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Budget Proposes Cutting and Simplifying Federal Employee Leave, and More

A weekly roundup of pay and benefits news.

The Trump administration this week revived a proposal to consolidate most of the categories of paid leave available to federal employees into one pool, and reduce the overall number of leave days available to them.

Currently, in addition to 10 paid federal holidays, federal workers receive up to 13 sick days annually, as well as anywhere from 13 to 26 vacation days, depending on their length of service. In the White House’s fiscal 2021 budget request, unveiled Monday, President Trump proposed creating a single consolidated category of leave from which employees can pull as needed.

Although the administration said the new system would be easier for employees to use and agencies to manage, it noted that the total number of days available to federal workers would decrease, although it did not say by how much. The plan would require the passage of legislation by Congress.

“The 2021 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,” budget documents stated. “While the total leave days would be reduced, the proposal adds a short term disability insurance policy to protect employees.”

The administration did not expand on what this new “insurance policy” would look like.

The consolidated leave system would remain separate from the newly enacted paid parental leave program, which provides new parents up to 12 weeks of paid leave after the birth, adoption or foster placement of a new child. Signed into law as part of the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act, this new benefit will be implemented by Oct. 1.

The proposal appeared verbatim in the Trump administration’s fiscal 2020 budget proposal, but lawmakers elected not to include it either in their spending bills or in separate legislation.

Meanwhile, the Office of Personnel Management on Monday issued its annual call to federal health insurers to send their benefit and rate proposals for next year’s Federal Employees Health Benefits Program enrollment period. The agency asked insurance companies to focus both on plan quality and affordability, as well as to address a number of trending issues in medical care.

Although the agency commended the industry for its efforts to reduce over prescription of opioids, OPM asked carriers to “demonstrate a multi-pronged approach to addressing the opioid crisis including ensuring safe opioid utilization; providing access to non-opioid based pain treatments and treatments for opioid use disorder . . . and addressing the needs of members already on chronic opioid therapy.”

Additionally, OPM asked insurers to identify so-called “low-value care” that will no longer be covered, specifically procedures like unnecessary diagnostic testing. The agency also asked companies to highlight how to improve both the quality and utilization of tobacco cessation benefits.