archuleta directed employees to “properly” submit their leave requests for the next six weeks in writing prior to Nov. 30, the start of the third biweekly pay period, for use before the end of the current leave year. For most feds, that is Jan. 11, 2014.

“Employees should make every effort to schedule excess annual leave (i.e., ‘use or lose’ leave) and supervisors should make every effort to approve such leave requests,” the memo stated.

If workers cannot burn up their excess leave by Jan. 11, they either forfeit the leave, or can request the government restore it due to exigency of public business, illness or injury, or administrative error. Exigency of public business means the employee’s work is so important to the agency, or the government (e.g., jury duty) that excess annual cannot be taken before the end of the current leave year. Employees also can donate their excess annual leave to help needy co-workers. Employees who receive restored leave must use it by the end of the leave year ending two years after the date the agency designates as the termination of exigency of public business, the date the ill employee returns to work, or after the date forfeited leave due to administrative error is restored, depending on the individual case.

OPM put out the memo in response to “numerous questions from agencies and employees” wondering whether the 16-day government shutdown in October or fiscal 2013 sequestration affected the use or lose policy. The two budget-related events “do not change the normal annual leave restoration procedures,” Archuleta wrote in the memo to chief human capital officers.

Separately, OPM issued guidance in October stating that furloughed employees will receive full credit for any annual and sick leave they accrued during the government shutdown. All agencies must adjust the accounts of furloughed employees “for proper recredit of any lost accrual of annual and sick leave due to being in a nonpay status,” that guidance said.

For OPM’s full guidance on how the October 2013 shutdown affects pay and leave benefits, click here.

(Image via Gts/