Most feds will have a few extra hours of paid leave this year, thanks to a calendar quirk
The Office of Personnel Management on Monday warned that many federal workers should plan to take slightly more time off to avoid forfeiting “use it or lose it” annual leave hours.
The Office of Personnel Management on Monday said that most federal employees will receive an extra few hours of paid annual leave in 2023, thanks to a quirk in this year’s calendar of pay periods.
The federal government’s leave year begins on the first day of the first full biweekly pay period of a calendar year and ends the day before the first pay period of the following year. Ordinarily, that corresponds with 26 pay periods.
But in 2023, the first biweekly pay period for most feds began on Jan. 1, and the last pay period will end on Jan. 13, 2024. That means that while there are the standard 26 pay days in 2023, there is one extra pay period. Federal workers whose agencies’ first 2023 pay period began on Jan. 8 still will only have the standard 26 pay periods this year.
As a result of the extra pay period, federal employees will accrue a little bit of extra annual leave, according to a memo to agency HR directors from OPM Associate Director for Employee Services Veronica Hinton.
“This means that most federal employees will accrue an additional 4, 6 or 8 hours of annual leave in the 2023 leave year based on each individual employee’s annual leave accrual rate,” Hinton wrote.
Despite the additional pay period’s worth of annual leave accruing, the maximum amount of leave a federal employee can carry over from one year to the next—240 hours for most feds, 360 hours for those working overseas and 720 hours for Senior Executive Service, senior level and scientific and professional employees—does not change.
“Agencies should advise affected employees that they will accrue an additional 4, 6, or 8 hours of annual leave in the 2023 leave year and that they must use any annual leave above the maximum leave ceiling (‘use or lose’) before the final day of the leave year (Jan. 13, 2024 for most employees),” Hinton wrote. “Any accrued annual leave in excess of the maximum allowed by law will be forfeited if not used by the final day of the leave year.”
Hinton also reminded agencies that they have the power to restore forfeited annual leave, provided that it went unused under two specific circumstances: “an exigency of the public business” or if the employee falls ill. In order for unused leave to be eligible for restoration, the employee must have scheduled the leave in writing by Dec. 2, 2023.
The memo stressed that although there are 27 pay periods in 2023 for most agencies for the purposes of leave accrual calculations, there are still only 26 pay days, meaning feds will still receive the normal number of pay checks in 2023 and those checks will be in the normal amount.
“Although most employees will have 27 leave pay periods, most employees will still have 26 pay days in calendar year 2023,” Hinton wrote. “Leave accrual is affected by the number of pay periods, not the number of pay days, in a calendar year. This means that any regular payments or payroll deductions that are made each pay day will also remain at 26 in 2023.”