President Trump’s fiscal 2020 budget request includes a proposal to fundamentally change how federal employees accrue and take paid time off, and to reduce the overall number of leave days available to them.
According to detailed budget documents released Monday, the White House proposes consolidating federal workers’ annual and sick leave into one pool of paid time off, citing such a model’s popularity in the private sector.
Under the current system, as laid out in Title 5 of the U.S. Code, in addition to 10 paid federal holidays, federal workers receive up to 13 sick days each year, and 13 to 26 vacation days, depending on an employee’s length of service. The new proposal, which likely would require Congress's approval, would create one consolidated category of leave from which employees can pull as needed, and reduce the total number of days off by an unspecified amount.
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“This budget proposes to transition the existing civilian leave system to a model used in the private sector to grant employees maximum flexibility by combining all leave into one paid time off category,” the White House stated. “While the total leave days would be reduced, the proposal adds a short term disability insurance policy to protect employees.”
The document does not lay out what that “insurance policy” would be, or how it would work. The Office of Management and Budget did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
American Federation of Government Employees National President J. David Cox said reducing the total amount of leave available to federal workers is wrongheaded, especially as Congress considers whether to begin offering paid family leave to new parents.
"Reducing the amount of vacation and sick leave federal employees receive is a draconian proposal that will make it even harder for agencies to recruit and retain new workers," Cox said. "AFGE believes federal employees need more paid time off to balance their work and home lives, which is why we strongly endorse bipartisan legislation introduced in the House that would provide all federal employees with 12 weeks of paid family leave.”
The detailed documents also expand on some of the proposed cuts to federal employee benefits outlined in the top-line budget last week. Under the White House’s plan, federal workers would increase their contributions to the Federal Employees Retirement System by 1 percent each year until they reach parity with the government’s contribution; FERS annuity cost of living adjustments would be eliminated and Civil Service Retirement System COLAs would be cut by 0.5 percent; the FERS supplement for employees who retire before age 62 would be eliminated; defined benefit annuities would be based on the highest five years of salaries rather than the current “High-3;” and the interest rate of the Thrift Savings Plan’s government securities (G) fund would be reduced to the yield of a short-term Treasury Bill.
“Private sector employers provide a smaller share of compensation in the form of retirement benefits than does the federal government,” the administration wrote. “The federal government, in contrast, provides a much greater share of its employees’ compensation in the form of retirement benefits—including pension and post-retirement health care benefits. The provisions of this proposal would bring federal retirement benefits more in line with the private sector, while reducing their long term costs.”